« May 2015 | Main | July 2015 »

June 2015 Archives

June 2, 2015

Senate Passes FREEDOM Act, Ends NSA Bulk Collection

The Senate has passed the USA FREEDOM Act, sponsored by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Senator Mike Lee (R-TX). The Act, which the President is expected to sign, ends the NSA bulk collection of domestic telephone records and establishes new transparency and accountability rules for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. In 2012, EPIC testified before the House Judiciary Committee on the need to reform the Surveillance Court. In 2013, EPIC filed a petition in the Supreme Court, In re EPIC, arguing that the NSA program was unlawful. In 2014, EPIC and a broad coalition urged the President to end the NSA surveillance program.

Senator Markey Speaks at EPIC Book Event

Senator Edward Markey (D-MA) appeared today at the Fund for Constitutional Government to support the release of EPIC's new anthology, "Privacy in the Modern Age: The Search for Solutions" and Bruce Schneier's NY Times bestseller "Data and Goliath." Senator Markey discussed his efforts to establish new safeguards for student privacy and to limit drone surveillance. [Photo]

Tim Cook Backs Privacy, Crypto, Freedom at EPIC Awards Dinner

Apple CEO Tim Cook gave an impassioned speech at the 2015 EPIC Champions of Freedom Award dinner. Cook said the erosion of privacy represents a threat to the American way of life. "We believe that people have a fundamental right to privacy. The American people demands it, the constitution demands it, morality demands it." Cook also opposed government efforts to weaken encryption. "So let me be crystal clear -- weakening encryption, or taking it away, harms good people that are using it for the right reasons. And ultimately, I believe it has a chilling effect on our First Amendment rights and undermines our country's founding principles." Tim Cook is the first business leader to receive the Award from EPIC. [Photo: Photograph by Jenifer Morris]

June 9, 2015

Senators Urges FCC to Protect Consumers Against Unsolicited Calls

Almost a dozen senators have urged the Federal Communications Commission to uphold consumer privacy protections within the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. Next week the Commission will vote on two dozen proposals seeking to relax enforcement of the Act. According to Senator Markey and others, the FCC's recommendation to permit unsolicited texts and calls without consumer consent "would threaten privacy and result in an increase in disruptive and annoying calls for American consumers." The Commission will vote on the proposals during an Open Meeting on June 18, 2015. EPIC supported enactment of the TCPA and has advocated for strong enforcement.

Survey: Americans Favor Control Over Personal Information, Say Trading Data for Services is Unfair

According to a University of Pennsylvania study, 91% of Americans disagree that "If companies give me a discount, it is a fair exchange for them to collect information about me without my knowing." Although 84% of Americans "want to have control over what marketers can learn about" them online, 58% believe they have no control over what marketers can learn about them. A Pew survey last month found that 74% of Americans believe control over personal information is "very important," yet only 9% believe they have such control. EPIC maintains a webpage devoted to Privacy and Public Opinion.

EPIC Obtains Documents on "Violent Intent Modeling and Simulation" Program

Pursuant to a FOIA request, the DHS has released to EPIC the first set of documents about a new pre-crime detection program. The so-called "Violent Intent Modeling and Simulation" Program attempts to predict violent behavior based on public record information. EPIC previously uncovered documents about the DHS's Future Attribute Screening Program, another pre-crime initiative. "Minority Report," a 2002 film starring Tom Cruise, also explored the topic of pre-crime detection.

EPIC Shines Light on DARPA's "RATS" (Robust Automatic Transcription of Speech) Program

Pursuant to a FOIA request, DARPA released to EPIC documents describing a voice-to-text transcription program known as Robust Automatic Transcription of Speech, or "RATS." The agency program seeks to transform speech into text so that is can be more readily identified and analyzed. It is intended for "defense-related operations" and could be directed to private communications and public gatherings. EPIC recently challenged automatic voice transcription by Samsung televisions in an FTC complaint.

EU NGOs Push for Strong Data Protection Legislation

Following a meeting with EU NGOs, the European Data Protection Supervisor expressed support for a high level of data protection in the General Data Protection Regulation, In April, EPIC and a coalition of over sixty NGOs from around the world urged European Commissioner President Juncker to uphold robust data protection standards as the European Union considers the new Regulation. The European Commission previously promised that the Data Protection Regulation would be at least as strong as the 1995 Data Directive it replaces.

June 10, 2015

Massive Breach Impacts Millions of Government Employees

The Office of Personnel Management has announced a massive data breach in the federal government's employee database. According to the agency, the breach exposed the sensitive personal information - including home addresses, SSNs, and financial information - of 4 million government employees. Although 432 million online accounts were hacked in 2014, Congress has failed to update US privacy laws or pass cybersecurity legislation. EPIC has urged the White House and Congress to promote Privacy Enhancing Techniques that minimize or eliminate the collection of personally identifiable information.

Civil Society Groups Propose Open Government, Privacy Goals for US

EPIC and a coalition of civil society groups set out recommendations for the US National Action Plan, an initiative pursued by countries and NGOs participating in the Open Government Partnership. EPIC and other US NGOs urged the United States to commit to several goals including publication of FISC opinions, improving FOIA, and strengthening privacy safeguards. EPIC and others previously called on President Obama to address weaknesses in open government administration and support FOIA reform.

June 12, 2015

New Law Would Strengthen Children's Online Privacy

The "Do Not Track Kids" Act, introduced this week by Senator Markey (D-MA), Senator Blumenthal (D- CT), Rep. Barton (R-TX), and Rep. Rush (D-IL) would strengthen and expand the privacy protections afforded children in the 1998 Children's Online Privacy Protection Act. The Act extends privacy safeguards to children over 13, requires that businesses collecting information on minors comply with Fair Information Practices, and establishes a "right to be forgotten," allowing parents and minors to remove social media posts, similar to California's Eraser Law. EPIC has long advocated for the privacy rights of children, testifying in Congress 1996 in support of the Children's Privacy Law and again before the Senate in 2010 as new technologies and business practices emerged. EPIC also urged FTC in 2011 to establish stronger regulations to protect the data concerning children.

South Carolina Requires Police Body Cameras, But Blocks Public Access to Footage

South Carolina has become the first state to require law enforcement agencies to deploy body cameras. However, the law exempts police body camera footage from public records law, which appears contrary to the stated goal of promoting police accountability. 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 opposing the deployment of body cameras. But where body-worn cameras are deployed, EPIC recommends that the police agencies comply with open government laws.

France Tells Google Apply Right to Be Forgotten Worldwide or Face Fines

French authorities have threatened Google with fines if it fails to apply Europe's right to be forgotten ruling to the search engine's global domains, including Google.com. Google has been reluctant to apply the landmark decision broadly, even after officials across Europe made clear that Google is violating the court judgement if it routinely discloses sensitive personal information to Internet users worldwide. EPIC explained in US News & World Report and USA Today that Google's position is illogical and inconsistent. According to a recent survey, nine out of ten voters in the United States want the right to delete links to personal information.

EPIC Joins Open Government Groups in Support of FOIA Reform

EPIC and a coalition of open government advocates has urged Congress to pass FOIA reform legislation. In response to a request from the Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, the coalition expressed support for the FOIA Act of 2015, specifically praising a provision limiting the use of Exemption 5, which has enabled the growth of secret law. In EPIC v. DOJ, EPIC argued that agencies improperly use Exemption 5 to hide government documents from public scrutiny. EPIC also filed an amicus in NY Times v. DOJ, a successful challenge to the secrecy of the legal memos justifying the government's "targeted killing" drone program.

June 15, 2015

European NGOs Critical of Council Position on New Data Protection Law

In response to an earlier proposal from the European Parliament, the European Council has approved a draft intended to update the EU1995 Data Directive. The goal of the new Regulation is to modernize, harmonize, and strengthen data protection across the European Union. However, EU NGOs, including Privacy International and EDRi, have expressed strong concern about the Council position, which creates numerous exceptions and disregards fundamental rights. In April, EPIC and a coalition of over sixty NGOs urged the EU to uphold robust data protection standards. Negotiations among the EU institutions will continue later this month.

June 17, 2015

EPIC Calls for Improved Oversight of "EO 12333" Surveillance Activities

EPIC has filed extensive comments with the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, urging enhanced oversight of Executive Order 12333. The Presidential Order was originally adopted in 1981 to limit domestic surveillance but now provides the basis for NSA mass surveillance programs. EPIC called for: (1) new limits on data collection and disclosure; (2) audit trails for surveillance activities; and (3) published legal justifications for surveillance programs. EPIC is also pursuing open government requests concerning 12333 surveillance activities with the NSA, the Attorney General, and the Director of National Intelligence. A related EPIC FOIA case, EPIC v. NSA, led to the public release of the NSA's cyber security authority.

Senator Sanders Proposes Commission on Privacy Rights in Digital Age

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has introduced a bill to establish a federal Privacy Commission. The Commission on Privacy Rights in the Digital Age would convene for two years to "examine the ways in which public agencies and private companies gather data on the people of the United States and the ways in which that data is utilized." The Commission would also "make recommendations concerning potential policy changes needed to safeguard the privacy" of Americans. EPIC has repeatedly urged Congress to establish a privacy agency. As EPIC explained in Senate testimony, similar agencies in other countries "routinely report on the handling of privacy complaints, the emergence of new privacy issues, and proposed measures to protect privacy." The United States is one of the few democratic countries in the world that does not have a federal privacy agency.

Senate Rejects User Surveillance Proposal

The Senate has rejected an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for 2016 that would transfer user data from private companies to government agencies without judicial oversight. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt) urged Senators to oppose the amendment, stating "we need a cyber-security bill, not a cyber-surveillance bill." Last year, EPIC won a five-year court battle against the NSA for NSPD 54-the foundational legal document for U.S. cybersecurity policies. The Directive reveals the NSA's interest in enlisting companies to monitor user activity in the United States.

June 19, 2015

FCC Implements Strict Rules to Halt Unwanted Telemarketing

The Federal Communications Commission has adopted new rules that impose strict limits on telemarketing practices. Under the rules, consumers can halt unwanted messages by telling companies to stop calling. The rules also allow phone companies to offer call-blocking services to screen out automated telemarketing calls. In 2014, the FCC received more than 215,000 complaints from consumers regarding unwanted telephone solicitations. EPIC has previously urged the Commission to require express consumer consent for telemarketing calls and to protect wireless subscribers from telemarketing. EPIC President Marc Rotenberg helped establish the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.

June 22, 2015

EPIC Files FTC Complaint Against Uber about Plan to Track Users and Gather Contact List Data

EPIC has filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, charging that Uber's plan to track users and gather contact details is an unlawful and deceptive trade practice. EPIC cites Uber's history of misusing customer data as one of many reasons the Commission must act. EPIC has also recommended comprehensive legislation for Uber and other similar companies. EPIC has previously pursued successful complaints at the FTC concerning Google, Facebook, WhatsApp, Snapchat and other firms. The complaints typically lead to investigations and then to settlements following a change in business practices.

Supreme Court Strikes Down Warrantless Searches of Hotel Guest Registries

The Supreme Court ruled today that a Los Angeles ordinance authorizing warrantless inspections of hotel guest registries is unconstitutional because it failed to provide for judicial review. The ordinance required all hotels in Los Angeles to collect detailed information on their guests for police inspection. Writing for the Court in Los Angeles v. Patel, Justice Sonia Sotomayor explained that with only a few exceptions, "searches conducted outside the judicial process" are "per se unreasonable." EPIC filed an amicus brief in the case, joined by thirty-six technical experts and legal scholars, arguing that "guest registries should not be made routinely available to the police for inspection, and they should not be collected or retained for that purpose." EPIC traced the history of US hotels as meetings places for organizations and cited the landmark Supreme Court case NAACP v. Alabama.

June 25, 2015

Massive Government Data Breach Even Worse than Reported

A Congressional hearing on the Office of Personnel Management data breach has now revealed one of the worst data breaches in US history. The agency initially reported that the personal information of 4 million government employees was obtained, but news reports suggest the breach was much larger--exposing the social security numbers of more than 18 million people. EPIC has urged the White House and Congress to promote Privacy Enhancing Techniques that minimize or eliminate the collection of personally identifiable information. EPIC has also testified in Congress and the Senate in support of stronger security measures to protect personal data.

EPIC Urges California Supreme Court to Protect Open Records Law

EPIC has asked the Supreme Court of California to review a lower court decision that prevented public release of information about "automated license plate readers." The lower court held that information about the system to gather license plate date on all motorists was an "investigative record." In the amicus letter EPIC stated, "as the government's ability to collect information about individuals has expanded, open record laws have become an important tool for government oversight." Documents obtained by EPIC about the FBI's use of license plate readers showed the agency failed to address the system's privacy implications.

June 26, 2015

ICANN Swamped with User Comments Against Personal Data in WHOIS Directory

Internet users have backed a campaign to prevent ICANN's inclusion of domain owners' personal information in the publicly searchable WHOIS directory. Users concerned about privacy are encouraged to sign the online petition and email comments directly to ICANN before July 7, 2015. ICANN has already received nearly 8000 emails protesting the removal of WHOIS privacy protections. ICANN stated that no changes will be made until all public comments are reviewed. EPIC has taken a strong stance on WHOIS privacy, urging Congress to prevent registrars from selling user information to third parties, serving on the WHOIS Privacy Steering Committee, and filing a legal brief supporting the rights of domain name holders not to publish their personal information on the Internet.

June 29, 2015

FCC To Establish Privacy Rules for Internet Services

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler said that the Commission will begin rulemaking proceedings for Internet privacy this fall. "If consumers worry that they don't have sufficient privacy online, why are they going to use online?" Wheeler said. The FCC 2015 Open Internet Order, published earlier this year, would expand the agency's authority to enforce privacy rules for Internet companies. EPIC has long supported the FCC's authority to protect consumer privacy.

About June 2015

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

May 2015 is the previous archive.

July 2015 is the next archive.

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