Privacy SOS

Technology news you can use

BIG TECH EMPLOYEES ARE MAKING NOISE// From Wired: Why Tech Worker Dissent is Going Viral

Tech workers are fed up, and they are fighting back. In response to the administration’s deplorable actions at the border and throughout the country, workers at big tech firms have fought back internally at their companies, demanding executives drop contracts with human rights violators. Back in June, in response to internal pressure, including resignations and public outcry, Google announced that it would not renew a contract with the Pentagon to do image recognition for a military drone program. In recent weeks, following an ACLU-led coalition campaign, Amazon employees published a public letter demanding the company stop selling its Rekognition face surveillance tech to law enforcement and other government agencies. Microsoft employees, for their part, circulated a petition urging the company to break its contract with ICE, which uses the tech giant’s AI technology and communications services. Salesforce employees, meanwhile, criticized their company’s work with CBP and asked the CEO to “reexamine our contractual relationship with CBP and speak out against its practices.”

Note: If you’re in the Boston area July 11, come to a panel discussion about the new wave of tech worker activism. 7pm @ the Stata Center, MIT.

IMMIGRANT ADVOCACY GROUPS REJECT OFFERS OF DNA TESTING// From Fast Company: Why immigration groups said no to using DNA to reunite separated kids

Last week, in response to an ACLU lawsuit, a federal judge ordered the administration to reunite separated children with their parents within 30 days, and small children within 14 days. But it’s not clear how this monumental bureaucratic and logistical feat will be accomplished. It turns out it’s much easier to rip families apart than it is to reunite them.

As of June 27, the government still had custody of well over 2,000 children, and attorneys and advocacy organizations are struggling to bring them back to their parents. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the government has been largely unsupportive of the effort. The government has a lot of excuses for why reunification will take time, but some of the problems are of its own making. For one thing, there are major problems with documentation: government officials logged many separated children as unaccompanied minors, meaning that there is no record that their parents are detained somewhere else. Additionally, there’s a lack of accessibility. Government officials gave detained parents a phone number for the Office of Refugee Resettlement, but the calls often go unanswered. And on multiple occasions staff who answered refused to give parents information about their children’s location. In light of this crisis, DNA testing companies 23andMe and MyHeritage offered to give separated families free testing to help connect them. But advocates at RAICES Texas and the Texas Civil Rights Project are worried about how the data would be retained and used in the future. Ultimately, they decided against using the technology. As the RAICES communications director explained, “These are already very vulnerable communities, and this would potentially put their privacy at risk.” A rep for the Texas Civil Rights Project explained that the largest hurdle is the slow, bureaucratic nature of this process. They don’t believe that DNA testing can solve that.

MAP REVEALS THAT ICE DETENTION CENTERS ARE EVERYWHERE// From Wired: ‘ICE is Everywhere’: Using Library Science to Map the Separation Crisis

A group of concerned researchers have harnessed library science to put together a detailed map of ICE facilities all across the country. Alex Gil, the digital scholarship librarian at Columbia University, and his colleague Manan Ahmed, a historian also at Columbia, put together a team of concerned professors, graduates students, researchers, and fellows to use their research abilities to try to strike back against the administration’s horrific immigration practices. After a week of scouring public records, the team put together Torn Apart / Separados. The website provides a visual, interactive catalogue of ICE’s detention centers, and the results are unsettling to say the least. “It shows that ICE is everywhere,” said Gil. “We ourselves were shocked even though we study this. A lot of America thinks this phenomenon is happening in this limited geographical space along the border. This map is telling a different story: The border is everywhere.” The team hopes that this information will help families trying to reconnect and also serve as a digital historical record of the atrocities they endure.

NSA SAYS SORRY WRONG NUMBER// From the New York Times: N.S.A. Purges Hundreds of Millions of Call and Text Records

The NSA just revealed that it destroyed hundreds of millions of call records after it obtained private information that it shouldn’t have. Under the USA Freedom Act, telecoms can give the NSA the phone logs of a surveillance target and everyone that person contacted. This amounts to an enormous amount of information—in just 2016 and 2017, the NSA obtained a total of 685 million call records. The NSA recently announced that since 2015, it has received information in violation of the USA Freedom Act. The agency blames a technology glitch that affected at least one telecom company. To remedy this, the NSA “delet[ed] all call detail records (CDRs) acquired since 2015 under Title V of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).” This raises several concerns. Firstly, it highlights the lackluster state of our privacy protections. Second, one can’t help but wonder why the NSA collected all this information if they’re readily willing to delete it. Is it because the information was unimportant? Or was the scale of unauthorized collection just too immense? The agency’s general counsel said that the technological problem has been resolved, but as usual there’s no way we can know that for sure.

CALIFORNIA’S NEW PRIVACY LAW ISN’T WHAT IT SEEMS// From Motherboard: California Rushes Through a New Privacy Law After Heavy Lobbyist Input

California just passed a new privacy law, AB 375: the California Consumer Privacy Protection Act. The law requires more transparency and individual control over the corporate sale of consumer information. While some hailed the legislation, the ACLU of Northern California warns that it is insufficient and must be remedied. Initially, Californians were supposed to vote on a privacy ballot initiative that would have enacted privacy rules similar to those that Congress killed last year. But after interference from Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast, the initiative was scrapped and replaced with the substantially weaker legislation. Lobbyists played a big role in limiting the bill’s force, and they have plenty of time to continue to do so before the law goes into effect in 2020. Technology and Civil Liberties Director for the ACLU of California Nicole Ozer said that when the bill is next discussed, “[E]ffective privacy protections must be included that actually protect against rampant misuse of personal information, make sure that companies cannot retaliate against Californians who exercise their privacy rights, and ensure that Californians can actually enforce their personal privacy rights.”

This post was written by Iqra Asghar.

© 2018 ACLU of Massachusetts.