Free Future

Concern High About Both NSA and Corporate Surveillance Among Americans Polled

Concern High About Both NSA and Corporate Surveillance Among Americans Polled

By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 1:13pm
While I was semi-disconnected from the grid over the holidays, one of the things I missed was an article in the Washington Post detailing the results of a poll on Americans’ privacy attitudes. The article, which contains lots of “man on the street” interviews with a range of views on privacy (including the usual “I have nothing to hide” viewpoint), correctly points out that in the interpersonal realm, “there are not yet widely accepted norms about who may watch whom and when and where tracking is justified.”
Graphs by MIT Students Show the Enormously Intrusive Nature of Metadata

Graphs by MIT Students Show the Enormously Intrusive Nature of Metadata

By Kade Crockford, Director, ACLU of Massachusetts Technology for Liberty Project at 11:47am

You've probably heard politicians or pundits say that “metadata doesn't matter.” They argue that police and intelligence agencies shouldn't need probable cause warrants to collect information about our communications. Metadata isn’t all that…

Virginia State Police Used License Plate Readers At Political Rallies, Built Huge Database

Virginia State Police Used License Plate Readers At Political Rallies, Built Huge Database

By Rebecca Glenberg, Legal Director, ACLU of Virginia at 5:14pm

From 2010 until last spring, the Virginia State Police (VSP) maintained a massive database of license plates that allowed them to pinpoint the locations of millions of cars on particular dates and times. Even more disturbing, the agency used automatic…

Ready, fire, aim: Ohio officials implement statewide face recognition program without a whiff of public debate

Ready, fire, aim: Ohio officials implement statewide face recognition program without a whiff of public debate

By Kade Crockford, Director, ACLU of Massachusetts Technology for Liberty Project at 4:16pm

Two months ago, the state government in Ohio secretly implemented a face recognition program using the drivers’ license database to check against mug shots and images of suspects, a local newspaper has learned. Using public records law to obtain…

Federal Appeals Court Rules the Government Can Track Your Cell Phone Without a Warrant

Federal Appeals Court Rules the Government Can Track Your Cell Phone Without a Warrant

By Catherine Crump, Staff Attorney, ACLU Speech, Privacy and Technology Project at 5:12pm

It has long been our position that the government must obtain a warrant based on probable cause before engaging in surveillance of people's historical cell phone location information. Today, our efforts were dealt a setback. Over a strong dissent,…

From the NSA to License Plate Readers: Are We to Have a “Collect it All” Society?

From the NSA to License Plate Readers: Are We to Have a “Collect it All” Society?

By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 10:44am

If the NSA needs a slogan, it should probably be “collect it all.” As phrased by an anonymous intel official recently quoted by the Washington Post, that has apparently been the approach of agency leadership in recent years. But the fight over whether that’s an appropriate strategy for keeping order in a democratic society is one that stretches far beyond the NSA programs now being debated.

For example, look at automatic license plate recognition systems, which are now sprouting up around the country. As we detailed in our recent report on the technology, many police departments are collecting and storing not only information about vehicles that are wanted by the police, but also location information about everybody who drives a car. Some police have defended this practice by arguing, essentially, that “you never know when or what we might need to solve a crime.”

In other words, nobody who accepts the NSA’s argument that universal collection is the right answer ought to be surprised when

Police Harassment of Photographers Remains a Problem

Police Harassment of Photographers Remains a Problem

By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 1:31pm

It’s been almost two years since we posted our ”Know Your Rights” Guide for Photographers, began calling attention to the problem of police harassment of photographers (including through this video), and began blogging about the issue. And several years before that, our affiliates around the country had already begun filing what have become numerous lawsuits on the issue.

It’s also been nearly two years since the First Circuit Court of Appeals held that the right to film police officers is protected by the First Amendment and that, moreover, that principle is so “fundamental and virtually self-evident” that it should have been known to the police even before the court’s ruling. That ruling was only the most prominent—courts around the country have been pretty much unanimous in finding such a right.

Yet the problem persists.

As Carlos Miller documents on his invaluable site Photography is Not a Crime, incidents of police harassment of photographers (and worse) continue to take place around the country on a daily or near-daily basis.

Why is it so hard for police officers to learn the law? We have seen settlements in some cities in which police department management has sent clear messages to their officers instructing them on the law, but in many cities, not enough has been done to train officers and/or enforce requirements that they abide by the Constitution.

As citizens prepare to gather this Fourth of July for rallies to restore the Fourth Amendment, let’s hope that this First Amendment right is respected as well.

"Vitruvian Man" by Leonardo da Vinci (modified by Jay Stanley)

A Tour of the TSA’s Testing Facility

By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 10:04am

Last week I was given a tour of the “TSA Systems Integration Facility” (TSIF), the agency’s testing facility located at Reagan National Airport here in Washington, in some outlying buildings that used to house the airport’s post office facility.…

J. Edgar Hoover, 1961, photo by Marion S. Trikosko from LOC/wikipedia

How State Secrecy Protects Government Agencies From Embarrassment, Then And Now

By Kade Crockford, Director, ACLU of Massachusetts Technology for Liberty Project at 10:12am

Often when the government wants to keep something secret, it claims that transparency would endanger national security. We’ve been hearing a lot of this lately with regards to Edward Snowden. The leaks have caused “grave harm” to national security…

Crop of photo by Thomas Hawk via Flickr

To Protect Privacy, Utah Attorney General Gives Away Some of His Power

By Kade Crockford, Director, ACLU of Massachusetts Technology for Liberty Project at 6:10pm

In February 2014, the attorney general for the state of Utah did something remarkable, something that law enforcement officials hardly ever do: He willingly gave away some of his power. The power was too great, he said, and the potential for abuse…