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.
Ignorant Armies Eavesdropping By Night?

Ignorant Armies Eavesdropping By Night?

By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 10:11am
As revelations continue to pour forth about how the talents of thousands of brilliant math and computer experts are being utilized by the National Security Agency, we also saw last week the release of a report to Congress that attempts to defend the importance of the humanities. I thought this Scientific American piece by John Horgan on the report was especially good. A science writer who teaches at the Stevens Institute of Technology, Horgan says many of his science and engineering students question why they should have to take a humanities class. “They don’t see the point of reading all this old impractical stuff that has nothing to do with their careers,” he notes.
Call Logs? Try Kilowatts: Reports Reveal Demands for California Energy Data

Call Logs? Try Kilowatts: Reports Reveal Demands for California Energy Data

By Matthew Cagle, Volunteer Attorney, ACLU of Northern California at 4:34pm

Amid recent revelations that the NSA has been secretly spying on phone records and the Internet activity of people in the United States, transparency reports filed by the California utilities companies and obtained by the ACLU of California show that…

Who Decides?

Who Decides?

By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 9:32am

I’d like to make one major point about the NSA surveillance scandal that many people have made indirectly, or implicitly, or seem to have assumed, but have not stated baldly and explicitly. That point is how this incident has laid bare the arrogance of our national security officials.

Because there are really two separate issues behind last week’s revelations. The first is, how much surveillance of the American people should the government conduct? The second is, who should decide how much surveillance of the American people the government should conduct?

And on that second question, the government has arrogated to itself the power to make that decision, unilaterally, in secret, on behalf of the American people.

In his only comments on this scandal, President Obama said,

The Burdens of Total Surveillance

The Burdens of Total Surveillance

By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 1:33pm

Last week’s Washington Post report that the CIA had requested that Boston bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev be placed on a terrorist watch list raises an interesting point about total surveillance societies: in addition to all their negative implications for citizens, they actually bring some disadvantages for the authorities as well.

It’s not clear what information the CIA’s request was based upon, but reportedly it came from Russian authorities. It is also possible that Tsarnaev’s communications were flagged by US agencies such as the NSA. Either way, it seems as though there’s a real possibility that Tamerlan’s name came to the attention of the authorities through some dragnet-style surveillance technique.

If so, the conundrum for the authorities is this:

Do Young People Care About Privacy?

Do Young People Care About Privacy?

By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 10:00am

Everywhere I go, I hear some variation of the claim that “young people today just don’t care about privacy.” This is something that people widely seem to believe is “just true.” The latest claim to this effect comes in the form of a new poll, the release of which was trumpeted with unfortunate headlines like “Millennials don’t worry about online privacy.”

In fact, the poll, which was conducted by the University of Southern California’s corporate-partnered Center for the Digital Future, showed no such thing. Although there were some differences between younger and older respondents,

Newest Word to Take on Orwellian Overtones in Internet Age: “Trust”

Newest Word to Take on Orwellian Overtones in Internet Age: “Trust”

By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 5:44pm

What could be warmer and fuzzier than “trust”? Between two human beings, it’s a hard-won bond that binds them together. In society, it is a currency that helps create a prosperous and efficient economy and culture, as thinkers such as Francis…

CISPA Remains Fatally Flawed After Secret Committee Markup

CISPA Remains Fatally Flawed After Secret Committee Markup

By Michelle Richardson, Legislative Counsel, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 12:20pm
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The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence on Wednesday marked up CISPA,…

Visit the New and Improved dotRights.org, and Demand a Privacy Upgrade

Visit the New and Improved dotRights.org, and Demand a Privacy Upgrade

By Josh Bell, Media Strategist, ACLU & Noa Yachot, Communications Strategist, ACLU at 5:04pm

You shouldn’t have to trade your privacy rights for the ability to use digital technology. But with technological advances coming so quickly, privacy protections are having trouble keeping up. That’s why the ACLU created the dotRights campaign…

The ACLU’s Pizza Video: 10 Years Later

The ACLU’s Pizza Video: 10 Years Later

By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 2:48pm

In 2004, the ACLU produced a satiric video called “Ordering Pizza in 2015” that has become the single most-downloaded piece of content we’ve ever produced (at least we believe in the absence of complete stats). I won’t describe…

Business Model vs. Fourth Amendment

Business Model vs. Fourth Amendment

By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 5:10pm

I wrote recently about the U.S. government and companies lobbying against the EU’s attempt to strengthen their privacy laws, and our own efforts at the ACLU to advance high transnational privacy standards. Our efforts helped attract a round of…

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