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Intersection: Sidewalks & Public Space

Chapter by Melissa Ngo

"The Myth of Security Under Camera Surveillance"


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    Archive for the ‘Civil liberties’ Category

    Wired: Virginia Police Have Been Secretively Stockpiling Private Phone Records

    Tuesday, October 21st, 2014

    Wired reports on a troubling database of private phone records created by Virginia police, the Hampton Roads Telephone Analysis Sharing Network:

    The database, which affects unknown numbers of people, contains phone records that at least five police agencies in southeast Virginia have been collecting since 2012 and sharing with one another with little oversight. Some of the data appears to have been obtained by police from telecoms using only a subpoena, rather than a court order or probable-cause warrant. Other information in the database comes from mobile phones seized from suspects during an arrest.

    The five cities participating in the program, known as the Hampton Roads Telephone Analysis Sharing Network, are Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Chesapeake and Suffolk, according to the memorandum of understanding that established the database. The effort is being led in part by the Peninsula Narcotics Enforcement Task Force, which is responsible for a “telephone analysis room” in the city of Hampton, where the database is maintained. [...] Read more »

    Update: DNI Releases Interim Progress Report on Implementing PPD-28

    Monday, October 20th, 2014

    To recap: There has been considerable controversy about the privacy and civil liberties implications of the bulk telephone data collection program revealed by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. (He revealed several surveillance programs by the agency.) The Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies (created by President Obama in August after the Snowden revelations) issued a report (archive pdf) recommending against the telephone call record database. Recently, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB), an independent oversight agency within the executive branch, released a report (archive pdf) on the NSA’s surveillance program that collects telephone records in bulk saying the NSA surveillance program is illegal and should be ended. Federal judges have issued conflicting rulings on the surveillance program. In January, Obama announced reforms and proposed changes to the NSA surveillance programs, including the call record database surveillance program. Obama also issued a “Presidential Policy Directive, PPD-28,” (pdf) concerning signals intelligence activities.

    Now, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence has issued an interim progress report (DNI pdf; archive pdf) on implementing PPD-28. In an announcement, Robert Litt, general counsel for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and Alexander W. Joel, civil liberties protection officer for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, said the report “articulates key principles for agencies to incorporate in their policies and procedures, including some which afford protections that go beyond those explicitly outlined in PPD-28. These principles include the following: Ensuring that privacy and civil liberties are integral considerations in signals intelligence activities.”

    Intelligence Squared: Debate on constitutionality of mass collection of phone records

    Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

    A recent Intelligence Squared podcast debate included experts discussing whether the mass collection of phone records by the National Security Agency violates the Fourth Amendment. (This was a surveillance program revealed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. The program has faced considerable criticism from the public and federal legislators.) The experts are: Alex Abdo, Staff Attorney, ACLU Speech, Privacy and Technology Project; Elizabeth Wydra, Chief Counsel, Constitutional Accountability Center; Stewart Baker, former Assistant Secretary, Homeland Security & former General Counsel, NSA; and John Yoo, Professor of Law, UC Berkeley & former Justice Department lawyer. The moderator is John Donvan, Author & Correspondent for ABC News.

    Here’s the blurb on the podcast:

    Some say that the mass collection of U.S. phone records is a gross invasion of privacy. Others say that it is necessary to keep us safe. But what does the U.S. Constitution say? “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” Is collection of phone records a “search” or “seizure”? If so, is it “unreasonable”? Does it require a particularized warrant and probable cause? These are among the most consequential—and controversial—constitutional questions of our time.

    NSA Releases Second Transparency Report

    Thursday, October 9th, 2014

    The National Security Agency, which has faced considerable criticism from the public and lawmakers since revelations by former contractor Edward Snowden concerning the agency’s broad surveillance programs, recently released its second transparency report.

     The document focuses on the civil liberties and privacy protection practices of NSA in the course of targeted signals intelligence activities under Executive Order 12333. Fair Information Practice Principles (FIPPs), the widely accepted framework of defining principles used by federal agencies to evaluate how systems, processes, or programs impact individual privacy, were used as the basis for assesssment.

    The report details numerous efforts designed to protect civil liberties and privacy protections in six of the eight FIPPs (Purpose Specification; Data Minimization; Use Limitation; Data Quality and Integrity; Security; and Accountability and Auditing). These protections are underpinned by NSA’s enterprise activities, documented compliance program, and investments in people, training, tools and technology. Read more »

    Ars Technica: Adobe’s e-book reader sends your reading logs back to Adobe—in plain text

    Wednesday, October 8th, 2014

    Ars Technica reports on a privacy and security issue concerning ebooks and Adobe’s popular Digital Editions ebooks and PDF reader (which is used by many libraries):

    Adobe’s Digital Editions e-book and PDF reader—an application used by thousands of libraries to give patrons access to electronic lending libraries—actively logs and reports every document readers add to their local “library” along with what users do with those files. Even worse, the logs are transmitted over the Internet in the clear, allowing anyone who can monitor network traffic (such as the National Security Agency, Internet service providers and cable companies, or others sharing a public Wi-Fi network) to follow along over readers’ shoulders.

    Ars has independently verified the logging of e-reader activity with the use of a packet capture tool. The exposure of data was first discovered by Nate Hoffelder of The Digital Reader, who reported the issue to Adobe but received no reply. [...] Read more »

    DHS Privacy Office Releases 2014 Annual Report to Congress

    Thursday, October 2nd, 2014

    The Department of Homeland Security’s Privacy Office has released its annual report (3 MB pdf) to Congress. The report focuses on the following “core activities”:

    • Requiring compliance with federal privacy and disclosure laws and policies in all DHS programs, systems, and operations;
    • Centralizing Freedom of Information Act and Privacy Act operations to provide policy and programmatic oversight, to support operational implementation within the DHS components, and to ensure the consistent handling of disclosure requests;
    • Providing leadership and guidance to promote a culture of privacy and adherence to the Fair Information Practice Principles across the Department;
    • Advancing privacy protections throughout the Federal Government through active participation in interagency fora;
    • Conducting outreach to the Department’s international partners to promote understanding of the U.S. privacy framework generally and the Department’s role in protecting individual privacy; and,
    • Ensuring transparency to the public through published materials, reports, formal notices, public workshops, and meetings.

    The report also detailed the Privacy Office’s five strategic goals for the year: Read more »