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March 2017 Archives

March 1, 2017

EPIC in Court: Irish High Court Examines EU-US Data Transfers

Today EPIC made submissions before the Irish High Court in Data Protection Commissioner v. Facebook, concerning privacy protections for transAtlantic data transfers. EPIC explained that "U.S. privacy law is characterized by particularly narrow conceptions of privacy and personal data, which in turn limit the scope of relevant constitutional, statutory, and regulatory privacy protections." EPIC also stated, "many of the privacy safeguards under U.S. law in fact operate to the exclusion of E.U. citizens" and that the "standing" doctrine is an overarching barrier to legal redress. EPIC is represented by FLAC (Free Legal Advice Centres), an independent human rights organization, based in Dublin, dedicated to the realization of equal justice for all. [Press Release]

EPIC Urges House Committee To Ensure Transparency, Public Reporting in Surveillance Law

In advance of a hearing on Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, EPIC has sent a letter to the House Judiciary Committee urging increased transparency and new public reporting of the Government's surveillance activities. EPIC also highlighted that Section 702 is the central focus of multiple current legal challenges to international data transfer agreements occurring abroad. Section 702, which authorizes the bulk surveillance on the communications of non-U.S. persons, sunsets on December 31, 2017. EPIC testified before the Committee during the 2012 FISA reauthorization hearings.

March 2, 2017

EPIC FOIA: EPIC Seeks Information about Airport Eye Scans of U.S. Travelers

EPIC has filed an urgent FOIA request with U.S. Customs and Border Protection for details of eye scans conducted on U.S. citizens traveling internationally. The CBP has long been testing biometric identification of travelers, including U.S. citizens, and a recent report indicates U.S. citizens were subject to eye scans before traveling abroad. EPIC seeks public disclosure of the details of CBP policies for scanning U.S. citizen irises and retinas upon entry or exit to the U.S. EPIC makes frequent use of the Freedom of Information Act. As the result of a FOIA lawsuit, EPIC recently obtained several memorandum of understanding regarding the transfer of biometric identifiers between the FBI and DOD. Last month, EPIC also prevailed in EPIC v. FBI, a FOIA lawsuit public release of the FBI's privacy assessments.

NGOs Continue Campaign Against Privacy Shield

In March 2016, EPIC and more than 20 civil society organizations urged European leaders to oppose adoption of the "Privacy Shield" for EU-US data flows. The NGOs wrote that the political agreement fails to provide sufficient data protection and does not respect the decision of the European Court of Justice in the Schrems case. The groups urged the US to make changes in domestic laws and international commitments to permit transfers of personal data to the US. The ACLU and Human Rights Watch have now also sent a letter asking Europe to reexamine Privacy Shield. At a hearing before the High Court of Ireland, EPIC Senior Counsel Alan Butler has made submissions in DPC v. Facebook highlighting weaknesses in US privacy law.

EPIC Urges Senate Committee to Protect Consumers, Democratic Institutions With Strong Cyber Policies

In advance of a hearing on "Cyber Strategy and Policy," EPIC has sent a letter to the Senate Armed Services Committee urging Congress to protect democratic institutions, following the Russian interference with the 2016 presidential election. EPIC explained that "data protection and privacy should remain a central focus" of cyber security policy. EPIC also recommended that Congress strengthen the federal Privacy Act and establish a U.S. data protection agency. EPIC recently launched the EPIC Cybersecurity and Democracy Project that will focus on US cyber policies, threats to election systems and foreign attempts to influence American policymaking.

EPIC to Congress: Examine TSA Secrecy

EPIC has sent a letter to the House Committee on Oversight for a hearing on the Transportation Security Administration. EPIC has objected to the TSA's refusal to release information designated as "sensitive security information" that is pertinent to EPIC's ongoing case against TSA regarding airport body scanners. EPIC said that "seeking to hide its decision making behind this cloak of secrecy." The House Committee has also criticized the agency's use of the SSI designation. EPIC also raised concerns about the eye scanning of US travelers at US airports as well as the TSA's statement that they will no longer accept drivers licenses from states that oppose "REAL ID".

March 3, 2017

EPIC Warns of Privacy, Safety Risks with "Smart Cities"

In comments to the National Science Foundation on "Smart Cities and Communities Federal Strategic Plan", EPIC warned that they there were considerable risks to public safety and personal privacy. EPIC urged the NSF to prioritize cybersecurity, protect individual privacy, and minimize the collection of personally identifiable information. EPIC regularly submits comments to federal agencies on emerging civil liberties issues, including cybersecurity, consumer protection, and other privacy issues.

March 6, 2017

EPIC, Children's Advocates Oppose Requests to End FCC Broadband Privacy Rules

EPIC and a coalition of children's advocates have filed a comment opposing petitions that ask the FCC to revoke its broadband privacy rules. The coalition urged the FCC to retain rules that treat children's data, web browsing histories, and app usage data as sensitive and to retain opt-in requirements for all categories of sensitive information. EPIC previously urged the FCC to establish comprehensive safeguards for consumer privacy, to ban pay-for-privacy schemes, and to prohibit mandatory arbitration. EPIC has frequently defended FCC privacy rules and currently has a petition pending before the FCC to end the mandatory retention of customer telephone records.

EPIC Seeks Release of FISA Order for Trump Tower

EPIC has filed an urgent FOIA request with the Department of Justice for the release of the warrant for wiretapping the Trump Tower in New York city. The President has charged that President Obama "had [his] wires tapped in Trump Tower." EPIC has filed a formal Freedom of Information request of the public release of any applications filed under "FISA" for wiretapping in Trump Tower. Such an order would have been filed by the National Security Division of the Justice Department and approved by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. The complete text of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act is available in the Privacy Law Sourcebook (EPIC 2016) at the EPIC Bookstore.

March 7, 2017

EPIC to Senate: Back FCC Broadband Privacy Rule, End FCC Bulk Data Collection

EPIC has sent a letter to the Senate Commerce Committee ahead of an FCC oversight hearing. EPIC urged the Committee to examine the FCC's role in online privacy. EPIC supports the FCC's broadband privacy rule. In fact, EPIC had urged the FCC to adopt a comprehensive privacy rule for all communications services, as suggested by FCC Chairman Pai. EPIC also brought to the Committee's attention an outdated FCC regulation that requires the bulk collection of telephone data of American consumers. In 2015, EPIC and many consumer privacy groups petitioned the FCC to repeal, but the Commission has yet to take any action. In the letter to the Senate, EPIC said the FCC should withdraw the anti-privacy, data retention regulation.

EPIC Sues Justice Department Over "Risk Assessment" Techniques

EPIC has filed a FOIA lawsuit against the Department of Justice for information about the use of "risk assessment" tools in the criminal justice system. These proprietary techniques are used to set bail, determine criminal sentences, and even contribute to determinations about guilt or innocence. Many criminal justice experts oppose their use. EPIC has pursued several FOIA cases to promote "algorithmic transparency." The EPIC cases include passenger risk assessment, "future crime" prediction, and proprietary forensic analysis. The Supreme Court is now considering whether to take a case on the use of a secretive technique to predict possible recidivism.

March 9, 2017

EPIC Seeks Documents on Trump - Pai White House Meeting

EPIC has filed an urgent FOIA request with the FCC for information on the recent meeting between FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and President Donald Trump. EPIC is seeking memos, briefing papers, emails, and talking points relating to the White House meeting that took place on March 6, 2017. EPIC said in the FOIA request that public disclosure of this is critical as President Trump has described the media, which is subject to FCC regulation, as the "enemy of the people." FCC Chair Pai also recently suspended parts of a broadband privacy order that protects Internet users from invasive tracking and profiling. EPIC has urged the FCC to establish comprehensive safeguards for consumer privacy. EPIC also has a long-standing petition before the FCC to end the mandatory retention of customer telephone records.

EPIC Urges House Committee to Protect Democratic Institutions

EPIC has asked the House Committee on Foreign Affairs to examine the risk to democratic institutions of cyber attack. EPIC described two recent Freedom of Information Act cases against the FBI and the ODNI to obtain records about the Russian interference with the 2016 US Presidential election. EPIC pointed to the upcoming federal elections in Europe and the need to safeguard democratic elections. EPIC recently launched the EPIC Cybersecurity and Democracy Project, which focuses on US cyber policies, threats to election systems, and foreign attempts to influence American policymaking.

DOJ Report on FOIA Compliance: EPIC #2 in 2016 for Fee Awards

The Justice Department's Office of Information Policy has released the 2016 Freedom of Information Act Litigation and Compliance Report. The report describes the DOJ's efforts in 2016 to ensure compliance with the open government law across the federal government, from issuing policy guidance to holding FOIA trainings. The agency also issued a list of FOIA cases where a court decision was rendered in 2016 and the amount of fees awarded by the court. EPIC tied for second (with the ACLU), behind the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, as the most successful FOIA litigator in the country, receiving court-ordered fee awards in three cases in 2016. In 2017, EPIC has already prevailed in a FOIA case against the FBI for public release of the agency's privacy assessments. Fees are anticipated in that case. For more information about EPIC's open government work, visit: https://epic.org/open_gov/.

March 10, 2017

EPIC Publishes 2017 FOIA Gallery

In celebration of Sunshine Week, a national recognition of public access to information, EPIC has unveiled the 2017 FOIA Gallery. Since 2001, EPIC has released annual highlights of EPIC's most significant open government cases. In 2016, EPIC obtained records detailing a Customs and Border Protection data mining program used to build "risk" profiles on travelers, unveiled two years' worth of statistical data showing the FBI's growing biometric identification program, and revealed the DEA's failure to conduct legally mandated privacy assessments in EPIC v. DEA. In the latest FOIA Gallery, EPIC also highlights two new FOIA lawsuits to uncover details of the Russian interference in the 2016 election case concerning electronic surveillance report, and the launch of EPIC's new course teaching the basics of the federal FOIA.

March 13, 2017

House Committee Approves Bill That Places Genetic Privacy At Risk

The House Committee on Education and the Workforce gave approval last week to a bill that would undermine the privacy protections guaranteed by the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA). The bill would condition health insurance discounts for wellness programs on whether an employee agrees to participate in genetic testing. Under GINA, employers may not penalize employees for keeping their genetic data private. DNA profiles and other genetic records contain particularly sensitive personal information that can impact employment decisions, insurance availability, and even criminal justice outcomes. EPIC supported GINA and has backed the right of individuals to control the use of their genetic data in numerous comments and cases.

EPIC Names New Advisory Board Members

EPIC has announced the newest members of the EPIC Advisory Board. They are Jennifer Daskal, Robert Groves, Cathy O'Neil, Jennifer Mnookin, Erin Murphy, and James Waldo. The EPIC Advisory Board is a distinguished group of experts in law, technology, and public policy who contribute to EPIC's work on privacy and civil liberties issues. Professor Danielle Citron, author of "Hate Crimes in Cyberspace," was recently named Chair of the EPIC Board of Directors. Sherry Turkle and Shoshana Zuboff joined the Board of Directors.

March 14, 2017

EPIC to Senate: FAA Must Establish Drone Privacy Safeguards

EPIC sent a detailed letter to the Senate Commerce Committee ahead of a hearing on drone deployment in the United States. Emphasizing the unique privacy risks of drones, EPIC explained that the FAA has failed to establish necessary safeguard. EPIC has sued the agency, arguing that is has failed to comply with Congressional directives, following a petition by EPIC hundreds of comments the agency receivedin support of privacy rules. EPIC also pointed out that the FAA has excluded privacy experts from the agency task force on drone policy.

March 15, 2017

EPIC Urges Senate Committee to Investigate Russian Interference with US Election

EPIC has sent a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee for a hearing on "The Modus Operandi and Toolbox of Russia and Other Autocracies for Undermining Democracies Throughout the World." EPIC described two of its Freedom of Information Act cases against the FBI and the ODNI to obtain records about activities aimed at undermining democratic institutions, as well as a pending FOIA request regarding the "wiretapping of Trump Tower." EPIC explained that upcoming federal elections in Europe underscore the need to assess the threat to democratic elections. EPIC told the Committee the "need to understand Russian efforts to influence democratic elections cannot be overstated."

Sen. Markey and Rep. Welch Introduce Drone Privacy Legislation

Senator Markey and Representative Welch today introduced the Drone Aircraft Privacy and Transparency Act of 2017. The Act would establish privacy safeguards to protect individuals from drone surveillance. The Drone Privacy Act requires publicly available data collection statements from operators and warrants for drone surveillance by law enforcement. "Drones flying overhead could collect very sensitive and personally identifiable information about millions of Americans, but right now, we don't have sufficient safeguards in place to protect our privacy," said Senator Markey. The Act includes privacy protections EPIC has proposed in statements to Congress and comments to federal agencies. In EPIC v. FAA, EPIC is challenging the failure of the FAA to protect the public from aerial surveillance.

March 16, 2017

Secret Ballot At Risk in Colorado As Governor Considers "Ballot Selfie" Bill

The Colorado General Assembly recently passed a bill that allows "ballot selfies," threatening voter privacy. Ballot selfies allow campaigns, employers, unions, and others to verify how an individual voted. But EPIC explained in "The Secret Ballot At Risk: Recommendations for Protecting Democracy" that the secret ballot — the inability to link particular voters to particular votes — is a cornerstone of modern democracies. The secret ballot reduces the threat of coercion, vote buying and selling, and tampering. The secret ballot allows people to vote without fear of intimidation or retaliation. EPIC has a long history of working to protect voter privacy and election integrity. In a 2010 Supreme Court case, EPIC argued that disregard for voter privacy may unconstitutionally burden the right to vote.

EPIC Urges Court to Protect Individual Privacy in Releases of Government Docs

EPIC has filed a "friend-of-the-court" brief in an open government case with implications for informational privacy. A group of anonymous medical employees challenged the release of personal information sought under a state public records act. EPIC argued that withholding personal information is consistent with open government and constitutionally required. "Open government laws and privacy laws are complimentary: the aim is to maximize both the public's access to information about the government and to safeguard personal privacy to the greatest extent feasible," EPIC wrote. EPIC has argued for similar privacy protections in ATF v. Chicago, Chicago Tribune v. University of Illinois, Ostergren v. Cuccinelli, NASA v. Nelson, and FCC v. AT&T.

March 17, 2017

Data Protection Experts Recommend New protections for Biometric Identification Online

The International Working Group on Data Protection in Telecommunications adopted new recommendations to improve the privacy and security of biometric identification online. The Berlin-based Working Group includes Data Protection Authorities and experts who work together to address emerging privacy challenges. The "Working Paper on Biometrics in Online Authentication )" explains that “biometrics in online authentication offers one possibility to address some of the shortcomings” of conventional online passwords, but the “data protection and privacy risks” must be considered. Among their recommendations, the experts urge policymakers to support for “[p]roactive privacy tools,” and contend biometric authentication should “remai[n] an active choice by the user and not a condition of use.” EPIC will host the 61st meeting of the International Working Group in Washington DC in April 2017.

Proposed FY2018 Ups Spending for FBI Anti-Encryption Tools

President Trump’s proposed budget reveals a $61 million increase in FBI funds dedicated to fighting encryption. The newly released budget for Fiscal Year 2018 directs the FBI to invest “$61 million more to fight terrorism and combat foreign intelligence and cyber threats and address public safety and national security risks that result from malicious actors’ use of encrypted products and services.” The FY2017 budget set aside $38 million to FBI anti-encryption technology and research. EPIC has advocated for strong encryption since its founding, and consistently pushed back against efforts to weaken the technology. EPIC also published the first comprehensive survey of encryption use around the world.

March 18, 2017

EPIC FOIA: DOJ will neither "confirm nor deny" existence of FISA Application for Trump Tower

In a letter to EPIC, the Department of Justice’s National Security Division stated it will neither "confirm nor deny" the existence of a FISA application to monitor Trump Tower. After the President has charged that President Obama "had [his] wires tapped in Trump Tower,” EPIC filed an urgent FOIA request with the DOJ for the public release of any applications filed under "FISA" for wiretapping Trump Tower. In response to EPIC’s FOIA request, the DOJ has stated, "we can neither confirm nor deny the existence of records in these files responsive to your request." EPIC will challenge the agency's determination. The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released a bipartisan statement rejecting the allegations, and House Speaker Paul Ryan stated on Thursday they have "seen no evidence" of wiretapping. EPIC also filed a related request for five categories of FISA applications related to the alleged surveillance of the Trump team. The DOJ provided the same response to EPIC to that request.

March 20, 2017

EPIC Urges Senate Committee to Explore Gorsuch's Views on Privacy

In a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, EPIC has urged Senators to question Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch on a wide range of privacy, First Amendment, open government, and consumer protection issues. Judge Gorsuch’s views on these subjects could have "far-reaching implications" for “the future of privacy in the digital era," EPIC wrote. The letter from EPIC emphasized that "[t]hese issues could not be more timely” given recent allegations by the President “that he was the target of government surveillance"—a claim that is the target of an EPIC freedom of information request. EPIC regularly shares its views with the Senate concerning nominees to the Supreme Court, including Justice Kagan, Justice Sotomayor, Justice Alito, and Chief Justice Roberts. The Senate hearing will be webcast on C-SPAN Monday at 11:00 am EDT.

EPIC Urges House Intelligence Committee to Investigate Russian Interference With US Election

EPIC has sent a letter to the House Intelligence Committee for a hearing on "Russian Active Measures Investigation," during which FBI Director James Comes will testify. EPIC described a FOIA request with the Department of Justice for the public release of any applications filed under "FISA" for wiretapping Trump Tower. This past Friday, DOJ responded to EPIC stating it can neither "confirm nor deny" the existence of a FISA application to monitor Trump Tower. EPIC also described its Freedom of Information Act cases against the FBI and the ODNI to obtain records about activities aimed at undermining democratic institutions. EPIC explained that upcoming federal elections in Europe underscore the need to assess the threat to democratic elections. EPIC told the Committee the "need to understand Russian efforts to influence democratic elections cannot be overstated."

EPIC Appeals DOJ Response to "Neither Confirm nor Deny" FISA Order on Trump Tower

EPIC has appealed the DOJ’s decision to “neither confirm nor deny" the existence of a FISA application to monitor Trump Tower. Following tweets by the President alleging that President Obama "had [his] wires tapped in Trump Tower,” EPIC submitted an urgent FOIA request with the DOJ’s National Security Division for public release of any FISA applications for wiretapping Trump Tower. In response, the DOJ stated on Friday that "we can neither confirm nor deny the existence of records in these files responsive to your request." Yet, in today’s hearing before the House Select Committee on Intelligence, FBI Director James Comey stated that both the FBI and the DOJ had “no information to support those tweets.” EPIC has appealed the agency's response to the FOIA request, stating "Based on the FBI Director’s statement today... the agency may not hide behind the “neither confirm nor deny" response," and the "agency should immediately process EPIC’s FOIA Request." The heads of the Senate and House Intelligence committees have also publicly rejected the allegations, along with House Speaker Paul Ryan. EPIC will continue to press the DOJ for release of the information.

March 21, 2017

EPIC Complaint Seeks Investigation of Auto "Starter Interrupt Devices"

EPIC has filed a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau over the use of automobile "starter interrupt devices." The EPIC complaint alleges that companies use these devices to "monitor borrowers' real-time location, limit borrowers' movements to prescribed boundaries via geo-fencing technology, and disable vehicles in remote or dangerous locations" in violation of the Consumer Financial Protection Act. EPIC has asked the Bureau "to enjoin their unfair and abusive practices." In testimony, and detailed comments, and letters. EPIC has urged Congress to adopt privacy and safety standards for connected vehicles. EPIC has also submitted comments to the CFPB on debt collection practices and publication of consumer complaint narratives.

Comey Confirms Russian Investigation, FBI Seeks Delay in EPIC FOIA Case

Following Director James Comey's confirmation of the FBI investigation into ties between Russia and Trump's presidential campaign, the FBI asked to delay EPIC's FOIA lawsuit against the agency. In EPIC v. FBI, EPIC seeks public release of records pertaining to the Russian interference with the 2016 Presidential election. Yesterday, in an open hearing before the House Select Intelligence Committee, Comey acknowledged for first time that the FBI is investigating possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia's interference in the election. Following the testimony, the FBI immediately asked the court for more time file a schedule for processing the FOIA request in EPIC's case against the FBI. EPIC is simultaneously pursuing a FOIA appeal with the DOJ, pressing the agency to reveal the existence of any applications to wiretap Trump Tower. EPIC has also filed suit against the ODNI for public release of the Complete ODNI Assessment of the Russian interference in the 2016 election, and a new EPIC project, the EPIC Cybersecurity and Democracy Project, will focus on US cyber policies.

EPIC Urges House Oversight Committee to Explore FBI's Use of Biometric Data

EPIC has sent a letter to the House Committee on Oversight concerning "Law Enforcement's Use of Facial Recognition Technology." EPIC urged the Committee to investigate the FBI's Next Generation Identification program. EPIC explained that an individual's ability to control disclosure of identity "is an essential aspect of personal security and privacy." The FBI biometric database is one of the largest in the world, but the FBI has opposed privacy safeguards that EPIC supported. The Bureau proposed to exempt the database from Privacy Act protections. EPIC has filed a FOIA lawsuit against the FBI for information about the agency's plans to transfer biometric data to the Department of Defense.

March 22, 2017

EPIC, Coalition Focus on Immigration Orders, Data Practices, and Government Accountability

In a letter to DHS Secretary Kelly and Attorney General Sessions, EPIC and a coalition of 25 open government organizations expressed concerns about the lawfulness and objectivity of data practices under several recent immigration Executive Orders. Official memos reveal the Orders are being implemented in "manner that is unlawful and inconsistent with federal information quality guidelines, raising serious privacy, transparency, and accountability concerns." The coalition urged Secretary Kelly and the Attorney General to align data practices with privacy safeguards, open data, and data quality requirements. "Public data allows the public to hold its government accountable - but that is only possible if government information is released in a complete, consistent, unbiased, and open manner," the group stated. Earlier this year, EPIC also collaborated with other open government advocates to push for greater transparency in federal dispute resolution services and to preserve access to government information online.

EPIC Submits FOIA Request Seeking Documents on Airline Electronics Ban

EPIC has submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the TSA seeking information on the recently announced ban on electronics on flights bound for the United States. The ban applies to ten airports in eight majority Muslim countries. EPIC is seeking documents related to the reasons for implementing the ban as well as documentation on TSA policies and procedures for searching electronics in checked luggage. EPIC regularly submits FOIA requests to government agencies and is also seeking information on eye scans conducted at US airports on US travelers. In EPIC v. DHS, EPIC is challenging the TSA's efforts to mandate airport body scanners.

Senators Markey and Blumenthal Introduce Bill to Protect Driver Privacy in Connected Cars

Senators Edward Markey (D-MA) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) have introduced the "Security and Privacy in Your Car Act of 2017." The SPY Car Act would establish cybersecurity and privacy standards for new passenger vehicles, and establish a privacy rating system. A 2014 report from Senator Markey "detailed major gaps in how auto companies are securing connected features in cars against hackers." The bill would also prevent the use of driver data for marketing purposes without consent. In 2015 EPIC testified before Congress on the need for privacy and safety safeguards for connected vehicles. In 2016 EPIC filed an amicus brief in federal appeals court to protect consumers in cases involving connect vehicles.

EPIC Urges Senate Commerce Committee to Back Algorithmic Transparency, Safeguards for Internet of Things

EPIC has sent a letter to the Senate Commerce Committee concerning "The Promises and Perils of Emerging Technologies for Cybersecurity." EPIC urged the Committee to support "Algorithmic Transparency," an essential strategy to make accountable automated decisions. EPIC also pointed out the "significant privacy and security risks" of the Internet of Things. EPIC has been at the forefront of policy work on the Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence, opposing government use of "risk-based" profiling, and recommending safeguards for connected cars, "smart homes," consumer products, and "always on" devices.

Pew Survey Finds Varying Cybersecurity Knowledge Among the Public

The Pew Research Center has released a report on "What the Public Knows About Cybersecurity." According to the Pew survey, 75% of respondents could identify the strongest password out of four options. About half of the people who took the survey could identify a phishing attack; a similar number knew what ransomware is. Only 16% answered that "a group of computers that is networked together and used by hackers to steal information" is called a "botnet." EPIC maintains an Online Guide to Practical Privacy Tools and resources on Public Opinion and Privacy.

March 24, 2017

EPIC Letter to House Oversight Committee Backs Open Government

A a letter from EPIC to the House Oversight Committee for a hearing on "Legislative Proposals for Fostering Transparency" highlighted the Freedom of Information Act. EPIC routinely pursues FOIA case on issues of public concern. Previously, EPIC uncovered evidence that airport body scanners are ineffective, that DHS monitors social media, and that the FBI's biometric database is filled with inaccuracies. EPIC is now seeking the Complete Assessment of Russian interference in the 2016 election as well information on "risk assessment" tools in the criminal justice system. In celebration of Sunshine Week, EPIC recently published the 2017 FOIA Gallery which showcases EPIC's work in 2016 to further government transparency.

Senate Dismantles FCC Broadband Privacy Rules

Today the Senate voted to roll back the FCC's broadband privacy rules which require internet service providers to obtain consumers' consent for accessing sensitive information and required consumers to be notified of any data breaches. Senator Edward Markey (D-MA) blasted the vote stating that it is "Now easier for American's sensitive information about their health, finances and families to be used, shared, and sold to the highest bidder without their permission." EPIC had urged the FCC to establish comprehensive safeguards for consumer privacy.

European Parliament Adopts Resolution on Big Data

The European Parliament has adopted a resolution on the fundamental rights implications of big data. The resolution stresses that "the prospects and opportunities of big data" can only be realized "when public trust in these technologies is ensured by a strong enforcement of fundamental rights and compliance with current EU data protection law." The resolution discusses the importance of data protection, accountability, transparency, data security, and privacy by design. EPIC has warned about the risks of big data and launched campaigns on "Algorithmic Transparency" and data protection.

Court Rules in EPIC's Passenger Profiling Lawsuit Against DHS

A federal court in Washington, DC has issued a ruling in EPIC v. DHS, case involving a controversial passenger screening program operated by Customs and Border Protection. Under the program, CBP combines detailed personal information with secret algorithms to assign "risk assessments" to travelers—including US citizens. EPIC sued the DHS for information about the "Analytic Framework for Intelligence" program, and argued that the agency unlawfully withheld records under the Freedom of Information Act. As a consequence of the EPIC FOIA lawsuit, EPIC obtained important documents and prevailed in an earlier phase of the case. However, the Court declined to order the further release of certain training materials for the profiling system EPIC sought. EPIC is currently deciding whether to pursue further a legal challenge to the agency's withholding.

EPIC FOIAs Docs for Key Witnesses at Cancelled Oversight Hearing

EPIC has submitted a series of urgent Freedom of Information Act requests for records concerning three witnesses who were scheduled to testify at an oversight hearing next week — Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former Central Intelligence Agency Director John Brennan, and former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates. Chairman Devon Nunes (R-CA), abruptly cancelled the hearing on the Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential Election, a move Ranking Member Adam Schiff (D-CA) called "an attempt to choke off public info." In today's FOIA requests, EPIC seeks to make public the information known to the witnesses about the Russian interference that would have presented to Committee members. EPIC is also pursuing related FOIA lawsuits against the FBI and ODNI. For more information about EPIC's latest open government work, visit: https://epic.org/open_gov/.

March 28, 2017

EPIC Warns Congress about Law Enforcement Forensic Techniques

EPIC has sent a letter to a House Judiciary committee concerning “the state of forensic science in the United States.” Citing the work of EPIC Advisory Board members Erin Murphy and Jennifer Mnookin EPIC said that oversight of forensic techniques, such as DNA and algorithms, is needed to ensure confidence in the criminal justice system. Last year, EPIC filed public records requests with six states to obtain the source code of DNA forensic software. EPIC has previously warned the US Supreme Court to carefully assess the reliability of investigative techniques. EPIC also argued a federal appeals case against DNA dragnet surveillance.

Continue reading "EPIC Warns Congress about Law Enforcement Forensic Techniques" »

March 29, 2017

EPIC Pursues Release of President Trump's Tax Returns

EPIC has renewed its Freedom of Information Act request for Donald Trump's tax returns after FBI Director Comey confirmed an FBI investigation into financial ties between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. The Senate Intelligence Committee is also investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and the role of Trump advisors. Former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn resigned after evidence emerged that he received more than $30,000 to celebrate the Russian propaganda outlet RT. As EPIC stated, "At no time in American history has a stronger claim been presented to the IRS for the public release of tax records." EPIC explained that the IRS has the authority to release tax records to correct "misstatements of fact." EPIC cited contradictory statements made by the President, advisers, and family members, including Jared Kusher, who stated "Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia." The President later tweeted that he "has ZERO investments in Russia" and that he has "NOTHING TO DO WITH RUSSIA-NO DEALS, NO LOANS, NO NOTHING."

EPIC To Senate Intelligence - "Public Has Right to Know About Russia Ties"

EPIC has sent a letter to the Senate Intelligence Committee for a hearing on "Disinformation: A Primer in Russian Active Measures and Influence Campaigns." EPIC described its Freedom of Information Act cases against the FBI and the ODNI to obtain records about activities aimed at undermining democratic institutions. EPIC is also pursuing the release of any FISA orders for Trump Tower, as well as Donald Trump's tax returns. EPIC wrote the "need to understand Russian efforts to influence democratic elections cannot be overstated." EPIC President Marc Rotenberg summarized EPIC's FOIA efforts in an op-ed in The Hill earlier this week.

March 31, 2017

D.C. Circuit Hears Arguments in Data Breach Case

A federal appeals court in Washington, D.C. heard arguments today in a major data breach suit. The faulty security practices of Carefirst, a health insurer, allowed hackers to obtain the personal information of more than 1,100,000 customers. But a lower court dismissed the case because the judge believed that consumers must suffer actual identity theft before before filing a lawsuit. EPIC's amicus brief explained that the judge misunderstood the law and confused the harm consumers eventually suffer with the failure of companies to uphold obligations to safeguard the data they choose to collect. The appellate judges today voiced similar doubts about the lower court's decision, suggesting that consumers don't have to wait until their identity is stolen to bring a lawsuit. One judge compared the case to a person putting down her driver's license to rent a Segway, only to have it stolen from the rental company. EPIC regularly files briefs defending the privacy rights of consumers.

Following Congress, EPIC Seeks Public Release of DHS Records on Russian Interference

EPIC has submitted an urgent Freedom of Information Act request for DHS's review of the Russian Interference with the presidential election. The EPIC FOIA request follows House Resolution 235, sponsored by Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), which would direct the Secretary of Homeland Security to transmit DHS's documents related to Russian interference to the House of Representative. EPIC is now pursuing public release of the same records, and has notified Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and Ranking Member Cummings (D-MD), of the House Oversight Committee of the pending FOIA request. Earlier this week, EPIC argued "the public has the right to know" about the extent of Russian interference with the 2016 election.

About March 2017

This page contains all entries posted to epic.org in March 2017. They are listed from oldest to newest.

February 2017 is the previous archive.

April 2017 is the next archive.

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