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What’s the Harm? CDT Comments to FTC Highlight Informational Injury Considerations

On Friday, CDT submitted comments to the Federal Trade Commission in advance of its December 2017 workshop exploring the contours of informational injury. Privacy violations are often highly contextual, making injury resulting from them difficult for individuals to evaluate and regulators like the FTC to quantify. Despite this practical challenge, the Commission can harness its existing tools to protect individuals from privacy harm; in our comments, we argue that the FTC should aggressively use its Section 5 unfairness powers to police business practices that create informational injury.

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Supreme Court Cases That Should Be Getting More Attention

In the midst of an exciting Supreme Court session, there are two significant cases awaiting a cert decision that have thus far generated surprisingly little media buzz considering the important questions they raise: Antonio Rios v. United States and Mohamed Osman Mohamud v. United States. Both present the Supreme Court an opportunity to resolve fraught privacy and civil liberties issues.

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EC Will Not Push For Encryption “Backdoors”, But Member States Might

The European Commission (EC) announced this week a package of counter-terrorism measures as part of its European Agenda on Security initiative. These include, among other things, “measures to support law enforcement and judicial authorities when they encounter the use of encryption in criminal investigations”. It is heartening that the EC restates its recognition of encryption as a crucial element in ensuring both cybersecurity and the right level of security for processing personal data. We welcome the explicit realisation that backdoors, or any form of weakening online security, would have disastrous consequences for online communications and commerce.

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Urgent Fix Needed: USA Liberty Act Needs To Better Focus Surveillance Under FISA 702

Last week, a bipartisan group of House Judiciary Committee members introduced the first bill to reform Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act, H.R. 3989, also known as the USA Liberty Act. It contains many important provisions, including an end to the collection of communications to which the surveillance target is not even party. However, it fails to limit the scope of 702 surveillance and therefore permits the surveillance of people far removed from anti-terrorism goals its proponents cite. In fact, it authorizes surveillance of people engaged in harmless activity.

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DHS’s Misguided Social Media Retention Policy Jeopardizes Fundamental Freedoms

Last month, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued an alarming notice that DHS would now retain social media information in Alien-Files (A-Files). A-Files are government records, generated in the immigration context, that include the records of an individual as they pass through the United States immigration process, and are retained by DHS for 100 years after the individual’s birthdate. This retention of social media information should not be brushed off as ‘business as usual’ for DHS. This policy, and its negative consequences for the free expression and privacy rights of both immigrants and U.S. citizens.

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Ethics, Consequence, and Free Speech Online

As the pace of technology increases, the definition of “the internet” is ever changing (e.g., the IoT space, virtual reality, etc.), so trying to nail down what should and shouldn’t be protected speech quickly becomes a bit of a harrowing task for any individual citizen. That doesn’t mean we should stop trying. Playwright Jennifer Haley’s remarks at our Future of Speech Online event highlighted the fact that these aren’t just decisions to be made in a vacuum.

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