• New legal challenge to DHS laptop searches at U.S. border

    The Obama administration has continued a Bush administration policy which permits officers at U.S. borders to detain travelers’ laptop computers and examine their contents even without suspecting the traveler of wrongdoing — or, in the language of DHS policy, “absent individualized suspicion”; in a federal lawsuit filed Tuesday in the Eastern District of New York, the plaintiffs allege that DHS policy of substituting “search at will” for “reasonable suspicion” violates constitutional rights to privacy and free speech

  • Case against teachers using Web cams to monitor students' bedrooms, laptops dropped

    Federal investigations into whether a Pennsylvania school district used school-issue laptops to take pictures of students — and of what they were doing in their bed rooms and online — did not yield enough evidence to file charges; Lower Merion School District monitored more than 40 students who were issued laptop computers; the monitoring generated 30,881 Webcam photographs of students, and 27,761 screenshots of Web sites they visited

  • Growing privacy concerns over Google's Street View

    Worries about the privacy invasion by Google’s Street View project have led several countries to scrutinize the ambitious mapping project; Goolge offers concerned home owners the opportunity to submit a request to have their houses taken off the service, but a Google spokeswoman admits that “Processing these requests and applying blurring is a complex task which takes time”; concerns about privacy infringement were only heightened when it was learned that Google, inadvertently perhaps, also picks up private WiFi communication in the process of updating its maps — and that a Google U.K. executive has purchased a surveillance UAV (he said it was for personal use)

  • The promise, and risks, of battlefield biometrics

    Using biometric devices in Afghanistan offers many benefits to coalition forces and to the Afghani themselves in making it easier to separate the good guys from the bad; some worry, however, that this can backfire — as was the case in Rwanda in 1994: identification cards which included photos and tribal affiliations of either Tutsis and Hutus made it easier for Hutu militias to identify the Tutsi and murder them

  • The worst database security breaches in the U.S., U.K.

    On 6 February 2010 AvMed Health Plans announced that personal information of current and former subscribers have been compromised by the theft of two company laptops from its corporate offices in Gainesville, Florida; the information was comprehensive, including Social Security numbers and protected health information; attempts the thwart the theft have been unsuccessful, leaving the identity data of nearly 1,100,000 vulnerable; this is only one of many cases of database breaches — and the number of cases is growing

  • Utah concludes state resources were used in immigrant list

    Utah Department of Workforce Services database is the source of the list of 1,300 circulated to news outlets in the state; the agency says hundreds had access to database; using state resources to compile the list would violate several state and federal privacy laws, state officials and legal scholars said

  • New age of pervasive surveillance, robot spies to test privacy

    The author of a new study of the evolving surveillance landscape says: “In 50 years’ time there won’t be much privacy left. There’s going to be information everywhere. So what matters is who owns it, and the oversight”; there is an added danger: “Once you go over to data mining you are essentially handing the process over to robots, who roam through this material looking for patterns of suspicious activity”

  • Algorithm could improve hospital records security

    An algorithm secures patients’ records by ensuring that access to information is available to those who need it, but only when necessary; for example, once a patient has been admitted to hospital, the admissions staff do not necessarily need access to the patient’s records anymore; in many hospitals, those staff members nonetheless continue to have access to every record on file; using the algorithm, those staffers would only be able to access the patient’s record during admission processing; after that, they would find your information unavailable

  • NSA: Perfect Citizen program is purely "research and engineering effort"

    Perfect Citizen, a new National Security Agency (NSA) project, would deploy sensors in networks running critical infrastructure such as the electricity grid and nuclear-power plants; the sensors would detect intrusion and other unusual activity indicating a cyberattack on U.S. critical infrastructure; NSA spokeswoman says the program is “purely a vulnerabilities-assessment and capabilities-development contract—- This is a research and engineering effort” and “There is no monitoring activity involved, and no sensors are employed in this endeavor”

  • U.K. will regulate license number plate recognition cameras more tightly

    There are 4,000 automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras in the United Kingdom, logging more than 10 million vehicles every day; since the launch of the ANPR network in 2006, the government has accumulated 7.6 billion images; these images include details of number plates and the date, time, and place of capture — and, often, the picture of the driver and passengers; the Home Secretary has called for tighter regulation of the ANPRs, and also for limiting access to the image database; ministers will consider how long these records can be held (the current limit is two years); seventy-two ANPR cameras in Birmingham will soon be removed after it emerged that their installation, in areas with large Muslim populations, had been funded through a Home Office counter-terrorism fund

  • Street microphones eavesdrop on crimes

    The city of Coventry has installed microphones on street at the city center; the microphones detect suspect sounds, including trigger words spoken at normal volumes as well as angry or panicked exchanges before they become violent; operators can then direct police straight to the scene

  • The consequences of new surveillance technology

    Many wish for better security in public places, and support installation of new video surveillance technologies to achieve this goal; these surveillance technologies, however, have important psychological and legal implications, and four German universities cooperate in studying these implications

  • European bodies give Google mixed signals on data retention

    The European Commission wants Google to erase personally identifiable information from its logs after six months — but members of the European Parliament are calling for laws to require Google to retain more data for longer; these MEPs argue the data will help catch pedophiles

  • Suspicionless customs search constitutional: federal appeals court

    The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit ruled that an April 2008 search of the cabin of a crew member of a cargo ship docked in Miami was constitutional; the search of the ship was looking for prohibited agricultural materials, but the searchers found child pornography in the cabin; the court found that the ship was docked at the equivalent of a border, making the act a border search; the court ruled that an individual has a lesser expectation of privacy at a border and the government has a greater interest in searching thus the balance tips more favorably to the government

  • Personal cell phone data of millions of Mexicans for sale at Mexico flea market

    The Mexican government decreed that all Mexicans must register their cell phones; Mexicans, familiar with the thorough corruption and ineffectiveness of the Mexican state, were worried that the personal information would be stolen or misused; they were right: weeks after millions of Mexicans registered their phones, their personal data became available for sale for a few thousand dollars at Mexico City’s wild Tepito flea market; the treasure trove of data also included lists of police officers with their photographs; in a country seized by the fear of kidnapping and held hostage by violent crime bosses, having this personal information on open display seemed tantamount to a death sentence, or, at the minimum, a magnet for trouble