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.
Commercial Data Scores For Police, Auto Security, and Online Bots (Friday Links Roundup)

Commercial Data Scores For Police, Auto Security, and Online Bots (Friday Links Roundup)

By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 3:17pm
One of the problems we have long had with some cities’ red light camera systems is the role of the private sector, which sometimes assumes inherently governmental functions such as deciding who gets a traffic ticket—as well as collecting a slice of the revenue. The Birmingham News recently posted a series on the issue of private companies assuming traditionally governmental functions. In Alabama, private companies have been involved not only with traffic enforcement but also such things as tax collection and auditing and probation administration. In one town this led to what a judge condemned as a “debtor’s prison” and a “judicially sanctioned extortion racket.” As Jim Williams, executive director of the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama, put it, “We expect the private sector to be aggressive. The responsibility to set limits and make rules lies with the government.” Unfortunately, all too often when government makes use of the private sector, it does not structure the deals carefully enough to ensure that the profit motive does not trample rights. And (as I am quoted as saying in the piece) private companies are not subject to checks and balances such as open-records laws that have evolved over time for government. With privatization a continuing craze—and local hunger for revenue at an historic high—we can unfortunately expect to see more of such misguided efforts, especially in the technology area where innovation comes from the private sector.
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…

Civil Liberties in the Digital Age: Weekly Highlights (10/5/12)

Civil Liberties in the Digital Age: Weekly Highlights (10/5/12)

By Anna Salem, ACLU of Northern California at 3:50pm

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…

Would it be Easier to Fight Surveillance if the Soviets Were Still Around?

Would it be Easier to Fight Surveillance if the Soviets Were Still Around?

By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 10:05am

Sometimes the constant news on the surveillance front makes me wonder: would it be easier to fight new surveillance programs if the Soviet Union were still around?

On the one hand the Cold War was a bonanza for the military and for our three-letter…

California Social Media Privacy Laws Give Students, Employees Online Rights

California Social Media Privacy Laws Give Students, Employees Online Rights

By Chris Conley, Staff Attorney, ACLU of Northern California Technology and Civil Liberties Project at 11:15am

On Thursday California Governor Jerry Brown signed two bills into law that will protect the privacy of employee and college student social media accounts in the state of California. While these bills aren’t perfect, they are an important first…

Breaking the Law, Videotaping Suspicious Characters, and Seeing Through Walls (Friday Links Roundup)

Breaking the Law, Videotaping Suspicious Characters, and Seeing Through Walls (Friday Links Roundup)

By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 5:28pm

Reports circulated this week that Facebook’s new Timeline was placing private messages into people’s public Timeline displays. Facebook said it was certain that was not happening. According to a statement from Facebook:

Our engineers…

Civil Liberties in the Digital Age: Weekly Highlights (9/28/2012

Civil Liberties in the Digital Age: Weekly Highlights (9/28/2012

By Anna Salem, ACLU of Northern California at 2:51pm

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…

New Justice Department Documents Show Huge Increase in Warrantless Electronic Surveillance

New Justice Department Documents Show Huge Increase in Warrantless Electronic Surveillance

By Naomi Gilens, ACLU Speech, Privacy and Technology Project at 1:32pm

Justice Department documents released today by the ACLU reveal that federal law enforcement agencies are increasingly monitoring Americans’ electronic communications, and doing so without warrants, sufficient oversight, or meaningful accountability.

The…

Lie Detection, Special Treatment at the Airport, and Recursive Cameras (Friday Links Roundup)

Lie Detection, Special Treatment at the Airport, and Recursive Cameras (Friday Links Roundup)

By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 4:26pm

Salon has a nice piece on how research shows the difficulty of detecting lies—the impossibility, really—and how people consistently overestimate their ability to do so. And, how people consistently misidentify signs of stress (from a variety…

When Privacy Gets Personal For Policymakers

When Privacy Gets Personal For Policymakers

By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 11:21am

Data from license plate readers in Minnesota was obtained by a St. Paul car dealer using open-records laws, and used to repossess at least one car, according to a recent article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. The article included this amusing tidbit:

When…

Statistics image