Blog of Rights

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.
A Creeping Private-Sector “Checkpoint Society”—and a Small Step to Protect Your Privacy

A Creeping Private-Sector “Checkpoint Society”—and a Small Step to Protect Your Privacy

By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 4:03pm

I was at a Target store recently and threw a bottle of wine in my cart to bring as a gift to a party. Later, when I got to the register, the cashier asked to see my ID. That in itself was silly, because it’s safe to say I’m a few years…

America, NSA Surveillance is Bad for Business

America, NSA Surveillance is Bad for Business

By Michael German, Senior Policy Counsel, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 9:50am

The New York Times last week provided new information that clarified how a key, yet unnamed, National Security Agency surveillance program designed to "target" foreigners' Internet communications actually worked, namely by secretly snatching and sifting…

Photo of aircraft

ACLU Seeks Information About Airborne Cell Phone Snooping

By Bennett Stein, ACLU Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project at 7:59am

The ACLU is filing a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request today for information about a newly revealed Marshals Service program that uses aircraft to suck up location data from tens of thousands of people’s cell phones at a time.

The…

Do Cops Really Need Tanks to Keep Us Safe?

Do Cops Really Need Tanks to Keep Us Safe?

By Kara Dansky, Senior Counsel, ACLU Center for Justice at 3:11pm

This piece was originally published on The Crime Report.

The militarized law enforcement response to peaceful protests over the killing of an unarmed black man in Ferguson, Mo. last month, has prompted several federal officials to question…

Easily Abused, Domestic Drones Raise Enormous Privacy Concerns

Easily Abused, Domestic Drones Raise Enormous Privacy Concerns

By Linda Lye, Staff Attorney, ACLU of Northern California at 10:06am

Shortly before next week’s one-year anniversary of the Oakland Police Department’s brutal crackdown on Occupy Oakland, Alameda County Sheriff Greg Ahern announced that he was seeking funds to purchase a drone to engage in unspecified unmanned aerial surveillance.

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


Final update to this chart 1/22/14. Status of 2014 legislation is available here.

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.

Is Privacy a Modern Phenomenon?

Is Privacy a Modern Phenomenon?

By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 1:02pm

I recently came across this piece by the author William Deresiewicz (from his consistently insightful “All Points” blog), in which he comments on the observation that privacy and solitude are privileges of the modern era that are “rare…

Does Surveillance Affect Us Even When We Can’t Confirm We’re Being Watched? Lessons From Behind the Iron Curtain

Does Surveillance Affect Us Even When We Can’t Confirm We’re Being Watched? Lessons From Behind the Iron Curtain

By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 2:16pm

During the Cold War, as I argued last week, the totalitarian governments of the Soviet bloc functioned as a standing warning to Americans of the dangers of unchecked surveillance—lessons that we would do well to remember despite the fall of the…

photo of drone flying

A Look at the Privacy Policies For the FAA's Six Drone Test Sites

By Nathaniel J. Turner, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 1:24pm

Last month, an Australian woman sunbathing topless in her back yard was accidentally captured in a photograph by a drone snapping pictures for a real estate listing. The picture was placed in online ads and billboards before the mistake was caught.…