Privacy SOS

News you might have missed over the weekend

An undercover officer sends updates to her superior from a protest. Photo courtesy The Chicago Maroon

University of Chicago undercover police detective infiltrates protest 

An investigation by the University of Chicago student newspaper The Chicago Maroon has revealed that a UCPD detective in plain clothes infiltrated a university protest held to call for the construction of a trauma center. Activists became suspicious of the plainclothes detective because she looked out of place and seemed “uncomfortable with herself.” The officer was texting her superior updates from the demonstration, and activists took pictures of her phone that revealed the content of those messages. After the student paper published an expose on the spying, the Provost of the University issued a statement decrying it: “The behavior as described is antithetical to the University’s values and we will not tolerate it. The University will investigate this expeditiously and take immediate steps to ensure it is not repeated.”


Chicago installed thousands of surveillance cameras on its rail platforms and crime increased

Police and even ordinary people regularly say that surveillance cameras keep us safe, even though numerous studies have shown that if they have any effect on crime it is simply to push it slightly out of the viewfinder to areas that are not under surveillance. Adding fuel to the anti-CCTV fire is a new report from the Chicago Sun Times, which shows that “in 2012, the number of crimes reported at CTA rail stations jumped by 21 percent year over year, and by 32 percent from 2010, prior to when most of the cameras were installed.” Oops. [My emphasis.]


Twitter makes two years of your tweets available to private companies — and therefore also the government?

Prior to February 28, 2013, marketing companies could only get 30 days of our backlogged tweets. But now those willing to pay a fee can access two full years of our political musings, food pictures and cat videos through a company called Datasift. The firm has teamed up with Twitter to “unlock the archive.” No word on whether or not Datasift will make these tweets available to government agencies in addition to other corporations — but generally buying and selling stuff is how capitalism works, so I'm guessing they will. Some people have suggested that privacy concerns over this technology are overblown, given that most people’s tweets are public. To those people I submit a challenge: recite back to me everything I’ve tweeted over the past two years, and when. That’s what I thought.


DHS documents reveal that the agency’s Predator drones are equipped with high-tech surveillance gear

Documents released to the Electronic Privacy Information Center reveal that DHS’ Predator drones were built to enable bomb-dropping, though the agency says they are presently unarmed. We also learned that the drones, which DHS loans out to other federal agencies and to state and local police, are equipped with cell phone interception technology, sensors that can distinguish between humans and animals, and tools to enable operators to discern whether or not a target is packing heat. DHS denies that it has used the cell phone sniffing technology, but left open the possibility that it might use it someday. But come on, really? Clearly agents are going to use it — otherwise, why on earth would they have paid to install it? Are you in the habit of buying expensive gadgets you never use?


Every single day, undercover officers lie in court

Otherwise known as “perjury.” Click the link to listen.

© 2021 ACLU of Massachusetts.