Posts tagged ACLU
Posted by Laissez Faire Today
Law enforcement agencies are increasingly using sophisticated cameras, called “automated license plate readers,” or ALPRs, to scan and record the license plates of millions of cars across the country. These cameras, mounted on top of patrol cars and on city streets, can scan up to 1,800 license plate per minute, day or night, allowing one squad car to record more than 14,000 plates during the course of a single shift.
Photographing a single license plate one time on a public city street may not seem problematic, but when the data are put into a database, combined with other scans of that same plate on other city streets, and stored forever, it can become very revealing. Information about your location over time can show not only where you live and work, but your political and religious beliefs, your social and sexual habits, your visits to the doctor, and your associations with others. And according to recent research reported in Nature, it’s possible to identify 95% of individuals with as few as four randomly selected geospatial data points (location plus time), making location data the ultimate biometric identifiers.
To better gauge the real threat to privacy posed by ALPRs, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the ACLU of Southern California asked the LAPD and LA Sheriff’s Department for information on their systems, including their policies on retaining and sharing information and all the license plate data each department collected over the course of a single week in 2012.
After both agencies refused to release most of the records we asked for, we sued. We hope to get access to these data, both to show just how many data the agencies are collecting and to show how revealing they can be.
Automated license plate readers are often touted as an easy way to find stolen cars — the system checks a scanned plate against a database of stolen or wanted cars and can instantly identify a hit, allowing officers to set up a sting to recover the car and catch the thief. But even when there’s no match in the database and no reason to think a car is stolen or involved in a crime, police keep the data.
According to the LA Weekly, the LAPD and LASD together already have collected more than 160 million “data points” (license plates plus time, date, and exact location) in the greater LA area — that’s more than 20 hits for each of the more than 7 million vehicles registered in LA County. That’s a ton of data, but it’s not all — law enforcement officers also have access to private databases containing hundreds of millions of plates and their coordinates collected by “repo” men.
Law enforcement agencies claim that ALPR systems are no different from an officer recording license plate, time and location information by hand. They also argue the data don’t warrant any privacy protections because we drive our cars around in public. However, as five justices of the Supreme Court recognized last year in U.S. v. Jones, a case involving GPS tracking, the ease of data collection and the low cost of data storage make technological surveillance solutions such as GPS or ALPR very different from techniques used in the past.
Police are open about their desire to record the movements of every car in case it might one day prove valuable. In 2008, LAPD police Chief Charlie Beck (then the agency’s chief of detectives) told GovTech magazine that ALPRs have “unlimited potential” as an investigative tool. “It’s always going to be great for the black-and-white to be driving down the street and find stolen cars rolling around… But the real value comes from the long-term investigative uses of being able to track vehicles — where they’ve been and what they’ve been doing — and tie that to crimes that have occurred or that will occur.” But amassing data on the movements of law-abiding residents poses a real threat to privacy, while the benefit to public safety is speculative, at best.
In light of privacy concerns, states including Maine, New Jersey, and Virginia have limited the use of ALPRs, and New Hampshire has banned them outright. Even the International Association of Chiefs of Police has issued a report recognizing that “recording driving habits” could raise First Amendment concerns because cameras could record “vehicles parked at addiction-counseling meetings, doctors’ offices, health clinics, or even staging areas for political protests.”
But even if ALPRs are permitted, there are still common-sense limits that can allow the public safety benefits of ALPRs while preventing the wholesale tracking of every resident’s movements. Police can, and should, treat location information from ALPRs like other sensitive information — they should retain it no longer than necessary to determine if it might be relevant to a crime, and should get a warrant to keep it any longer. They should limit who can access it and who they can share it with. And they should put oversight in place to ensure these limits are followed.
Unfortunately, efforts to impose reasonable limits on ALPR tracking in California have failed so far. Last year, legislation that would have limited private and law enforcement retention of ALPR data to 60 days — a limit currently in effect for the California Highway Patrol — and restricted sharing between law enforcement and private companies failed after vigorous opposition from law enforcement. In California, law enforcement agencies remain free to set their own policies on the use and retention of ALPR data, or to have no policy at all.
Some have asked why we would seek public disclosure of the actual license plate data collected by the police — location-based data that we think is private. But we asked specifically for a narrow slice of data — just a week’s worth — to demonstrate how invasive the technology is. Having the data will allow us to see how frequently some plates have been scanned; where and when, specifically, the cops are scanning plates; and just how many plates can be collected in a large metropolitan area over the course of a single week. Actual data will reveal whether ALPRs are deployed primarily in particular areas of Los Angeles and whether some communities might, therefore, be much more heavily tracked than others. If these data are too private to give a week’s worth to the public to help inform us how the technology is being used, then isn’t it too private to let the police amass years’ worth of data without a warrant?
After the Boston Marathon bombings, many have argued that the government should take advantage of surveillance technology to collect more data, rather than less. But we should not so readily give up the very freedoms that terrorists seek to destroy. We should recognize just how revealing ALPR data are and not be afraid to push our police and legislators for sensible limits to protect our basic right to privacy.
Jennifer Lynch and Peter Bibring
A version of this article was originally posted here.
By Steve Watson
Activists warn public is being categorized as “low-grade enemy”
Legislation to stave off the use of drones by law enforcement and government agencies in Virginia has advanced in the State Senate, as well as the House, bringing closer a two-year moratorium on the unmanned craft.
A House panel approved sending their version of the bill, HB2012 sponsored by Del. Benjamin L. Cline, to the floor by a 9-4 vote, while the Senate Courts of Justice, also endorsed the legislation Monday.
While the House bill advocates a blanket ban on the use of drones, the Senate version has an exception where missing person searches are concerned.
Delegate Todd Gilbert, who sponsored a similar drone bill last year said that strict limitations should be imposed upon the use of drones, including requiring search warrants for surveillance or collecting evidence for criminal investigations.
Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, executive director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia noted that “All of us are about to sacrifice our privacy to this new technology.”
“The Fourth Amendment should be the floor to protect our privacy, not the ceiling.” Gastañaga added.
At the House hearing, law enforcement groups argued that warrants may not be able to be obtained in time to use the technology effectively. Russell County Sheriff’s Office said it had already purchased two drones, and argued against the introduction of stipulations.
Last year, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell described warrantless drones as “great”, citing “battlefield successes”.
“If you’re keeping police officers safe, making it more productive and saving money… it’s absolutely the right thing to do.” McDonnell said on the deployment of drones in the State.
Residents seem to disagree, particularly in Charlottesville, where the City Council is considering making the city a no-drone zone.
Over the weekend, anti-drone activists led by resident David Swanson, held a rally, complete with a giant model of a drone, to educate more people on the matter and pressure the Council to act.
“They can put drones outside our windows, drones can listen in on our phone calls, drones can spy on us in ways that will be far too tempting to any police department and they’re already openly saying that’s what they need it for,” Swanson said.
“We have police departments across the country picking up the use of drones with tear gas, with rubber bullets to control crowds,” he added. “We don’t think we need to be controlled, we think such police departments need to be controlled.”
Swanson added that the way the military uses drones overseas is a core reason to prohibit their use domestically.
“A government that would target and kill an American abroad would target and kill an American at home,” Swanson said, adding that “There’s this trend toward looking at the public as sort of a low-grade enemy.”
The anti-drone resolution will be debated at a City Council meeting tonight at 7p.m.
A new Congressional Research Service report published last week warned that drones could be used for stalking, voyeurism, and laws need to be amended to protect the rights of citizens.
Steve Watson is the London based writer and editor for Alex Jones’ Infowars.com, and Prisonplanet.com. He has a Masters Degree in International Relations from the School of Politics at The University of Nottingham, and a Bachelor Of Arts Degree in Literature and Creative Writing from Nottingham Trent University.
US cell phone service providers could be required to log personal text messages for upwards of two years if a proposal submitted by a group of law enforcement professionals can successfully plead with Congress.
According to a report published this week by Declan McCullagh of CNet, the Major Cities Chiefs Police Association (MCCPA) has asked Congress to consider adding a provision to an electronic privacy bill awaiting vote that would make holding onto text logs mandatory for the country’s telecom providers.
In recent weeks, the antiquated Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 (ECPA) has been in the news due to congressional efforts to update the legislation to reflect the growing nature of the Internet. Last week, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved an amendment to the act that, if passed by Congress, will require law enforcement agencies to obtain a search warrant to collect personal emails older than 180 days. Currently, only an easy-to-obtain administrative court order is needed to access private emails, meaning any archived correspondence contained on the digital cloud can be collected by the police without producing any probable cause to a judge. Should the MCCPA have their way, however, efforts to make it harder for law enforcement to eavesdrop on emails would be cancelled out by the widespread collection of text messages.
There was a time when we the people could expect privacy in our homes, in our conversations, in our everyday lives. As you’ll see in this video, your right to privacy has ended. Vast amounts of what you would assume to be your private information is being recorded and stored in computer banks.
If you found this video beneficial, helpful, interesting, and/or eye-opening, please share it with everyone you know. Help us get the word out.
Yet again, the Congress, courts, executive branch and the establishment media work together to protect the nation’s most powerful actors
So pervasive and reliable is the rule of elite immunity – even in the face of the most egregious crimes – that one finds extreme examples on a weekly basis. Six weeks ago, the Obama justice department forever precluded the possibility of criminal accountability for Bush torturers by refusing to bring charges in the only two remaining torture cases, ones involving the deaths of the detainee-victims by torture.
The Obama campaign is now running a new campaign ad against Mitt Romney that rails against a litany of Wall Street “criminals” and “gluttons of greed”, but as David Dayen astutely notes, those examples were all imprisoned during the Bush era because the Obama administration has prosecuted no significant Wall Street executives for the 2008 financial collapseand thus have none of their own examples to highlight:
“So the Obama campaign could not fill a list of three Wall Street criminals that the Obama Justice Department actually sent to jail. Heck, they couldn’t fill a list of one!
“This is despite Eric Holder telling students at Columbia University in February of this year that his Justice Department’s record of success on fighting financial fraud crimes ‘has been nothing less than historic.’ But not historic enough that his boss could point to, well, one Wall Street criminal behind bars as a result of DoJ’s actions.
That’s painfully telling. Nobody from Bank of America or Wells Fargo or Citigroup or JPMorgan Chase or Goldman Sachs or Bear Stearns or Morgan Stanley or Merrill Lynch or even Countrywide or Ameriquest was available to stand in as a ‘glutton of greed’ in this advertisement. Literally no major figure responsible for the financial crisis has gone to jail. So the campaign has to use two CEOs from a decade-old accounting scandal, and a garden-variety Ponzi schemer.”
And now, the US supreme court just consecrated one of the most corrupt acts of the US government over the past decade: its vesting of retroactive legal immunity in the nation’s telecom giants after they had been caught red-handed violating multiple US eavesdropping laws. Just as the Obama DOJ forever precluded any legal accountability for Bush-era torturers, the supreme court on Tuesday forever precluded any legal accountability for AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and other telecoms for their crucial participation in the illegal Bush NSA warrantless eavesdropping program (the Obama DOJ, needless to say, supported the position of the telecoms).
When the New York Times revealed on 16 December 2005 that the Bush administration was spying on the telephone calls and emails of American citizens without the warrants required by the criminal law, it exposed lawbreaking not only by government officials but also by the nation’s largest telecoms. Multiple laws were in place at the time imposing both criminal and civil liability on telecoms for enabling government spying on the communications of their customers without warrants or other legal authority, and that is exactly what these telecoms did. One former AT&T employee, Mark Klein, publicly described how AT&T had even built a separate room with no purpose but to permit the National Security Agency unfettered access to all of its customers’ communications.
… and that slight prick will come from the end of a virus filled hypodermic needle. Under the guise of the greater good for the greater numbers many hospitals are now requiring mandatory vaccinations of their employees. Below are two such recent stories of mandatory vaccinations being used as new terms of employment. The fist report coming out of the state of Colorado.
Hospital Employees’ Jobs In Jeopardy If They Don’t Get Flu Shot
Oct 6, 2012
Hospital employees across Colorado are being threatened with their jobs if they don’t get the flu shot by the end of the year.
Also, this story out of Rhode Island.
R.I. becomes first state to mandate flu shots for health-care workers
October 5, 2012
Rhode Island today became the first state in the nation to mandate seasonal flu shots for all health-care workers.
Overriding the objections of health-care workers’ unions and the Rhode Island affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union, Health Director Michael D. Fine filed new regulations requiring seasonal flu shots for doctors, nurses and others — employees, temporary workers and volunteers — working for hospitals, nursing homes, home-care agencies and other health-care organizations.
The fight to stop the government’s sweeping surveillance of emails and phone calls will go all the way to the Supreme Court. The ACLU has filed a lawsuit challenging the warrantless wiretapping provisions included under the FISA Amendment Acts.
The US House of Representative voted last week to reauthorize the 2008 amendments added to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, that allow for blanketing surveillance and eavesdropping of any communication suspected to be sent outside of the United States. Under the FISA Amendment Act (FAA), the government is granted the power to peer into the inboxes of any American and listen in on long-distance calls without ever requiring a judge’s approval. Pending approval from the Senate, the FAA will be renewed this year and be left on the books for another five years. The American Civil Liberties Union is adamantly opposed, however, and has asked the highest court in America to intervene.
The biggest banks in the US have been given advisement by US regulators that they must make plans to stave off a complete financial collapse without relying on the US government. Bank of America, Goldman Sachs and other technocrats have secretly crafted worst-case scenarios in which they can continue to thrive during a full-blown domestic monetary crisis.
The Federal Reserve and the US Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) named Citigroup Inc., Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan Chase & Co. as well as others to devise “recovery plans” in 2010. Banks were directed to have schemes to remain afloat by selling off assets, finding alternative sources of funding, reducing risky measures that make a quick buck. These strategies were to be perfected with “no assumption of extraordinary support from the public sector.”
Resolution plans , required under the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law describe how to liquidate banking assets without causing further damage to a failing financial system. By selling “non-core assets” without upsetting shareholders while protecting the monetary system, taxpayers and creditors is the work of the mega-banks who have contributed solely to the destruction of the global financial markets.
By Joe Wright
The War on Drugs has been threatening the fundamental rights of ordinary Americans, and greatly impinging upon states rights, as agencies like the DEA continue to claim that their federal authority supersedes local decisions.
Despite protections afforded under the U.S. Constitution, the federal DEA has been trying to initiate a blanket sweep of all license plates traveling along Interstates 15 and 70 in Utah, with the intent to store the information in a centralized database.
Furthermore, as noted by the ACLU which attended a recent hearing about the rollout, this federal agency is employing a scanning technology called ALPR to collect data from “unspecified other sources and sharing it with over ten thousand law enforcement agencies around the nation.”
The deployment of any personal data collection technology by a federal agency carries with it additional responsibilities under the Privacy Act of 1974. For now, it appears that the DEA will be adhering to those guidelines after local resistance to the new initiative. Or, are they merely planning an end-run once they think people have forgotten about the issue?
The Privacy Act of 1974 requires any federal agency engaged in the collection of personal data to disclose to the American people exactly what will be collected, how it will be stored, and whether that information will be shared. It makes this quite clear under “conditions of disclosure”:
No agency shall disclose any record which is contained in a system of records by any means of communication to any person, or to another agency, except pursuant to a written request by, or with the prior written consent of, the individual to whom the record pertains.
This is followed by 12 conditions which enable an expansion of scope and function, but detail very specific controls and scenarios for establishing just cause and the accounting of any disclosure.
The Burning Platform
Thu, 12 Apr 2012 15:31 CDT
Perhaps it’s like shouting an alarm, unheard above the engine noise of two trains on a collision course. Or, screaming helplessly as a car slips its brakes and rolls toward a toddler playing at the bottom of the driveway.
It is gruesome imagery and I apologize for invoking it. But if anything, it may be inadequate to the prospect before us.
One only has to ask, “What is heading our way?”
The Department Of Homeland Security Is Buying 450 Million New Bullets
And don’t kid yourself; they’re not for target practice. It’s .40 caliber ammunition, hollow point rounds that promise “optimum penetration for terminal performance.” The department also has a bid out for up to 175 million rounds of .223 caliber ammunition.
This isn’t the flipping army, you know. This is an internal national police force, a department that didn’t even exist 10 years ago.
Supreme Court OKs Strip Searches for Minor Offenses
It’s okay with the Supreme Court if you are detained and subjected to a demeaning strip-search for such serious offenses against the State as violating a leash law or having a headlight out.
Really, is being strip-searched and perhaps even forced to take a delousing shower for riding your bicycle without an audible bell reasonable? Of course not. So much for the 4th Amendment.
Police Are Using Phone Tracking as a Routine Tool
Even in the absence of judicial authorization, cell phone tracking has become widespread. An ACLU report covering more than 200 police departments finds that nearly all engage in the practice, but only a few bother with a warrant.
Would you be shocked to discover that some police departments are trying to keep their activities secret because of the legal implications? Officers have even been warned to keep their cell phone tracking out of police reports. Now what was that oath about upholding the law?