The things we do and say online leave behind ever-growing trails of personal information. With every click, we entrust our conversations, emails, photos, location information, and much more to companies like Facebook, Google, and Yahoo. But companies - and the government - are collecting that information in ways that fundamentally threaten our freedoms.
New technologies are making it easier for private companies and the government to learn the minutiae of our online activities. Corporations collect our information to sell to the highest bidder, while an expanding surveillance apparatus and outdated privacy laws allow the government to monitor us like never before.
With more and more of our lives moving online, these intrusions have devastating implications for our right to privacy. But more than just privacy is threatened when everything we say, everywhere we go, and everyone we associate with are fair game. We have seen that surveillance – whether by government or corporations – chills free speech and association, undermines a free media, and threatens the free exercise of religion.
We shouldn’t have to choose between using new technologies and keeping our personal information private. Technology can be implemented in ways that protect civil liberties, limit the collection of personal information, and ensure that individuals have control over their private data.
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 The outdated Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) allows the government to intercept and access a treasure trove of information about who you are, where you go, and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.
The ACLU has been working with legislators across the country to put in place rules to ensure that we can take advantage of these new technologies without becoming a surveillance society in which our every movements are tracked, monitored, and scrutinized by the authorities. Check our map to see how your state stacks up.
Law enforcement is taking advantage of outdated privacy laws to track Americans like never before. New technologies can record your every movement, revealing detailed information about how you choose to live your life. Without the right protections in place, the government can gain access to this information – and to your private life – with disturbing ease.
The ACLU blog Free Future, edited by Jay Stanley, provides news and analysis about civil liberties in the digital age.
The National Security Agency's mass surveillance has greatly expanded in the years since September 11, 2001. Recent disclosures have shown that the government is regularly tracking the calls of hundreds of millions of Americans and spying on a vast but unknown number of Americans' international calls, text messages, and emails.
In his first live conversation in front of an audience since his disclosures began making headlines, Edward Snowden spoke to thousands of technology professionals at SXSW Interactive, the Austin technology festival. The conversation addressed what the technology community can and must do more to secure the private data of people all over the world.
The ACLU is a part of Digital 4th, a non-partisan coalition dedicated to bringing Fourth Amendment protections into the 21st century. The coalition’s members come from different political, economic, and social perspectives on many issues, but stand united in our common belief that private communications should be protected across all platforms, whether they occur online, over the phone or through the mail.