On June 1, 2015 in Washington, D.C., EPIC will present the 2015 EPIC Champions of Freedom Awards to Richard Clarke, former National Coordinator for Security and Counter-terrorism, Apple CEO Tim Cook, California Attorney General Kamala Harris, and Susan Linn, co-founder and director of The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood. Computer security expert Bruce Schneier and political analyst Hilary Rosen will host the gala event. Tickets are available to the public for purchase until May 22.
EPIC National Security Counsel Jeramie Scott testified today at a hearing before the D.C. City Council regarding police body-worn cameras. EPIC opposes deployment of "police cams" and warned the D.C. Council of the risks of mass public surveillance. EPIC also pointed to potential liability for the city if harmful images are posted online. EPIC's Scott said there are "more productive means to achieve police accountability that do not carry the risk of increasing surveillance." Scott added that if body cameras are deployed, then the Metropolitan Police Department must comply with all privacy and accountability laws.
The Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled today that the NSA's telephone record collection program exceeds legal authority. The government claimed that it could collect all records under the Section 215 "relevance" standard. But the court rejected that argument and held that "such an expansive concept of 'relevance' is unprecedented and unwarranted." The conclusion mirrors the argument EPIC, and a coalition of technical expert, legal scholars, and former members of the Church Committee made in Petition to the Supreme Court in 2013. EPIC explained in its petition, "It is simply not possible that every phone record in the possession of a telecommunications firm could be relevant to an authorized investigation." The Second Circuit found that Section 215 does not "authorize anything approaching the breadth of the sweeping surveillance at issue here."
EPIC has launched the EPIC State Policy Project to track legislation across the county concerning privacy and civil liberties. The EPIC State Project will identify new developments and model legislation. The Project builds on EPIC's extensive work on emerging privacy and civil liberties issues in the states. The new State Project will focus on student privacy, drones, consumer data security, data breach notification, location privacy, genetic privacy, the right to be forgotten, and auto black boxes.
EPIC has filed an amicus brief in In re Nickelodeon, a case involving the Video Privacy Protection Act. The Act protects the privacy of a consumer's personally identifiable information ("PII"). Viacom, which offers Nickelodeon and other cable channels, claimed that personal identifiers such as IP addresses and unique device IDs are not PII and could be routinely disclosed to Google for commercial purposes without any restriction. EPIC filed in opposition to Google/Viacom and explained that the definition of PII in the Act is "purposefully broad to ensure that the underlying intent of the Act– to safeguard personal information against unlawful disclosure– is preserved as technology evolves."
The House Judiciary Committee voted to send the USA FREEDOM Act of 2015 to the House of Representatives for further consideration prior to the June 1 Patriot Act expiration deadline. The bill would end the NSA's controversial domestic telephone record collection program. The bill would also establish new transparency requirements for Intelligence Court Orders, recommended by EPIC in testimony before the House Judiciary Committee. EPIC also opposed renewal of the NSA's Section 215 orders and petitioned the Supreme Court to suspend the program.
EPIC has filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit to obtain details about the Drug Enforcement Administration’s surveillance programs. The agency is required to publish privacy impact assessments for its data collection programs. However, the agency has failed to make available privacy impact assessments for many of its programs, including the massive cell phone metadata program "Hemisphere" and a nationwide license plate reader program. EPIC has a related lawsuit against the Federal Bureau of Investigation for that agency’s privacy impact assessments for several programs including "Next Generation Identification."
Congressmen Luke Messer (R-IN) and Jared Polis (D-CO) have introduced the "Student Digital Privacy and Parental Rights Act of 2015." The student privacy bill would prohibit companies from selling student information, using student information for targeted advertising, or otherwise disclosing student information for non-educational purposes. The Student Digital Privacy Act would implement portions of EPIC's Student Privacy Bill of Rights, including granting students access to their personal information collected by companies and requiring companies to provide notice of data security breaches. The bill is modeled on a new student privacy law in California.
The Department of Homeland Security has filed a brief in response to EPIC's petition for rehearing in the "Internet Kill Switch" case. EPIC is seeking the release of the public policy that allows the government to suspend cell phone service. The D.C. Circuit previously ruled that DHS may withhold the policy. EPIC pursued the shutdown policy after government officials disabled cell phone service during a peaceful protest in San Francisco. EPIC cited both free speech and public safety concerns and noted that the policy was never subject to public rule making. The Federal Communications Commission recently warned government agencies not to use "jammers," devices that block cell phone signals, because of public safety risks.