Free Future

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 are highly intrusive and completely unregulated. Although the Wall Street Journal reported in 2011 that they were being used by the federal government, the News10 records reveal for the first time that these devices are also in widespread use by local authorities stretching from San José to Sacramento. The revelations are troubling. Once again, we see the proliferation of powerful new surveillance tools, but without any rules to constrain their use. The acquisition of these devices is shrouded in secrecy and driven by federal grant money, which undermines local democratic oversight. Their actual use by local law enforcement reflects the all too common phenomenon of mission creep: Although the justification for acquiring these devices is “fighting terrorism,” agencies seem to be using them for ordinary criminal law enforcement.
filing cabinet

U.S. Marshals Seize Local Cops’ Cell Phone Tracking Files in Extraordinary Attempt to Keep Information From Public

By Nathan Freed Wessler, Staff Attorney, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 12:13pm

A run-of-the-mill public records request about cell phone surveillance submitted to a local police department in Florida has unearthed blatant violations of open government laws, including an incredible seizure of state records by the U.S. Marshals…

Crop of image by David Goehring via Flickr

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…

ACLU Seeks Information About Pentagon Infiltration of “World of Warcraft”

ACLU Seeks Information About Pentagon Infiltration of “World of Warcraft”

By Rita Cant, Attorney, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project & Lee Rowland, Staff Attorney, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 12:44pm

Picture it. You’re online, ensconced in a muscled avatar, hacking your way through a World of Warcraft quest. A burly blacksmith appears on screen, and instead of brandishing a blunderbuss, turns to you and whispers: “Nothing is better than joining…

Game Theory and Privacy

Game Theory and Privacy

By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 11:27am

Earlier this week in “The Flawed Logic of Secret Mass Surveillance” I presented some thinking about the dynamics of mass surveillance and what that suggests about how things are likely to play out in the future with regards to the NSA’s spying.…

The $338,000 Internet Comment

The $338,000 Internet Comment

By Lee Rowland, Staff Attorney, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 12:00am

(Updated below)

We’ve written before about Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1998 — a federal law that protects the robust diversity of free speech we’ve come to know and love (and hate) on the Internet. Last night, the…

What Makes Presidents Turn Into Hard Core Defenders of the Security State? Seven Possible Explanations

What Makes Presidents Turn Into Hard Core Defenders of the Security State? Seven Possible Explanations

By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 10:45am

I recently wrote about how it can be useful to think of our national security state in institutional rather than personal or political terms—as a gigantic organism that displays certain consistent behaviors. And I speculated about how this organism can be both less intelligent and less moral than the individuals who make it up.

At the same time, it is undoubtedly true that some individuals within the national security state—the leadership—have great direct power to alter its character and direction. So why don’t they? Those individuals come from a wide variety of political and life backgrounds. But despite that fact, the overall behavior of the security establishment seems to be relatively consistent.

This is true up to the presidential level. In interviews about his whistleblowing decision, Edward Snowden has talked about his disillusionment with President Obama when it comes to reining in the national security state. This is a disillusionment that we share. Before he took office Obama seemed sympathetic to the criticism of the Bush Administration over the excesses of the national security state. So what happened?

Trickle Down Surveillance

Trickle Down Surveillance

By Nathan Freed Wessler, Staff Attorney, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 11:22am

Cell site simulators, also known as "stingrays," are devices that trick cellphones into reporting their locations and identifying information. They do so by mimicking cellphone towers and sending out electronic cues that allow the police to enlist…

The Government is Silencing Twitter and Yahoo, and It Won't Tell Us Why

The Government is Silencing Twitter and Yahoo, and It Won't Tell Us Why

By Bennett Stein, ACLU Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project at 10:07am

The government is using shaky legal arguments to silence major Internet companies without giving them – or the public – the opportunity to respond. In three separate recent cases, the government has sent a grand jury subpoena to Yahoo or Twitter…

Nothing to See Here! Censoring 'The Innocence of Muslims'

Nothing to See Here! Censoring 'The Innocence of Muslims'

By Lee Rowland, Staff Attorney, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 1:32pm

It's likely you haven't escaped the roiling controversy generated by the film The Innocence of Muslims. This "film" has alternately been described as: a deliberate provocation of Muslims, a launching point for a conversation about free speech, a trigger…