Freedom of Expression

AP Phone Records Scandal Highlights a Broader Problem: Lack of Checks and Balances on Government Access to Records

AP Phone Records Scandal Highlights a Broader Problem: Lack of Checks and Balances on Government Access to Records

By Patrick C. Toomey, Staff Attorney, ACLU National Security Project at 11:36am

Last week we learned that the Department of Justice, in an unprecedented intrusion on the work of journalists, had obtained records for twenty telephone numbers belonging to the Associated Press or its reporters, spanning April and May 2012. The telephone records obtained do not include the content of phone calls, but they likely reveal the phone number of each and every caller on those lines for a period of weeks and, therefore, the identity of scores of confidential media sources.

The seizure of these records came to light only because the government has a special set of guidelines that require it to notify any media organization of a subpoena for its records within (at most) 90 days. The AP appears to have learned of the seizure of its phone records, albeit after the fact, only because of this special policy.

The notice given to the AP has generated a healthy debate over the limits on the government’s authority to acquire our telephone and internet records. But what if you aren’t a media organization and, therefore, do not benefit from the special government policy entitling you to notice when the government obtains your telephone or internet records? What information can the government get about you, and is it even required to tell you when it does so?

ACLU Backs Up Twitter In Court Over Attempt to Defend Users’ Rights

ACLU Backs Up Twitter In Court Over Attempt to Defend Users’ Rights

By Aden Fine, Senior Staff Attorney, ACLU Speech, Privacy and Technology Project at 2:52pm

We filed a friend-of-the-court brief today in New York state court in support of Twitter’s efforts to protect the constitutional rights of one of its users. As we posted earlier this month, Twitter took a great step to defend its users’…

Buddhists, “True Threats” and Twitter

By Gabe Rottman, Legislative Counsel, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 4:55pm

One of the very few pleasant things about being an attorney is that even some of the most boring cases have wacky backstories. This post is about one of the wackiest--though the issues raised illustrate certain constitutional concerns with a very short…

Unfrackingbelievable

Unfrackingbelievable

By Gabe Rottman, Legislative Counsel, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 4:40pm

Earlier this month, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette managed to unseal an extraordinary court transcript. In it, a local court approved an unusual settlement agreement between the Hallowich family and several natural gas companies, including Texas-based…

You Can’t Hide Families Behind The Desk: How Utah School Officials Are Violating The First Amendment In Library Book Case

You Can’t Hide Families Behind The Desk: How Utah School Officials Are Violating The First Amendment In Library Book Case

By Joshua Block, LGBT Project at 1:09pm

The ACLU LGBT Project and the ACLU of Utah filed a lawsuit earlier today challenging a decision by Davis School District in Davis County, Utah, to remove a children’s picture book about a family with two moms from all elementary school libraries…

Not a Real Family? Book About Two Moms Banned in Utah School District

Not a Real Family? Book About Two Moms Banned in Utah School District

In Our Mothers’ House, by Patricia Polacco, is a children’s book about three adopted children and their two mothers.  In response to complaints from a subset of parents that the book “normalizes a lifestyle we don’t agree with,” Davis School District in Utah has instructed its elementary school librarians to remove all copies of the book from the library shelves and place the book behind a counter where students must have written parental permission to read it.

A Long Legacy of Defending the Right to Read

A Long Legacy of Defending the Right to Read

By Doug Bonney, Chief Counsel & Legal Director, ACLU of Kansas & Western Missouri at 2:05pm

Seventeen years ago this week, cooperating lawyers recruited by the ACLU of Kansas & Western Missouri were doing battle for the First Amendment in a major trial over the Olathe, Kansas School District’s removal of Nancy Garden’s award-winning young adult novel Annie on My Mind from all of the District’s school libraries.

Twitter Appeals Ruling in Battle Over Occupy Wall Street Protester’s Information

By Aden Fine, Senior Staff Attorney, ACLU Speech, Privacy and Technology Project at 12:44pm

Twitter just filed its brief appealing a June decision by a New York criminal court judge requiring the company to give the Manhattan District Attorney detailed information on the communications of Twitter user Malcolm Harris, an Occupy Wall Street…

If Police Want Your Cell Phone Video As Evidence, Can You Just Email the File to Them?

If Police Want Your Cell Phone Video As Evidence, Can You Just Email the File to Them?

By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 5:21pm

The New York Times has an interesting story on the police seizure of witnesses’ cell phones after the shooting of a knife-wielding man in Times Square on Saturday. I wrote about that issue a few weeks ago, and how the DC police department issued…

ACLU & Facebook Tell Appeals Court That “Like” Is Free Speech

ACLU & Facebook Tell Appeals Court That “Like” Is Free Speech

By Josh Bell, Media Strategist, ACLU at 4:21pm

The ACLU challenges a judge’s ruling that “liking” something on Facebook is not protected by the First Amendment.

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