Privacy SOS

Warrant requirement for email? And other news

  • WARRANT REQUIREMENT FOR EMAIL OR NOT?: Tomorrow the Senate Judiciary Committee will vote on whether to forward Senator Leahy's amendment to H.R. 2471, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, or ECPA. The amendment, while imperfect, would go a long way towards bringing the Fourth Amendment into the digital age by requiring that law enforcement get a warrant to read your stored emails. Please take a few moments and urge your legislators to support this critical bill. Then mosey on over to The Hill to read an op-ed in support of Leahy's amendment co-penned by none other than Mr. Grover Norquist and the ACLU's own Laura Murphy.
  • COURTS HAVE THE POWER TO REVIEW CLASSIFICATION DECISIONS: Government attorneys have acknowledged that courts do play a role in determining the validity of executive branch classification decisions when it comes to deciding how to handle Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, even in national security cases. “We agree that district courts (and courts of appeals) play an important role in evaluating the government’s compliance with its obligations under FOIA, in Exemption 1 cases [involving national security classification] as well as others….” The admission has potentially enormous consequences for a wide range of FOIA litigation. Who knows? Maybe someday we'll read that sentence referenced in a FOIA brief seeking access to the drone "Kill List Rule Book." Read more.
  • DISCOVER ROLLING OUT "PAY BY FINGER" BIOMETRICS IN CHICAGO: Discover Financial Services, Inc. is testing out a new pay by fingerprint scheme using its employees in its company cafeteria in Chicago. The credit card company contracted a French biometrics firm to run the pilot program. Years ago 10,000 Chicago residents took part in another "Pay By Finger" biometrics pilot project, but the company running it crumbled. What happened to the biometric data of those 10,000 people? Who knows. One thing is for certain, however: if you give your fingerprint or other biometric data to your bank, the government may be able to access it with a simple subpoena or a Patriot Act authorized National Security Letter — completely absent any judicial oversight. You can't change your biometrics, so be careful who you give them to. Read more.
  • PALM SCANNERS BECOMING MORE COMMON IN SCHOOLS, HOSPITALS: Ninety-eight percent of children in Pinellas County, Florida schools now pay for school lunches by waving their palm over a biometric reader. According to the industry, 50 schools and 160 hospitals nationwide are using palm reading technology to identify students and patients. People generally seem to like it, according to the industry spokesman, but the ACLU has questions and some consumers aren't buying it. USA Today reports that father Michael Webb, one of the parents of the two percent of children who have opted-out of the scanning, is concerned that "the use of scanners by elementary school students normalizes the use of biometrics and anesthetizes young children to recognizing privacy violations later in life." Hear, hear. Read more.
  • EMBATTLED MILITARY CONTRACTOR SCORES MAJOR DEAL: The Defense Intelligence Agency has awarded a contract that could be worth $5.6 billion over five years to CACI, a contractor facing a civil lawsuit alleging that its employees took part in the torture of US prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. The contract is for intelligence analysis via DIA's "Solutions for Intelligence Analysis (SIA) II program," whatever that means. According to CACI, "This latest award reinforces our strategy to provide high-value, mission-critical solutions that enhance intelligence operations for our Department of Defense and Intelligence Community clients." The military intelligence budget for 2012 was reported to be $21.5 billion out of a total $75.4 billion in reported US government intelligence spending for that year. Read more on CACI.

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