Free Future

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Curious Cop Downloaded Hundreds of Private Prescription Records Because He Could

By Nathan Freed Wessler, Staff Attorney, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 2:40pm
Today, the ACLU and ACLU of Utah filed an amicus brief in support of a Utah paramedic whose Fourth Amendment rights were violated when police swept up his confidential prescription records in a dragnet search. Law enforcement’s disregard for basic legal protections in the case is shocking.
Photographers' Rights At Issue As Arizona Community Rises Up Against "Occupying Army" of Border Patrol Agents

Photographers' Rights At Issue As Arizona Community Rises Up Against "Occupying Army" of Border Patrol Agents

By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 1:10pm

The ACLU of Arizona today sent a letter to the U.S. Border Patrol demanding that the agency immediately stop interfering with the First Amendment rights of the residents of Arivaca, Arizona, to protest and to photograph government activities that are…

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SEC Blocking Update to Electronic Privacy Laws

By Sandra Fulton, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 3:36pm

During the long, hard fight to bring the outdated Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) into the 21st century, advocates have run into the most unlikely of opponents: the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Yes, the SEC—the agency charged…

Crop of image by David D/C via Flickr

Have We Become a “Surveillance State”? A Five-Part Test

By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 10:14am

At a panel in Toronto recently I was asked whether I thought the United States had become a “surveillance state.” How to answer that question? At first glance it’s an impossibly fuzzy question, the answer to which is relative depending on whether…

Status of Domestic Drone Legislation in the States

Status of Domestic Drone Legislation in the States

By Allie Bohm, Advocacy & Policy Strategist, ACLU at 12:21pm


Updated 1/22/14

We’re currently seeing an unprecedented surge of activity in state legislatures across the country aimed at regulating domestic surveillance drones. (My colleagues Jay Stanley and Catherine Crump have this recent piece detailing the trend.) Working closely with our lobbyists in state capitols around the country, we have been tracking this activity and working hard to make sure these privacy-protective bills become law. The chart below shows the current status of state legislation as we understand it. We will update this as we receive new information.

Photo of Stingray from U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

Documents Reveal Unregulated Use of Stingrays in California

By Linda Lye, Staff Attorney, ACLU of Northern California at 4:37pm

Local law enforcement agencies across the Bay Area have so-called stingray devices, a powerful cellphone surveillance tool, and more are planning to acquire the technology, according to public records recently obtained by Sacramento News10. The devices…

Status of Location Privacy Legislation in the States

Status of Location Privacy Legislation in the States

By Allie Bohm, Advocacy & Policy Strategist, ACLU at 12:00am

In the wake of the NSA revelations, there has been an avalanche of state bills requiring law enforcement to obtain a probable cause warrant before tracking an individual’s location in an investigation. Most state legislators know they can’t control the NSA—but they can control their state and local law enforcement, which are engaging in some of the same invasive practices. The trend actually started in the wake of the ACLU’s nationwide public records requests on location tracking and the 2012 U.S. v. Jones decision, when Montana and Maine enacted the first two location tracking laws in the country—the recent revelations have simply increased the momentum.

Working closely with our lobbyists in state capitols around the country, we’ve been tracking this activity and working hard to make sure these privacy-protective bills become law. The chart below shows the current status of state legislation as we understand it. We will keep this chart up-to-date as we receive new information.

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Utah Enacts Significant Location and Communications Privacy Bill

By Allie Bohm, Advocacy & Policy Strategist, ACLU at 3:53pm

On Monday, Utah became the first state to enact legislation simultaneously protecting location information and electronic communications content, regardless of age, from government access—ensuring that state and local law enforcement can only access…

"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

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Police Hide Use of Cell Phone Tracker From Courts Because Manufacturer Asked

By Nathan Freed Wessler, Staff Attorney, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 9:01am

It appears that at least one police department in Florida has failed to tell judges about its use of a cell phone tracking device because the department got the device on loan and promised the manufacturer to keep it all under wraps. But when police…