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A win for privacy . . .

This seems like a reasonable ruling.

Giving privacy-rights advocates and civil libertarians an important victory, a federal appeals court ruled that police conducted an illegal warrant-less search by planting a GPS device in a drug-case suspect’s car and tracking him for a month.

In ruling Friday that the police violated the suspect’s Fourth Amendment rights, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit said that by almost any measure, planting a GPS device, then following a person for several weeks conflicted with an individual’s reasonable expectations for privacy.

It will be interesting to see how the law develops for personal spying and private investigators.

Security and governance of cyberspace

Here’s a useful cybersecurity article that lists and explains the “19 global organizations whose international activities significantly influence the security and governance of cyberspace.”

Digital Due Process coalition

Many are now concerned about web privacy, so a group of companies have formed the Digital Due Process coalition to advocate for clearer laws to protect privacy online. The opening paragraphs from the web site for this group explains their position.

ECPA Reform: Why Now?

The Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) was a forward-looking statute when enacted in 1986. It specified standards for law enforcement access to electronic communications and associated data, affording important privacy protections to subscribers of emerging wireless and Internet technologies. Technology has advanced dramatically since 1986, and ECPA has been outpaced. The statute has not undergone a significant revision since it was enacted in 1986 – light years ago in Internet time.

As a result, ECPA is a patchwork of confusing standards that have been interpreted inconsistently by the courts, creating uncertainty for both service providers and law enforcement agencies. ECPA can no longer be applied in a clear and consistent way, and, consequently, the vast amount of personal information generated by today’s digital communication services may no longer be adequately protected. At the same time, ECPA must be flexible enough to allow law enforcement agencies and services providers to work effectively together to combat increasingly sophisticated cyber-criminals or sexual predators.

The time for an update to the ECPA is now. For more than a year, privacy advocates, legal scholars, and major Internet and communications service providers have been engaged in a dialogue to explore how the ECPA applies to new services and technologies. We have developed consensus around the notion of a core set of principles intended to simplify, clarify, and unify the ECPA standards; provide clearer privacy protections for subscribers taking into account changes in technology and usage patterns; and preserve the legal tools necessary for government agencies to enforce the laws and protect the public.

Richard Clarke and cybersecurity

Richard Clarke is one of our leading experts on national security, and he has made cybersecurity his pet project. He’s written a new book on the subject, and he’s very critical of our nation’s efforts to combat digital terror, and he’s also critical of the efforts of companies to protect their own information.

His recommendations are summarized in a recent article in BusinessWeek, and they include getting serious about industrial espionage and creating information quarantines.

The privacy implications don’t appear obvious at first blush, but as with most security efforts, the privacy problems come out later as new policies and tactics are implemented.

Privacy in the digital age

Everything has changed. In the past ten years we’ve reached a tipping point where technology involving surveillance and the sharing of information has become so pervasive and inexpensive that we can no longer assume that our actions or words will be kept private.

Add in the dangers posed by terrorists and criminals, and now we have a greater appetite for compromising privacy in exchange for greater security.

We started this blog to address the tensions between the competing needs for security and privacy. We’ll also address the tools out there that citizens can use to shield their privacy, along with the tools that can be used to get information . . . even about others.

In the end, we will need to make choices about how to balance these interests as a society, and each individual will need to come to their own conclusions about how to live in the new environment. For example, if you could spy on your spouse or significant other, would you do it? Would you place a GPS device on their car? How much surveillance is appropriate regarding your children? Get used to these difficult questions.

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