Civil Liberties in the Digital Age

In the digital age that we live in today, we are constantly exposing our personal information online. From using cell phones and GPS devices to online shopping and sending e-mail, the things we do and say online leave behind ever-growing trails of personal information. The ACLU believes that Americans shouldn’t have to choose between using new technology and keeping control of your private information. Each week, we feature some of the most interesting news related to technology and civil liberties that we’ve spotted from the previous week.
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 one has in mind life in an 18th century American town, or the Stasi. At the same time, if we can impose some structure on how we approach the question, it is an opportunity to take stock of where we stand—probably a healthy exercise.
Crop of image by afagen via Flickr

Dear Mr. President: Walk the Walk on Big Data

By Chris Calabrese, Legislative Counsel, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 12:28pm

In the wake of the NSA scandals and daily corporate privacy invasions, the president asked one of his senior advisors, John Podesta, to perform a quick 90-day review of “big data” (corporate jargon for privacy) and lay out what next steps his administration…

Data Tunnel

Cyberalarmism's Threat to Privacy

By Michelle Richardson, Legislative Counsel, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 12:26pm

This piece originally ran on Al Jazeera America.

When members of Congress talk cybersecurity, it doesn’t take long for the discussion to turn apocalyptic. The Feb. 27 meeting of the Senate Intelligence Committee was no different when Lindsey…

Modification by Jay Stanley of photo by Nestor Lacle via Flickr

Chicago Police “Heat List” Renews Old Fears About Government Flagging and Tagging

By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 10:40am

The Verge had a story last week (expanding on an August report from the Chicago Tribune that I’d missed) that the Chicago police have created a list of the “400 most dangerous people in Chicago.” The Trib reported on one fellow, who had no criminal…

So you think you have nothing to hide...

So you think you have nothing to hide...

By Kade Crockford, Director, ACLU of Massachusetts Technology for Liberty Project at 11:00pm

Governments at the local, state, and federal level increasingly collect troves of sensitive information about where we go, what we read, who we know, what we buy, and more. Some people say they don't care about this silent and ever present surveillance.…

Big Data, George Orwell, and Tanks

Big Data, George Orwell, and Tanks

By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 11:33am

I recently came across an interesting passage by George Orwell. It made me think about Big Data.

It is a commonplace that the history of civilization is largely the history of weapons. In particular, the connection between the discovery…

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”…

The Flawed Logic of Secret Mass Surveillance

The Flawed Logic of Secret Mass Surveillance

By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 10:50am

Privacy is a form of power. Humans are always highly aware who is observing them at any given time and place, and always tailor their behavior to that audience. And they generally work to make sure that their behavior does not reveal things that might…

Who Should be in Charge of Privacy in the 21st Century?

Who Should be in Charge of Privacy in the 21st Century?

By Chris Calabrese, Legislative Counsel, ACLU Washington Legislative Office & Joe Silver, Washington Legislative Office, ACLU at 2:23pm

An effort is underway to significantly set back even the limited amount of government privacy oversight that currently takes place over commercial privacy in the United States. Tuesday the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing…

The Three Dimensions of the Privacy Apocalypse

The Three Dimensions of the Privacy Apocalypse

By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 11:34am

Recent reports have revealed that several companies are currently pushing “intelligent street lights” that are capable of being loaded with various kinds of sensors including, as Reuters reported late last month,

sensors for moisture,…

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