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EPIC to FTC: Google's Location Tracking Violates Consent Order

Fri, 2018-08-17 16:15

Following a report that Google tracks user location even when users opt-out, EPIC wrote to the FTC that Google violated the 2011 consent order. EPIC said "Google's subsequent changes to its policy, after it has already obtained location data on Internet users, fails to comply with the 2011 order." EPIC also told the FTC that "The Commission's inactions have made the Internet less safe and less secure for users and consumers." The 2011 settlement with Google followed a detailed complaint brought by EPIC and a coalition of consumer organizations. The groups charged that Google had engaged in unfair and deceptive trade practices when it changed the privacy settings of Gmail users and opted them into Google Buzz. The FTC agreed with the consumer groups, Google entered into a settlement and Buzz was shuttered. FTC chairman John Liebowitz said at the time, "When companies make privacy pledges, they need to honor them. This is a tough settlement that ensures that Google will honor its commitments to consumers and build strong privacy protections into all of its operations."

Categories: Privacy

Court Blocks EPIC's Efforts to Obtain "Predictive Analytics Report"

Thu, 2018-08-16 11:00

A federal court in the District of Columbia has blocked EPIC's efforts to obtain a secret "Predictive Analytics Report" in a FOIA case against the Department of Justice. The court sided with the agency which had withheld the report and claimed the "Presidential communications privilege." Neither the Supreme Court nor the D.C. Circuit has never permitted a federal agency to invoke that privilege. EPIC sued the agency in 2017 to obtain records about "risk assessment" tools in the criminal justice system. These techniques are used to set bail, determine criminal sentences, and even contribute to determinations about guilt or innocence. Many criminal justice experts oppose their use. EPIC has pursued several FOIA cases to promote "algorithmic transparency," passenger risk assessment, "future crime" prediction, and proprietary forensic analysis. The case is EPIC v. DOJ (Aug. 14, 2018 D.D.C.). EPIC is considering an appeal.

Categories: Privacy

EPIC, Consumer Groups Urge FTC to conclude Facebook Investigation

Wed, 2018-08-15 20:20

EPIC and a coalition of consumer groups have asked the FTC to conclude the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica investigation by September 1, 2018. The groups said, "It is critical that the FTC conclude the Facebook matter, issue a significant fine, and ensure that the company upholds its privacy commitments to users.” Congress and the European Parliament have both conducted extensive hearings on the Cambridge Analytica matter. The U.K. Information Commissioner’s Office conducted an extensive investigation, published a substantial report, and issued a significant fine in July. The FTC announced in March that it would reopen the Facebook investigation.

Categories: Privacy

EPIC FOIA: EPIC Obtains DOD Inspector General Audits of Hotline Allegations

Wed, 2018-08-15 17:30

Through a Freedom of Information Act request, EPIC has obtained the Department of Defense's Inspector General report on audit of hotline allegations involving improper use of agency funds for foreign counterintelligence billets. The report found that the Defense Intelligence Agency followed proper appropriation authorities but did not ensure proper function and management for the program. The Inspector General found that "employees were performing duties not aligned with their position descriptions and funding." In a 2012 FOIA case, EPIC v. CIA, EPIC uncovered an Inspector General's report which revealed that the CIA, in collaboration with the NYPD, conducted domestic surveillance of mosques, Muslim student groups, and Muslim stores and businesses. EPIC continues to pursue the release of government documents to improve oversight and accountability through litigation and EPIC's Open Government Project.

Categories: Privacy

EPIC Urges Senate Committee to Press FCC on Privacy

Wed, 2018-08-15 15:05

EPIC has sent a statement to the Senate Commerce Committee for a hearing on the Federal Communications Commission. EPIC urged the Committee to push the FCC to protect online privacy. EPIC also asked the Committee to press the FCC to repeal a regulation that requires the retention of telephone customer records for 18 months. EPIC filed the petition urging the repeal of this mandate more than two years ago. Every comment received by the FCC favored the EPIC petition. EPIC has submitted multiple comments to the FCC to strengthen online privacy and has recommended an industry neutral and comprehensive privacy framework.

Categories: Privacy

D.C. Circuit Announces Panel in EPIC v. IRS, FOIA Case for Trump's Tax Returns

Tue, 2018-08-14 18:05

The D.C. Circuit has announced the three-judge panel that will decide EPIC v. IRS, EPIC's Freedom of Information Act case to obtain public release of President Trump's tax returns. Arguments will be held in the case on Thursday, September 13, 2018 before Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson, Judge Patricia A. Millett, and Judge Harry T. Edwards. EPIC has argued that the IRS has the authority to disclose the President's returns to correct numerous misstatements of fact concerning his financial ties to Russia. For example, President Trump tweeted that "Russia has never tried to use leverage over me. I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH RUSSIA - NO DEALS, NO LOANS, NO NOTHING"—a claim "plainly contradicted by his own attorneys, family members, and business partners." As EPIC told the Court, "there has never been a more compelling FOIA request presented to the IRS." A broad majority of the American public favor the release of the President's tax returns. EPIC v. IRS is one of several FOIA cases EPIC has pursued concerning Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential election, including EPIC v. FBI (response to Russian cyber attack) and EPIC v. DHS (election cybersecurity).

Categories: Privacy

EPIC Comments on Second Annual Privacy Shield Review

Tue, 2018-08-14 17:50

EPIC provided comments to the European Commission to inform the second annual review of the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield, a framework that permits the processing of the personal data of Europeans in the United States. EPIC detailed the latest privacy developments in the U.S., including the extension of Fourth Amendment protection to cell phone location data in Carpenter v. United States, passage of the CLOUD Act, the FTC's failure to enforce its legal judgment against Facebook, the vacancies at the PCLOB, the absence of a Privacy Shield Ombudsman at the Commerce Department, and the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. The Commission approved Privacy Shield last year, but sought additional steps by the United States. The European Parliament has called for suspension of the pact if the U.S. does not fully comply by September 1st. The European Commission will make a final determination this fall.

Categories: Privacy

Following EPIC Comments, FTC Strengthens Safeguards for Kids' Data in Gaming Industry

Tue, 2018-08-14 16:45

The FTC has unanimously voted to approve EPIC’s recommendations to strengthen safeguards for children's data in the gaming industry. In a 5-0 vote, the FTC adopted EPIC's proposals to revise the Entertainment Software Rating Board's industry rules to (1) extend children's privacy protections in COPPA to all users worldwide; and (2) to implement privacy safeguards for the collection of data "rendered anonymous." The FTC wrote, "the Commission agrees with EPIC's comment. As COPPA's protections are not limited only to U.S. residents, the definition of 'child' in the ESRB program has been revised to remove the limitation." The Commission also strengthened protections for de-identified children's data: "companies must provide notice and obtain verifiable parental consent if personal information is collected, even if it is later anonymized." EPIC has testified several times before Congress on protecting children's data and supported the 2013 updates to COPPA.

Categories: Privacy

International Privacy Experts Adopt Recommendations for Cross-Border Law Enforcement Requests for Data

Tue, 2018-08-14 12:05

The International Working Group on Data Protection in Telecommunications has adopted new recommendations to protect individual rights during criminal cross-border law enforcement. The Berlin-based Working Group includes Data Protection Authorities and experts who assess emerging privacy challenges. The Working Group on Data Protection calls on governments and international organisations to ensure law enforcement requests accord with international human rights norms. The Working Group recommends specific safeguards for data protection and privacy, including accountability, procedural fairness, notice and an opportunity to challenge. EPIC addressed similar issues in an amicus brief for the US Supreme Court in the Microsoft case. EPIC and a coalition of civil society organizations recently urged the Council of Europe to protect human rights in the proposed revision to the Convention on Cybercrime. In April 2017, EPIC hosted the 61st meeting of the IWG in Washington, D.C. at the Goethe-Institut, Germany's cultural institute.

Categories: Privacy

Two More Nominees for Intelligence Oversight Board

Mon, 2018-08-13 13:00

The White House announced the nomination of two board members to the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB). Travis LeBlanc is a partner at Boies Schiller, and former Federal Communications Commission Enforcement Bureau Chief. Aditya Bamzai is a law professor at the University of Virginia and former Department of Justice attorney. The intelligence oversight body has been unable to act due to long-term vacancies. The European Parliament has called for suspension of the Privacy Shield if the U.S. does not to improve data protection and restore the PCLOB. Three other members have been nominated but have yet to be confirmed. EPIC opposed the nomination of Adam Klein to serve as Chairman of the Board. EPIC previously testified before PCLOB, made recommendations for PCLOB's handling of FOIA requests, and set out a broad agenda for the work of the independent agency. EPIC previously sought public release of the PCLOB report on Executive order 12333.

Categories: Privacy

Kavanaugh White House Counsel: PATRIOT Act, "measured, careful, responsible, and constitutional approach"

Sat, 2018-08-11 12:39

On Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee released the first production of records for Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh from his time as associate counsel for George W. Bush. Roughly 5,700 pages of documents were made available to the public. The documents show that Kavanaugh assisted in the effort to pass the Patriot Act and drafted a statement that President Bush incorporated in the bill signing. Kavanaugh wrote that the PATRIOT Act will “update laws authorizing government surveillance,” which he claimed, and President Bush then restated, were from an era of “rotary phones.” In fact, the PATRIOT Act weakened numerous U.S. privacy laws, including the subscriber privacy provisions in the Cable Act and the email safeguards in the Electronic Communications Privacy Act. Both laws were enacted after the era of rotary phones. Congress amended the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act after it was revealed that the White House had authorized warrantless wiretapping of Americans beginning in 2002. In an email exchange, Kavanaugh wrote that the PATRIOT Act was a "measured, careful, responsible, and constitutional approach . . . .” EPIC recently submitted two urgent Freedom of Information Act requests for Judge Kavanaugh’s records during his time serving as Staff Secretary for President Bush.

Categories: Privacy