« March 2009 | Main | May 2009 »

April 2009 Archives

April 7, 2009

Five Country Study Finds Diminished Protection for Anonymity

A new study by leading scholars from the USA, Canada, UK, Netherlands and Italy has revealed that laws are reinforcing technology's ability to undermine the anonymity of citizens. The law reveals a preference for legislation requiring people to submit to identification and an increasing encroachment of rules into areas where there were previously no regulations prohibiting anonymity. EPIC was a partner in the project. Consider purchasing the Lessons from the Identity Trail. For more information, see EPIC's page on Free Speech and Internet Anonymity.

April 8, 2009

FCC Proposes Nationwide Broadband Expansion, Seeks Public Comments on Privacy Safeguards

Today, the Federal Communications Commission announced that it will develop a plan to expand broadband access. The plan will attempt to "ensure that every American has access to broadband capability," and will be submitted to Congress in February 2010. The Commission seeks comments from the public concerning how to best safeguard consumers' privacy in the face of technologies such as deep packet inspection and behavioral advertising. Chairman Michael J. Copps identified priorities for the broadband expansion, including "avoiding invasions of people’s privacy." EPIC previously advocated for the FCC to require strong privacy safeguards for telephone customers' personal information, and protect wireless subscribers from telemarketing. For more information, see EPIC's pages on deep packet inspection.

April 14, 2009

EPIC Demands Disclosure of Documents Detailing "Virtual Strip Search" Airport Scanners

Today, EPIC filed a Freedom of Information Act request demanding disclosure of records detailing airport scanners that take naked pictures of American travelers. Security experts describe the "whole body imaging" scanners as virtual strip searches. The Transportation Security Administration plans to make the scans mandatory at all airport security checkpoints, despite prior assurances that whole body imaging would be optional. EPIC's request seeks documents concerning the agency's ability to store and transmit detailed images of naked U.S. citizens. For more information, see EPIC's Whole Body Imaging page and EPIC's FOIA Litigation Manual.

European Commission Seeks to Protect Internet Privacy

Following complaints about Phorm's Deep Packet Inspection Technology with UK internet service providers, the European Commission has opened a formal investigation. The EU e-Privacy and Data Protection Directives protect the confidentiality of communications by prohibiting interception and surveillance without the user's consent. Deep Packet Inspection allows internet service providers to intercept virtually all customers' Internet activity, including web surfing data and other Internet related activities. The Commission charges that the UK government could not permit this activity under European Union privacy law. In the US, Congressional leaders also objected to Deep Packet Inspection. For more information, see EPIC's page on Deep Packet Inspection and Privacy and Human Rights Report.

April 17, 2009

Senate to Investigate NSA "Overcollection"

Senator Dianne Feinstein has announced that the Senate Intelligence Committee will hold a hearing on the National Security Agency's interception of phone calls and private e-mail messages of Americans. Recently, the New York Times reported that the NSA's activities went beyond the legal limits established by the Congress last year. EPIC has a related lawsuit asking a federal court to force the release of memos on the legal authority for domestic surveillance of American citizens. For more information, see EPIC's page on Freedom of Information Act Work on the National Security Agency's Warrantless Surveillance Program.

April 20, 2009

EPIC Urges Massachusetts High Court to Protect Drivers From Warrantless Tracking by Law Enforcement, Warns of "Pervasive Mass Surveillance"

Today, EPIC filed a "friend of the court" brief in the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, urging the Justices to require a warrant before police covertly track drivers using concealed surveillance technology. In Commonwealth v. Connolly, the Court will determine whether the police must obtain a search warrant before covertly installing location tracking devices on individuals' cars. The systems record a vehicle's location and speed around the clock, and transmit the data to police. EPIC said the profileferation of police tracking devices "creates a large, and largely unregulated, repository containing detailed travel profiles of American citizens." The EPIC brief warned that "law enforcement access to such information raises the specter of mass, pervasive surveillance without any predicate act that would justify this activity." For more, see EPIC's Commonwealth v. Connolly page.

Facebook Seeks Vote on Site Governance

In February, Facebook announced that it was opening its site governance to user voting after the new Terms of Service were widely criticized, and were to be the subject of an EPIC complaint to the Federal Trade Commission. Facebook restored the old terms and sought user feedback on the new Facebook Principles and the Statement of Rights and Responsibilities. These governing documents have now been updated to reflect feedback from users and experts. The voting to adopt the new terms or to maintain the previous terms is now open till April 23, 11:59 a.m. PDT. For more, see the efforts of People Against the New Terms of Service, and EPIC's Social Networking Privacy page.

April 21, 2009

Supreme Court Hears Case on Strip-Search of Young Student by Schools Officials Looking for Advil

The Supreme Court heard a case involving a traumatic strip-search of a thirteen-year-old girl by school officials looking for an ibuprofen tablet. The search was conducted based on allegation by another student, who had been caught with drugs. A federal appelate court held that the search of the student was unreasonable and that a school official could be liable for violating the girl's Fourth Amendment rights. The school appealed to the Supreme Court and argued that the search was reasonable and the school official had qualified immunity. The respondent student replied that the search was highly invasive and the official should be held responsible. See also EPIC's page on Student Privacy.

April 23, 2009

EPIC Urges Congress to Act on Internet Privacy

In testimony before a Congressional Committee, EPIC Director Marc Rotenberg urged lawmakers to address the growing threat to online privacy of new tracking techniques. Mr. Rotenberg said, "From the user perspective, the threats to privacy online are increasing. Unregulated data collection continues. Privacy policies are opaque and ineffective. Users are unable to exercise any meaningful control over the personal information that is obtained by firms when they visit sites, purchase online, or participate in the rapidly growing world of social networking." EPIC warned that these practices also pose a threat to technical standards that are necessary to protect network integrity, as well as the revenue of web publishers. For more information, see EPIC's page on Deep Packet Inspection and NCTA v. FCC.

April 24, 2009

Facebook Gets Ready to Adopt Terms of Service

Facebook has announced the results of the vote on site governance. The initial outcome indicates that approximately 75 percent of users voted for the new terms of service which includes the new Facebook Principles and Statement of Rights and Responsibilities. Under the new Principles, Facebook users will "own and control their information." Facebook also took steps to improve account deletion, to limit sublicenses, and to reduce data exchanges with application developers. EPIC supports the adoption of the new terms. For more information, see EPIC's page on Social Networking Privacy.

Congressman Seeks Ban on Whole-Body Imaging at Airports

Congressman Jason Chaffetz has introduced legislation seeking a ban on Whole-Body Imaging machines installed by the Transportation Security Administration in various airports across America. Describing the method as unnecessary to securing an airplane, Congressman Chaffetz stated that the new law was to "balance the dual virtues of safety and privacy." The TSA recently announced plans to make the scanners, which capture a detailed picture of travelers stripped naked, the default screening device at all airport security checkpoints. For more information, see EPIC's Whole Body Imaging page.

April 27, 2009

Privacy and Consumer Groups Seek New FTC Commissioner

EPIC joined other privacy and consumer organizations on a letter to President Obama urging the appointment of a pro-consumer Commissioner to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The groups called for the appointment of someone with a “distinguished record of achievement in consumer affairs, with a demonstrated commitment to protecting the public.” The Commission has been one person short of its full membership since former Chair Deborah Platt Majoras left the agency last year. The President appointed Jon Leibowitz to serve as the current chair of the FTC. For more information, see EPIC’s page on the Federal Trade Commission.

April 28, 2009

Applications for Court Approved Wiretaps Down in 2008

According to the 2008 Wiretap report, federal and state courts issued 1,891 orders for the interception of wire, oral or electronic communications in 2008, down from 2,208 in 2007. (Dept. of Justice Press release.) As in the last three years, no applications for wiretap authorizations were denied by either state or federal courts. The total number of authorized wiretaps had grown in each of the six past calendar years, beginning in 2003. The 2008 Wiretap Report does not include interceptions regulated by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act or interceptions approvedby the President outside the exclusive authority of the federal wiretap law and the FISA. See EPIC Wiretapping page and EPIC Title III Orders.

April 29, 2009

EPIC Urges Greater Accountability for Network Surveillance

Today, EPIC asked Senator Patrick Leahy to investigate the Department of Justice's failure to make public statistics detailing federal use of "pen registers" and "trap and trace" devices, which record "non-content" information about telephone calls, email and web traffic. In a letter to the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, EPIC observed that the Attorney General is required to provide to Congress detailed statistics concerning the use of these techniques. Yet, "the DOJ does not publicly disclose pen register reports as a matter of course." EPIC also raised questions regarding the agency's compliance with reporting requirements for the period 2004-2008. The lack of public accountability for these network monitoring techniques contrasts with the U.S. Courts' routine public reporting of federal wiretaps, EPIC said. The Courts released the most recent wiretap report on April 27, 2009. For more information, see EPIC's Wiretapping page.

April 30, 2009

EPIC Seeks Government Agreements with Social Networking Companies

EPIC submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the Government Services Administration seeking agency records concerning agreements the GSA negotiated between federal agencies and social networking services, including Flickr, YouTube, Vimeo, Blip.tv, and Facebook. In the FOIA request, EPIC is asking for the public release of the contracts and any legal opinions concerning the application of the Privacy Act of 1974 and Freedom of Information Act to the services that collect information on citizens. For more information see EPIC’s pages Social Networking, Facebook, and Cloud Computing.

About April 2009

This page contains all entries posted to epic.org in April 2009. They are listed from oldest to newest.

March 2009 is the previous archive.

May 2009 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.