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May 2013 Archives

May 15, 2013

ASAP 6th Annual National Training Conference

ASAP 6th Annual National Training Conference

Ginger McCall,
Director, EPIC Open Government Program

Arlington, VA
May 15, 2013

May 2, 2013

2012 FISA Orders Up, National Security Letters Down, No Surveillance Request Denied

According to the 2012 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Report, the Department of Justice submitted 1,856 applications to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), a 6.4% increase over 2011. Of the 1,856 search applications, 1,789 sought authority to conduct electronic surveillance. The FISC did not deny any of the applications, although one was withdrawn by the Government. However, the FISC did make modifications to 40 of the applications, including one from the 2011 reporting period. In addition to the FISA orders, the FBI sent 15,229 National Security Letter requests for information concerning 6,223 different U.S. persons. This is a modest decrease from the 16,511 requests sent in 2011. Almost no information is available about FISA surveillance beyond the figures contained in the annual FISA letter, sent to the Senate each year by the Department of Justice, Office of Legislative Affairs. EPIC has recommended greater reporting of FISC applications and opinions, similar to what is disclosed in the Federal Wiretap Reports. For more information, see EPIC: Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Court Orders 1979-2012 and EPIC: Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

May 6, 2013

FTC Rejects Industry Effort to Delay Children’s Privacy Rules

The Federal Trade Commission has rejected an effort by several trade groups to delay implementation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act Rule, currently scheduled to take effect on July 1. In voting unanimously to retain the date, the FTC noted that it had given covered entities at least 6 months to prepare for the Rule and that industry had "not raised any concrete facts to demonstrate that a delay is necessary." The new Rule expands the definition of personal information to include geolocation information and persistent identifiers (or cookies), and prevents third-party advertisers from secretly collecting children's personal information without parental consent for behavioral advertising purposes. EPIC joined a coalition of consumer, privacy, and children's advocates in urging the FTC to keep the original implementation date. EPIC also commented in support of both the proposed rule, and a revised version introduced in August 2012. The revised rule follows a report by the FTC finding that many child-directed mobile apps did not disclose their data practices. For more information, see EPIC: FTC and EPIC: Children's Online Privacy.

May 7, 2013

Senate Confirms Chairman of Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board

Today the Senate voted to confirm David Medine as the Chairman of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB), an agency established to review executive branch actions and to protect privacy and civil liberties after 9/11. EPIC urged the creation of an independent privacy agency after 9/11. At the first meeting of the agency in 2012, EPIC set out several priorities for PCLOB, including (1) suspension of the fusion center program, (2) limitations on CCTV surveillance, (3) removal of airport body scanners, (4) establishing privacy regulation for drones, (5) updating data disclosure standards, and (6) ensuring Privacy Act adherence. For more information, see EPIC: The 9/11 Commission Report and EPIC: The Sui Generis Privacy Agency.

May 15, 2013

The Use of Robotic Aircraft in Law Enforcement

Amie Stepanovich,
Director, EPIC Government Surveillance Program

Prince William Committee of 100
Lake Ridge, VA
May 15, 2013

May 8, 2013

EU Citizens Launch "Naked Citizen Campaign" to Safeguard Privacy

Objecting to business efforts to block updates to European Union data protection laws, a coalition of European Internet rights, freedom and privacy organizations have launched the Naked Citizen campaign. The organizations stated, "The campaign is a response to the unprecedented lobbying from tech companies, the US Government and the advertising industry. They are all trying to weaken the Regulation and make it easier for companies to use personal information in opaque, unaccountable ways." The groups published a new report -- "Don't let corporation strip citizens of their right to privacy" -- which describes the need to adopt stronger data protection rights. US consumer organizations have expressed support for the effort to modernize European Union privacy law. EPIC also supports US ratification of the Council of Europe Privacy Convention. For more information, see EPIC - EU Data Protection Directive and EPIC - Council of Europe Privacy Convention.

"Our Startlingly Limitless Surveillance State"

Marc Rotenberg,
EPIC Executive Director

HuffPost Live
May 8, 2013

May 9, 2013

Coalition of Organizations Call for Greater Accountability for E-Verify

Numerous organizations across the political spectrum have urged Congress to reduce the error rate for the employment verification system "E-Verify". A bill now pending in Congress will mandate employer verification of an all employees’ eligibility to work in the United States. In testimony before Congress in 2007, EPIC warned of inaccurate employment determinations in the E-Verify system. EPIC also cautioned against straining the resources of the Social Security Administration and the aggregation of employment data into a central location. In June 2011, EPIC filed comments with the Department of Homeland Security in opposition of the proposed expansion of E-Verify. For more information, see EPIC: E-Verify and Privacy and EPIC: Spotlight on Surveillance - E-verify System.

May 10, 2013

Court Permits Police Use of Phony Cell Phone Tower

A federal court in Arizona has denied a motion to suppress evidence gathered by "StingRay" surveillance technology. The court in United States v. Rigmaiden held that investigators did not violate the Fourth Amendment. The court also held that the government's use of a cell site simulator or StingRay device was supported by a "mobile tracking device" warrant. EPIC recently argued that users have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the location of their mobile devices, and has also received hundreds of pages of documents related to the FBI's use of StingRay technology. For more information, see EPIC v. FBI: StingRay and EPIC: State v. Earls.

White House Launches Open Data Project

The President issued an Executive Order and memorandum this week outlining the administration's new "Open Data Policy." According to the White House, the goal is to make information "accessible, discoverable, and usable by the public" and to "promote interoperability and openness." The Executive Order states that agencies should also "safeguard individual privacy, confidentiality, and national security." The White House has launched Project Open Data, a collection of code, tools, and case studies to help agencies adopt the open data policy. An article in Foreign Policy this week "Think Again: Big Data" raises provocative questions about the actual value of "Big Data." For more information on Open Government issues, see: EPIC: Open Government and EPIC: Privacy Act.

On Proposed Trade Agreement, EPIC Says Keep Privacy Off the Table

EPIC has submitted comments to the U.S. Trade Representative addressing the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, a proposed trade agreement between the US and the European Union. In its comments, EPIC recommended that the TTIP negotiations exclude consumer privacy and data policy. Mindful of the US' progress in recent years on developing the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights and the EU's General Data Protection Regulation, EPIC cautioned the USTR that an attempt to harmonize existing privacy regulations would not end well. If provisions about cross-border data flows arises, EPIC urged the USTR to ensure that consumers are given the highest level of privacy protections. EPIC also recommended that all drafts of negotiating texts be made publicly available since previous negotiating documents in similar trade agreement negotiations have been kept secret. EPIC has recently begun a new FOIA project to obtain information about the statements of US officials who participate in international negotiations concerning privacy and data protection. For more information, see EPIC: TTIP. and EPIC: Open Government.

May 14, 2013

EPIC to Honor Senators Paul and Wyden, AP Reporter Mendoza, Consumer Advocate Grant, and Privacy Scholar Flaherty

EPIC has announced the recipients of the 2013 EPIC Champion of Freedom Awards. They are Senator Rand Paul, Senator Ron Wyden, and AP Reporter Martha Mendoza. Susan Grant will receive the EPIC Privacy Advocate award and David Flaherty will receive the EPIC Lifetime Achievement Award. The awards are given annually to courageous individuals who have defended privacy, open government, and democratic values. Previous recipients include federal judges, members of Congress, journalists, litigators, advocates, and philanthropists. The first EPIC Champion of Freedom Award was given to Senator Patrick Leahy in 2004. The 2013 award recipients will be honored at the EPIC Champion of Freedom Awards dinner in Washington, DC, Monday June 3, 2013. Tickets available.

EPIC Seeks Documents on Government's Authority to Search Journalists' Email

EPIC has filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel, seeking documents explaining the DOJ's legal authority to search the electronic communications of reporters. Following news reports that the DOJ seized the telephone records of the Associated Press, EPIC's request seeks to discover the legal basis for the action as well as whether the DOJ could obtain the email or text messaging records of journalists. In 2005, EPIC filed the first FOIA request concerning the government's "warrantless wiretapping". EPIC eventually obtained emails and a memo (pdf) from a former high-level Justice Department official expressing doubt about the government's argument in favor of the legality of the program. EPIC also obtained internal messages (pdf) from the NSA's director to agency staff, defending the NSA's warrantless eavesdropping and discouraging employees from discussing the issue with the news media. For more information, see EPIC: Open Government, EPIC: New York Times v. DOJ.

May 15, 2013

EPIC Asks House Committee to Press DOJ on News Media Subpoenas

For the House Judiciary Committee hearing on Oversight of the United States Department of Justice, EPIC has sent a letter to Committee Members regarding the surveillance of Associated Press reporters. EPIC asked the Committee to determine whether the Justice Department complied with regulations on news media subpoenas, which were enacted in 1980 after passage of the Privacy Protection Act. For more information, see EPIC: Privacy Protection Act of 1980 and EPIC: Warrantless Surveillance Program.

Amendment to Immigration Bill Seeks to Limit Drone Surveillance on Border

The Senate Judiciary Committee has approved an Amendment to the immigration bill to limit the range of drones surveillance in the United States. The immigration bill grants the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection authority to operate surveillance drones continuously within the border region. Senator Dianne Feinstein's (D-CA) Amendment reduces the patrol area of surveillance drones from 100 miles around the border to 25 miles. More than two-thirds of the US population lives within 100 miles of the border. In February 2013, EPIC petitioned the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection to suspend the border drone surveillance program pending the establishment of concrete privacy regulations. The petition followed the production of documents to EPIC under the Freedom of Information Act demonstrating that the border drones had the ability to intercept electronic communications and identify human targets. For more information, see EPIC: Domestic Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and Drones.

May 16, 2013

Colorado State Board of Education Study Session Regarding inBloom, Inc.

Colorado State Board of Education Study Session Regarding inBloom, Inc.

Khaliah Barnes,
EPIC Administrative Law Counsel

Colorado State Board of Education
May 16, 2013

White House Supports Media Shield Law

Following the controversy concerning the Justice Department’s subpoena of Associated Press calling records, the Obama administration announced support for a media shield law. The White House has asked Senator Charles E. Schumer to reintroduce the Free Flow of Information Act, a bill that would limit government access to information about confidential sources and would allow journalists to move to quash subpoenas of their phone records. EPIC is currently seeking the legal basis for the Justice Department’s subpoena of phone records through a Freedom of Information Act request. For more information, see EPIC: Free Flow of Information Act.

May 17, 2013

Congress Seeks Answers on Google Glass Privacy Risks

Members of the bipartisan Privacy Caucus sent a letter to Google seeking answers to questions about Glass, a wearable computer that routinely records video and audio, and gathers locational data. Among several questions, the Members of Congress asked "how Google plans to prevent Google Glass from unintentionally collecting data about the user/non-user without consent?" and whether Glass would be able to use facial recognition technology. Recently, Attorneys general for 38 states and the District of Columbia reached a $7 million settlement with Google over the unauthorized collection of data from wireless networks, including private WiFi networks of residential Internet users. Early last year, Google collapsed its privacy policies, prompting objections from EPIC state attorneys general, members of Congress, and IT managers in the government and private sectors. For more information, see EPIC: Google Glass and Wearable Computers.

EPIC Asks FTC to Investigate Snapchat

EPIC filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission against Snapchat, the publisher of a mobile app that encourages user to share intimate photos and videos. The company represents that users can make photos and videos "disappear forever." In fact, the photos can be retrieved by others after they should have vanished. The EPIC complaint implicates Privacy Enhancing Technologies, which if properly implemented would minimize or eliminate the collection of personally identifiable information. The FTC described similar methods in a 2012 privacy report. Previously, EPIC filed a complaint at the FTC against AskEraser, which falsely represented that search queries would be deleted when in fact they were retained by the company and made available to law enforcement agencies. For more information, see EPIC: Federal Trade Commission.

May 21, 2013

EPIC Testifies Before Colorado Board on Student Privacy

EPIC Administrative Law Counsel Khaliah Barnes testified before the Colorado State Board of Education on privacy issues concerning inBloom and other companies that acquire student information. In response to public outcry over a pilot program which grants these companies access to sensitive student data, the Colorado Board of Education hosted a public session. Representatives from inBloom, the Colorado Attorney General's Office, a local school district, and EPIC participated. EPIC recommended that Colorado ensure that students and parents have access to education records maintained by third party providers, and that students and their parents should be able to limit disclosure to third parties. In 2012, EPIC sued the Education Department for issuing regulations that failed to safeguard student privacy. For more information, see EPIC: EPIC v. The U.S. Department of Education and EPIC: Student Privacy.

Pew Survey Finds Teens Using Privacy Controls on Social Media

A survey by the Pew Internet and American Life Project and the Berkman Center for Internet and Society found that while teens are disclosing more personal information on social media, the vast majority are actively taking steps to protect their privacy. 60 percent of teen Facebook users keep their profiles private and visible only to a select group of friends, and 56 percent felt confident in their ability to manage Facebook’s privacy settings. Most teens also reported deleting or blocking users on social media sites, or obscuring the content of their messages through inside or coded references. Other polls by Pew have found that a majority of parents were concerned about their children’s online privacy and that users were becoming more active in managing their social media accounts. For more information, see EPIC: Public Opinion on Privacy.

May 28, 2013

Senator Paul Introduces Bill to Protect Fourth Amendment, Abolish "Third Party Doctrine"

Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky) has introduced the Fourth Amendment Preservation and Protection Act of 2013, which would prohibit the warrantless collection of information about individuals held by third parties. The law would overturn the "third party doctrine," which has been widely criticized by courts and legal scholars. The bill has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Senator Paul will receive a 2013 EPIC Champion of Freedom Award in Washington, DC on June 3. For more information, see EPIC: Awards Dinner and EPIC: Electronic Communications Privacy Act.

May 29, 2013

Public Hearing before the Trade Policy Staff Committee (TPSC) Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership

Public Hearing before the Trade Policy Staff Committee (TPSC) Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership

David Jacobs,
EPIC Consumer Protection Counsel

U.S. International Trade Commission
Washington, DC
May 29, 2013

FTC Opens Investigation into Google Advertising Dominance

The Federal Trade Commission has reportedly opened a new antitrust investigation into Google’s display advertising business. The Commission is investigating whether Google used its dominant position in the display advertising market, following the acquisition of Doubleclick, to harm competition. EPIC previously 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. Earlier this year, the Commission closed an antitrust investigation into Google’s search practices. For more information, see EPIC: Federal trade Commission and EPIC: Google/DoubleClick.

Texas Bill to Require Warrants for E-mail Searches Awaits Governor's Signature

The Texas legislature has passed H.B. No. 2268, a bill that creates a warrant requirement for law enforcement access to stored electronic communications and customer data. The law, which was presented to Governor Rick Perry this week, is the first successful state effort to establish an across-the-board warrant requirement for stored communications. Congress is considering similar changes to the federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act. Others have proposed more sweeping privacy reforms, and there are bills in both the House and Senate that would establish location privacy protections. EPIC testified before the Texas Legislature on H.B. 1608, a location privacy companion to H.B. 2268. For more information, see EPIC: Electronic Communications Privacy Act and EPIC: Locational Privacy.

May 30, 2013

TSA "Unplugs, Boxes Up, and Ships Back" X-Ray Body Scanners

The TSA has completed removal of the x-ray body scanners from US airports. The devices revealed detailed images of a person's naked body and have been described as "digital strip searches." The TSA action follows an Act of Congress and several lawsuits by EPIC. The TSA was forced to remove the machines after Congress required that the devices produce only generic image. And as result of EPIC v. TSA the TSA is currently required to accept public comments on its airport screening procedures. The public has until June 24, 2013 to voice its opinions. The millimeter wave devices remain in US airports. For more information, see: EPIC: Comment on the TSA Nude Body Scanner Proposal and EPIC: ATR lawsuit.

Backscatter x-ray machines show detailed images of a person's naked body and have been described as "digital strip searches."

About May 2013

This page contains all entries posted to epic.org in May 2013. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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