Technology and Liberty

Technology and Liberty

Bigger Monsters, Weaker Chains

The ACLU’s Project on Speech, Privacy, and Technology monitors the interplay between cutting-edge technology and civil liberties, actively promoting responsible uses of technology that enhance privacy protection, while opposing those that undermine our freedoms and move us closer to a surveillance society. More

We are dedicated to protecting and expanding the First Amendment freedoms of expression, association, and inquiry; expanding the right to privacy and increasing the control that individuals have over their personal information; and ensuring that civil liberties are enhanced rather than compromised by new advances in science and technology.

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The project is currently working on a variety of issues, including political protest, freedom of expression online, privacy of electronic information, journalists’ rights, scientific freedom, and openness in the courts. One of the project’s major initiatives, the dotRights campaign, is focused on updating and expanding privacy laws to include new developments in technology, so that the government has the same restrictions on access to American’s private, personal information online as they do offline. The project has also lead the way in arguing that the Constitution prohibits law enforcement from using mobile phones and other GPS-enabled devices to track individuals unless they first get a warrant issued by a court based on probable cause, an issue which may ultimately be decided by the Supreme Court.

Additional Resources:

dotRights (feature):Outdated privacy laws are allowing the government to engage in a shopping spree in the treasure trove of personal information collected by companies. From warrantless wiretapping, to children being on the “no fly list” and peace activists branded as “terrorists,” the government has been spending time and energy building vast databases about innocent individuals. It’s time to upgrade privacy laws to ensure proper oversight of government access to private details of our lives. It’s time to stop paying for new technology with our privacy. It’s time to Demand our dotRights!

Give Privacy an Upgrade: Modernize the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (2010 resource):Today, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), which should safeguard electronic communications records (like your email or chat logs) and the information you share with companies (like Google documents or social networking posts), is in serious need of an update. The government should have to go to a judge and get a warrant that says it has probable cause to believe you’ve committed a crime before it can read your email, browse through your social networking account, or track your location.

TAKE ACTION: Modernize Our Privacy Law! (2010 action): Please join us in asking Congress to modernize our electronic privacy law.

Ordering Pizza in 2015 (2009 video): You'll never want to order another pizza if we give away all of our civil liberties in the name of security.

Cell Phone Location Tracking Public Records Request (2011 press release): In a massive coordinated information-seeking campaign, 34 ACLU affiliates are filing 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.

Does the Government Want to Read Your Texts and Emails? (2011 blog): In April 2011, the Justice Department squandered an opportunity to reassure Americans that as technology advances our civil liberties will not be left behind. The Justice Department was called before Congress to say whether it should be permitted to read people's email, text messages and other electronic communications without a probable cause warrant — that is, without a judicial determination that it has a good reason to believe a search will turn up evidence of a crime. The clear answer to this question should have been "no."

Most Popular

BRCA: Frequently Asked Questions (2013 resource)

BRCA: Genes and Patents (2009 resource)

5 Problems with National ID Cards (2003 resource)

Motion to Quash Subpoena in Melvin v. Doe (2002 resource)

Q&A On Face-Recognition (2003 resource)

With Technology Like This, Who Needs the Law? (2008 blog)

Q&A with Daniel Solove on How Bad Security Arguments Are Undermining Our Privacy Rights (2011 blog)

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