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Tech Talk: Not All VPNs are Created Equal and How to Make Ethical Algorithms

CDT’s Tech Talk is a podcast where we dish on tech and Internet policy, while also explaining what these policies mean to our daily lives. In this episode, we take a look at CDT’s complaint to the FTC about a VPN service that promises privacy, but is falling short of that promise. We also find out about an online resource for developers of algorithms that helps them program in ethical outcomes.

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The Vulnerabilities Equities Process: Is Congress Getting Ready to Provide Transparency and Regulation?

The Vulnerabilities Equities Process has been subject to policy debates over the last few years, but this fall Congress may act on the topic for the first time. Despite making incredibly important decisions, the VEP has generally been ignored by Congress, but two new legislative proposals would provide oversight, and in one case, light reforms.

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Hotspot Shield VPN's Privacy and Security Promises Contradict Practices

As detailed in the complaint CDT filed today with the FTC, we believe Hotspot Shield Free VPN has employed unfair and deceptive trade practices. Among other concerns, the complaint details the ways in which Hotspot Shield’s marketing claims around privacy and security directly contradict its actual practices and policies. VPNs should be in the business of giving individuals a real option for confidential internet activity, and should not use deceptive claims to expose internet users to security risks or prey upon their limited ability to compare services.

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The Bill Our Privacy Desperately Needs in the Digital Age

Senators Mike Lee (R-UT) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) have introduced a sweeping, bipartisan measure to modernize our electronic communication privacy laws. Lee and Leahy have long been champions of reform, advancing measures such as the Email Privacy Act. The ECPA Modernization Act of 2017 goes well beyond that effort and proposes important updates to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) – a law Senator Leahy helped draft more than 30 years ago – to address the reality of communications in the modern digital age.

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Broad Support for the ECPA Modernization Act

Senators Mike Lee (R-UT) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) have introduced a sweeping, bipartisan measure to modernize our electronic communication privacy laws, the ECPA Modernization Act of 2017. There is broad support for this bill and we have collected statements that demonstrate that support.

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DHS Refuses to Back Away from Invasive Spying at the Border

Back in March, CDT, along with more than 50 other civil society groups and trade associations, wrote a letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly urging that he back away from DHS proposals to use border searches as a tool to collect passwords and other social media information. Today we received a response. Unfortunately, the reply largely ducks our concerns, ignoring the main issues at play and doing little to shed light on the government’s plans or put to rest controversy about its contentious proposal. This non-answer is deeply troubling because it seems to indicate that Customs and Border Protection (CBP, which is a sub agency of DHS) is doing nothing to change course from a recent, dangerous trend: the use of the U.S. border as a tool to conduct broad surveillance.

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Finding a Path Forward When Law Enforcement Needs Digital Evidence Held in Other Nations

Last week in United States vs. Microsoft, the Department of Justice (DOJ) petitioned the Supreme Court to decide the reach of the U.S. government when compelling U.S. companies to turn over data stored outside the U.S. Courts are divided on the issue. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals held that the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) cannot reach extraterritorially. Magistrates in other circuits have disagreed, interpreting the search as occurring where a company discloses data, not where the data is seized. However, what no one disputes is that as the number of requests skyrockets, the system for accessing data across borders is deeply in need of reform, and that courts are ill-suited to tackle the complicated equities at stake. CDT argues that progress can be made through reforms in following four areas: bilateral agreements, the MLAT system, domestic U.S. law, and the adoption of certain legal changes.

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Time to Permanently End NSA’s “About” Searches In Communications Content under FISA 702

Recently, the government released a significant FISA Court opinion discussing one of the NSA’s most controversial surveillance programs under FISA Section 702: the practice of searching the content of communications for references “about” a target instead of collecting communications that are just to or from a target. The court found egregious violations of the privacy rules designed…

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House Judiciary Committee Demonstrates Strong Interest in Privacy

Last week, CDT’s Vice President for Policy, Chris Calabrese, testified before the House Judiciary Committee on the Department of Justice’s proposal to amend U.S. privacy laws to permit foreign governments to request data directly from U.S. companies without going through American courts. The current proposal does not sufficiently cover four key points. Importantly, multiple representatives shared our concerns over the current government proposal.

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