Entries Tagged "EPIC"
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Monday night, EPIC — that’s the Electronic Privacy Information Center — had its annual Champions of Freedom Dinner. I tell you this for two reasons. One, I received a Lifetime Achievement Award. (I was incredibly honored to receive this, and I thank EPIC profusely.) And two, Apple’s CEO Tim Cook received a Champion of Freedom Award. His acceptance speech, delivered remotely, was amazing.
On Monday I had the honor of presenting Edward Snowden with a “Champion of Freedom” award at the EPIC dinner. Snowden couldn’t be there in person — his father and stepmother were there in his place — but he recorded this message.
Left to right: Mark Rotenberg, Jesselyn Radack (Snowden’s attorney), Lonnie Snowden, and Bruce Schneier
Now we know why the president gave his speech on NSA surveillance last week; he wanted to get ahead of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board.
What frustrates me about all of this — this report, the president’s speech, and so many other things — is that they focus on the bulk collection of cell phone call records. There’s so much more bulk collection going on — phone calls, e-mails, address books, buddy lists, text messages, cell phone location data, financial documents, calendars, etc. — and we really need legislation and court opinions on it all. But because cell phone call records were the first disclosure, they’re what gets the attention.
In a request today to National Security Agency director Keith Alexander and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, the group argues that the NSA’s recently revealed domestic surveillance program is “unlawful” because the agency neglected to request public comments first. A federal appeals court previously ruled that was necessary in a lawsuit involving airport body scanners.
“In simple terms, a line has been crossed,” Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, told CNET. “The agency’s function has been transformed, and we think the public should have an opportunity to say something about that.”
It’s an ambitious — and untested — legal argument. No court appears to have ever ruled that the Administrative Procedure Act, which can require agencies to solicit public comment, has applied to the supersecret intelligence community. The APA explicitly excludes from judicial review, for instance, “military authority exercised in the field in time of war.”
EPIC is relying on a July 2011 decision (PDF) it obtained from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit dealing with installing controversial full-body scanners at airports. The Transportation Security Agency, the court said, was required to obtain comment on a rule that “substantively affects the public.”
This isn’t an empty exercise. While it’s unlikely that a judge will order the NSA to suspend the program pending public approval, the process will put pressure on Washington to subject the NSA to more oversight, and pressure the NSA into more transparency. We’ve used these tactics before. Two decades ago, EPIC launched a similar petition against the Clipper Chip, a process that eventually led to the Clinton administration and the FBI abandoning the effort. And EPIC’s more recent action against TSA full-body scanners is one of the reasons we have privacy safeguards on the millimeter wave scanners they are still using.
The more people who sign this petition, this, the clearer the message it sends to Washington: a message that people care about the privacy of their telephone records, Internet transactions, and online communications. Secret judges should not be allowed to use secret interpretations of secret laws to authorize the NSA to engage in domestic surveillance. Sooner or later, a court is going to recognize that. Until then, the more noise the better.
Add your voice here. It just might work.
Interesting op-ed by former DHS head Michael Chertoff on the privacy risks of Google Glass.
Now imagine that millions of Americans walk around each day wearing the equivalent of a drone on their head: a device capable of capturing video and audio recordings of everything that happens around them. And imagine that these devices upload the data to large-scale commercial enterprises that are able to collect the recordings from each and every American and integrate them together to form a minute-by-minute tracking of the activities of millions.
That is almost precisely the vision of the future that lies directly ahead of us. Not, of course, with wearable drones but with wearable Internet-connected equipment. This new technology — whether in the form of glasses or watches — may unobtrusively capture video data in real time, store it in the cloud and allow for it to be analyzed.
It’s not unusual for government officials — the very people we disagree with regarding civil liberties issues — to agree with us on consumer privacy issues. But don’t forget that this person advocated for full-body scanners at airports while on the payroll of a scanner company.
One of the points he makes, that the data collected from Google Glass will become part of Google’s vast sensory network, echoes something I’ve heard Marc Rotenberg at EPIC say: this whole thing would be a lot less scary if the glasses were sold by a company like Brookstone.
The ACLU comments on the essay.
A year ago, EPIC sued the TSA over full body scanners (I was one of the plaintiffs), demanding that they follow their own rules and ask for public comment. The court agreed, and ordered the TSA to do that. In response, the TSA has done nothing. Now, a year later, the court has again ordered the TSA to answer EPIC’s position.
This is an excellent time to add your name to the petition the TSA to do what they’re supposed to do, and what the court ordered them to do: take public comments on full body scanners. The petition has almost 17,000 signatures. If we get 25,000 by August 9th, the government will respond. I doubt they’ll capitulate, but it will be a press event that will put even more pressure on the TSA. So please sign the petition. (Here is my first post about it.)
According to this document, received by EPIC under the Freedom of Information Act, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is combing through the gazillions of social media postings looking for terrorists. A partial list of keywords is included in the document (pages 20–23), and is reprinted in this blog post.
EDITED TO ADD (3/13): It’s hard to tell what the DHS is doing with this program. EPIC says that they’re monitoring “dissent,” and the document talks about monitoring news stories.
The Liars and Outliers webpage is live. On it you can find links to order both paper and e-book copies from a variety of online retailers, and signed copies directly from me. I’ve also posted the jacket copy, the table of contents, the first chapter, the 15 figures from the book, an image of the full wraparound cover, and all the blurbs for the book.
Last week, I chose 10 winners from the 278 people who entered the drawing for a free galley copy. Those copies have all been mailed, as have copies to potential book reviewers.
Several readers suggested that I auction some copies, and I’m going to do that now. I have two galley copies that I will auction to the two highest bidders. This is a charity auction; the proceeds from one copy will go to EFF and the other to EPIC. Leave bids in the comments below. The auction closes at the end of the day on Wednesday, January 11. (I am deliberately being sloppy about this. I’m happy to let the bidding go if it will raise more money, but eventually I’m going to call things to a close.) So check the comments for the high bidders, and please contribute to these organizations that are doing a lot to keep the Internet — and the whole information age — open and free.
EDITED TO ADD (1/5): There’s only one auction. The top two bidders will in, and the proceeds will be split between EPIC and EFF. There’s no reason to specify an organization in the bidding.
EDITED TO ADD (1/12): The winners are Tom Ehlert and Manasi. Can both of you please contact me.
Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.