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February 2010 Archives

February 1, 2010

Homeland Security Releases Annual FOIA Report

The Department of Homeland Security has released the 2009 Freedom of Information Act Report. The report shows that the Department processed over 160,000 requests in the past year, with 27,182 requests remaining pending. Of the requests processed, 11% were granted in full, 60% were classified as "partial grants/partial denials," and the remaining 29% were denied in full. The overwhelming majority of backlogged requests and appeals are pending at the Customs and Immigration Service. For denied requests with processed appeals, nearly 30% were fully reversed on appeal, and another 32% were reversed in part. EPIC currently has two FOIA cases pending against the Department relating to its use of Body Scanner machines. For more information, see EPIC v. DHS, EPIC FOIA Litigation Docket.

February 2, 2010

Facebook Users Object to Beacon Settlement

Facebook users filed papers in federal court objecting to a proposed deal that would extinguish the company's liability for disclosing personal information in violation of federal law. Users criticized the class action settlement, stating "the class receives no meaningful relief." Other objectors alleged "in effect, Facebook is paying itself the benefit but class members are releasing their individual privacy claims." EPIC previously submitted a letter to the judge hearing the case. EPIC's letter opposes the settlement and proposes alternatives that would enable stronger privacy safeguards for Facebook users in the future. For more information, see EPIC Facebook Privacy, EPIC Harris v. Blockbuster.

Presidential Initiative Summit: "Virtual World-Real Crime"

Presidential Initiative Summit: "Virtual World-Real Crime"

Ginger McCall,
EPIC Staff Counsel

National Association of Attorneys General
Fort Lauderdale, FL
February 8-10, 2010

IGF 2010 First Round Meeting

IGF 2010 First Round Meeting

Katitza Rodriguez,
EPIC International Privacy Program Director

UN Internet Governance Forum
Geneva, Switzerland
February 9-11, 2010

February 3, 2010

Federal Budget Announced for Fiscal Year 2011, Surveillance Projects Scrutinized

The Office of Management and Budget has released the federal budget for fiscal year 2011. The budget proposes funding for several new surveillance initiatives, including over $700 million to the Department of Homeland Security for "Passenger Aviation Security". The Department would like to purchase 500 body scanner machines for U.S. airports, bringing the projected total number of machines to 1,000 at a cost of over $200 million by the end of 2011. The new budget also includes several hundred million dollars for the Department of Justice's national security programs, which were recently the subject of a critical Inspector-General's report for improper use of authority. For more information, see EPIC DHS and Privacy, EPIC Domestic Surveillance, EPIC Air Travel Privacy, and EPIC Whole Body Imaging.

February 4, 2010

Federal Trade Commission Sets out Priorities But Lacks Strategy for Privacy Protection

The Federal Trade Commission released the Congressional budget justification summary for FY 2011 and performance plan for FY 2010-11. The FTC documents list three strategic goals: protect consumers, maintain competition, and advance performance. Objectives include improving consumer education, identifying and stopping “fraud, deception and unfair practices,” and “protecting American consumers in the global marketplace.” Although the FTC Implementation Plan includes the development of approaches to implement OECD Guidelines on consumer protection in the context of electronic commerce, there is no mention of implementing OECD Guidelines on privacy protection

EPIC Sues NSA to Force Disclosure of Cyber Security Authority

EPIC has filed a lawsuit against the National Security Agency and the National Security Council, seeking a key document governing national cybersecurity policy. The document, National Security Presidential Directive 54 grants the NSA broad authority over the security of American computer networks. The agencies violated the Freedom of Information Act by failing to make public the Directive and related records in response to EPIC's request. EPIC's suit asks a federal judge to require the release of the documents. Congress is currently debating cyber security policy. For more information, see EPIC FOIA Litigation, EPIC Critical Infrastructure Protection.

EPIC Seeks Records on Google-NSA Relationship

Today EPIC filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the National Security Agency, seeking records regarding the relationship between Google and the NSA. The press reported that Google and the NSA have entered into a partnership following a recent hacker attack on Google originating from China. The EPIC FOIA request also seeks NSA communications with Google regarding Google's failure to encrypt Gmail and cloud computing services. In March 2009, EPIC filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission urging it to investigate the adequacy of Google's cloud computing privacy and security safeguards. Today EPIC also filed a lawsuit against the National Security Agency and the National Security Council, seeking a key document governing national cybersecurity policy. For more information, see EPIC FOIA Litigation and EPIC Cloud Computing.

FCC Commits to Protecting Consumers in FY 2011 Performance Plan

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released its FY 2011 budget request and performance plan. The FCC requests funding for furthering cybersecurity, implementing the National Broadband Plan, revamping the FCC's data systems and processes, and modernizing the agency's communications tools and expertise. The FCC prioritizes implementation of the National Broadband Plan and protection of consumers in the agency's performance goals. Objectives with respect to consumers include addressing 100% of complaints filed with the Commission alleging violations of the Communications Act and taking appropriate action within 15 months, rigorously enforcing the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, and ensuring "through litigation where necessary, that consumers are protected from anticompetitive practices."

"Body Scanners Under the Microscope: Not a Pretty Picture"

Edward Luttwak, CSIS
Dr. Arjun Makhijani, IEER
Ralph Nader
Marc Rotenberg, EPIC

Center for Study and Responsive Law
1530 P St., NW
Washington, DC
February 19, 2010

February 5, 2010

Revised Google Books Settlement Fails to Fix Key Problems

Even after revisions, the Google Books Settlement still fails to address antitrust, privacy, and copyright concerns, according the the US Justice Department, privacy advocates, and academic authors.On February 4, the Justice Department filed a brief and issued a statement opposing the revised settlement. The Department said the revisions still ran afoul of authors' copyrights and did not fix antitrust problems. EPIC also continues to object to the settlement because it does not contain adequate privacy protections for readers. On February 4, EPIC informed the court of its intent to appear at the February 18 Fairness Hearing on behalf of users' privacy interests. For more information, see EPIC: Google Books and Privacy, EPIC: Google Books Litigation, and EPIC: Google Books: Policy Without Privacy.

February 9, 2010

EPIC Statement to Congress on Google, NSA, and Cybersecurity

EPIC has submitted a statement for the record for a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Google and U.S. Cyberspace Policy. EPIC's statement recommends investigation into the newly-announced partnership between Google and the National Security Agency and the public release of the secret document that grants the NSA broad surveillance authority in cyberspace. The EPIC statement also urges the Congressional Committee to support US ratification of the Council of Europe privacy convention. For more information, see EPIC Critical Infrastructure Protection, Experts' Letter to Secretary Clinton on the Council of Europe Convention.

EPIC to Defend Readers' Privacy at Google Books Hearing

On February 18, 2010, EPIC President Marc Rotenberg will appear in federal court in New York to represent readers' privacy and right to read anonymously. EPIC will urge Judge Chin to reject Google's deal with publishers, which requires readers to provide sensitive personal information to view digital books offered by Google, but fails to protect their privacy. EPIC previously moved to intervene in the case, observing that readers' interests are not represented, and warning that the settlement "threatens well-established standards that safeguard intellectual freedom," "imperils longstanding Constitutional rights," and "threatens to eviscerate state library privacy laws that safeguard library patrons in the United States." For more, see EPIC: Google Books and Privacy, EPIC: Google Books Litigation, and EPIC: Google Books: Policy Without Privacy.

February 13, 2010

Federal Appeals Court Hears Arguments in Location Privacy Case

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals considered this week whether the government must obtain a warrant prior to obtaining location data from an electronic communications service provider. The case centers on access to cellphone records that were used to help crack a bank robbery investigation In a related case, the Massachusetts Supreme Court recently held that a warrant would be required for the use of a GPS tracking device. EPIC filed an amicus brief in that case. For information see EPIC Commonwealth v. Connolly.

European Parliament Rejects Data Disclosure Deal

Dealing a clear setback to US efforts to spy on the private lives of European citizens, the European Parliament has voted 378 to 116 to end an agreement that would give US officials direct access to European financial records through the SWIFT banking system. Privacy International began a campaign in 2006 to stop the transfer of data, which violated European privacy laws and was described by European lawmakers as "disproportionate" and lacking reciprocity.

February 16, 2010

EPIC Urges Federal Trade Commission to Investigate Google Buzz

EPIC has filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, urging the FTC to open an investigation into Google Buzz. Last week, Google tried to transform its popular email service into an untested social networking service. As a consequence, Google displayed social networking lists based on a user's most frequent address book contacts. The change was widely criticized. EPIC's complaint cites clear harms to service subscribers, and alleges that the change in business practices "violated user expectations, diminished user privacy, contradicted Google's privacy policy, and may have violated federal wiretap laws." EPIC also noted that the FTC has failed to take action in another matter involving Google and Cloud Computing services. For more information, see EPIC: In re Google Buzz and EPIC: Google Buzz Press Release.

February 17, 2010

Smart Grid Policy Summit

Smart Grid Policy Summit

Lillie Coney
EPIC Associate Director

Washington DC
April 8, 2010

February 18, 2010

GridWise Alliance and Future of Privacy Forum

GridWise Alliance and Future of Privacy Forum
Privacy Panel

Lillie Coney,
EPIC Associate Director

Canadian Embassy
Washington, DC
March 2, 2010

February 19, 2010

EPIC Urges Court to Reject Google Books Settlement, Warns that Privacy Problems Cannot Be Fixed

In federal district court in New York, EPIC President Marc Rotenberg urged Judge Denny Chin to reject the revised settlement now before the court in Authors Guild v. Google. Mr. Rotenberg said that the settlement would "turn upside down" well established safeguards for reader privacy, including state privacy laws, library confidentiality obligations, and the development of techniques that minimize privacy intrusions. Mr. Rotenberg warned that the settlement would eviscerate legal safeguards for library patrons, commercialize access to information, consolidate Google's control of the Internet, and put in place an elaborate system of user authentication and watermarking. "A person at any library or any university in the United States that attempted to retrieve information from Google's digital library would be uniquely tagged and tracked. There is simply no precedent for the creation of such power." For more, see EPIC: Google Books and Privacy, EPIC: Google Books Litigation, and EPIC: Google Books: Policy Without Privacy, EPIC: Google Books Hearing Press Release.

EPIC and Ralph Nader Host Event on Body Scanners

Today the Center for the Study of Responsive Law (CSRL) and EPIC hosted an event: “Airport Body Scanners Under the Microscope: Not Such a Pretty Picture.” The event featured keynote speeches by Ralph Nader and Marc Rotenberg, president of EPIC. The event also included two panels, the first of which focused on the problems with body scanners, and the second of which dealt with the political opportunities that exist to combat the widespread utilization of the scanners. The event included talks by experts on radiation, airport security, religious and constitutional ramifications of whole body imaging, and the international response to whole body imaging machines. EPIC Staff Counsel, Ginger McCall, discussed documents that EPIC recently received that reveal that the machines can store and transmit images. Katitiza Rodriguez, director of EPIC’s International Privacy Project, discussed the EU’s decision to postpone the use of these machines until a full privacy and health risk assessment can be completed. For more information see: EPIC: Whole Body Imaging.

Pew Research Center Releases New Report on Future of the Internet

The Pew Research Center has released its fourth annual "The Future of the Internet" report. The report, part of the Center's Internet and American Life Project, surveyed the views of technology experts, stakeholders, and critics regarding their expectations about the changes and the future of the internet. When asked to share his view "about the future of anonymous activity online," EPIC Executive Director Marc Rotenberg explained, "The privacy and civil liberties battles over the next decade will increasingly focus on the growing demands for identity credentials. New systems for authentication will bring new problems as more identity information will create new opportunities for criminals."

February 23, 2010

"Dealing with Sophisticated Threats in Cyberspace Without Creating Big Brother"

Marc Rotenberg,
EPIC Executive Director

Michael Chertoff,
Former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security

Keynote Session
RSA Conference USA 2010
San Francisco, CA
March 3, 2010

"Opportunities and Challenges for Public Interest Advocacy in the Internet Age"

Marc Rotenberg,
EPIC Executive Director

Keynote Speech
Annual Meeting
Association of Practical and Professional Ethics

Cincinnati, OH
March 5, 2010

EPIC Urges Congress to Adopt Privacy Safeguards for Locational Data

Today, EPIC submitted comments for an upcoming joint hearing on "The Collection and Use of Location Information for Commercial Purposes." EPIC cited the growing uses of location data for advertising and tracking purposes, typically without any legal protections, and noted widespread support among US and European consumer organizations for clear protections. EPIC recommended that Congress establish strong rules, similar to those in the European Union Eprivacy Directive, that would give users meaningful control over their locational data. EPIC had previously recommended that the F.C.C. establish guidelines for the protection of users' locational privacy. For more information, see EPIC: CPNI.

February 24, 2010

Ralph Nader and EPIC's Marc Rotenberg Urge President Obama to Suspend Whole Body Scanning Program

In a letter to the White House, consumer advocate Ralph Nader and EPIC President Marc Rotenberg have asked President Obama to suspend the deployment of body imaging devices until "a comprehensive evaluation of the devices' effectiveness, health impacts, and privacy safeguards is completed by an independent board of review." Mr. Nader and Mr. Rotenberg point to a recent workshop at which experts noted that the devices are ineffective, that health risks have not been assessed, and that the TSA has misrepresented the privacy safeguards. They also said that air travelers subject to secondary screening who are actually familiar with the capabilities of body scanners would prefer a pat-down search to a body scan for both privacy and religious reasons. European governments are currently undertaking a three-month review of the body scanner proposal. For more information see EPIC: Whole Body Imaging.

February 26, 2010

Study Ranks Top 20 Companies for Privacy in 2010, Facebook Drops Off List

Ponemon Institute released its annual study identifying the top twenty companies that are most trusted for privacy. American Express was ranked first, earning the Most Trusted for Privacy distinction for the fifth year in a row. Facebook suffered several privacy missteps over the last year, including a recent change in privacy settings at the end of 2009, and as a result, failed to make the 2010 list. Google, however, returned to the Top 20, ranked at 13. The survey also produced significant findings regarding consumer attitudes towards privacy, including the finding that consumers feel they are losing control over their personal information. Further, the responses revealed that consumers’ fear of identity theft is the main factor for brand trust diminishment, while a company’s implementation of privacy features contribute to brand trust. Other significant positive factors were limits on the collection of personal information and online anonymity.

About February 2010

This page contains all entries posted to epic.org in February 2010. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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