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.
California’s Landmark Commercial Transparency Law: a 10-Year Evaluation

California’s Landmark Commercial Transparency Law: a 10-Year Evaluation

By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 3:39pm
In 2003, California passed a landmark piece of legislation called the Shine the Light law, which gave Californians the right to learn how companies share their personal information for “direct marketing purposes.” Now that ten years have passed since that law was enacted, my colleagues at the ACLU of California have written a report evaluating how the law has turned out—and looking at the role of transparency in general when it comes to private companies and their handling of privacy.
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:

Enterprise Omniscience

Enterprise Omniscience

By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 2:35pm

NBC’s Bob Sullivan published a very nice piece of reporting Wednesday on an Equifax company called The Work Number, which collects detailed information about the paychecks of 30 percent of the U.S. workforce and then uses it for various purposes,…

Vermont Supreme Court Agrees with the ACLU on Electronic Search Limits

Vermont Supreme Court Agrees with the ACLU on Electronic Search Limits

By Dan Barrett, Staff Attorney, ACLU of Vermont, ACLU of Vermont at 12:20pm

The Vermont Supreme Court gave electronic privacy a big boost this morning when it approved restrictions placed upon police when conducting searches of electronic devices.

The case originated when police in Burlington, Vermont were investigating…

ACLU Lens: Get Off My Cloud! Senate Bill Requires Warrants for Government to Spy on Email, Digital Communications

ACLU Lens: Get Off My Cloud! Senate Bill Requires Warrants for Government to Spy on Email, Digital Communications

By Steve Gosset, ACLU at 5:00pm

The Senate Judiciary Committee today passed an amendment to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA). Among its provisions, is a requirement that law enforcement agencies obtain a warrant before they can take a peek at your email, private social…

Will Increasing Surveillance Change Fiction?

Will Increasing Surveillance Change Fiction?

By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 3:36pm

The end of the Cold War created a problem for espionage thriller writers and moviemakers. They faced loss of a built-in backstory needing no explanation, a whole set of strong but realistic motivations for extreme behavior, a pre-fab cast of bad guys,…

Civil Liberties in the Digital Age: Weekly Highlights (11/2/2012)

Civil Liberties in the Digital Age: Weekly Highlights (11/2/2012)

By Anna Salem, ACLU of Northern California at 12:41pm

More Than 25% Of Android Apps Know Too Much About You [Dark Reading – Kelly Jackson Higgins]

“Some 26 percent of Android apps in Google Play can access personal data, such as contacts and email, and 42 percent, GPS location data…

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…

Civil Liberties in the Digital Age: Weekly Highlights (9/7/2012)

Civil Liberties in the Digital Age: Weekly Highlights (9/7/2012)

By Anna Salem, ACLU of Northern California at 3:01pm

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…

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