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March 2011 Archives

March 17, 2011

Consumer Assembly 2011: Challenges and Opportunities

Consumer Assembly 2011: Challenges and Opportunities

Sharon Goott Nissim,
EPIC Consumer Protection Fellow

Consumer Federation of America
Washington, D.C.
March 17-18

March 1, 2011

Supreme Court: No "Personal Privacy" For Corporations in FOIA Cases

In FCC v. AT&T, The Supreme Court held that federal protections for "personal privacy" do not permit corporations to prevent disclosure of government records. AT&T sought to prevent the disclosure of documents the company had submitted to a federal agency, claiming that the corporation's "personal privacy" prevented release of the records pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act. EPIC filed a "friend of the court" brief in the case urging the Justices to reject AT&T's claim. The Court agreed with the FCC, EPIC and other amici, writing, "The protection in FOIA against disclosure of law enforcement information on the ground that it would constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy does not extend to corporations. We trust that AT&T will not take it personally." EPIC's brief cited the commonly understood meaning of "personal privacy" in the work of legal scholars and technical experts, as well as the use of these terms in an extensive survey of US privacy laws. For more information, see EPIC: FCC v. AT&T.

March 2, 2011

EPIC FOIA - Homeland Security Spending Millions on Mobile Strip Search Devices

Documents obtained by EPIC under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that the Department of Homeland Security has spent millions of dollars on mobile body scanner technology that could be used at railways, stadiums, and elsewhere. EPIC has already challenged the use of the devices in airports, calling them "invasive, ineffective, and unconstitutional." According to the documents obtained by EPIC, the federal agency plans to expand the use of these systems to monitor crowds, peering under clothes and inside bags away from airports. For more information, see EPIC: EPIC v. DHS (Suspension of Body Scanner Program) and EPIC: Whole Body Imaging Technology.

Facebook Resumes Plan to Disclose User Home Addresses and Mobile Phone Numbers

Facebook indicated in a letter to Rep. Markey (D-MA) and Rep. Barton (R-TX) that it will go forward with a proposal to provide users' addresses and mobile phone numbers to third-party application developers. The Congressman earlier expressed concern about the proposal. Facebook also wrote that it may disclose the home addresses and mobile numbers of minors who use the social networking service. Facebook suspended the plan after EPIC and others objected. EPIC and several consumer organizations have complaints pending at the Federal Trade Commission concerning Facebook's earlier changes to users' privacy settings. For more information, see EPIC: In re Facebook, EPIC: In re Facebook II, and EPIC: Facebook Privacy.

Inspector General Finds Homeland Security’s Contract Management Process Noncompetitive

The Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security released a report finding that the agency's contract files did not "contain[] sufficient evidence of justification and approval, market research, and acquisition planning" for the $1.3 billion dollars in noncompetitive contracts the agency entered into in fiscal year 2010. The noncompetitive process raises doubts that the agency secured the "best possible value" for the goods and services and that the contracts were awarded to "eligible and qualified vendors." The IG recommended that the agency’s Chief Procurement Officer pursue corrective action plans. EPIC previously criticized the agency’s contracting practices regarding whole body scanners. For related information see EPIC: EPIC v. DHS: Body Scanners (Suspend the Program) and EPIC: EPIC v. DHS (FOIA).

March 4, 2011

Real ID Remerges on House Agenda

Despite the fact that twenty-four states have rejected the REAL ID Act of 2005, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), Rep. Peter King (R-NY), and Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) issued Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano a letter warning against any further extension of REAL ID. The letter stated that not implementing REAL ID "threatens the security of the United States." The letter follows the arrest of Khalid Ali-M Adawsari on charges of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction. According to the House Judiciary Committee, DHS is planning to extend the deadline for implementation to January 15, 2013. The current deadline for states to be materially compliant is May 11, 2011. EPIC previously released a report, testified to Congress, and submitted comments stating that REAL ID included few protections for individual privacy and security in its massive national identification database. For related information see EPIC: National ID and the REAL ID Act, EPIC: Biometric Identifiers, and the Privacy Coalition’s Campaign Against REAL ID.

March 7, 2011

Supreme Court Affirms Open Government, Limits Exemptions

In Navy v. Milner, the Supreme Court held that the Freedom of Information Act’s “Exemption 2” is limited to employee relations and human resources issues. The decision overturns previous decisions by lower courts that applied the exemption to broader categories of records, allowing federal agencies to block disclosure of documents to the public. The Court stated that this practice contravened Congress’s intent. The Court emphasized that Congress intended all nine FOIA exemptions to be construed narrowly. EPIC is currently challenging the use of Exemption 2 in its lawsuit to force disclosure of records concerning full body scanners at airport checkpoints. The Court's decision in Navy v. Milner demonstrates that the Department of Homeland Security is improperly withholding information about the scanners from the public. For more information, see EPIC-Milner v. Dept. of Navy, and EPIC: OPEN Government.

March 11, 2011

"What Ever Happened to the President's Civil Liberties Oversight Board?"

Marc Rotenberg,
EPIC Executive Director

Washington, DC
March 11, 2011

March 8, 2011

EPIC to Argue for Suspension of Airport Body Scanner Program in the DC Court of Appeals

On March 10, 2011, EPIC President Marc Rotenberg will present arguments against the TSA body scanner program before the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. EPIC has said that body scanners are "invasive, unlawful, and ineffective," and that the TSA's deployment of the devices for primary screening violates the U.S. Constitution and several federal statutes. EPIC's opening brief states that the Department of Homeland Security "has initiated the most sweeping, the most invasive, and the most unaccountable suspicionless search of American travelers in history." EPIC has also cited the agency's failure to respond to the First EPIC Petition and the Second EPIC Petition, widely supported by a broad coalition of organizations, which challenged the deployment of the devices and called for a public rule making. The case is EPIC v. DHS, No. 10-1157. For more information, see EPIC: EPIC v. DHS and EPIC: Whole Body Imaging Technology.

March 10, 2011

DHS: We Have the Authority to Routinely Strip-Search Air Travelers

The Department of Homeland Security told a federal court that the agency believes it has the legal authority to strip search every air traveler. The agency made the claim at oral argument in EPIC's lawsuit to suspend the airport body scanner program. The agency also stated that it believed a mandatory strip search rule could be instituted without any public comment or rulemaking. EPIC President Marc Rotenberg urged the Washington, DC appeals court to suspend the body scanner program, noting that the devices are "uniquely intrusive" and ineffective. EPIC's opening brief in the case states that the Department of Homeland Security "has initiated the most sweeping, the most invasive, and the most unaccountable suspicionless search of American travelers in history," and that such a change in policy demands that the TSA conduct a notice-and-comment rule making process. The case is EPIC v. DHS, No. 10-1157. For more information, see EPIC: EPIC v. DHS and EPIC: Whole Body Imaging Technology.

EPIC to Testify at Congressional Hearing on TSA Body Scanner Program

The Subcommittee on National Security of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform will hold a hearing on "TSA Oversight: Whole Body Imaging" On March 16, 2011. EPIC President Marc Rotenberg has been asked to testify. The hearing is expected to explore the privacy impact, health concerns, and questions of effectiveness that have been raised about the program. Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) introduced legislation in 2009 that passed the House, 310-108, that would prevent the TSA from deploying body scanners as the primary screening technique in US airports. EPIC held a public conference earlier this that explored public objections to the TSA program. For more information, see EPIC: EPIC v. DHS and EPIC: Whole Body Imaging Technology.

March 14, 2011

"Fourth Annual Freedom of Information Day Celebration: FOIA Privacy Issues"

"Fourth Annual Freedom of Information Day Celebration: FOIA Privacy Issues"

Ginger McCall, Counsel
EPIC Open Government Project

Washington College of Law
American University
Washington, DC
March 14, 2011

EPIC Publishes 2011 FOIA Gallery

In celebration of Sunshine Week, EPIC published the EPIC FOIA Gallery: 2011. The gallery highlights key documents obtained by EPIC in the past year, including records detailing the privacy risks posed by airport body scanners, agency plans to expand the scanner program to non-airport locations, FBI abuse of surveillance authorities, and the Federal Trade Commission's failure to investigate Google Street View. EPIC regularly files Freedom of Information Act requests and pursues lawsuits to force disclosure of critical documents that impact privacy. EPIC also publishes the authoritative FOIA litigation manual. For more, see EPIC Open Government and EPIC Bookstore: FOIA.

"Forum on DNS Abuse"

"Forum on DNS Abuse"

Marc Rotenberg,
EPIC Executive Director

San Francisco, CA
March 14, 2011

Senate Antitrust Agenda Includes Google, FTC Oversight

Senator Kohl (D-WI) has announced the agenda for the Senate Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy, and Consumer Rights. Among other issues, the Subcommittee will focus on competition in online markets and internet search, as well as oversight of the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission. EPIC had opposed Google's acquisition of online advertiser Doubleclick, which was approved by the FTC over the objection of former FTC Commissioner Pamela Harbor. EPIC later testified before the Antitrust committee on Google's growing dominance of essential Internet services. For more information, see EPIC: Google/DoubleClick and EPIC: Federal Trade Commission.

March 16, 2011

"HEARING - TSA Oversight: Whole Body Imaging"

"HEARING - TSA Oversight: Whole Body Imaging"

Marc Rotenberg,
EPIC Executive Director

House Oversight Committee
Subcommittee on National Security
Washington, DC
March 16, 2011

(Witness List)
(Live Streaming)

EPIC Urges Congress to Suspend Body Scanner Program, Require Public Comment Period

In a hearing before the House Oversight Subcommittee on National Security, EPIC urged Congress to suspend the use of airport body scanners for primary screening. EPIC said the devices were not effective and were not minimally intrusive, as courts have required for airport searches. EPIC cited TSA documents obtained in EPIC's FOIA lawsuit which showed that the machines are designed to store and transfer images, and not designed to detect powdered explosives. EPIC was joined on the panel by radiation expert Dr. David Brenner, who has frequently pointed out the radiation risks created by these machines. The TSA, which is a federal agency funded by taxpayer dollars and responsible for the body scanner program, originally refused to testify at hearing. Eventually they showed up. Chairman Jason Chaffetz, who had previously sponsored a bill regarding body scanners, grilled the TSA officials and said the hearing would continue with more questions. For more information see EPIC: Whole Body Imaging Technology and EPIC: EPIC v. DHS.

Public Access to Court Records: Protecting Personal Sensitive Information

Public Access to Court Records
Protecting Personal Sensitive Information

Lillie Coney,
EPIC Associate Director

ABA Webinar
March 17, 2011

March 18, 2011

Supreme Court To Hear Arguments in ID Search Case

Oral argument for the Supreme Court case Tolentino v. New York will take place on Monday, March 21, 2011. The case concerns an unlawful police stop. Tolentino asserts that that police had no basis for pulling his car over and then running his license. EPIC has filed a "friend of the court" brief arguing that the Constitution protects individuals from suspicionless searches of government databases. For more information, see EPIC: Tolentino v. NY.

European Commission Makes Data Protection a Top Priority

Viviane Reding, European Commission Vice President and European Union Justice Commissioner, announced that data protection would be her "top legislative priority." She said the Commission will focus on "four pillars" of privacy rights: the "right to be forgotten . . . transparency . . . privacy by default . . . [and] protection regardless of data location." Reding also spoke about the importance of enforcement to ensure a "high level of protection." EPIC President Marc Rotenberg spoke before the European Commission recently and EPIC has urged the United States to ratify Convention 108, the International Privacy Convention. For more information, see EPIC: EU Data Protection Directive.

March 22, 2011

France Fines Google for Street View Wi-Fi Data Collection

France's National Commission for Computing and Civil Liberties fined Google 100,000 euros for violating French privacy rules when Google’s Street View cars collected peoples' e-mails and passwords without their knowledge. The Commission cited the "established violations and their gravity, as well as the economic advantages Google gained," as reasons for the highest fine it has ever levied. Several other countries, including the U.K., Canada, Germany, and Spain have conducted similar investigations and determined that Google violated their privacy laws. In the U.S., the Federal Communications Commission opened an investigation after EPIC filed a complaint, asking the Commission to investigate possible violations of federal wiretap law and the Communications Act. For more information, see EPIC: Google Street View.

EPIC v. DOJ: Warrantless Wiretapping Memos Disclosed

Pursuant to EPIC v. DOJ, the Justice Deparment has turned over two legal memos concerning the Bush-era warrantless wiretapping program. EPIC sought these memos within hours after the New York Times first reported on the wiretapping program in 2005. The memos, dated November 2, 2001 and May 6, 2004, contain portions of the Bush Administration's justifications for the program, but are heavily redacted. The Obama Administration withheld three other memos in their entirety. For more information, see EPIC: Wiretapping, EPIC: Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), and Lawfare, "DOJ Releases Redacted Version of 2004 Surveillance Opinion."

Courts Rejects Google Books Settlement as Unfair, Also Finds that "Privacy concerns are real"

Judge Denny Chin struck down a proposed settlement between Google and copyright holders that would have imposed significant privacy risks on e-book consumers. Google's proposal would have entitled the company to collect each users' search queries as well as the titles and page numbers of the books they read. In a February 2010 hearing before the Court, EPIC President Marc Rotenberg explained that this settlement would "turn upside down" well established safeguards for reader privacy, including state privacy laws, library confidentiality obligations, and the development of techniques that minimize privacy intrusions. Judge Chin determined that the proposed opt-out settlement was "not fair, adequate and reasonable." He further stated that "the privacy concerns are real" and that "certain additional privacy protections could be incorporated" in a revised settlement. For more information, see EPIC Press Release: EPIC Urges Court To Reject Google Books Settlement; EPIC: Google Books Settlement and Privacy.

March 25, 2011

EPIC Urges Court to Order Release of 2,000 Airport Body Scanner Images

EPIC asked a federal court in Washington, DC to reconsider its earlier decision allowing the Department of Homeland Security to keep secret 2,000 airport body scanner images in EPIC's Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. The Court relied on a legal theory in its decision, "Exemption High b(2)," that was recently struck down by the Supreme Court in Navy v. Milner. In Milner, the Court held that FOIA exemption 2 only applies to records concerning employee relations and human resources issues. Milner overturns previous lower court decisions that applied the exemption to broader categories of records, allowing federal agencies to block disclosure of documents to the public. EPIC argues in its motion that the Department of Homeland Security is unlawfully withholding information about the airport scanners from the public. For more information, see EPIC-Milner v. Dept. of Navy and EPIC v. DHS - Body Scanners.

March 28, 2011

EPIC to Testify at House Oversight Hearing on FOIA

EPIC Senior Counsel John Verdi will testify before the House Oversight Committee on March 31, 2011 regarding Homeland Security’s political review of FOIA requests and the effects of the agency’s policies on requesters. The hearing arises as the AP reports that DHS career staff repeatedly questioned the political review policy. This report also follows an earlier release of 1,000 agency documents revealing the long-standing process of vetting FOIA requests by political appointees. In a previous letter to the Committee, EPIC and a coalition of open government groups wrote that FOIA does not permit agencies to select requests for political scrutiny. For more information, see EPIC: Open Government and EPIC: Litigation under the Federal Open Government Laws 2010.

March 30, 2011

FTC Announces Agreement in EPIC Google Buzz Complaint

The Federal Trade Commission has reached a agreement with Google regarding Buzz, the social network service launched in early 2010. The FTC action follows a complaint and an amended complaint filed by EPIC on behalf of Gmail subscribers and other Internet users. The FTC agreement with Google is far-reaching. It is the most significant privacy decision by the Commission to date. For Internet users, it should lead to higher privacy standards and better protection for personal data. EPIC has pursued similar successful complaints at the FTC in the past, including Microsoft Passport and Choicepoint, the databroker firm. For more information, see EPIC - In re Google Buzz.

March 31, 2011

EPIC: DHS Review of FOIA Requests is "Unlawful"

EPIC testified today before the House Oversight Committee hearing "Why Isn't The Department Of Homeland Security Meeting The President's Standard On FOIA?" The hearing examined the DHS's political review of open government requests. The DHS "Awareness" program singled out FOIA requests for additional scrutiny by political appointees based on the subject of the requests and the identities of the requesters. EPIC Senior Counsel John Verdi called the program "uniquely harmful" and "unlawful." He pointed to Supreme Court precedent and the additional delay in FOIA processing. Also testifying at the hearing were the DHS General Counsel, the DHS Chief FOIA Officer, and the DHS Inspector General. For more information, see EPIC: Open Government and EPIC: Litigation under the Federal Open Government Laws 2010.

About March 2011

This page contains all entries posted to epic.org in March 2011. They are listed from oldest to newest.

February 2011 is the previous archive.

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