Free Future

Photo of cell phone tower disguised as a palm tree.

ACLU-Obtained Documents Reveal Breadth of Secretive Stingray Use in Florida

By Nathan Freed Wessler, Staff Attorney, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 5:30pm
The ACLU is releasing records today obtained from law enforcement agencies across Florida about their acquisition and use of sophisticated cell phone location tracking devices known as “Stingrays.” These records provide the most detailed account to date of how law enforcement agencies across a single state are relying on the technology. (The full records are available here.)
Blurred lights from cars on street at night

Company Asks Cops to Keep Use of License Plate Trackers Secret

By Kade Crockford, Director, ACLU of Massachusetts Technology for Liberty Project at 5:28pm

The NYPD may soon become the latest police department to begin paying private license plate tracking corporation Vigilant Solutions for access to the company’s nationwide location database, according to a report in the New York Daily News and documents…

FOIA Documents Reveal Massive DEA Program to Record American’s Whereabouts With License Plate Readers

FOIA Documents Reveal Massive DEA Program to Record American’s Whereabouts With License Plate Readers

By Bennett Stein, ACLU Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project & Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 7:15pm

(Updated below)

The Drug Enforcement Administration has initiated a massive national license plate reader program with major civil liberties concerns but disclosed very few details, according to new DEA documents obtained by the ACLU through…

Modification of image by Joe King via Flickr

Status of 2014 Domestic Drone Legislation in the States

By Allie Bohm, Advocacy & Policy Strategist, ACLU at 10:32am

Updated 6/30/14

Since last year, surveillance drones have been the subject of fierce debate both among legislators and the public, giving rise to an impressive amount of legislation—proposed and enacted—to protect individuals’ privacy.

Working…

Photo of a police traffic stop

Police Officer Discretion in the Use of Body Worn Cameras

By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 12:30pm

In our October 2013 policy white paper on police body cameras, we struggled with how to ensure that the cameras would serve as an effective oversight mechanism for police while not unduly invading privacy. We pointed out that purely from an oversight…

Painting of family riding in 1962 Chevrolet Corvair Monza

License Plate Scanners Also Taking Photos of Drivers and Passengers

By Sonia Roubini, ACLU Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project at 10:01am

The Drug Enforcement Administration is using its license plate reader program not only to track drivers’ locations, but also to photograph these drivers and their passengers, according to newly disclosed records obtained by the ACLU via a Freedom…

"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

Crop of painting 'An Old Scholar' by Salomon Koninck

Academic Freedom and the Right to Remain Anonymous Online

By Anonymous at 2:58pm

We are the founders of PubPeer.com, an online forum for scientific discussion of research scholarship. We and many of the users of our website are anonymous. That anonymity is important for free speech, for academic freedom, and for scientific inquiry.…

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…

Detail from painting "Washington as Statesman at the Constitutional Convention"

Calls For a Constitutional Convention Heating Up in the States

By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 11:47am

(Updated below)

We're hearing from our ACLU affiliates about a new trend in state legislatures: proposals to call for the convening of a constitutional convention. This would be a fairly radical step: although clearly provided for in the Constitution,…