Free Future

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ACLU Fights for Limits on Secret Phone Tracking

By Samia Hossain, William J. Brennan Fellow, ACLU Speech, Privacy, & Technology Project at 11:08am
In March of this year, Robert Harrison had a cell phone with him while he was inside his home. Though he has kept and used a cell phone as long as any of us, this time, things were different.
"Drones" vs "UAVs" -- What's Behind A Name?

"Drones" vs "UAVs" -- What's Behind A Name?

By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 9:00am

Representatives of the drone industry and other drone boosters often make a point of saying they don’t like to use the word “drones.” When my colleague Catherine Crump and I were writing our drones report in 2011, we talked over what terminology we should use, and decided that since our job was to communicate, we should use the term that people would most clearly and directly understand. That word is “drones.”

Drone proponents would prefer that everyone use the term “UAV,” for Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, or “UAS,” for Unmanned Aerial System (“system” in order to encompass the entirety of the vehicle that flies, the ground-based controller, and the communications connection that connects the two). These acronyms are technical, bland, and bureaucratic. That’s probably their principal advantage from the point of view of those who want to separate them from the ugly, bloody, and controversial uses to which they’ve been put by the CIA and U.S. military overseas.

I suppose there is a case to be made that domestic drones are a different thing from overseas combat drones. Certainly, there’s a wide gulf separating a $17 million Reaper drone armed with Hellfire missiles and a hand-launched hobbyist craft buzzing around somebody’s back yard. But drone proponents themselves would be the first to say that drones are a tool—one that can be used for many different purposes. They can be used for fun, photography, science, surveillance, and yes, raining death upon people with the touch of a button from across the world. Even the overseas military uses of drones vary, including not just targeted killing but also surveillance and logistics.

Putting aside well-founded fears that even domestically we may someday see the deployment of weaponized drones, in the end, the difference between overseas and domestic drones is a difference in how the same tool is used. Regardless of whether you’ve got a Predator, a Reaper, a police craft, or a $150 backyard hobby rotorcraft, that tool is what it is. What it is is a drone.

I can’t touch on this subject without quoting from George Orwell’s famous essay “Politics and the English Language,” in which Orwell argued that bland and needlessly complicated language was a political act—a symptom of attempts to cover up

Hillary Clinton testifying

Politics Swirling Around Clinton Email Scandal Obscure Real Problems

By Gabe Rottman, Legislative Counsel, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 10:30am

Hillary Clinton’s use of a personal email server while secretary of state has inevitably become a fully inflated political football in these early days of the 2016 presidential race—with the right somehow linking the emails to the late Vince Foster,…

Burglar "cracking" computer-screen "safe"

Feds Refuse to Release Documents on “Zero-Day” Security Exploits

By Sonia Roubini, ACLU Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project & Chris Soghoian, Principal Technologist and Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project at 1:09pm

Federal agencies served with a Freedom of Information Act request are refusing to release documents related to their purchase, use and disclosure of zero-day exploits, keeping the American public in the dark about a practice that leaves the Internet…

Keeping the Government Out of Your Smartphone

Keeping the Government Out of Your Smartphone

By Chris Soghoian, Principal Technologist and Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project at 11:48am

Smartphones can be a cop's best friend. They are packed with private information like emails, text messages, photos, and calling history. Unsurprisingly, law enforcement agencies now routinely seize and search phones. This occurs at traffic stops,…

Blurry Street by Thomas Hawk

Documents in ACLU Case Reveal More Detail on FBI Attempt to Cover Up Stingray Technology

By Nathan Freed Wessler, Staff Attorney, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 11:46am

What is used by dozens of local law enforcement agencies around the country, featured in numerous news stories, and discussed in court, yet treated by the FBI like it is top secret? That would be "Stingray" cell phone surveillance gear, of course.

This…

Accountability vs. Privacy: The ACLU’s Recommendations on Police Body Cameras

Accountability vs. Privacy: The ACLU’s Recommendations on Police Body Cameras

By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 11:00am

Today we’re releasing our policy recommendations on police “body cameras” (also called “on-officer recording systems” or “cop cams”), small cameras that clip on to an officer’s uniform and record audio and video of the officer’s interactions…

Old postcard of cars in parking lot

DEA Planned to Monitor Gun Show Attendees With License Plate Readers, New Emails Reveal

By Bennett Stein, ACLU Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project & Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 6:40pm

The Drug Enforcement Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives collaborated on plans to monitor gun show attendees using automatic license plate readers, according to a newly disclosed DEA email obtained by the ACLU…

Modification of image by jpstanley with map by jepoirrier via Flickr

Cell Tower Dumps: Another Surveillance Technique, Another Set of Unanswered Questions

By Katie Haas, Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project at 11:58am

Today, the ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the FBI, the DEA, the Secret Service, and several other agencies asking for information about a surveillance technique known as a “cell tower dump.” If you’re wondering what that…

Profiling Muslims at the Airport

Profiling Muslims at the Airport

By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 3:20pm

I finally had a chance to read this extended debate between the security-ologist Bruce Schneier and critic-of-religion Sam Harris (yes that Sam Harris) over whether we should profile Muslims in airport security.

First of all, Sam Harris performs…