Privacy | Homeland Security Newswire

  • SurveillanceHolding law-enforcement accountable for electronic surveillance

    By Adam Conner-Simons

    When the FBI filed a court order in 2016 commanding Apple to unlock the iPhone of one of the shooters in a terrorist attack in San Bernandino, California, the news made headlines across the globe. Yet every day there are tens of thousands of court orders asking tech companies to turn over Americans’ private data. Many of these orders never see the light of day, leaving a whole privacy-sensitive aspect of government power immune to judicial oversight and lacking in public accountability. MIT researchers have proposed a new cryptographic system, using cryptography on a public log of wiretap requests, which encourages government transparency.

  • SurveillanceSpotting spies in the sky

    The use of drones for surveillance is no longer in the realm of science fiction. Researchers have developed the first technique to detect a drone camera illicitly capturing video. The new technology addresses increasing concerns about the proliferation of drone use for personal and business applications and how it is impinging on privacy and safety.

  • CybersecurityBetween you, me, and Google: Problems with Gmail's “Confidential Mode”

    By Gennie Gebhart and Cory Doctorow

    With Gmail’s new design rolled out to more and more users, many have had a chance to try out its new “Confidential Mode.” While many of its features sound promising, what “Confidential Mode” provides isn’t confidentiality. At best, the new mode might create expectations that it fails to meet around security and privacy in Gmail.

  • CybersecurityCongress must adopt stronger safeguards for wireless cybersecurity: Expert

    Thanks to the advent of cell phones, tablets and smart cars, Americans are increasingly reliant on wireless services and products. Yet despite digital technology advancements, security and privacy safeguards for consumers have not kept pace. One expert told lawmakers that Congress should take immediate action to address threats caused by cell-site simulators by “ensuring that, when Congress spends about a billion taxpayer dollars on wireless services and devices each year, it procures services and devices that implement cybersecurity best practices.”

  • PrivacyFitness app Polar revealed military personnel’s sensitive location data

    The Flow fitness app produced by the Finnish sports activity tracking firm Polar has been found to reveal users’ sensitive location data, according to an investigation by several news organizations. The investigation found that it is possible to use Polar’s Flow app to track down the home addresses of military and intelligence personnel.

  • PrivacyYour smartphone may be spying on you

    Some popular apps on your phone may be secretly taking screenshots of your activity and sending them to third parties, according to a new study. The researchers said this is particularly disturbing because these screenshots—and videos of your activity on the screen—could include usernames, passwords, credit card numbers, and other important personal information.

  • PrivacyCalifornia’s strict internet privacy law has far-reaching implications

    California’s new internet privacy law, which takes effect in 2020, deemed one of the strictest so far in the United States, could result in a business strategy which offers discounts in exchange for user data. gives residents the right to know what data is collected by companies like Google and Facebook and to request their information not be sold to third parties.

  • PrivacyPotential threat to speech privacy via smartphone motion sensors

    Could smartphone motion sensors be used by cybercriminals to record speech? It is a question that many academic and industry researchers are working to answer in order to ward off this kind of malicious use before it happens. Recent studies suggest security flaws and sensitivities to low-frequency audio signals, such as human speech, in accelerometers and gyroscopes could allow cybercriminals to collect confidential information such as credit card numbers and Social Security numbers as users speak into or near a mobile device.

  • EncryptionThe ENCRYPT Act protects encryption from U.S. state prying

    By David Ruiz

    It’s not just the DOJ and the FBI that want to compromise your right to private communications and secure devices—some state lawmakers want to weaken encryption, too. In recent years, a couple of state legislatures introduced bills to restrict or outright ban encryption on smartphones and other devices. Fortunately, several Congress members recently introduced their own bill to stop this dangerous trend before it goes any further.

  • SurveillanceHART: Homeland Security’s massive new database will include face recognition, DNA, and peoples’ “non-obvious relationships”

    By Jennifer Lynch

    The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is quietly building what will likely become the largest database of biometric and biographic data on citizens and foreigners in the United States. The agency’s new Homeland Advanced Recognition Technology (HART) database will include multiple forms of biometrics—from face recognition to DNA, data from questionable sources, and highly personal data on innocent people. It will be shared with federal agencies outside of DHS as well as state and local law enforcement and foreign governments. And yet, we still know very little about it.

  • SurveillanceCivil liberties organizations urge transparency on NSA domestic phone record surveillance

    Last week, twenty-four civil liberties organizations sent a letter to Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats, urging him to report—as required by law—statistics that could help clear up just how many individuals are subject to broad NSA surveillance of domestic telephone records. According to the most recent transparency report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), the NSA collected more than 530 million call records in 2017, an increase of more than 300 percent from the year prior.

  • Cyberspace & the lawFailing to keep pace: The cyber threat and its implications for our privacy laws

    “The time has come — indeed, if it has not already passed — to think seriously about some fundamental questions with respect to our reliance on cyber technologies: How much connected technology do we really want in our daily lives? Do we want the adoption of new connected technologies to be driven purely by innovation and market forces, or should we impose some regulatory constraints?” asked NSA General Counsel Glenn Gerstell in a Wednesday presentation at Georgetown University. “Although we continue to forge ahead in the development of new connected technologies, it is clear that the legal framework underpinning those technologies has not kept pace. Despite our reliance on the internet and connected technologies, we simply haven’t confronted, as a U.S. society, what it means to have privacy in a digital age.”

  • Security & privacyNIST updates Risk Management Framework to include privacy considerations

    Augmenting its efforts to protect the U.S. critical assets from cybersecurity threats as well as protect individuals’ privacy, NIST has issued a draft update to its Risk Management Framework (RMF) to help organizations more easily meet these goals.

  • Privacy at the borderPrivacy advocates urge New York court to ban warrantless searches at the border

    The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed an amicus brief Tuesday, along with the ACLU and NYCLU, urging a New York State appellate court to rule that border agents need a probable cause warrant to search the electronic devices of people at international airports and other border crossings. EFF notes that recent weeks saw court victories for travelers’ digital privacy.

  • PrivacyYour genome may have already been hacked

    By Norman A. Paradis

    On 25 April, California law enforcement announced the possible capture of a long-sought serial killer. Shortly after, it was reported that police had used public DNA databases to determine his identity. This extraordinary event highlights that when you send off a cheek swab to one of the private genome companies, you may sacrifice not just your own privacy but that of your family and your ancestors. In a time of widespread anxiety over the misuse of social media, Americans should also be concerned over who has access to their genetic information.