Blog of Rights

They’re Watching: FBI Business Records Requests Jump 900 Percent Compared to 2009

They’re Watching: FBI Business Records Requests Jump 900 Percent Compared to 2009

By Robyn Greene, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 12:14pm

Last week served as yet another reminder of the threats posed to Americans' privacy by the post-Patriot Act surveillance state...

The Privacy-Invading Potential of Eye Tracking Technology

The Privacy-Invading Potential of Eye Tracking Technology

By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 9:42am

Eye tracking technology received new attention recently due to its inclusion in the Samsung Galaxy IV phone, where it can (with mixed results, according to reviewers) let users scroll the screen with their eyes or dim the screen when they look away.…

Chertoff on Google Glass

Chertoff on Google Glass

By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 5:56pm

We’ve been doing a fair amount of thinking about the implications of consumer wearable cameras like Google Glass, and I’m sure we’ll have more to say in this space on the subject. But meanwhile, we’re pleasantly surprised to report a very trenchant analysis of the technology’s implications for our privacy by none other than Michael Chertoff. Writing on CNN’s web page, the former DHS chief writes,

So, who owns and what happens to the user's [video] data? Can the entire database be mined and analyzed for commercial purposes? What rules will apply when law enforcement seeks access to the data for a criminal or national security investigation? For how long will the data be retained? ….

Even those who might be willing to forgo some degree of privacy to enhance national security should be concerned about a corporate America that will have an unrestricted continuous video record of millions.

What is to prevent a corporation from targeting a particular individual, using face recognition technology to assemble all uploaded videos in which he appears, and effectively constructing a surveillance record that can be used to analyze his life?

Chertoff says he’s inclined to think that government regulation may be needed. I haven’t seen Chertoff say anything about the threat of pervasive government surveillance, which would make him a kind of anti-libertarian on privacy—in favor of restricting corporations, but not the government. For the average, relatively powerless person trying to live their life, the threat comes from both directions.

Status of Location Privacy Legislation in the States

Status of Location Privacy Legislation in the States

By Allie Bohm, Advocacy & Policy Strategist, ACLU at 12:00am

In the wake of the NSA revelations, there has been an avalanche of state bills requiring law enforcement to obtain a probable cause warrant before tracking an individual’s location in an investigation. Most state legislators know they can’t control the NSA—but they can control their state and local law enforcement, which are engaging in some of the same invasive practices. The trend actually started in the wake of the ACLU’s nationwide public records requests on location tracking and the 2012 U.S. v. Jones decision, when Montana and Maine enacted the first two location tracking laws in the country—the recent revelations have simply increased the momentum.

Working closely with our lobbyists in state capitols around the country, we’ve 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 keep this chart up-to-date as we receive new information.

Photo: LDProd/Shutterstock

Fighting Against Phony Location Privacy Protections in the States

By Allie Bohm, Advocacy & Policy Strategist, ACLU at 9:44am

A new battleground has opened up in the war over who has access to our electronic data trails: legislation is now being debated in states across the country to require a warrant for law enforcement access to location information in criminal investigations.…

Crop of image by x ray delta one via Flickr

Ad Industry Feeds White House Its Fallacious “Internet Depends on Spying” Logic

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

Representatives of the online advertising industry headed to the White House last week to speak with the task force on “big data and privacy” that President Obama asked advisor John Podesta to head up. The executives said they would bring the White…

Modification of image by Thomas Hawk via Flickr

Why Computers Will Get Less Logical, And What it Means For Privacy

By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 10:39am

A conversation like this may well take place not far in the future:

Insurance rep: How may I help you? Man: Yes, hello, I recently received a notice that my insurance has been cancelled, and I wanted to find out why. The letter I…

Crop of image by Arlo Bates via Flickr

When Big Data Becomes a Civil Rights Problem

By Chris Calabrese, Legislative Counsel, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 11:06am

My colleague Jay Stanley just wrote about an invasive new police tactic employed by the Chicago Police Department. Using software created by an engineer at the Illinois Institute of Technology, the city developed a “’heat list’ — an index of…

Setting the record straight on DHS and license plate tracking

Setting the record straight on DHS and license plate tracking

By Kade Crockford, Director, ACLU of Massachusetts Technology for Liberty Project at 4:37pm

There has been a lot of press coverage in the past couple of weeks about the Department of Homeland Security posting a solicitation for contract proposals regarding access to a national license plate reader database—and DHS’s decision, once mainstream…

Court Rules Feds Need Warrant to Access Drug Prescriptions Database

Court Rules Feds Need Warrant to Access Drug Prescriptions Database

By Nathan Freed Wessler, Staff Attorney, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 1:48pm

In a significant win for the privacy rights of anyone who has ever gotten a drug prescription, a federal judge in Oregon ruled yesterday that the DEA needs a warrant to search confidential prescription records.

Oregon, like 48 other states,…