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Latest News - October 24, 2014

EPIC Spotlight: Domestic Drones, Surveillance, and the Privacy Risks

EPIC's Spotlight on Surveillance Project returns to focus attention on domestic drone surveillance. Congress recently mandated that the Federal Aviation Administration integrate drones into the National Airspace, raising concerns about both safety and privacy. The FAA has begun granting limited exemptions to the current ban on commercial drones. EPIC's Spotlight "Eyes in the Sky" examines the surveillance capabilities of drone technology and recommend comprehensive privacy legislation. EPIC has also testified in Congress in support of drone privacy law, urged the FAA to mandate minimum privacy standards, and pursued several significant FOIA cases. For more information, see EPIC's Spotlight on Surveillance on Drones and EPIC: EPIC v. Army (Surveillance Blimps).

EPIC Recommends Research on "Privacy Enhancing Technologies"

In comments to a federal agency developing a privacy research agency, EPIC expressed support for Fair Information Practices and the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights. EPIC also recommended research on Privacy Enhancing Technologies ("PETs") that "minimize or eliminate the collection of personally identifiable information." EPIC highlighted current privacy issues including identity theft, security breaches, financial fraud, and the increasing use of predictive analytics in big data analysis. Earlier this year, EPIC submitted comments on "Big Data and the Future of Privacy" and called for the end of opaque algorithmic profiling. The White House's subsequent report on Big Data and the Future of Privacy incorporated several recommendations from EPIC and other privacy organizations. For more information, see EPIC: Big Data and the Future of Privacy.

New Report Reviews Progress on Signals Intelligence Reform

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence has released the first report on the implementation of Presidential Policy Directive 28. In January, the President proposed a revised policy for foreign signals intelligence. Under the revised directive, PPD-28, intelligence agencies are required to "review and update" their policies and "establish new ones as necessary" to safeguard personal information collected through signals intelligence. Signals intelligence activities must also be "as tailored as feasible," and there must be limitations on the querying, use, dissemination, and retention of personal information. The report states that all intelligence agencies in place by January 17, 2015, one year after the President's speech. EPIC previously challenged the NSA's bulk collection of domestic and international call detail records. EPIC has also filed Freedom of Information Act requests with the NSA and other intelligence agencies elements seeking disclosure of current procedures regarding surveillance conducted under Executive Order 12333. For more information, see EPIC: EO 12333 and In re EPIC.

EPIC Urges Department of Transportation to Protect Driver Privacy

EPIC has submitted detailed comments to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, urging the agency to protect driver privacy for "vehicle-to-vehicle" (V2V) technology. The technology transmits data between vehicles to "facilitate warnings to drivers concerning impending crashes." NHTSA is in the initial stages of mandating vehicle-to-vehicle technology. EPIC's comments pointed to several privacy and security risks with V2V techniques. EPIC urged NHTSA to "complete a more detailed privacy and security assessment of V2V communications" and to: "(1) not collect PII without the express, written authorization of the vehicle owner; (2) ensure that no data will be stored either locally or remotely; (3) require end-to-end encryption of V2V communications; (4) require end-to-end anonymity; and (5) require auto manufacturers to adhere to the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights." Last year EPIC, joined by a coalition of consumer privacy organizations and members of the public, urged NHTSA to protect driver privacy and establish privacy safeguards for car "black boxes." For more information, see EPIC: Event Data Recorders and EPIC: Internet of Things.

Supreme Court to Rule on Privacy of Hotel Records

Today the Supreme Court agreed to hear Los Angeles v. Patel, a challenge to a local ordinance that allows police to inspect hotel guest registries without a warrant or judicial supervision. A federal appeals court ruled that the LA law was "facially" unconstitutional because the authority could violate the Fourth Amendment. The Supreme Court will consider both the scope of privacy protections for hotel guests and also whether the Fourth Amendment prohibits laws that allow unlawful searches. The second issue has far-reaching consequences because many recent laws authorize the police searches without judicial review. Thus far, courts have only considered "as applied" challenges on a case-by-case basis. EPIC will likely file an amicus brief in the Supreme Court case in support of the decision of the federal appeals court. For more information, see EPIC: Los Angeles v. Patel and EPIC: Amicus Briefs.

Obama Issues Executive Order to Strengthen Consumer Privacy

President Obama signed an Executive Order today to Improve the Security of Consumer Financial Transactions. The Order will require enhanced security features for government financial transactions, including chip-and-PIN technology which has greatly reduced financial fraud and identity crimes in Europe. The Executive Order states that "the Government must further strengthen the security of consumer data and encourage the adoption of enhanced safeguards nationwide in a manner that protects privacy and confidentiality..." The White House also announced a series of measures to safeguard consumer financial security, including more secure payment systems, efforts to reduce identity theft and support "algorithmic transparency." EPIC has endorsed many of these proposals. The White House also announced a summit on cybersecurity and consumer protection. For more information, see EPIC: "Cybersecurity and Data Protection in the Financial Sector" (House 2011), EPIC: "Cybersecurity and Data Protection in the Financial Sector" (Senate 2011), and EPIC: Identity Theft.

Data Protection Commissioners Urge Limits on "Big Data"

The International Data Protection Commissioners have adopted a resolution on Big Data. The resolution endorses several privacy safeguards, including purpose specification, data minimization, individual data access, anonymization, and meaningful consent when personal data is used for big data analysis. The data protection commissioners also passed a resolution supporting the UN High Commissioner's report on Privacy in the Digital Age and the Mauritius Declaration on the Internet of Things. Earlier this year, EPIC joined by 24 organizations petitioned the White House to accept public comments on its review of Big Data and the Future of Privacy. EPIC also submitted extensive comments detailing the privacy risks of big data and calling for the swift enactment of the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights and the end of opaque algorithmic profiling. For more information, see EPIC: Big Data and EPIC: Internet of Things.

EPIC Obtains New Documents About Lack of Student Privacy Enforcement

EPIC has obtained new documents from the Department of Education detailing parent and student complaints about the misuse of education records. The Department released the documents in response to an EPIC Freedom of Information Act request. EPIC is expecting to receive more documents about the agency's enforcement of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. Other documents that EPIC has uncovered reveal that schools and districts have disclosed students' personal records without consent, possibly in violation of the federal student privacy law. The documents also reveal that the Department failed to investigate many FERPA complaints. For more information, see EPIC: Department of Education's FERPA Enforcement, EPIC: Student Privacy, and EPIC: Open Government.

Italy Launches Internet Bill of Rights

The Italian Parliament has proposed a Declaration of Internet Rights. The Declaration addresses a wide range of issues including Internet Access, Protection of Personal Data, Anonymity, the Right to be Forgotten, and Internet Governance. Italy, currently chair of the European Council, plays a leading role in European Union policy in 2014 and has made progress on data protection as a top priority. EPIC spoke earlier this year to the Italian Parliament about the need for a strong framework to protect the rights of Internet users. For more information, see Civil Society Seoul Declaration and Madrid Privacy Declaration.

Japan Adopts "Right to Be Forgotten"

A Japanese court has ordered Google to delete about half of the search result for a man linked to a crime he didn't commit. Judge Nobuyuki Seki of the Tokyo District Court said that the search results "infringe personal rights," and had harmed the plaintiff. A recent poll also found that 61 percent of Americans favor the EU Court of Justice decision regarding the right to be forgotten. And Canada is now debating the establishment of a similar legal right. For more information, see EPIC: Right to Be Forgotten,] EPIC: Public Opinions and Privacy, and EPIC: Expungement.

Supreme Court Strikes Down Voter ID Law

The US Supreme Court has ruled that officials in Wisconsin may not requires voters to present photo ID before voting in an upcoming election. A federal court in Texas also struck down a state voter ID requirement saying it disproportionately burdened minority voters. In 2007 EPIC raised similar arguments in an amicus brief for the US Supreme Court in Crawford v. Marion County. EPIC said of the Indiana ID law, “Not only has the state failed to establish the need for the voter identification law or to address the disparate impact of the law, the state’s voter ID system is imperfect, and relies on a flawed federal identification system.” The Supreme Court upheld the law. Justice Souter dissented, saying “this statute imposes a disproportionate burden upon those without” government-issued photo IDs. For more information, see EPIC: Voter Photo ID and Privacy and EPIC: Voting Privacy.

NSA Releases "12333" Report, Fails to Address Bulk Collection

The NSA released a privacy report on its surveillance activities under 12333, an Executive Order that provides broad authority for data collection. But the report only addresses a narrow aspect of the EO 12333 collection - protections for U.S. persons in the context of targeted signal intelligence activities. The report fails to address bulk collection or privacy protections for non-U.S. persons. A previously disclosed internal audit revealed that the NSA violated both legal rules and privacy restrictions thousands of times each year since 2008. Another document shows how NSA analysts are trained to avoid giving "extraneous information" to their "FAA overseers" when they want to target an individual. The NSA privacy report did not address these previous violations. Earlier this year, EPIC urged the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board to review the surveillance activities conducted under EO 12333. EPIC is also pursuing several FOIA matters to learn more about the use of 12333 authorities. For more information, see EPIC: Executive Order 12333.

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