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May 2015 Archives

May 1, 2015

EPIC Sues Drug Enforcement Administration For Release of Privacy Assessments

EPIC has filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit to obtain details about the Drug Enforcement Administration’s surveillance programs. The agency is required to publish privacy impact assessments for its data collection programs. However, the agency has failed to make available privacy impact assessments for many of its programs, including the massive cell phone metadata program "Hemisphere" and a nationwide license plate reader program. EPIC has a related lawsuit against the Federal Bureau of Investigation for that agency’s privacy impact assessments for several programs including "Next Generation Identification."

House Committee Approves Surveillance Reform Bill

The House Judiciary Committee voted to send the USA FREEDOM Act of 2015 to the House of Representatives for further consideration prior to the June 1 Patriot Act expiration deadline. The bill would end the NSA's controversial domestic telephone record collection program. The bill would also establish new transparency requirements for Intelligence Court Orders, recommended by EPIC in testimony before the House Judiciary Committee. EPIC also opposed renewal of the NSA's Section 215 orders and petitioned the Supreme Court to suspend the program.

May 5, 2015

EPIC Defends Privacy of Nickelodeon Viewers

EPIC has filed an amicus brief in In re Nickelodeon, a case involving the Video Privacy Protection Act. The Act protects the privacy of a consumer's personally identifiable information ("PII"). Viacom, which offers Nickelodeon and other cable channels, claimed that personal identifiers such as IP addresses and unique device IDs are not PII and could be routinely disclosed to Google for commercial purposes without any restriction. EPIC filed in opposition to Google/Viacom and explained that the definition of PII in the Act is "purposefully broad to ensure that the underlying intent of the Act– to safeguard personal information against unlawful disclosure– is preserved as technology evolves."

EPIC Launches State Policy Project

EPIC has launched the EPIC State Policy Project to track legislation across the county concerning privacy and civil liberties. The EPIC State Project will identify new developments and model legislation. The Project builds on EPIC's extensive work on emerging privacy and civil liberties issues in the states. The new State Project will focus on student privacy, drones, consumer data security, data breach notification, location privacy, genetic privacy, the right to be forgotten, and auto black boxes.

May 7, 2015

Federal Appeals Court Strikes Down NSA Bulk Record Collection Program

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled today that the NSA's telephone record collection program exceeds legal authority. The government claimed that it could collect all records under the Section 215 "relevance" standard. But the court rejected that argument and held that "such an expansive concept of 'relevance' is unprecedented and unwarranted." The conclusion mirrors the argument EPIC, and a coalition of technical expert, legal scholars, and former members of the Church Committee made in Petition to the Supreme Court in 2013. EPIC explained in its petition, "It is simply not possible that every phone record in the possession of a telecommunications firm could be relevant to an authorized investigation." The Second Circuit found that Section 215 does not "authorize anything approaching the breadth of the sweeping surveillance at issue here."

May 8, 2015

EPIC Warns DC City Council of Risks of Police Body Cameras

EPIC National Security Counsel Jeramie Scott testified today at a hearing before the D.C. City Council regarding police body-worn cameras. EPIC opposes deployment of "police cams" and warned the D.C. Council of the risks of mass public surveillance. EPIC also pointed to potential liability for the city if harmful images are posted online. EPIC's Scott said there are "more productive means to achieve police accountability that do not carry the risk of increasing surveillance." Scott added that if body cameras are deployed, then the Metropolitan Police Department must comply with all privacy and accountability laws.

May 11, 2015

EPIC to Recognize Richard Clarke, Tim Cook, AG Kamala Harris, and Susan Linn at June Awards Dinner

On June 1, 2015 in Washington, D.C., EPIC will present the 2015 EPIC Champions of Freedom Awards to Richard Clarke, former National Coordinator for Security and Counter-terrorism, Apple CEO Tim Cook, California Attorney General Kamala Harris, and Susan Linn, co-founder and director of The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood. Computer security expert Bruce Schneier and political analyst Hilary Rosen will host the gala event. Tickets are available to the public for purchase until May 22.

May 13, 2015

Senators Markey and Hatch Propose Student Privacy Act

Senator Edward Markey (D-Mass) and Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) have reintroduced the "Protecting Student Privacy Act.". The Act would strengthen the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, a federal student privacy law. The Student Privacy Act would also implement several of the recommendations EPIC set out in the Student Privacy Bill of Rights, including data security safeguards, students access to their information held by companies, prohibiting the use of personal data for marketing purposes, and minimizing the personal information schools transfer to third parties.

May 14, 2015

House Passes Surveillance Reform Bill, Deadline Looms for Senate

The House of Representatives has passed the USA Freedom Act of 2015. The bill would end the NSA's controversial domestic telephone record collection program--a program the Second Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled was unlawful. The Freedom Act would also establish new transparency requirements for the Foreign Intelligence Court, recommended by EPIC in testimony before the House Judiciary Committee in 2012. EPIC also opposed renewal of the NSA's Section 215 orders and petitioned the Supreme Court to suspend the program. The Senate is expected to take up the bill before the June 1 expiration of Section 215 of the Patriot Act.

Appeals Court Turns Down EPIC's Challenge to Cellphone Shutdown Secrecy

The Court of Appeals for the D.C .Circuit has denied EPIC's petition for further review of EPIC v. DHS, 14-5013. The Court sided with the DHS earlier this year, ruling that the agency could withhold from the public its cellphone shutdown policy. EPIC then asked that the full Court review the earlier ruling, arguing that the three-judge panel misconstrued the relevant law. The case is now headed back to the district court to determine which portions of the secret document the DHS must release. EPIC brought the case after cellphone service in a BART station was shutdown in advance of a peaceful protest.

May 17, 2015

New Drone Privacy Law Signed by Florida Governor

Florida has a new law prohibiting the use of drones to intentionally record images of people on private property if a reasonable expectation of privacy exists. The law applies to law enforcement and private individuals, and provides for civil damages and injunctive relief. The law follows Florida's 2013 law requiring that police obtain a warrant to use drones to collect evidence. Many states are considering similar legislation and EPIC's State Policy Project is monitoring bills nationwide. EPIC has also testified in Congress in support of comprehensive drone privacy legislation, argued before the New Mexico Supreme Court in support of the warrant requirement, and sued the FAA for failing to establish drone privacy safeguards.

May 20, 2015

EPIC Warns Congress of Risks of Body Cameras

EPIC submitted a statement for the record today for the Senate hearing "Can Technology Increase Protection for Law Enforcement Officers and the Public?". EPIC opposes the use of "police cams" and warned Congress that body cameras could "become the next surveillance technology disproportionately aimed at the most marginalized members of society." EPIC also pointed to the potential liability for cities if harmful images are posted online. EPIC explained that there are "more productive means to achieve police accountability that do not carry the risk of increasing surveillance." EPIC stressed that if body cameras are deployed, police departments must comply with all privacy and open government laws.

EPIC, Coalition to President: No Encryption Backdoors

EPIC and a coalition of civil society organizations and security experts urged President Obama to reject proposal to weaken encryption used in U.S. products. Administration officials, including FBI Director Comey, have advocated for broken encryption to enable law enforcement access to private communications. The letter details how weakened encryption undermines cybersecurity and economic security. EPIC previously led the effort to oppose the "Clipper Chip," the NSA's proposal for key escrow encryption that would have severely crippled the privacy and security of online communication. EPIC also recently expressed support for encryption and anonymity in a letter to a UN Rapporteur.

Pew Survey: Vast Majority of Americans Feel Strongly About Privacy, Want Control Over Personal Information

The Pew Research Center has published a new privacy poll on Americans' Views About Data Collection and Security. According to the Pew survey, 74% of Americans believe control over personal information is "very important," yet only 9% believe they have such control.Americans also value having the ability to share confidential matters with another trusted person. The vast majority of Americans want limits on how long companies retain records about their activities. And 65% of American adults believe there are not adequate limits on the telephone and internet data that the government collects.

May 21, 2015

California AG Urges Congress to Reform Data Breach Notification Bill

California Attorney General Kamala Harris has admonished the House Energy and Commerce Committee about the proposed Data Security and Breach Notification Act. In a letter to Committee leadership, Harris wrote, "I urge you to recognize the important role that states play in developing innovative approaches to consumer protection, and to reject a one-size-fits all law that establishes a ceiling rather than a floor on data security and data breach notification and consumer protection." California's Constitution guarantees the right to privacy, and California passed the first ever state data breach notification law. EPIC has also warned that the House bill would preempt stronger state laws and strip the FCC of its authority to defend consumer privacy.

Inspector General Warns: Significant Oversight of Section 215 Required

The DOJ's Office of the Inspector General released a report this month detailing the FBI's use of Section 215 and warning that "significant oversight" is required. The Inspector General describes the FBI's expanding use of 215 to collect electronic information in bulk and criticized the agency for taking seven years to develop minimization procedures. The Second Circuit ruled the NSA's telephone record collection program exceeded the legal authority under Section 215. EPIC previously petitioned the Supreme Court to suspend the program. Unless Congress votes to reauthorize or modify the authority, Section 215 is set to expire on June 1.

May 25, 2015

Justice Department Releases Drone Privacy Guidance

The Justice Department has released extensive "Policy Guidance" for the use of drones by federal agencies. The Guidance bans the use of drones to monitor activities protected by the First Amendment, requires routine logs of drone use, and requires the protection of civil liberties and privacy in all cases. However, the Guidance "does not create any right, benefit, trust, or responsibility" enforceable against the United States. EPIC supports the recommendations. EPIC has also testified before Congress in support of a comprehensive drone privacy law, petitioned the FAA for drone privacy regulations, and sued the FAA when the agency failed to create privacy safeguards.

May 27, 2015

Florida Blocks Public Access to Police Body Camera Footage

Florida, a state with very broad open government laws, has exempted police body camera footage obtained inside a private residence, a health care, mental health care or social services facility or is taken in a place that a reasonable person would expect to be private from public records law. Many states are considering similar legislation and EPIC's State Policy Project is monitoring bills nationwide. EPIC has submitted testimony to Congress and the D.C. City Council in opposition to the deployment of body cameras. But, where body-worn cameras are deployed, EPIC recommends no exemptions from open government laws.

White House Begins Shutdown of Bulk Collection Program

According to media reports, the Administration has decided not to renew the legal authority for the NSA’s telephone record collection program. EPIC and a coalition of privacy organizations had urged the President to end the program, which he said he would do in 2014. In 2013, EPIC filed a petition in the US Supreme Court, supported by technical experts, legal scholars, and former members of the Church Committee, arguing that the program was unlawful. The Senate is expected to take up the USA Freedom Act on May 31, the day before key provisions of the Patriot Act expire.

May 28, 2015

UN Report Champions Encryption and Anonymity

The UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression released a report today supporting strong encryption and anonymity tools. The Rapporteur finds that, "States should not restrict encryption and anonymity, which facilitate and often enable the rights to freedom of opinion and expression." EPIC previously urged the UN to support secure, anonymous communications, stating, "In our modern age, encryption is the key technique and anonymity is the core legal right that protects the right to privacy." EPIC published the first comprehensive survey of encryption use around the world and worked in support of the OECD Cryptography Guidelines of 1997.

May 31, 2015

Senate to Debate End of PATRIOT Act

The Senate convenes today for a rare Sunday session. Senators will consider whether to renew key provisions of the PATRIOT Act, including the NSA bulk collection program, due to expire tonight. Senator Rand Paul has said he will oppose any renewal. Also under consideration is the FREEDOM Act, sponsored by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Senator Mike Lee (R-TX). In 2013, EPIC filed a petition in the Supreme Court, In re EPIC, supported by experts, scholars, and members of the Church Committee, arguing that the NSA program was unlawful. In 2014, EPIC and a broad coalition urged the President to end the program. The Sunday debate will be broadcast live on CSPAN2 at 4 pm EDT.

About May 2015

This page contains all entries posted to epic.org in May 2015. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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