Free Future

Police Documents on License Plate Scanners Reveal Mass Tracking

Police Documents on License Plate Scanners Reveal Mass Tracking

By Catherine Crump, Staff Attorney, ACLU Speech, Privacy and Technology Project at 10:01am
Automatic license plate readers are the most widespread location tracking technology you’ve probably never heard of. Mounted on patrol cars or stationary objects like bridges, they snap photos of every passing car, recording their plate numbers, times, and locations. At first the captured plate data was used just to check against lists of cars law enforcement hoped to locate for various reasons (to act on arrest warrants, find stolen cars, etc.). But increasingly, all of this data is being fed into massive databases that contain the location information of many millions of innocent Americans stretching back for months or even years.
Cops outraged about GPS tracking plans in Boston

Cops outraged about GPS tracking plans in Boston

By Kade Crockford, Director, ACLU of Massachusetts Technology for Liberty Project at 2:42pm

Boston Police Department bosses want to install GPS monitoring devices in every patrol car, to enable dispatch to more efficiently process 911 calls. But police officers and their union are outraged, saying that the ubiquitous tracking is too invasive…

Should Facebook Censor Misogynistic Material?

Should Facebook Censor Misogynistic Material?

By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 9:57am

The New York Times ran an article yesterday about pressure that is mounting on Facebook to censor websites full of awful misogynistic material. The company said it was reviewing its processes for dealing with content under its hate speech policy.

As…

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...

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…

Modification of image by rachaelvoorhees via Flickr

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…

On the Prospect of Blackmail by the NSA

On the Prospect of Blackmail by the NSA

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

Sometimes when I hear public officials speaking out in defense of NSA spying, I can’t help thinking, even if just for a moment, “what if the NSA has something on that person and that’s why he or she is saying this?”

Of course it’s…

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…

AT&T Wants Us to Pay Them With Our Money And Our Privacy – How to Opt Out

AT&T Wants Us to Pay Them With Our Money And Our Privacy – How to Opt Out

By Nicole Ozer, Technology & Civil Liberties Policy Director, ACLU of Northern California at 5:43pm

I received an email from AT&T today. Did you? It turns out that AT&T is revising its privacy policy to make it “easier to understand” and by the way, also to let us know that they want us to pay them with our money and our privacy, too.…

"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