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.
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…

Another State Acts to Protect Facebook Passwords From Employers

Another State Acts to Protect Facebook Passwords From Employers

By Ed Yohnka, ACLU of Illinois at 1:24pm

Earlier this week, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed into law a bill that prohibits employers from requiring or requesting that employees or applicants reveal the username sand passwords for personal accounts on websites such as Facebook and Twitter.…

Do Androids Dream of Electric Speech?

Do Androids Dream of Electric Speech?

By Gabe Rottman, Legislative Counsel, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 10:23am

Professor Tim Wu at Columbia had an op-ed in the New York Times yesterday arguing against First Amendment protections for “automated” speech. Here’s the argument distilled:

As a matter of legal logic, there is some similarity…

The Political Effects of Conflating Separate Meanings of "Cybersecurity"

The Political Effects of Conflating Separate Meanings of "Cybersecurity"

By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 12:25pm

Washington is in the midst of debating something called “cybersecurity.” But that term actually includes several very separate and distinct problems that call for very different solutions. Not only does conflating them confuse the issue…

Civil Liberties in the Digital Age: Weekly Highlights (4/13/2012)

Civil Liberties in the Digital Age: Weekly Highlights (4/13/2012)

By Anna Salem, ACLU of Northern California at 3:19pm

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…

Photo of man peering into microscope

Big Data and Big Money

By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 8:42am

Out for a run the other day along a stretch on a busy road, I saw a "for sale" sign on a house. That got me to wondering about the downsides of living on a busy road, and further wondering: do people who live on busy roads stay in their houses for…

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…

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 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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