Government Surveillance

Photo of Stingray from U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

Documents Reveal Unregulated Use of Stingrays in California

By Linda Lye, Staff Attorney, ACLU of Northern California at 4:37pm
Local law enforcement agencies across the Bay Area have so-called stingray devices, a powerful cellphone surveillance tool, and more are planning to acquire the technology, according to public records recently obtained by Sacramento News10. The devices are highly intrusive and completely unregulated. Although the Wall Street Journal reported in 2011 that they were being used by the federal government, the News10 records reveal for the first time that these devices are also in widespread use by local authorities stretching from San José to Sacramento. The revelations are troubling. Once again, we see the proliferation of powerful new surveillance tools, but without any rules to constrain their use. The acquisition of these devices is shrouded in secrecy and driven by federal grant money, which undermines local democratic oversight. Their actual use by local law enforcement reflects the all too common phenomenon of mission creep: Although the justification for acquiring these devices is “fighting terrorism,” agencies seem to be using them for ordinary criminal law enforcement.
Modification of image by rachaelvoorhees via Flickr

Police Hide Use of Cell Phone Tracker From Courts Because Manufacturer Asked

By Nathan Freed Wessler, Staff Attorney, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 9:01am

It appears that at least one police department in Florida has failed to tell judges about its use of a cell phone tracking device because the department got the device on loan and promised the manufacturer to keep it all under wraps. But when police…

The NSA is turning the internet into a total surveillance system

The NSA is turning the internet into a total surveillance system

By Alex Abdo, Staff Attorney, ACLU Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project & Patrick C. Toomey, Staff Attorney, ACLU National Security Project at 10:13am

Now we know all Americans' international email is searched and saved, we can see how far the 'collect it all' mission has gone...

Surveillance and Security Lessons From the Petraeus Scandal

Surveillance and Security Lessons From the Petraeus Scandal

By Chris Soghoian, Principal Technologist and Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project at 4:24pm

When the CIA director cannot hide his activities online, what hope is there for the rest of us? In the unfolding sex scandal that has led to the resignation of David Petraeus, the FBI’s electronic surveillance and tracking of Petraeus and his…

The National Security State: Why it’s Important to Understand the Nature of the Beast

The National Security State: Why it’s Important to Understand the Nature of the Beast

By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 3:48pm

In two recent posts I argued that it is useful to think of the national security establishment as a thoughtless organism prone to certain predictable behaviors such as self-preservation, expansion, and secrecy. But what are the policy implications,…

Edward Snowden: One-on-One in Moscow

Edward Snowden: One-on-One in Moscow

By Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director, ACLU at 10:19am

This originally appeared in the Summer 2014 issue of STAND, the ACLU magazine.

Edward Snowden stirs passions among many across the world. After all, in June of last year he provided classified materials to journalists working with The Guardian…

Modification of image by jpstanley with map by jepoirrier via Flickr

Cell Tower Dumps: Another Surveillance Technique, Another Set of Unanswered Questions

By Katie Haas, Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project at 11:58am

Today, the ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the FBI, the DEA, the Secret Service, and several other agencies asking for information about a surveillance technique known as a “cell tower dump.” If you’re wondering what that…

The First State Laws on Drones

The First State Laws on Drones

By Allie Bohm, Advocacy & Policy Strategist, ACLU at 3:13pm

On Thursday, Idaho Governor Butch Otter signed into law the first bill in the nation protecting individuals from unfettered surveillance by unmanned aerial vehicles.

Virginia enacted the very first drones bill nationwide on April 3. Their bill…

The USA FREEDOM Act is Real Spying Reform

The USA FREEDOM Act is Real Spying Reform

By Michelle Richardson, Legislative Counsel, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 10:11am

Over the last several months, members of Congress have introduced at least two dozen spying reform and transparency bills. Today, a new proposal called the USA FREEDOM Act from Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) was introduced…

In Court: Uncovering Stingrays, A Troubling New Location Tracking Device

In Court: Uncovering Stingrays, A Troubling New Location Tracking Device

By Linda Lye, Staff Attorney, ACLU of Northern California at 12:42pm

The ACLU and Electronic Frontier Foundation have filed an amicus brief in what will be the first case in the country to address the constitutional implications of a so-called “stingray,” a little known device that can be used to track…

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