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    Archive for the ‘Civil liberties’ Category

    Opinion at Slate: Big Data and the Underground Railroad

    Tuesday, November 11th, 2014

    In a column at Slate, Alvaro M. Bedoya, the founding executive director of the Center on Privacy and Technology at Georgetown Law, writes about “big data” and what widespread data collection on individuals can mean for civil liberties:

    Most of the questions, however, focus on how our data should be used. There’s been far less attention to a growing effort to change how our data is collected.

    For years, efforts to protect privacy have focused on giving people the ability to choose what data is collected about them. Now, industry—with the support of some leaders in government—wants to shift that focus. Businesses say that in our data-saturated world, giving consumers meaningful control over data collection is next to impossible. They argue that we should ramp down efforts to give individuals control over the initial collection of their data, and instead let industry collect as much personal information as possible. Read more »

    City of Seattle launches digital privacy initiative

    Monday, November 10th, 2014

    The City of Seattle has announced “a citywide privacy initiative, aimed at providing greater transparency into the City’s data collection and use practices.”

    “In the course of doing business with the public, the City is collecting and exchanging increasing amounts of data,” said [Mayor Ed Murray (D)]. “As we continue to make innovative technology investments, we need to implement practices that support public trust in the security and privacy of personal information.” [...] Read more »

    Associated Press: License plate data raises privacy concerns

    Thursday, November 6th, 2014

    The Associated Press reports on an issue that we’ve been hearing more about lately — privacy concerns with databases that track license-plate information.

    ROCHESTER, N.Y. – Privately owned license-plate imaging systems are popping up around Rochester and upstate New York – in parking lots, shopping malls and, soon, on at least a few parts of the New York state Thruway.

    Most surprisingly, the digital cameras are mounted on cars and trucks driven by a small army of repo men.

    Shadowing a practice of U.S. law enforcement that some find objectionable, records collected by the repo companies are added to an ever-growing database of license-plate records that is made available to government and commercial buyers. Read more »

    Washington Post: Verizon, AT&T tracking their users with ‘supercookies’

    Tuesday, November 4th, 2014

    The Washington Post reports that Verizon and AT&T have been tracking their customers’ online activities with “supercookies,” which are difficult to get rid of. The cookies are raising privacy concerns and may be illegal. (To dig deep into the X-UIDH header technology used by Verizon, read this post from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which has noted its concerns to the Federal Communications Commission.) The Post reports:

    Verizon and AT&T have been quietly tracking the Internet activity of more than 100 million cellular customers with what critics have dubbed “supercookies” — markers so powerful that it’s virtually impossible for even savvy users to escape them.

    The technology has allowed the companies to monitor which sites their customers visit, cataloging their tastes and interests. Consumers cannot erase these supercookies or evade them by using browser settings, such as the “private” or “incognito” modes that are popular among users wary of corporate or government surveillance.

    Verizon and AT&T say they have taken steps to alert their customers to the tracking and to protect customer privacy as the companies develop programs intended to help advertisers hone their pitches based on individual Internet behavior. Read more »

    Virginian-Pilot: Police can require cellphone fingerprint, not pass code

    Monday, November 3rd, 2014

    The Virginian-Pilot reports on a court case in Virginia concerning the privacy of mobile devices, specifically ones that are biometrically locked with a fingerprint, such as some of Apple’s iPhones and iPads. (Note that Lifehacker has a suggested-solution for the problem of a forced unlocking of a fingerprint ID device.) The Virginian-Pilot reports:

    VIRGINIA BEACH — A Circuit Court judge has ruled that a criminal defendant can be compelled to give up his fingerprint, but not his pass code, to allow police to open and search his cellphone.

    The question of whether a phone’s pass code is constitutionally protected surfaced in the case of David Baust, an Emergency Medical Services captain charged in February with trying to strangle his girlfriend. [...]

    Judge Steven C. Frucci ruled this week that giving police a fingerprint is akin to providing a DNA or handwriting sample or an actual key, which the law permits. A pass code, though, requires the defendant to divulge knowledge, which the law protects against, according to Frucci’s written opinion.

    Washington Post: ICE twice breached privacy policy with license-plate database

    Friday, October 31st, 2014

    The Washington Post reports on two privacy breaches concerning license-plate information at the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency:

    After the Department of Homeland Security canceled a plan for broad law enforcement access to a national license-plate tracking system in February, officials established a policy that required similar plans be vetted by department privacy officers to ensure they do not violate Americans’ civil liberties.

    Two months later, however, officials with DHS’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency bypassed the privacy office in purchasing a one-year subscription for a commercially run national database for its Newark field office, according to public contract data and department officials. In June, ICE breached the policy again by approving a similar subscription for its Houston field office. The database contains more than 2.5 billion records. [...] Read more »