Free Future

Trickle Down Surveillance

Trickle Down Surveillance

By Nathan Freed Wessler, Staff Attorney, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 11:22am
Cell site simulators, also known as "stingrays," are devices that trick cellphones into reporting their locations and identifying information. They do so by mimicking cellphone towers and sending out electronic cues that allow the police to enlist cellphones as tracking devices, thus revealing people's movements with great precision. The equipment also sends intrusive electronic signals through the walls of private homes and offices, learning information about the locations and identities of phones inside. Initially the domain of the National Security Agency (NSA) and other intelligence agencies, the use of stingrays has trickled down to federal, state and local law enforcement. In one Florida case, a police officer explained in court that he "quite literally stood in front of every door and window" with his stingray to track the phones inside a large apartment complex.
Car in blurry lights

Federal Court Rules on One of the Major Outstanding Constitutional Privacy Questions of Our Time

By Nathan Freed Wessler, Staff Attorney, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 9:13am

In a tremendous step forward for our right to privacy under the Fourth Amendment, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals has held in United States v. Quartavious Davis that police need a warrant to obtain historical cell phone location information from…

photograph of cancer cells under microscope

Secrecy is a Cancer on Our Democracy

By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 10:25am

In our 2011 ACLU report on secrecy "Drastic Measures Required," my co-author Mike German and I wrote that "American democracy has a disease, and it's called secrecy." Government secrecy, we wrote, "is growing like a cancer in our democracy."

Events…

Photo of stingray at bottom of ocean

VICTORY: Judge Releases Information about Police Use of Stingray Cell Phone Trackers

By Nathan Freed Wessler, Staff Attorney, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 3:12pm

A Florida judge has sided with the ACLU to order release of information about police use of “stingrays,” which are invasive surveillance devices that send out powerful signals to trick cell phones into transmitting their locations and identifying…

filing cabinet

U.S. Marshals Seize Local Cops’ Cell Phone Tracking Files in Extraordinary Attempt to Keep Information From Public

By Nathan Freed Wessler, Staff Attorney, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 12:13pm

A run-of-the-mill public records request about cell phone surveillance submitted to a local police department in Florida has unearthed blatant violations of open government laws, including an incredible seizure of state records by the U.S. Marshals…

Cell phone tower

New York Court Recognizes Privacy-Invasive Nature of Cell Tower Dumps But Stops Short of Requiring a Warrant

By Nathan Freed Wessler, Staff Attorney, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 5:49pm

A magistrate judge in New York has become only the second federal judge to issue a public ruling addressing the lawfulness of so-called “tower dumps”—the intrusive practice by which the government acquires location information for hundreds or…

Federal Trade Commission Needs to Move Beyond Reports When It Comes to Data Brokers

Federal Trade Commission Needs to Move Beyond Reports When It Comes to Data Brokers

By Chris Calabrese, Legislative Counsel, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 3:10pm

“In the nearly two decades since the Commission first began to examine data brokers, little progress has been made to improve transparency and choice.”      - Conclusion, Federal Trade Commission Report, A Call for Transparency…

Privacy Please laptop

How to Protect the Most Privacy with the Least Effort: Change Search Engines

By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 1:15am

If you use Google, Yahoo, Bing, or any other service that tracks your search terms, there is no reason not to change search engines today.

When you do a search with these companies, they log your IP address and search terms, and store that…

Judge with gavel

A Partial Victory For Judicial Transparency

By Bennett Stein, ACLU Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project at 12:55pm

In a partial victory for the public’s right to access and scrutinize court proceedings, a federal judge recently made public most of two previously sealed opinions authorizing gag orders on Twitter and Yahoo to prevent the companies from disclosing…

Crop of photo by Volker Neumann via Flickr

San Francisco Woman Pulled Out of Car at Gunpoint Because of License Plate Reader Error

By Kade Crockford, Director, ACLU of Massachusetts Technology for Liberty Project at 5:13pm

A lawsuit pertaining to the use of license plate readers in San Francisco illustrates how dangerous it can be when police officers turn off their eyes, ears, and brains, and mistakenly rely on imperfect technologies to tell them who’s up to no good.

On…