The latest in civil liberties and privacy news you may have missed

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  • REASON.COM GIVES US "3 REASONS TO KILL THE DEPT. OF HOMELAND SECURITY": Sunday, November 25, 2012 is DHS' ten year anniversary. We've written plenty about how wasteful, inefficient and costly to our liberty DHS has shown itself to be over this troubled decade. Watch the video above to see a libertarian take.
  • NATIONAL AUSTRALIA BANK DECIDES VOICE IS MORE SECURE THAN FINGERPRINT BIOMETRICS: The National Australia Bank has given customers the option of using voice-identification instead of a PIN number to identify them over the phone, Zdnet reports. The bank may also roll out voice-identification at ATMs, depending on customer interest. Banks, like governments, are major drivers of biometric data collection worldwide. Opus Research estimates that 25 million people will have registered their voice prints with a biometric database by 2015, many of them with their financial institution. Customers should remember that broad subpoena powers in the United States enable law enforcement to acquire transactional data about banking customers. If you give this kind of information to your bank, it very well may end up in a government database -- even without your knowledge.
  • ACCUSED WIKILEAKS HACKER HAMMOND FACES LIFE IN PRISON FOR ALLEGED STRATFOR RELEASE: A 27 year old computer expert and political activist, Jeremy Hammond, is facing life in prison for allegedly hacking into the private intelligence firm Stratfor's database and leaking thousands of the company's emails to the whistleblowing website Wikileaks. (We have covered some of the more interesting scoops gleaned from the Stratfor emails here on Privacy Matters.) Activists identifying themselves as affiliated with Anonymous argue that the judge presiding over Hammond's sentencing, Loretta A. Preska, should recuse herself from the case because of a conflict of interest pertaining to her husband, also an attorney. The activists say that Preska's husband is a Stratfor associate and therefore cannot fairly oversee Hammond's sentencing. See the video below:

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  • TEXAS STUDENT REFUSES TO WEAR RFID CHIP AT SCHOOL, IS SUSPENDED: A Texas high school student was suspended after refusing to wear an ID card embedded with an RFID chip containing his social security number. The school uses the cards to track students as they move throughout the building. A Texas judge temporarily blocked the suspension pending hearings next week. Read more
  • DHS HAS SPENT NEARLY HALF A BILLION DOLLARS ON RADIO FREQUENCIES ITS EMPLOYEES LARGELY DON'T KNOW EXIST: A DHS inspector general report found that only one out of 479 surveyed department employees knew how to access and use a secure radio frequency the agency spent $430 million to build. From the ProPublica write up of the report: "Most of those surveyed — 72 percent — didn’t even know the common channel existed. Another 25 percent knew the channel existed but weren’t able to find it; 3 percent were able to find an older common channel, but not the current one." Read more.
  • US ALLY SAUDI ARABIA IMPLEMENTS TRACKING SYSTEM FOR ALL SAUDI WOMEN: One of the United States' major allies, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, has implemented a program to track women citizens' movements. Under the newly imposed tracking regime, male guardians (such as husbands, fathers or brothers) receive a text message if a woman under their control exits the country. After news of the program became public, Saudis and others took to Twitter to blast it, calling it a violation of women's rights. The United States government hasn't commented publicly on the Saudi Arabian government's monitoring of women. It might be a bit awkward to do so given that the US military collects and stores all conceivable digital information in the world, including the private communications of its own citizens and residents -- regardless of gender. Read more

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  • FEDERAL ANTI-DRUG AGENT TOLD NOT TO ENFORCE DRUG LAWS IN WHITE NEIGHBORHOODS: Former U.S. Marshall Matthew Fogg tells Brave New Films that part of the reason we see such unequal justice with respect to drug prosecutions, convictions and mass incarceration in the United States is that the government intentionally lets white drug users off the hook, while focusing enforcement on poor neighborhoods of color. This probably surprises no one who regularly reads this blog, but it's startling to hear from a former government insider. It's time to end the war on drugs.
  • ICONOGRAPHY INSTEAD OF ENDLESS, ILLEGIBLE TEXT FOR PRIVACY POLICIES?: The New York Times reports that lawyers and coders are considering replacing long, barely readable privacy policies with iconography, enabling users to actually understand what they are getting into. As a Mozilla executive told the Times, "We have long upheld that privacy policies suck." Developers at Mozilla have already come up with a number of symbols to make privacy policies relevant to average users, including images depicting law enforcement access to data, data retention periods and information about whether the site sells user details. Read more.
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