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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 ‘Fourth Amendment’ Category

    IT News (Australia): Academics get personal over big data

    Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

    We’ve discussed the pitfalls of various anonymization or “de-identification” techniques and how the information can be “deanonymized” or re-identified, leading to privacy problems for individuals. In 2009, University of Colorado law professor Paul Ohm discussed “the surprising failure of anonymization,” and said, “Data can either be useful or perfectly anonymous but never both.” He said anonymization’s failure “should trigger a sea change in the law, because nearly every information privacy law or regulation grants a get-out-of-jail-free card to those who anonymize their data.”

    Now, IT News reports on a research paper, “No silver bullet: De-identification still doesn’t work” (pdf), by Princeton’s Arvind Narayanan and Edward W. Felten concerning the continued privacy problems with de-identification of personal information. (Felten was chief technologist for the Federal Trade Commission and has been a consultant for various federal agencies.) The new paper is a response to one recently published by ITIF researcher Daniel Castro and Ontario privacy commissioner Ann Cavoukian, “Big Data and Innovation, Setting the Record Straight: De-identification Does Work” (pdf).

    IT News reports:

    Scholars at Princeton University have delivered a stinging rebuke to the ‘big data’ movement, insisting that today’s data de-identification tools are not sufficient to ensure privacy. [...] Read more »

    Update on PCLOB Report on the Surveillance Program Operated Pursuant to Section 702 of FISA

    Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014

    Today, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB), an independent oversight agency within the executive branch, voted on a “Report on the Surveillance Program Operated Pursuant to Section 702 of FISA” (pdf). In January, the board released a report on the NSA’s surveillance program that collects telephone records in bulk in which it said that NSA program is illegal and should be ended. That report was a strong statement for privacy and civil liberties. Unfortunately, the report that the board released on Section 702 today is not. The board has concluded that the program, which authorized the government to target foreigners reasonably believed to be located overseas, is legal.

    The board noted that the Section 702 program does raise privacy issues, but its proposals fall short of what are needed for real reform to protect individuals’ privacy and civil liberties. The board says, “The Section 702 program has enabled the government to acquire a greater range of foreign intelligence than it otherwise would have been able to obtain — and to do so quickly and effectively. [...] The program has proven valuable in the government’s efforts to combat terrorism as well as in other areas of foreign intelligence.” Read more »

    Pre-release Version of PCLOB Report on the Surveillance Program Operated Pursuant to Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act

    Tuesday, July 1st, 2014

    The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB), an independent oversight agency within the executive branch, has published a pre-release version of its “Report on the Surveillance Program Operated Pursuant to Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act” (PCLOB pdf; archive pdf). The board says: “Although the report will not become official and the final version will not be posted until after the Board votes on July 2nd, this pre-release copy is now available for members of the press (with no embargo) and the public to preview the Board’s findings and recommendations.” The board is set to vote tomorrow at a 10 a.m. meeting that members of the public can attend. More info on the meeting is here. The report was released less than an hour ago, so I haven’t had a chance to review it, but I will soon and set out my thoughts.

    U.S. Supreme Court: Warrants Needed to Search Cellphones After Arrest

    Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

    In a unanimous ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court decided in Riley v. California (court pdf; archive pdf) that the police need search warrants to search individuals’ cellphones after their arrest, which is a substantial victory for privacy rights. (Note: This decision is issued for two cases – Riley v. California, No. 13-132, and United States v. Wurie, No. 13-212. Riley concerned two searches of a smartphone after David Riley was arrested, and Wurie concerned the search of a flip phone after Brima Wurie was arrested.) Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the opinion for eight of the justices. Justice Samuel Alito joined in the judgment, but he wrote a separate concurrence.

    In the opinion, Justice Roberts noted that cellphones, “are now such a pervasive and insistent part of daily life that the proverbial visitor from Mars might conclude they were an important feature of human anatomy” and “Cell phones, however, place vast quantities of personal information literally in the hands of individuals.” He explained, “[W]e generally determine whether to exempt a given type of search from the warrant requirement ‘by assessing, on the one hand, the degree to which it intrudes upon an individual’s privacy and, on the other, the degree to which it is needed for the promotion of legitimate governmental interests.’” In this case, the justices found that individual privacy trumped government interests.

    Read more »

    National Journal: Privacy Groups Sound the Alarm Over FBI’s Facial-Recognition Technology

    Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

    The National Journal reports that privacy organizations are asking the Department of Justice to consider the privacy implications for the FBI’s controversial facial-recognition technology database, which will soon be fully operational:

    More than 30 privacy and civil-liberties groups are asking the Justice Department to complete a long-promised audit of the FBI’s facial-recognition database.

    The groups argue the database, which the FBI says it uses to identify targets, could pose privacy risks to every American citizen because it has not been properly vetted, possesses dubious accuracy benchmarks, and may sweep up images of ordinary people not suspected of wrongdoing.

    In a joint letter sent Tuesday to Attorney General Eric Holder, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and others warn that an FBI facial-recognition program “has undergone a radical transformation” since its last privacy review six years ago. That lack of recent oversight “raises serious privacy and civil-liberty concerns,” the groups contend. [...]

    The Next Generation Identification program—a biometric database that includes iris scans and palm prints along with facial recognition—is scheduled to become fully operational later this year and has not undergone a rigorous privacy litmus test—known as a Privacy Impact Assessment—since 2008, despite pledges from government officials. Read more »

    Wired: Emails Show Feds Asking Florida Cops to Deceive Judges

    Friday, June 20th, 2014

    Wired reports on new documents found through a Freedom of Information Act by the ACLU that have implications for individual privacy:

    Police in Florida have, at the request of the U.S. Marshals Service, been deliberately deceiving judges and defendants about their use of a controversial surveillance tool to track suspects, according to newly obtained emails.

    At the request of the Marshals Service, the officers using so-called stingrays have been routinely telling judges, in applications for warrants, that they obtained knowledge of a suspect’s location from a “confidential source” rather than disclosing that the information was gleaned using a stingray.

    series of five emails (.pdf) written in April, 2009, were obtained today by the American Civil Liberties Union showing police officials discussing the deception. The organization has filed Freedon of Information Act requests with police departments throughout Florida seeking information about their use of stingrays. [...]

    The U.S. Marshals Service did not respond to a call for comment. Read more »