Privacy SOS

Privacy and technology news: 7-2-13

These news round-ups are created by the ACLU of Northern California's Anna Salem

PRISM: Bringing The Need for Better Transparency and Privacy Into Focus [ACLU of Northern CA – Nicole Ozer]

A small silver lining to the PRISM scandal is that it has created the impetus for several large technology companies to finally start giving the public a glimpse into how the government is regularly dipping into their treasure trove of personal information.  You may want to check out our handy new chart for a quick rundown of what’s been said and done by which companies- from statements, to transparency reports, to more recent legal efforts by Google and Yahoo to push back against government secrecy (& let us know if we’re missing anything).


Fighting a Striking Case of Warrantless Cell Phone Tracking [ACLU – Bennett Stein]

Given its sensitivity, cell phone location data is not the sort of information that law enforcement agents should be obtaining without the safeguard of a warrant from a judge. In the Graham case, the Fourth Circuit has an opportunity to make clear that a warrant is the constitutional minimum. Our brief urges it to do just that. Today technology makes it easier for the government to track each and every one of us than ever before. But no matter how invasive technology becomes, Americans are still entitled to the protections of the Fourth Amendment.


Around the Bay Area, you're being watched [Marin Independent Journal – Josh Richman & Angela Woodall]

Local police agencies are increasingly adopting Big Data technologies such as automatic license-plate readers that gather information about everyone, whether they've broken the law or not…Nicole Ozer, technology and civil liberties policy director at the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, said the more data that's accrued and the longer it's kept, the more potential for abuse exists. "It has very limited efficacy and real potential for harm," she said.


The NSA is watching. So are Google and Facebook [L.A. Times – Ken Dilanian]

Not long before headlines exposed National Security Agency programs that secretly collect records of Americans' phone calls, another surveillance system got far less attention: Nordstrom, the department store chain, acknowledged it was tracking customers without their knowledge in 17 stores…[I]nformation gathered and exploited by Internet giants such as Google, Amazon and Facebook — and traded by lesser-known data brokers such as Datalogix and Acxiom — can be more revealing than what the NSA can legally collect on most Americans. Few consumers understand what data are being shared, with whom, or how the information is being used.


Rethinking Surveillance [New York Review of Books – Kenneth Roth]

Back when I was a prosecutor, the human capacities of investigators meant that even upon accessing metadata, there was still considerable practical protection for privacy. It took little effort to obtain a judge’s order for a “pen register”—a device that recorded the numbers a suspect called—and even less to subpoena records of these numbers from a phone company. But analyzing that information was a time-consuming, manual affair… Today, those limits have largely disappeared.

            See also An MIT Project That Lets You Spy On Yourself [NPR – Jacob Goldstein]


Appeal Filed to Free Andrew 'Weev' Auernheimer [Electronic Frontier Foundation – Hanni Fakhoury, Marcia Hofmann, & Tor Ekeland]

A team of computer-crime legal experts on Monday filed an appeal of the federal felony conviction and lengthy prison sentence handed down to Andrew "Weev" Auernheimer, a computer researcher who revealed a massive security flaw in AT&T's website and was subsequently prosecuted under the Computer Fraud & Abuse Act (CFAA).


Norton: Android app skips consent, gives Facebook servers user phone numbers [ZDNet – Violet Blue]

Yesterday Norton updated its post about its findings in Facebook's official Android app, wherein Facebook confirmed that its app has sent millions of Android users' phone numbers to be stored on Facebook's servers when the app is launched. The app's action of launch/send does not require users to log in, so user consent is impossible, and the app's phone number-to-Facebook-server mechanism occurs whether or not the person launching the app has a Facebook account. Facebook told Norton that all phone numbers obtained in this manner through its app have been deleted from Facebook's servers.


Legal sex + smartphone video = child pornography [Ars Technica – Nate Anderson]

The device was an HTC smartphone, and his use of the phone has now branded Myers a lifelong sex offender and landed him an 18 month federal prison sentence…“It should be noted that under both South Carolina and federal law, the age of consent is 16, so it was legal for them to have sex whether she was 16 or 18,” wrote Myers’ lawyer in a court filing. But the age difference did matter when it came to recording the act. Because the girl was a minor, the images were child pornography under federal law, even though they involved a consensual relationship and someone above the age of consent… His cell phone was a child porn production tool that “had been mailed, shipped, and transported in interstate and foreign commerce in that it was manufactured outside the state of South Carolina” and which therefore elevated the issue to the federal level.


Google to clamp down on Blogger porn profit [The Verge – Matt Brian]

Google is sending notices to owners of adult-themed Blogger sites warning them…that Google will update its terms of service on June 30th to "strictly prohibit the monetization of Adult content on Blogger." The company warns that if blogs continue to display adult advertisements after that date they will be removed.


Does using encryption make you a bigger target for the NSA? [Tech Republic – Michael Kassner]

Answering the question of whether to encrypt or not became significantly less simple a few weeks later when the Guardian released Minimization Procedures Used by the National Security Agency, a document gleaned from the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court by Edward Snowden. Section Five of the paper is of particular interest (courtesy of the Guardian)…Section Five’s ensuing paragraphs discuss what “that” is. Subsection One and Subsection Two lay out what content (foreign intelligence and criminal evidence) will flag domestic communications for retention and investigation by government agencies. Subsection Three, nicknamed the “encryption exception” is the real attention-grabber (courtesy of the Guardian).

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