Loss of Privacy

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

Browsing Posts tagged Travel

You have a right to privacy. How about when you are driving around Manhattan? Maybe not.

On January 7, 2014, the New York Civil Liberties Union sent the New York State Department of Transportation, the New York City Department of Transportation and the NYPD formal legal requests for information on how they use E-ZPass readers to track and record New Yorkers’ movements. The request was filed after several recent press reports documented the use of E-ZPass readers to collect information on law-abiding New Yorkers far from toll plazas.

“New Yorkers have a right to know if their use of toll-paying technology is secretly being used to track their innocent comings and goings,” said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman. “No one should have to trade their privacy to pay a $10 toll.

“The NYCLU’s video shows the E-ZPass detector – the device that looks like a cow – going off almost constantly during a drive through Midtown and Lower Manhattan — in areas free of toll collection booths. In the area around 34th Street and Seventh Avenue, the cow lit up continuously for several blocks. It even detected a signal directly in front of the NYCLU’s office in the Wall Street area.

“An E-ZPass is a great convenience, but the technology in it can easily be misused. Given the potential for abuse when the government systematically starts collecting information about the day-to-day activities of law-abiding people, it is essential that there be clear and explicit limitations on how E-ZPass readers are used,” NYCLU Legislative Counsel Nate Vogel said. “The public should know if, how and why we are being tracked.”

The NYCLU’s Freedom of Information requests specifically seek information about the criteria and purpose for installing E-ZPass readers; the location of E-ZPass readers, including, any information distinguishing those used to collect tolls and those used for other purposes; privacy policies and marketing materials describing the types of data that can be collected by E-ZPass readers, when it will be collected and how it will be used; and how the New York City Department of Transportation shares data with other entities, including but not limited to the NYPD, the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Find out more at nyclu, or follow us on Facebook and Twitter to find out more as the story develops.

You can also read more about E-ZPass tags from Kashmir Hill.

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As travelers board planes this holiday, please be aware of 12 actual banned items from the Transportation Security Administration.


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The TSA has created a kids website to help indoctrinate them early so they will be compliant whenever they fly. They’ve created this video to get the website going.

SFX: Airplane
SON: Hey Dad, why do we have to stop here? I just wanna get on the plane…
DAD: Well, we have to stop-screen-go (Stop = Beep. Screen = Boooooooop. Go = Ding!) before we get on the plane. This is a security checkpoint and those people work for TSA.
SON: Oh…it looks kinda scary. I don’t think Molly will like it..
DAD: Nah, it’s not scary. TSA officers are here to keep us secure. So don’t worry, just remember stop-screen-go.
SON: Stop-screen-go? What does that mean?
DAD: Just watch… first, we stop here and hand our travel documents to the officer. She screens it…
TSA Officer: Thank you.
DAD: …and then we go.
SON: Wow, that was easy. What’s next?
DAD: We stop!
MOLLY: (laughing)
DAD: Then we put our stuff in the bins and the machine screens it. Then we go.
SON: Do I need to take off my shoes, too?
DAD: Nope. Kids under 12 don’t have to. But
your game system and Molly’s bear need to take a ride.
MOLLY: Bye-bye, bear! Bye-bye!
SON: Do we get our toys back?
DAD: Yep. You just need to walk through that rectangle first. It’s a metal detector.
SON: Do we have to stop-screen-go here, too?
DAD: Yep, you got it!
SON: Stop.
SON: Screeeeeeennnnnnn and…
SON: …GO! (makes jet sound)
SON: But wait…(makes brake sound). Mom, what’s he doing with Molly’s bottle?
MOM: Oh, it’s stop-screen-go for baby bottles, too. But don’t worry, she’ll get her milk back….
TSA Officer: Here you go…
SON: Are we all done?
DAD: Yep!
SON: That wasn’t scary. It’s just stop-screen-go!
DAD: Yeah… that’s what it takes to get ready for takeoff.
MOM: Thank you TSA!
TSA Officer: You’re welcome. Have a great trip!
MOLLY: Bye-bye!
SFX: Airplane flying


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Despite the fact that everyone in On The Media’s producer Sarah Abdurrahman’s family were all US citizens and that once citizenship is established you are supposed to be free to enter the country, they were detained for six hours by US Customs and Border Patrol.

From Techdirt:

They were treated terribly, put in a cold room with no food or drinks, and no information on what was going on. CBP demanded they hand over their electronics, and made it clear they might not get them back. The thing is, this isn’t a unique situation. As the report notes, there’s almost no oversight over CBP actions, allowing them to act with impunity. In the report, the story is told of a 4-year-old girl, an American citizen, who was detained for 14 hours, in a cold room, without being allowed to speak to her parents and given no food beyond a cookie. And then she was deported. Even though she was a US citizen. She was allowed to come back weeks later, but now has symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

She tried to find out information during the detainment, but was repeatedly told “it’s not your right to know.” She wasn’t even allowed to know the names of the CBP agents who detained them. When she asked, agents turned their backs to her so she couldn’t see their name tags. Multiple attempts at getting Homeland Security or CBP to respond to questions failed.

She also tells the story of some other wedding attendees who were similarly detained with incredibly obnoxious behavior from CBP agents. The first one they met was quizzing everyone in the car on their names, and the 3-year-old kid in the back cheerily volunteered his name and the CBP agent snapped at him. The agents initially promised that they wouldn’t search their phones, but then demanded that people unlock their phones, and even told them the phones would be confiscated and not returned. People complained that they needed their phones for work and were basically told too bad. Abdurrahman notes that three full cars of people from that one wedding all had their phones confiscated, and she notes that DHS claims only about 15 phones are confiscated each day by CBP, and wonders why everyone from one wedding appear to have nearly reached that quota.

Then there’s the really ridiculous part: one of the people detained went through mutliple invasive body searches, and then after five and half hours was suddenly handcuffed and locked up in a jail cell with no explanation at all. He asked the officers to let his family know what was going on, but they didn’t. Instead, they told his family to leave, and when they asked what happened, his family was told that “an agency” was coming to “pick him up,” without giving any more details — obviously leading to the worst assumptions. Instead, it turned out the guy had an unpaid ticket for a crooked license plate from 2006. CBP called the Michigan State Police to come “get him” over this — and, again, didn’t explain any of this to his family.

While a person can submit a complaint, there is little that will be done to resolve the situation. CBP claims broad authority and operates unto itself, above the law, terrorizing its own citizens.

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Eight TSA employees and an American Eagle employee were arrested for stealing employee parking passes at DFW airport and then selling them on to their fellow employees.

EDIT: The video is a bit finicky and will play for some, but not for others. You can try getting it to play on NBC’s website.

Airport spokesman David Magana says via email that in March, DFW police learned that 129 employee parking placards had been stolen from American Eagle Airlines’ offices inside Terminal B at DFW Airport. Investigators discovered that some of the stolen placards had been sold for $100 each to TSA employees, who used them to park in lots designated solely for airport employees.

According to Magana, TSA non-management employees normally pay DFW Airport $34 per month — or $400 annually — for the placards. That money funds a shuttle-bus service that links the lots and the terminals.

The American Eagle employee who originally stole the placards has been arrested and charged with one Class A count of misdemeanor theft; a TSA worker faces the same charge. Six other TSA employees arrested — “so far,” says the airport’s release — will be charged with the Class B misdemeanor of theft of service, stemming from their purchase and use of the illegally obtained placards.

TSA employees are supposed to be trustworthy and protecting airline passengers. The only thing they seem to be doing is finding ways to make money by stealing.

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