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Category Archives: Privacy

US DOJ IG Report – Review of the FBI’s Use of Section 215 Orders

FBI’s Use of Section 215 Orders: Assessment of Progress in Implementing Recommendations and Examination of Use in 2007 through 2009, Oversight and Review Division Report 15-05. May 2015. Redacted.

“The Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) announced today the release of a public version of its most recent report examining the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) use of the investigative authority granted by Section 215 of the Patriot Act to obtain business records. The OIG provided a classified version of this report to Congress and to DOJ leadership in February 2015. The report reviews the FBI’s use of Section 215 authority from 2007 through 2009, and also examines the DOJ’s and FBI’s progress in addressing the
recommendations contained in the OIG’s 2008 report on the FBI’s use of Section 215. This is the OIG’s third report since 2007 on the FBI’s use of Section 215 authority.As described in the public version of the report released today, the OIG found that from 2007through 2009 the DOJ, on behalf of the FBI, submitted 51 Section 215 applications to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA Court), all of which were approved. The report notes that the scope of business records sought under Section 215 greatly expanded in response to legislative changes, technological advances, and strategic choices, and that Section 215 orders have been used in investigations of groups comprised of unknown members and to obtain information in bulk concerning persons who are not the subjects of or associated with any FBI investigation. We concluded that these developments require continued and significant oversight by appropriate entities, including the FISA Court and the DOJ’s National Security Division. We also concluded that the DOJ and the FBI have addressed the three recommendations from our 2008 report, but that with respect to one of the recommendations the DOJ should have met its statutory obligation considerably earlier than it did…Section 215 allows the FBI to seek an order from the FISA Court to obtain “any tangible thing,”including books, records, and other items, from anybusiness, organization, or entity, provided the item or items are for an authorized investigation to protect against international terrorismor clandestine intelligence activities. The report publicly released today describes how legislative and technological changes, including society’s increased use of the Internet, have expanded the quality and quantity of electronic information available through the use of Section 215 authority. We found that the FBI has broadened the scope of the materials it has sought, and that the materials produced in response to Section 215 orders range from hard copy reproductions of business ledgers and receipts to gigabytes of metadata and other electronic information. Moreover, Section 215 authority is not limited to requesting information related to the known subjects of specific underlying investigations, and we found that the authority has been used in investigations of groups comprised of unknown members and to obtain information in bulk concerning persons who are not the subjects of or associated with any FBI investigation.”

Inspector General Warns: Significant Oversight of Section 215 Required

EPIC – “The DOJ’s Office of the Inspector General released a report this month detailing the FBI’s use of Section 215 and warning that “significant oversight” is required. The Inspector General describes the FBI’s expanding use of 215 to collect electronic information in bulk and criticized the agency for taking seven years to develop minimizationContinue Reading

Americans’ Attitudes About Privacy, Security and Surveillance

“Two new Pew Research Center surveys explore [the issues of privacy and surveillance] and place them in the wider context of the tracking and profiling that occurs in commercial arenas. The surveys find that Americans feel privacy is important in their daily lives in a number of essential ways. Yet, they have a pervasive sense thatContinue Reading

Tech giants communicate opposition to decrypted data for law enforcement

Washington Post, Ellen Nakashima: “Tech behemoths including Apple and Google and leading cryptologists are urging President Obama to reject any government proposal that alters the security of smartphones and other communications devices so that law enforcement can view decrypted data. In a letter to be sent Tuesday and obtained by The Washington Post, a coalitionContinue Reading

Wham, Bam, Thank You Spam! Don’t Click on the Link!

Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation  – Posted by Paul A. Ferrillo, Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP, May 17, 2015. “It seems that just like in old times (in cyberspace that means last year) the existence of “snake-oil” salesmen on the Internet is getting worse, not better. Rather than selling somethingContinue Reading

UK government rewrites law to permit GCHQ hacking

Privacy International – May 15, 2015: The Government has quietly ushered through legislation amending the anti-hacking laws to exempt GCHQ from prosecution. Privacy International and other parties were notified of this just hours prior to a hearing of their claim against GCHQ’s illegal hacking operations in the Investigatory Powers Tribunal. In its legal filings, sentContinue Reading

Guardian – How we sold our souls – and more – to the internet giants

Bruce Schneier – Adapted from Data and Goliath by Bruce Schneier, published by Norton Book  – Last year, when my refrigerator broke, the repair man replaced the computer that controls it. I realised that I had been thinking about the refrigerator backwards: it’s not a refrigerator with a computer, it’s a computer that keeps foodContinue Reading

EFF Case Analysis: Appeals Court Rules NSA Phone Records Dragnet is Illegal

Andrew Crocker – “We now have the first decision from a court of appeals on the NSA’s mass surveillance program involving bulk collection of telephone records under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, and it’s a doozy. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit issued an opinion in ACLU v. Clapper holding thatContinue Reading

Librarians Versus the NSA

Via The Nation – Librarians Versus the NSA – Your local library is on the front lines against government surveillance, Zoë Carpenter “Alison Macrina had bad news for the 30 or so librarians in the darkened auditorium on a recent Friday. “Your password is bad,” she informed them. “I’m really sorry. Everything you’ve learned aboutContinue Reading

Federal Appeals Court Strikes Down NSA Bulk Record Collection Program

EPIC – “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.” TheContinue Reading

What Every Librarian Needs to Know About HTTPS

EFF – “Librarians have long understood that to provide access to knowledge it is crucial to protect their patrons’ privacy. Books can provide information that is deeply unpopular. As a result, local communities and governments sometimes try to ban the most objectionable ones. Librarians rightly see it as their duty to preserve access to books,Continue Reading

EPIC Launches State Policy Project

“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 studentContinue Reading