EPIC has petitioned the full D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse a recent decision by a three-judge panel allowing the FAA's Drone Advisory Committee to conduct much of its work in secret. EPIC filed suit in 2018 against the industry-dominated Committee, which consistently ignored the privacy risks posed by the deployment of drones—even after identifying privacy as a top public concern. As a result of EPIC's lawsuit, the Committee was forced to disclose hundreds of pages of records under the Federal Advisory Committee Act. But the lower court ruled that the Committee did not need to disclose records from its secretive subcommittees—a decision that divided panel of the D.C. Circuit affirmed in April. Circuit Judge Robert L. Wilkins, writing in dissent, accused the majority of "doing violence to the text" of the FACA and argued that the decision "undermines FACA's purpose and greenlights an easily abusable system[.]" EPIC's petition highlights ways in which the panel's opinion conflicts with past D.C. Circuit decisions and warns that the ruling gives federal agencies "a legal roadmap to evade the public scrutiny that Congress intended FACA to provide. " The case is EPIC v. Drone Advisory Committee, No. 19-5238 (D.C. Cir.).
In a coalition letter, EPIC and more than twenty civil society groups called for reforms to surveillance statutes authorizing collection of sensitive information and gag orders. The letter follows recent revelations that the Department of Justice spied on members of Congress and the press by collecting their communications and issued gag orders to hide that surveillance. The coalition also called for a thorough investigation by Congress and the DOJ. EPIC recently endorsed a bill to stop government use of facial recognition and other biometric surveillance tools.
The agreement on transatlantic cooperation reached by U.S. and EU leaders this week did not include the political agreement the White House was hoping for on transatlantic data deals. Last week, EPIC and 23 other leading civil society groups sent a letter to President Biden today urging his Administration to ensure that any new transatlantic data transfer deal is coupled with the enactment of U.S. laws that reform government surveillance practices and provide comprehensive privacy protections. “The United States’ failure to ensure meaningful privacy protections for personal data is the reason that a growing number of countries are concerned about trans-border data flows,” the groups wrote. “Until the United States addresses this problem, concerns about data transfers to the United States will remain, and data flow agreements are likely to be invalidated.” In 2015, the Court of Justice of the European Union invalidated the U.S.-EU Safe Harbor agreement. And in July 2020, the successor agreement, Privacy Shield, was also invalidated by the same court.