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July 2010 Archives

July 1, 2010

"Google Wi-Fi and Privacy"

Marc Rotenberg,
EPIC Executive Director

Radio Boston
June 29, 2010

EPIC Testifies in Congress on Smart Grid Privacy

EPIC Associate Director Lillie Coney testified before the House Committee on Science and Technology regarding Smart Grid Architecture and Standards: Assessing Coordination and Progress. In her prepared statement, Ms. Coney told Congress that the "basic architecture of the Smart Grid presents several thorny privacy issues" and explained how smart meters and appliances transmitting user data wirelessly introduced threats to consumers.  She also described how strong security and privacy standards can address the risks of identity theft, unauthorized access, and individual surveillance. EPIC has submitted comments to NIST and the state of California, urging stronger privacy standards for Smart Grid services. For more information, see EPIC Smart Grid.

"EU-US Data Protection Practices in the Information Age"

Marc Rotenberg,
EPIC Executive Director

Atlantic Council
Washington, DC
July 9, 2010

July 2, 2010

FTC Invites Public Comment on Twitter Settlement

The FTC is calling for public comments on the recent Twitter Settlement. The Commission's complaint against Twitter charged that "serious lapses in the company's data security allowed hackers to obtain administrative control of Twitter." The FTC found that the lax practices allowed access to nonpublic tweets even though the company assured users in its privacy policy that it was "very concerned about safeguarding the confidentiality of your personally identifiable information." Under the terms of the settlement, "Twitter will be barred for 20 years from misleading consumers about the extent to which it maintains and protects the security, privacy, and confidentiality of nonpublic consumer information." Comments are due on July 26, 2009, and may be submitted electronically or in paper form. For more information, see EPIC: Social Networking Privacy.

In Emergency Appeal, EPIC Urges Court to Suspend TSA's Full Body Scanner Program

Today EPIC filed a petition for review and motion for an emergency stay, urging the District of Columbia Court of Appeals to suspend the TSA's full body scanner program. EPIC said that the program is "unlawful, invasive, and ineffective." EPIC argued that the federal agency has violated the Administrative Procedures Act, the Privacy Act, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and the Fourth Amendment. EPIC cited the invasive nature of the devices, the TSA's disregard of public opinion, and the impact on religious freedom. EPIC, and more than two dozens organizations, previously petitioned the agency for a public rulemaking, which the TSA disregarded. EPIC has also testified in Congress about the problems with the body scanner program. Members of the Senate, Ralph Nader, and European officials have also expressed concern. The case is EPIC v. DHS, No. 10-1157. For more information, see EPIC: Body Scanners.

July 7, 2010

Congressional Hearing: "Planning for the Future of Cyber Attack Attribution"

Congressional Hearing: "Planning for the Future of Cyber Attack Attribution"

Marc Rotenberg,
EPIC Executive Director

House Science Committee
Washington, DC
July 15, 2010

July 8, 2010

European Parliament Agrees to Data Transfer Deal with US

In the ongoing dispute between Europe and the US over the transfer of private financial information of Europeans to US law enforcement agencies, the European Parliament has agreed to a revised proposal that would replace bulk data transfers with specific information requests. The Parliament has also required that European officials exercise greater control over the data transfer process. An earlier US proposal was rejected by the Parliament as a violation of fundamental rights. For more information, see EPIC - International Privacy Law and EPIC - Lisbon Treaty.

Federal Court to Hear Oral Argument in Wiretap Abuse Case

A federal court in New York will hear oral argument today in SEC v. Galleon, a case involving the disclosure of federal wiretap recordings. EPIC filed a "friend of the court" brief, urging the court to protect the privacy of innocent individuals who were inadvertently recorded on the wiretaps. A trial court judge ordered disclosure of all wiretaps conducted in a criminal investigation, even though no court has ruled on the recordings' legality or relevance. EPIC noted that "hundreds of thousands of individuals are recorded on wiretaps every year," and "80% of those personal communications are wholly unrelated to criminal activity." For more information, see EPIC: SEC v. Galleon and EPIC Wiretapping.

Full Body Scanner Bill Introduced in Senate

Senators Klobuchar (D-MN) and Bennett (R-UT) have introduced a bill that would mandate the deployment of full body scanners in US airports. The bill would make Full Body Scanners the primary screening technique. The bill would provide for an alternative screening method for passengers with "privacy concerns." The bill contains particularly weak privacy provision that ignore many of the problems with the devices already uncovered. In 2008, the House passed legislation to prevent the use of body scanners as primary screening devices. Documents later obtained by EPIC established that the TSA required that Full Body Scanner have the ability to store, record, and transfer detailed images of naked air travelers. EPIC has recently filed suit against the Department of Homeland Security to require that the program be suspended, pending an independent review. For more information, see: EPIC: Body Scanners and EPIC v. DHS.

July 9, 2010

EPIC Urges Federal Trade Commission to Strengthen Childrens' Privacy Rule

EPIC filed comments urging the Federal Trade Commission to improve the Childrens' Online Privacy Protection Act Rule. The rule is the principal federal protection for childrens' privacy, and limits how companies may collect and disclose childrens' personal information. "The need for the COPPA Rule has become increasingly urgent in light of new business practices and recent technological developments, such as social networking sites and mobile devices," EPIC wrote. "Existing provisions need to be strengthened and new provisions need to be added." In April, EPIC testified before Congress concerning childrens' privacy. For more, see EPIC: COPPA and EPIC: FTC.

July 13, 2010

EPIC Seeks DHS Records on Body Scanner Health Impacts

Today EPIC filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Department of Homeland Security for studies conducted by the agency and third parties concerning radiation and health testing of body scanners. The EPIC request follows a recent report by Dr. David Brenner to the Congressional Biomedical Caucus that radiation exposure may be up to twenty times greater than the DHS acknowledged. In April 2010, several  scientists urged Presidential Science Adviser Dr. John P. Holdren to conduct further evaluation of the health risks of body scanners. EPIC is pursuing FOIA litigation against the DHS regarding full body scanners, and has also filed a lawsuit to halt the use of the devices. For more information, see: EPIC: Body Scanners and EPIC v. DHS.

July 15, 2010

EPIC Testifies in Congress on Cybersecurity and Privacy

EPIC Executive Director Marc Rotenberg testified today before the House Committee on Science and Technology regarding Planning for the Future of Cyber Attack Attribution. In his prepared statement, Mr. Rotenberg discussed "the risks and limitations of a mandatory Internet ID that may be favored by some as a way to address the risk of cyber attack." He explained how such a proposal would implicate human rights and online freedom, and questioned the constitutionality of such a measure. EPIC recommended that efforts continue to focus on improving security standards, deploying encryption, and requiring federal agencies to remain transparent as they develop cyber security policies. For more information, see EPIC Cybersecurity and Privacy.

July 16, 2010

EPIC FOIAs NSA for Details of "Perfect Citizen"

EPIC has filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the National Security Agency regarding the new secret cybersecurity program known as "Perfect Citizen." According to the Wall Street Journal, the program "would rely on a set of sensors deployed in computer networks for critical infrastructure that would be triggered by unusual activity suggesting an impending cyber attack," although the agency has claimed that there "is no monitoring activity involved, and no sensors are employed in this endeavor" but has refused to release the details of the program. In its request, EPIC has sought contracts, memoranda, and other records relating to "Perfect Citizen." For more information, see EPIC Cybersecurity and Privacy.

July 19, 2010

Internet Governance Forum USA

Internet Governance Forum USA

Marc Rotenberg,
EPIC Executive Director

Georgetown University Law Center
Washington, DC
July 21, 2010

July 20, 2010

EPIC Pursues Lawsuit Against Homeland Security, Urges Court to Suspend Body Scanner Program

Today, EPIC filed a reply in its case against the Department of Homeland Security, EPIC v. DHS,10-1157. EPIC had previously filed a petition and motion for emergency stay, asking the court to suspend the use of the machines. EPIC argued that the use of body scanners for primary screening in U.S. airports violates several federal laws and the Fourth Amendment. In its reply to the government's motion, EPIC also cited the growing public opposition to the program, the decision of major airports not to use body scanners, as well as the agency's failure to adequately address Constitutional concerns. For more information, see EPIC: Body Scanners and EPIC v. DHS.

July 21, 2010

Public Trust in Government Privacy Protections Plummets

According to a new study by the Ponemon Institute, public trust in the United States government's commitment to protect privacy has fallen to a new all-time low. The survey of 75 federal organization examined the protection of personal information by federal agencies as well as the commitment to keep secure personal information. For 2010, the average privacy trust score across the United States government fell to 38%, from 50% in 2009. The top-rated government entities included the Postal Service, the Federal Trade Commissions, and the IRS, while the least-trusted agencies were the National Security Agency, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Justice. The largest decline in trust over privacy matters came for the Census Bureau, which is preparing the 2010 census. The largest favorable change was at the Department of State. For more information, see EPIC Public Opinion on Privacy.

DHS Announces Dramatic Expansion of Airport Body Scanner Program

On July 20, 2010, the Department of Homeland Security announced a substantial change in the deployment of body scanners in US airports. According to the DHS Secretary, the devices, which had once been part of a pilot program for seconary screening, will now be deployed in 28 additional airports. The devices are designed to capture and store photographic images of naked air travelers. EPIC has filed an emergency motion in federal court, urging the suspension of the program and citing violations of several federal statutes and the Fourth Amendment. Public opposition to the program is also growing. For more information, see EPIC v. DHS (Body scanners) and EPIC Body Scanners.

July 22, 2010

State Attorneys General Press Google on Street View Scandal

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal announced in a press release that 38 states and the District of Columbia are seeking additional information about Google's collection of Wi-Fi data from private, residential computer networks. Blumenthal also sent a letter to Google, asking for information about Google's packet-sniffing software, the testing and review procedures, and the internal investigation of the code that "accidentally" recorded unencrypted Wi-Fi traffic in 30 countries over a three-year period. In May, EPIC wrote to the Federal Communications and recommended an investigation, noting that the collection of Wi-Fi data likely violates several federal privacy laws. Google has since suspended its Wi-Fi data collection activities. For more information, see EPIC: Street View Investigations.

Facebook Scores Low on Consumer Satisfaction

In a recent study by Foresee Results and the University of Michigan, Facebook has scored extremely low in the area of customer satisfaction. The 2010 American Customer Satisfaction Index E-Business Report included social networking companies for the first time, and Facebook scored a 64, putting it "in the bottom 5% of all measured private sector companies and in the same range as airlines and cable companies." The polling company attributed Facebook's low scores to "privacy concerns, frequent changes to the website, and commercialization and advertising." For more information, see EPIC Facebook Privacy and EPIC Public Opinion on Privacy.

July 23, 2010

Congressional Hearing: "Online Privacy, Social Networking, and Crime Victimization"

Congressional Hearing: "Online Privacy, Social Networking, and Crime Victimization"

Marc Rotenberg,
EPIC Executive Director

House Judiciary Committee
US House of Representatives
Washington, DC
July 28, 2010

New York Ends "Stop and Frisk" Data Collection

New York Governor David Paterson signed a bill into law last week requiring the NYPD to expunge the names and addresses in a database of people who had been stopped and questioned by police but never charged with any crimes. In signing the bill, Governor Paterson said that "simple justice as well as common sense suggest that those questioned by police and not even accused of a crime should not be subjected to perpetual suspicion." For more information, see EPIC New York Stop-and-Frisk Database.

July 26, 2010

Appeals Court Protects Free Speech for Privacy Advocate

Privacy Advocate Betty Ostergren has won in federal appeals court in her challenge to a state law designed to prosecute her for drawing attention to the state's online publication of SSNs. In Ostergren v. Cuccinelli, the court ruled that the Commonwealth of Virginia may not prosecute Ostergren for publishing the SSNs of state officials available in public land records until the Commonwealth itself stops making these unredacted documents available. EPIC filed a "friend of the court" brief in support of Ostergen, urging the court to hold that the First Amendment protects Ostergren's speech. For more information, see EPIC Ostergren v. McDonnell, EPIC Social Security Numbers, and EPIC Identity Theft.

July 28, 2010

EPIC to Urge Congress to Strengthen Privacy Laws for Facebook Users

In prepared testimony (PDF) for a Congressional hearing on "Online Privacy, Social Networking and Crime Vicitimization," EPIC Executive Director Marc Rotenberg urged lawmakers to update federal law to protect the privacy of Facebook users. Mr. Rotenberg said that Facebook's constant changes to the privacy settings of users have made it virtually impossible for users to control who gets access to their personal information. He also said that the failure of the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Facebook's business practices means that Congress must now amend the federal privacy law to limit the ability of Social Network companies to disclose user information to third parties without informed and explicit consent. Also testifying at the hearing are witnesses from the FBI, the Secret Service, Symantec, and Facebook. For more information, see EPIC Social Networking Privacy, EPIC Facebook, and EPIC In re Google Buzz.

July 30, 2010

Wal-Mart Begins Tagging and Tracking Merchandise with RFID

Wal-Mart has announced that it will begin inserting Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chips into some of its men's clothing, including jeans, underwear, and socks, starting August 1. The retailer has stated that its goal is to expand the use of the tags to its other merchandise as well. Previously RFID tags have only been used in larger packages for warehouse and distribution use, but this will be the first time the tags are used in the stores for individual products that will be taken home by consumers. The tags will remain readable from a short range even after they are removed from the store. For more information, see EPIC RFID Systems.

About July 2010

This page contains all entries posted to epic.org in July 2010. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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