Protecting Civil Liberties In The Digital Age
Since law is way behind technology when it comes to protecting your privacy, it’s crucial that you understand the ways in which your activity is being monitored, recorded, and used.
A constant stream of revolutionary new technologies erode existing protections, and greatly expanded powers for our security agencies allow the government to peer into our lives without due process or meaningful oversight. Our rights and liberties have undergone constant erosion since 9/11.
More than a decade later, the websites we browse are tracked, our cell phones log our movements, our Internet communications are being read and stored, and the NSA collects records of all of our calls. Things we once thought could only happen in far-away enemy states or distant dystopias are suddenly happening here in America. Sadly, it is no longer so hard to imagine a world straight out of the mind of Philip K. Dick, with personally-tailored advertisements that follow us online, or maybe even pre-crime predictors that turn us all into suspects when we haven’t done anything wrong.
The fact is, privacy laws have failed to keep up with emerging technologies. The goal of the Protecting Civil Liberties in the Digital Age initiative is to ensure that expressive, associational, and privacy rights are strengthened rather than compromised by new technology, and to protect these core democratic rights against intrusive corporate and government practices that rely on new technology to invade these rights.
Time to Rein in the Surveillance State: Recent disclosures have shown that the government is regularly tracking all of the calls of almost every ordinary American and spying on a vast but unknown number of Americans' international calls, text messages, and emails. The ACLU has been at the forefront of the struggle to rein in the surveillance superstructure, which strikes at the core of our rights to privacy, free speech, and association.
You Are Being Tracked: A little noticed surveillance technology, designed to track the movements of every passing driver, is fast proliferating on America’s streets. Automatic license plate readers, mounted on police cars or on objects like road signs and bridges, use small, high-speed cameras to photograph thousands of plates per minute. An ACLU report, based on thousands of pages of documents we received in response to coordinated, nationwide public records requests, reveals how your movements are being tracked.
Modernizing the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA): Since 1986, technology has advanced at breakneck speed while electronic privacy law remained at a standstill. The outdated Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) allows the government to intercept and access a treasure trove of information about who you are, where you go, and what you do, which is being collected by cell phone providers, search engines, social networking sites, and other websites every day.
Free Future: The ACLU blog Free Future provides news and analysis relating to civil liberties in the digital age.
Cell Phone Location Tracking Public Records Request: In a massive coordinated information-seeking campaign, 34 ACLU affiliates filed over 375 requests in 31 states across the country with local law enforcement agencies large and small that seek to uncover when, why and how they are using cell phone location data to track Americans. What we learned was disturbing.