Executive Order #12333: The Legality of the Most Expansive Domestic Surveillance Program Ever

Posted By: Rob Pollock

Big BrotherFor privacy advocates and civil liberties watchdogs, the year 2016 was a bad year. Executive Order #12333, signed into law over 35 years ago and largely forgotten, has been resurrected in late 2016 with a series of hair-raising executive agency procedures passed by the Obama administration citing the obscure executive order as authorization. This relatively-benign executive order was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan on December 4, 1981, and regarded the relationship between intelligence agencies in how they share information with each other. However now, the executive order is not so benign, and its use as justification for intelligence information collection could represent one of the most egregious violations of the Fourth Amendment and privacy protections we’ve seen in the intelligence community for a long time.

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Twitter and Electronic Surveillance: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Big Brother

Posted by: Emily Weiss

Big BrotherOn April 6th, 2017, online microblogging site giant Twitter filed a complaint against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Twitter sought the court’s aid in preventing the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol from obtaining information about one of its users – the user who ran the account @ALT_USCIS. Twitter argued that the summons that CBP was using to obtain the information was inapposite, and did not apply to the kind of information CBP actually sought. As a result, Twitter argued, the summons violated the First Amendment and Twitter did not have to comply with it.

Less than a day later, DHS and CBP dropped the summons for information, and Twitter likewise dropped the suit. The American Civil Liberties Union called this a “big victory for free speech and the right to dissent.” But was it? This is not the beginning – nor the end – to Twitter’s apparent commitment to protect its user’s privacy.

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Geolocation and Smartphone Applications

Posted by Collin Gaines

April 20, 2015

Iphone_2Corporations have a duty to maximize profits for their shareholders. In the digital world, the easiest way for companies to increase profits is to monetize the data from current users of these companies’ applications or technological products. For example, a consumer’s smartphone location is continuously shared through third-party applications everyday, all day.  Many consumers are unaware of this business strategy and indeed, view it as an intrusion. A study by Carnegie Mellon University, in 2014 determined that “concise privacy-relevant information” frequently was shared including location, phone contact lists, calendar and call logs. Indeed, during the study, a participant received a message stating, “Your location has been shared 5,398 times with Facebook, Groupon, GO Launcher EX and seven other apps in the last 14 days.” Such a message demonstrates the volume in that consumers information is shared. In fact, the researchers found “that many popular Android apps tracked their users an average 6,200 times per participant over a two-week period, or about every three minutes!” Therefore,  the ever increasing “smartphone addiction” that is taking place in society today, has lead to an erosion of the 4th Amendment Constitutional right to privacy.
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If Privacy Were an Species, It Would Be an Endangered One

Posted by: Macaulay Christian

April 20, 2015


town-sign-83730_640If you were to swipe the lock screen on your smartphone, yours, like almost everyone else, would contain a variety of apps, and at least one of those apps would be a social media account, one you use frequently…why else would it be on your phone? Perhaps you’re documenting your life, one selfie at a time with Snapchat, or maybe mean tweeting celebrities with Twitter, stalking classmates on Facebook, or casually swiping people’s faces one direction or another on Tinder. Regardless of why you are on social media or what you do on it, the digital world many of us have grown up in, seems to harken us, collectively, back to a time when there weren’t these walls of solitude erected between me and you. For all of the ways in which computers and the Internet have revolutionized the lives of most of the planet’s seven billion inhabitants, perhaps the most striking, or, certainly the most controversial, seems to be the ever increasingly publicity of the average person’s life for all to see, comment, like, and share.

It is curious to think that a hallmark of human civilization’s technological progression is having an effect on the social and personal relationships of individual people, reverting, in a sense, the nature of those relationships to a status the hasn’t existed for more than a century. It is an interesting line of thought, one put forward by Vint Cerf, who characterized privacy as something of an “anomaly”. Continue reading

Surveillance through the Internet

Posted by Angelica J. Simpson

April 17, 2015


EFF_version_of_NSA_logoOver the past few years there has been headlines making their way claiming the governments gross overreach in surveillance. Stories that the FBI can hack into your computer, or that NSA is gathering everyone’s phone records, down to tracking capabilities through GOOGLE Maps apps and technology. But just how true are these headlines? Does American law allows for and even facilitates the ability for the government to use technology to track and spy on people? The reality of it seems to be that while the law allows for some surveillance, it also constrains the power as well. Continue reading