NYCLU Weighs in on Facebook Search Warrants in New York Court

Categories: Lawsuits, Privacy

Photo Credit: bloomsberries via Compfight cc
The NYCLU thinks warrants sought by the Manhattan DA pose constitutional problems.
The New York Civil Liberties Union is throwing its support behind Facebook in a lawsuit the organization believes could have big implications for social media privacy in New York.

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Where Does "Restore the Fourth" Go From Here?

Categories: Privacy

Restore the Fourth's Independence Day demostration.
Restore the Fourth was born on Reddit in early June, shortly after revelations about the depth and breadth of the NSA's surveillance programs became international news. Less than a month later, a subreddit dedicated to the movement counts more than 20,000 subscribers, and can take credit for coordinating a nationwide protest of the government's surveillance program on July 4.

Restore the Fourth's Independence Day demonstration was hailed in advance as "the biggest Internet protest in history" but, in the end, only modest crowds turned up in cities around the country.

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Will There Be Face-Recognition Surveillance at the Statue of Liberty?

Categories: Privacy

Phil Guest via Compfight
Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, and I will monitor them and analyze their faces with sophisticated software.
The National Park Service describes the Statue of Liberty as "a universal symbol of freedom and democracy." What better place to implement powerful new surveillance systems complete with next-generation facial-recognition technology?

Late last year, Police Product Insight, a trade journal for police and people who sell them products, reported that a New York surveillance-system contractor with the completely you-could-not-make-this-up name of Total Recall Corporation will be installing a cutting-edge facial recognition software program called FaceVACS at the site.

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Who is Stockpiling and Sharing Private Information About New York Students?

Categories: Privacy

Wikimedia Commons
Most New York City public school parents don't know that their child's personal information will be available to third-party companies through a new data-sharing initiative.
Parents and advocates opposed to the new initiative believe it will put sensitive student information at risk and allow companies to capitalize on data that parents never consented to release.
The New York State Education Department says that districts have been sharing this kind of information for nearly a decade, and that the new initiative simply enables that data to be shared in a safer, more efficient fashion.
If it really is that simple, parents and advocates wonder, why hasn't the state been more forthcoming with details about the project?

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The Week in Privacy Problems: Who's Hacking, Selling, and Manipulating Your Data

Flickr user José Goulão
This hasn't been a good week for privacy -- but is it ever, these days? Here are the hot messes that dominated the depressing privacy discussion this week.


Last night, Chinese hackers broke into the Times' computer network and stole every single employee's password, then used the data to access 53 employees' personal devices. The paper attracted Chinese ire when, back in October, it reported that China's prime minister, Wen Jiabao, used his position to stockpile wealth and hid it behind a shady network of investment vehicles and offshore accounts.

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Somebody Already Sued the NYPD Over Controversial Body Scanners

nypd body scanner.jpg
NYPD via TSA Out of Our Pants
See that black thing? It's a gun.

During his 'State of the NYPD' address on Wednesday, NYPD commissioner Ray Kelly announced that his department "took delivery" of mobile terhertz devices that can scan people for concealed weapons. Although Kelly carefully skirted the issue of stop-and-frisk, he went into detail about his latest equipment, explaining that the scanners would be portable and mounted inside trucks.

Well, somebody is already suing the city over the new technology. His name is Jonathan Corbett, an activist who has previously taken on the TSA over their body scanners, which render nearly-nude images of passengers' bodies. On his blog, TSA Out of Our Pants, he calls our police force's latest toy a "virtual stop-and-frisk" and says he objects to the NYPD using it to "peer under your clothes for 'anything dangerous' -- guns, bombs, the Constitution -- from up to 25 yards away for, you know, our safety."

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The Gawker/Christine Quinn Gun Owner Database Debacle


We were a bit afraid that this would become a "thing."

Two weeks ago, we reported on the Journal News, a newspaper based in White Plains, published the names and addresses of all the gun owners in and around New York City. As a result, readers and media folk alike flipped out, leading one blogger to publish the same information, except this time about the staff of the newspaper. Because two privacy infringements make a right.

Well, it looks like it happened again. Yesterday, Gawker's John Cook responded to a comment made by the notorious Ann Coulter, who asked to see the documents of all the "rich liberals" in New York that own guns, in the only reasonable way possible: by publishing a 446-page document (1.2 million people are listed) of just that. However, the document strictly states their names and gun license status - it came into Cook's possession through a Freedom of Information request a few years ago.

Naturally, this is when we tell you that a lot of people are pissed again. The NRA responding harshly is, of course, no surprise: that's what a gun owners' lobby is there for. But City Council Speaker Christine Quinn? That's a different story.

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The Journal News Gun Owner Database Debacle


Whenever one's privacy is breached in the public sphere, there's always that awkward, immediate reaction when the reader asks, "Was that one too far?" Well, it depends on impact and damage; this was a main concern with WikiLeaks - "Did their privacy leaks put anyone in harm's way?" underlies every controversy they step into. But, with these kinds of situations, that first initial breach is always the deepest.

This is the situation brewing in White Plains. A local suburban newspaper named The Journal News made headlines yesterday by publishing an online map (powered by Google!) of gun owners' homes in the Tristate area with data obtained through New York State's Freedom of Information Act. The map was a counterpart to a post-Newtown article by writer Dwight Worley that called for more public information available on those that own firearms. 

When the Journal News was first hit by audiences for its decision to publish the map, the President, Janet Hasson, had to take to the paper's defense. She did so in a statement to Politico, in which she wrote, "We know publication of the database (as well as the accompanying article providing context would be controversial, but we felt sharing information about gun permits in our area was important in the aftermath of the Newtown shootings."

Well, at least she was right about the 'controversial' thing.

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Facing Contempt, Twitter Turns Over User's Records In Brooklyn Bridge Arrest Case

Malcolm Harris, right, with his lawyer Marty Stolar outside the courtroom this morning.
Twitter rolled over in court today, turning over a fat sheaf of records subpoenaed by prosecutors in the case of Malcolm Harris, one of the people arrested last fall in a protest on the Brooklyn Bridge.

In what is shaping up to be a landmark case for privacy in the digital era, prosecutors had demanded three and a half months of records from a twitter account once used by Harris, @destructuremal.

Those records include tweets that were once public but had since ceased to be so, either because they were deleted or because they had passed beyond the publicly visible horizon of the twitter history. The records also include information that was never public, including geolocation data.

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Judge Rules Twitter Must Turn Over Protester's Tweets, Even Without A Warrant

Marchers in the roadway of th Brooklyn Bridge October 1st.
A Manhattan judge today ruled against Twitter, arguing that it had to turn over a protester's tweets to prosecutors, without the account user's consent and without a warrant.

When we last checked in on the case of Malcolm Harris, a writer at The New Inquiry and one of 700 people arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge as part of an Occupy Wall Street protest last October, things were already looking bleak for Harris and anyone else who wants to maintain control over their social media postings.

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