• U.S. snoops scan the Web for potential terror risks

    The U.S. government created a special center prior to Barack Obama’s inauguration for analyzing oceans of data passing through Facebook, Twitter, and other sites in an attempt to identify hazards; personnel at DHS’s National Operations Center scan the Web using dozens upon dozens of key search terms and phrases, among them “militia,” “cops,” “riot,” “dirty bomb,” “Mexican army,” “decapitated,” “Iraq,” “radicals,” and many more

  • Law enforcement agencies dig deeper into applicants' digital past

    More and more police departments are digging deep into the social media accounts of applicants, requesting that candidates sign waivers allowing investigators access to their Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, Twitter, and other personal spaces; some agencies are demanding that applicants provide private passwords, Internet pseudonyms, text messages, and e-mail logs; of “particular concern” to law enforcement agencies is that defense lawyers could use officers’ posts to undercut their credibility in court

  • Cybersecurity only bright spot among disappointing administration privacy grades

    The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) gave the Obama administration a “B” grade on its cybersecurity efforts; the 2010 report card shows declining grade — relative to 2009 — for the administration efforts in the cyber privacy areas; EPIC gave President Obama a dismal “D” on civil liberties in 2010, compared to a “C+” in 2009

  • Briton gets 4-months jail for refusing to disclose password

    A 19-year old Briton used a 50-charcter password to protect child pornography files he kept in his computers; the court ordered him to reveal the password, but he refused and was sentenced to sixteen weeks imprisonment

  • School settles lawsuits over secret photos for $610,000

    A suburban Philadelphia school district, which admitted earlier this year to capturing 56,000 secret Webcam photos and screenshots on school-issued laptops, has agreed to pay $610,000 in settlements; the intimate pictures of students in their bedrooms were taken by Webcam installed on laptops which the school loaned the students

  • U.S. to make Internet wiretaps easier

    The Obama administration plans to submit a bill next year that would require all online services that enable communications to be technically equipped to comply with a wiretap order; this would include providers of encrypted e-mail, such as BlackBerry, networking sites like Facebook, and direct communication services like Skype; federal law enforcement and national security officials say new the regulations are needed because terrorists and criminals are increasingly giving up their phones to communicate online

  • Privacy-focused alternative to Facebook launched

    Four NYU students launch Diaspora — a privacy-sensitive alternative to Facebook; Diaspora is a decentralized social network that lets users control their personal data — photos, friend lists, statuses, etc. — by hosting it on their own computers, or on servers they have access to, which are called “seeds”

  • New upgrades will make full-body scanners less privacy-offensive

    New software upgrade to full-body scanners would replace the images of a passenger’s naked body with an avatar and alert authorities to a potential hidden threat, eliminating the need to keep an employee in a remote room

  • 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”