Free Future

Is Your Turn-By-Turn Navigation Application Racist?

Is Your Turn-By-Turn Navigation Application Racist?

By Joe Silver, Washington Legislative Office, ACLU at 10:32am
Last month, a web-based service called “Ghetto Tracker” was unveiled. The site’s creator touted it as a travel advice service where users could pin digital maps with safety ratings to enable those new to town to avoid dodgy neighborhoods. While crowd-sourced travel advice is not a particularly novel or noteworthy idea, the site’s suggestive use of the word ghetto to evoke neighborhoods of color and its intention to label certain areas categorically “good/bad,” “safe/unsafe,” in conjunction with its choice of the below stock photo on the homepage, has resulted in an understandable backlash from those who have found the service distasteful. After a storm of negative publicity, the operators quickly renamed the service “Good Part of Town,” the stock photo was replaced with one depicting a black family, and the site dropped all of the references to “ghetto” to refer to a “bad” area. Despite this rebranding effort, the site’s operators decided to take down the site altogether just days after the launch.
It Sure Sounds Like the NSA Is Tracking Our Locations

It Sure Sounds Like the NSA Is Tracking Our Locations

By Patrick C. Toomey, Staff Attorney, ACLU National Security Project at 12:36pm

The drumbeat of “non-denial denials” is getting louder as the NSA continues to refuse to directly state whether it is using cell phone information to track Americans’ whereabouts. When NSA Director Lt. Gen. Keith Alexander was asked again about…

Naked Statue Reveals One Thing: Facebook Censorship Needs Better Appeals Process

Naked Statue Reveals One Thing: Facebook Censorship Needs Better Appeals Process

By Lee Rowland, Staff Attorney, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 10:07am

We at the ACLU were reassured of one thing this past weekend: Facebook’s chest-recognition detectors are fully operational...

The DEA Thinks You Have “No Constitutionally Protected Privacy Interest” in Your Confidential Prescription Records

The DEA Thinks You Have “No Constitutionally Protected Privacy Interest” in Your Confidential Prescription Records

By Nathan Freed Wessler, Staff Attorney, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 10:00am

The Drug Enforcement Administration thinks people have “no constitutionally protected privacy interest” in their confidential prescription records, according to a brief filed last month in federal court. That disconcerting statement comes in response…

The Millennial Generation and Civil Liberties

The Millennial Generation and Civil Liberties

By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 11:28am

Peter Beinart recently published a very interesting article on the Daily Beast making an argument that, if correct, could have very significant implications for privacy and other civil liberties in coming decades.

In essence, Beinart argues…

Documents Shed Light on Border Laptop Searches

Documents Shed Light on Border Laptop Searches

By Brian Hauss, Legal Fellow, ACLU Speech, Privacy and Technology Project at 6:24pm

The case of David Miranda got a lot of attention around the world after UK authorities were accused of abusing an anti-terrorism law to evade the normal constitutional restrains on police power and question someone because of their political associations.…

Does your local government have a “black budget” too?

Does your local government have a “black budget” too?

By Matthew Cagle, Volunteer Attorney, ACLU of Northern California at 2:32pm

Cross posted on the ACLU of Northern California blog.

As we learn more about the US intelligence community's top secret, multi-billion dollar "Black budget" and how the NSA pays technology companies to comply with the Prism spying program,…

How Can Smart, Ethical Individuals Form Dumb, Amoral Government Agencies?

How Can Smart, Ethical Individuals Form Dumb, Amoral Government Agencies?

By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 12:16pm

Yesterday I set forth some reflections on our giant national security establishment, and how we should think about it. I argued that one very useful way of conceptualizing it is not as a result of politics or personality, but as an institution, which to the first approximation is best thought of as a mindless, amoral, and self-perpetuating primitive life form.

And by saying that, I do not mean to disparage any of the individuals who make up those bureaucracies. I live in Washington and am friends with many government workers who are excellent, thoughtful human beings.

But when you gather many human beings into an institution, that institution tends to take on a life of its own. Most of the individuals who make up the gigantic national security state are reasonably intelligent, and many of them no doubt are exceptionally so. But when you aggregate thousands of intelligent human minds together in a bureaucratic organization, the ironic result is that the collective is sometimes dumber than its individual parts. By the same token, there is no particular reason to think that bureaucracies attract a disproportionate number of amoral or immoral individuals—they surely form the same bell curve as any other group of humans when it comes to characteristics such as empathy, sensitivity, and conscience. But the collective set of such humans can exhibit a marked quality of amorality, as exhibited for example by the willingness of security bureaucracies to do horrifying things such as continue to detain people at Guantanamo who are known to pose no threat to the United States.

Complexity theorists have a concept called emergence, which refers to the fact that when large numbers of individuals

How to Think About the National Security State

How to Think About the National Security State

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

The United States has grown a gigantic national security state. According to one analyst, our overall annual security budget is now more than $1.2 trillion. And we now know that includes at least $75 billion for “intelligence.” In the wake of Edward…

The Vast, Troubling Call Database Drug Agents Use to Identify Burner Phones

The Vast, Troubling Call Database Drug Agents Use to Identify Burner Phones

By Catherine Crump, Staff Attorney, ACLU Speech, Privacy and Technology Project at 4:43pm

This week the New York Times revealed the Hemisphere Project, in which the government is paying AT&T for access to an enormous phone records database. While some aspects of the program are unclear, we now know that the government has long collaborated with AT&T to conduct sophisticated data-mining of sensitive telephone records, primarily to identify “burner” phones.