Loss of Privacy

Keeping you informed on recent losses to privacy and civil rights worldwide.

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At least 50 U.S. law enforcement agencies have secretly equipped their officers with radar devices that allow them to effectively peer through the walls of houses to see whether anyone is inside, a practice raising new concerns about the extent of government surveillance.

The radars work like finely tuned motion detectors, using radio waves to zero in on movements as slight as human breathing from a distance of more than 50 feet. They can detect whether anyone is inside of a house, where they are and whether they are moving.

HOW IT WORKS

“The idea that the government can send signals through the wall of your house to figure out what’s inside is problematic,” said Christopher Soghoian, the American Civil Liberties Union’s principal technologist. “Technologies that allow the police to look inside of a home are among the intrusive tools that police have.”

Agents’ use of the radars was largely unknown until December, when a federal appeals court in Denver said officers had used one before they entered a house to arrest a man wanted for violating his parole. The judges expressed alarm that agents had used the new technology without a search warrant, warning that “the government’s warrantless use of such a powerful tool to search inside homes poses grave Fourth Amendment questions.”

By then, however, the technology was hardly new. Federal contract records show the Marshals Service began buying the radars in 2012, and has so far spent at least $180,000 on them.

More at USA Today.

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Bruce Schneier, Harvard Berkman Center Fellow, talks with Edward Snowden about government surveillance and the effectiveness of privacy tools like encryption to an audience at Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. This conversation kicks off the annual symposium on the future of computation in science and engineering hosted by the IACS- Harvard’s Institute for Applied Computational Science.

The Boston Globe also covered the event.

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The new law says an employer cannot force you to tell them your social media passwords or login to let them see what you’re doing. That seems obvious to most people. But what an employer also cannot do anymore is tell an employee or applicant, I need you to ‘friend’ me on Facebook, or I need you to friend me on Instagram, or follow me on Twitter. That way I can see what you’re doing,” said Chris McCarty, a Knoxville attorney who specializes in employment law.

Tennessee now joins a list of dozens of states that have passed an Employee Online Privacy Act. McCarty says it protects people who make their online settings private, not the information someone shares with the entire world wide web.

“The default setting for most social media accounts is ‘public’ so anyone can see it. Anything that is public is still fair game for an employer to see what its workers or an applicant is doing. I tell people to be smart, because everything you do online that is public, it’s just like going in the street and doing it,” said McCarty.

The new law says employers cannot force an employee or job applicant to provide access to private information.

“You have to take an active role as the user and make everything friend-only and set your privacy settings. If you don’t do that, this law doesn’t protect you at all,” said McCarty.

More at WIBR.

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Whether we are reading the Guardian, the New York Times, the Hindu or any other news website, third party trackers are collecting data about our online behaviour.

When we access websites, third parties are able to track our online behaviour, aggregate our data, link it to other data collected about us and subsequently create profiles. These profiles tell a story about us – which may or may not be true – and can include our political beliefs, gender, sexual orientation, economic status, habits, interests, affiliations and much more.

And while this might all appear to be harmless, we largely have very little control over how and when our data is collected, how our profiles are created, whether they are accurate, who they are subsequently shared with, who has access to them, what they are used for, where they are stored and for how long.

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There is one law (FISA 702) and one policy (EO12333) which authorizes the US government to conduct mass surveillance on “foreigners in foreign lands”. These are drafted in terms which discriminate the privacy rights you have by the passport you hold – in fact there are no rights at all for non-Americans outside the US.

It is obvious that this is a reasonably important dimension of the whole Snowden affair, because it starkly conflicts with ECHR norms that rights are universal and equal.

The only possible resolution compatible with universal rights is data localization, or construction of a virtual zone in which countries have agreed mutual verifiable inspections that mass-surveillance is not occurring (and at present this seems unlikely). There is a widespread misconception that somehow the new GDPR privacy regulation will curb foreign spying, when in fact it is designed to widen loopholes into floodgates.

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