Free Future

Albert Einstein on America Since 9/11

Albert Einstein on America Since 9/11

By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 11:13am
I recently came across the following quote from Albert Einstein which, if you just sub out “Communism” and replace it with “terrorism,” pretty much nails our current situation:
Celebrities, the Police, and Surreptitious DNA Collection

Celebrities, the Police, and Surreptitious DNA Collection

By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 11:54am

Actress Mia Farrow made gossip-news headlines this week when, asked by Vanity Fair whether her former husband Frank Sinatra was the father of her son Ronan, rather than Woody Allen as broadly understood, she replied, “possibly.” She said that no…

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…

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