Democracy and Cybersecurity: Preserving Democratic Institutions

Democracy and Cybersecurity Campaign imageIn 2017, EPIC will fully engage the challenge of preserving and promoting democratic institutions. EPIC's specific interest in this issue is found in the work of our Advisory Board, as well as EPIC's ongoing legal efforts to ensure government accountability. The technical insights of faulty election systems and legal safeguards concerning privacy protection and open government converge at the common goal of preserving democratic institutions.

Top News

  • EPIC Seeks Public Release of Secret Directive on Cybersecurity: EPIC has filed an urgent FOIA request with the DHS, the Department of Justice, and the NSA, seeking the expedited release of NSPD-1. The National Security Presidential Directive sets out procedures for cybersecurity "policy coordination, guidance, dispute resolution, and periodic in-progress review." EPIC has previously litigated, and successfully obtained, NSPD-54, a Presidential Directive concerning the NSA's authority to conduct surveillance within the United States. (Jan. 28, 2017)
  • EPIC Sues for Release of Complete Report on Russian Interference with 2016 Election: EPIC has filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Office of the Director of National Intelligence in federal district court in Washington, DC. The case is designated EPIC v. ODNI, No. 17-163 (D.D.C. filed Jan. 25, 2017). As EPIC makes clear in the complaint, "there is an urgent need to make available to the public the Complete ODNI Assessment to fully assess the Russian interference with the 2016 Presidential election and to prevent future attacks in democratic institutions." More details in the press release. Last week EPIC sued the FBI to uncover details of the Bureau's response to Russian interference. (Jan. 26, 2017)
  • More top news

  • NEWS UPDATE - EPIC Sues FBI for Details of Russian Interference with 2016 Election (Jan. 18, 2017) +
    EPIC today filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Federal Bureau of Investigation in federal district court in Washington, DC. The case is designated EPIC v. FBI, No. 17-127 (D.D.C. filed Jan. 18, 2017). The complaint states “EPIC challenges the FBI’s failure to make a timely decision concerning EPIC’s request for expedited processing of the FOIA request for records about the Russian interference with the 2016 Presidential Election.” A press conference will be held at the Fund for Constitutional Government on Capitol Hill on Thursday, January 19, 2017 at 1 pm. Media Advisory
  • EPIC Urges Senate Committee to Ensure UN Ambassador Supports International Privacy Convention (Jan. 18, 2017) +
    EPIC has sent a statement to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee urging that the next UN Ambassador to advocate for human rights, particularly the right to privacy and the right to freedom of expression as set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. EPIC also wrote that the UN Ambassador should support US ratification of the Council of Europe Privacy Convention, which is critical to the continued flow of personal data around the world. EPIC and consumer organizations have called on the United States to ratify the Privacy Convention. Next week, many countries around the world will recognize January 28, International Privacy Day, which celebrates the International Privacy Convention.
  • EPIC Tells Senate to Probe Commerce Nominee on Data Protection, Privacy Shield (Jan. 18, 2017) +
    EPIC has sent a letter to the Senate Commerce Committee outlining the key privacy issues that the next Secretary of Commerce should address. The Committee convened this week to consider the nomination of Wilbur Ross for Commerce Secretary. EPIC stated that privacy protection may be on "the most important issue that the Secretary of Commerce will confront over the next several years." EPIC urged the Committee to ensure the nominee "make clear his commitment to a comprehensive approach to data protection, based in law." EPIC warned about the inadequacy of the Privacy Shield, a non-legal framework that permits the flow of European consumers' personal data to the United States, outside of European privacy law.
  • Senate Intelligence Committee Presses FBI to Reveal Russia Investigation (Jan. 16, 2017) +
    Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) and Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, have announced a bipartisan inquiry into the Russian interference with the 2016 Presidential Election. Democratic members of the House Judiciary Committee have also pressed the FBI to confirm its investigation of President-elect Trump's ties to Russia. In a letter to FBI Director James Comey, Committee Members requested "all documentation relevant to this investigation" be provided to the Committee "as soon as possible." EPIC has filed two urgent Freedom of Information Act requests concerning Russian interference: one for records about the FBI's lax response to the foreign cyber threat, the other for the report "Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections". This week EPIC also urged the Senate Armed Services Committee to pursue an investigation.
  • EPIC, Technology Experts Urge Senate Committee to Monitor President’s Homeland Security Advisor (Jan. 10, 2017) +
    In a letter to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security, EPIC and leading experts urged Congress to keep a close eye on the White House Homeland Security Advisor. EPIC explained that the position, equal in power to the National Security Advisor, carries "significant implications for the safety and security of the American people." EPIC said that the Homeland Security Advisor should ensure "the Russian government poses no further threats to the United States electoral system or to other democratic governments." EPIC also said that "data protection and privacy should remain a central focus" of U.S. cyber security policy. The EPIC letter was signed by distinguished experts in cyber security, information technology, encryption, and human rights law.
  • EPIC Seeks Expedited Release of Report on Russian Interference in 2016 Election (Jan. 10, 2017) +
    EPIC has submitted an urgent Freedom of Information Act request to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) seeking the complete report on the Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential Election. On January 6, the ODNI released a public summary on the Russian interference, but withheld important information. EPIC is seeking expedited release of the complete, unreacted report. EPIC is also seeking records from the FBI about the agency's lax response to the foreign cyber threat. EPIC submitted a statement to the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Russian interference. Congress will hold a second hearing today, and a bill initiating new sanctions against Russia is expected this week. EPIC will continue to press the ODNI for prompt release of the report.
  • Senate Armed Services Committee to Examine Foreign Cyber Threats (Jan. 4, 2017) +
    The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing on "Foreign Cyber Threats to the United States" on January 5, 2016. EPIC submitted a statement to the Committee to alert Senators about a pending Freedom of Information Act request. The EPIC FOIA request concerns the lax response of the FBI to the Russian interference with the 2016 Presidential election. EPIC wrote “we believe that the information that we are seeking from the FBI will also be helpful to the Senate Armed Services Committee as you investigate foreign cyber threats to the United States.”“Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, National Security Agency and Cyber Command Chief Adm. Mike Rogers and Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Marcel Lettre are scheduled to testify.
  • Obama Sanctions Russia for Election “Hack" (Dec. 30, 2016) +
    President Obama has sanctioned the Russian government for interference with the 2016 Presidential election. Obama stated, "These actions follow repeated private and public warnings that we have issued to the Russian government, and are a necessary and appropriate response to efforts to harm U.S. interests in violation of established international norms of behavior." Throughout this year, EPIC pursued a campaign in support of data protection, contending that it was "the most important, least well understood issue" of the 2016 election. EPIC specifically warned that online voting systems were vulnerable to cyber attack. EPIC recently filed an expedited FOIA request with the FBI, seeking to determine why the agency was slow to respond to the attack on US democratic institutions by a foreign government.
  • EPIC Seeks FBI Records on Russian Interference in 2016 Presidential Election (Dec. 22, 2016) +
    EPIC has submitted an urgent Freedom of Information Act request to the FBI seeking records about the agency’s response to the Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. According to several reports, Russian hackers infiltrated computer systems of the Democratic National Committee and the Republican National Committee. The U.S. Intelligence Community has officially attributed the attacks on the Russian government, yet questions have been raised about the failure of the FBI to investigate the attacks on the political parties of the United States. Congress is expected to establish a Select Committee to investigate the matter. “The FBI,” stated EPIC in the FOIA request, “ is entrusted with protecting the cybersecurity of the public and its institutions. The American public, thus has a great interest in understanding the nature of the FBI’s response to the Russian interference with the 2016 presidential election.” EPIC is seeking expedited processing of the FOIA request. EPIC has recently filed a FOIA lawsuit against the FBI, regarding the expansion of “Next Generation Identification,” one of the largest biometric databases in the world.
  • Obama Orders Review of Hacking During 2016 Election (Dec. 9, 2016) +
    President Obama's top homeland security advisor Lisa Monaco announced today that the Administration has asked the intelligence community to conduct a "full review" of cyber activity during the 2016 election. In 2016, EPIC urged candidates for office to focus on data protection, calling it "the most important, least well understood issue" of the 2016 election. EPIC also published a report on the importance of the secret ballot for democratic decision making. EPIC's Freedom of Information Act litigation uncovered flaws in online voting reported by the Department of Defense just prior to the 2012 election.
  • As Voters Go To Polls, EPIC Backs "Data Protection 2016," Secret Ballot (Nov. 7, 2016) +
    With voters heading to the polls for the 2016 Presidential election, EPIC has urged national focus on "data protection," calling it "the most important, least well understood issue" of this election season. Together with Common Cause and Verified Voting, EPIC also published a report on the importance of the secret ballot for democratic decision making. And EPIC's Freedom of Information Act litigation has uncovered flaws in online voting reported by the Department of Defense in a 2011 report. EPIC is non-partisan, educational organization and does not endorse candidates for public office.
  • EPIC Urges Congress to Protect Voter Privacy (Sep. 27, 2016) +
    EPIC has sent a letter to a Congressional committee in advance of a hearing on cybersecurity and ballot integrity. EPIC warned that casting votes online threaten voter privacy. EPIC explained that the secret ballot is the cornerstone of the US election system. EPIC, Common Cause, and Verified Voting recently published The Secret Ballot at Risk: Recommendations for Protecting Democracy. The report makes specific recommendations for protecting voter privacy. EPIC has a long history of working to protect voter privacy and election integrity.
  • Secret Ballot At Risk in Maryland After Election Board Vote (Sep. 27, 2016) +
    The Maryland State Board of Elections has voted to certify Maryland’s online ballot-marking system for general use, threatening voter privacy. Voters using the online-ballot marking system would receive and fill out their ballot online, risking third party access their vote. Previously online ballot-marking was permitted only to enable participation by voters with disabilities. EPIC, Verified Voting, and Common Cause recently released The Secret Ballot at Risk: Recommendations for Protecting Democracy, a report highlighting the right to a secret ballot and how Internet voting threatens voter privacy. EPIC has a long history of working to protect voter privacy and election integrity.
  • EPIC, Verified Voting, Common Cause Release Report on Ballot Secrecy (Aug. 18, 2016) +
    EPIC, Verified Voting, and Common Cause today released The Secret Ballot at Risk: Recommendations for Protecting Democracy, a report highlighting the right to a secret ballot and how Internet voting threatens voter privacy. All 50 states recognize ballot secrecy as a core value. Despite this, 32 states and DC are promoting Internet voting, typically for overseas and military voters, and are asking those voters to waive their right to a secret ballot. That threatens voting freedom and election integrity. The report recommends actions voters can take to protect the secrecy of their ballot, and encourages states to do more to safeguard voter privacy. EPIC has a long history of working to protect voter privacy and election integrity.
  • EPIC Hosts Policy Forum at National Press Club (Jun. 10, 2016) +
    EPIC brought together privacy, security, and policy experts for a panel discussion at the National Press Club around the theme “Data Protection 2016.” Panelists explored voter privacy issues, including voter ID and online voting, and also privacy issues that could arise in the 2016 election cycle. Participants included members of the EPIC Advisory Board, representatives of the Brennan Center and Verified Voting, and the UN Rapporteur on the Right to Privacy.
  • EPIC Launches "Data Protection 2016" to Make Privacy a Campaign Issue (Feb. 7, 2016) +
    Noting widespread concern about the state of privacy in America, EPIC has launched "Data Protection 2016," a non-partisan campaign to make data protection an issue in the 2016 election. EPIC President Marc Rotenberg said, "Data breaches, identity theft, and government surveillance are critical issues facing American voters, yet the candidates have said hardly a word." Security expert Bruce Schneier said, "Privacy is a critical issue that touches many aspects of Americans' lives. The Presidential candidates need to have a plan to protect our personal information." DataProtection2016 shows widespread support for stronger privacy protections in the United States. Campaign materials, including buttons and stickers, are available. Donations will support the work of EPIC.
  • EPIC: Voters Should Be Wary of 2012 Election Apps (Aug. 13, 2012) +
    EPIC has released a report, "Smartphones and the 2012 Election," which focuses on the potential risks to voters who download election-related apps to their smartphones and tablets. The report contends that these apps promote greater citizen participation in e-democracy, but also may contain malware, disseminate false information A recent study by the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School for Communication revealed that voters are ambivalent about "personalized" political advertising, a practice likely to increase with the number of election and political apps available for download. EPIC's report also examines the role of federal and state regulation in protecting voters and providing guidance to campaigns, and recommends actions that voters, election administrators, and campaigns can take to better protect voter privacy. For more information, see EPIC: Voting Privacy and EPIC: Location Privacy: Apple iPhone / iPad.
  • EPIC releases 2010 E-Deceptive Campaign Practices Report (Oct. 27, 2010) +
    The Electronic Privacy Information Center released the 2010 update to its "E-Deceptive Campaign Practices: Technology and Democracy 2.0" report, first published in 2008. The report reviews the potential for abuse of Internet-based technology in the election context, and makes recommendations on steps that should be taken by Election Administrators, voters, and those involved in Election Protection efforts. E-Deceptive campaigns are internet-based attempts to misdirect targeted voters regarding the voting process, and include false statements about poll place hours, election dates, voter identification rules, or voter eligibility requirements. For more information, see EPIC: Voting.
  • EPIC's Lillie Coney Appointed to Election Advisory Committee (Dec. 17, 2009) +
    House Speaker Nancy Pelosi appointed EPIC Associate Director and leading election reform advocate, Lillie Coney to the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) Board of Advisors. EAC is an independent, bipartisan commission charged with developing guidance to meet Help America Vote Act requirements, adopting voluntary voting system guidelines, and serving as a national clearinghouse of information about election administration. The EAC also accredits testing laboratories and certifies voting systems, as well as audits the use of HAVA funds. Ms. Coney leads EPIC’s voting project and has worked on developing voting technology standards, statewide-centralized voter registration systems with privacy safeguards, and voter identification policy. For more information, see EPIC: Lillie Coney and EPIC’s Voting Privacy Page.

Election Integrity

Voting imageThe rise of electronic voting brought with it concerns about transparency and verifiability. When there are no paper ballots to count, how can anyone be sure that his or her vote was counted? Key issues include ensuring ballot secrecy, that all votes cast are counted, and that the final outcome of the election is verifiably correct.

EPIC Litigation

  • EPIC v. DOD, seeking penetration testing reports relating to the Department of Defense's e-voting program (2014).

EPIC Amicus Briefs

EPIC Testimony and Statements

Additional Resources

Russian Interference with the 2016 Election

Russia imageDuring the 2016 election season, Russia carried out a multi-pronged attack intended to “undermine public faith in the US democratic process,” according to a report by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

EPIC Litigation

  • EPIC v. FBI Seeking records related to the FBI's response to foreign cyber attacks on democratic institutions in the United States prior to the 2016 Presidential Election (2017).
  • EPIC v. ODNI Seeking release of the Complete ODNI Assessment of the Russian interference with 2016 U.S. Presidential Election (2017).

EPIC Testimony and Statements

Additional Resources

Transparency and accountability of US cybersecurity policy

Cybersecurity imageRussian interference in the 2016 election led to calls for increased attention to cybersecurity. It is not yet clear, however, what that will mean. As the U.S. works to strengthen cybersecurity to resist interference in the democratic process, it must preserve the principles of transparency and accountability that are fundamental to democratic governance.

EPIC Litigation

  • EPIC v. DOJ, seeking the EU-US Umbrella Agreement, a framework for transatlantic data transfers between the US and the EU. The proposed goal of the Agreement is to provide data protection safeguards for personal information transferred between the EU and the US (2015).
  • EPIC v. DOJ, seeking the reports that detail the NSA's collection of call record information from US companies (2013).
  • EPIC v. NSA, seeking records about the NSA's arrangement with Google regarding cybersecurity, following news reports that the agency would assist the company in analyzing network traffic (2010).
  • EPIC v. NSA, seeking NPSD 54, a Presidential Directive that grants the National Security Agency broad authority to conduct surveillance of domestic communications (2010).
  • EPIC v. Virginia State Police, seeking records that directly relate to alleged federal government involvement with a bill which exempts the Virginia Fusion Intelligence Center Virginia Fusion Center from Virginia privacy and government transparency laws (2008).

EPIC Testimony and Statements

Additional Resources

Media

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