Blog of Rights

Jay
Stanley
Jay Stanley (@JayCStanley) is Senior Policy Analyst with the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Project, where he researches, writes and speaks about technology-related privacy and civil liberties issues and their future.  He is the Editor of the ACLU's "Free Future" blog and has authored and co-authored a variety of influential ACLU reports on privacy and technology topics. Before joining the ACLU, he was an analyst at the technology research firm Forrester, served as American politics editor of Facts on File’s World News Digest, and as national newswire editor at Medialink. He is a graduate of Williams College and holds an M.A. in American History from the University of Virginia.
Some Thoughts on DMV Image Databases and the Police

Some Thoughts on DMV Image Databases and the Police

By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 2:28pm
The Washington Post has an excellent, in-depth article today on the growing use of driver’s license photo databases combined with face recognition analytics by police.
Why Government Access to Metadata is More Than a 'Modest Encroachment' on Privacy

Why Government Access to Metadata is More Than a 'Modest Encroachment' on Privacy

By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 12:56pm

Metadata is back in the news, following The Guardian's extraordinary revelation on Wednesday revealing that the National Security Agency...

The Asymmetry Between Past and Future, and Why it Means Mass Surveillance Won’t Work

The Asymmetry Between Past and Future, and Why it Means Mass Surveillance Won’t Work

By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 11:39am

Former Senator Joseph Lieberman recently charged that mistakes by U.S. security agencies were responsible for failing to stop the Boston Marathon bombing. I recently wrote about how mass surveillance makes this kind of recrimination inevitable, because once a government agency spies on a person, they become in a sense responsible for any actions that that person takes. To paraphrase Colin Powell, we might sum it up as “You surveil him, you own him.”

I recently came across a good analogy for why it’s deceptively hard for security agencies to detect and stop out-of-nowhere terrorist attacks like the Boston bombing—and why mass surveillance isn’t likely to help. It comes from the book The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives, by the physicist and writer Leonard Mlodinow, in a discussion of Brownian motion.

Brownian motion, you may recall, is the random jiggling of molecules in a liquid or other substance. A dye molecule floating in a seemingly still glass of water will randomly move about, covering about an inch in three hours, buffeted by random collisions with the smaller water molecules that surround it.

What would it take to actually explain the motion of that molecule? This is where the parallel to anti-terrorism efforts comes in. Mlodinow points out, “In any complex string of events in which each event unfolds with some element of

How Social Networks Short-Circuit Our Inborn Privacy Intuitions

How Social Networks Short-Circuit Our Inborn Privacy Intuitions

By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 12:58pm

A few years ago, one of our ACLU state affiliates received a request for help from a man who had set up a marijuana grow operation in his home. He was apparently quite proud of what he built, because he bragged about it not only to his friends, but also to his Facebook “Friends.” Unfortunately, one of his Friends was Friends with a police officer a thousand miles away in Florida. That police officer called up his colleagues in

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