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Oakland Shows Leadership in Passing Strong Surveillance Law

Ubiquitous surveillance has the potential to chill speech, limit our freedom of association, and disrupt the personal boundaries we should enjoy, even while in public. The city of Oakland recognized this and has demonstrated great leadership in recently passing a strong surveillance oversight law. The law gives fundamental oversight abilities to Oakland citizens for the technology that could be used by the government to monitor them.

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Courts Step in to Protect Constitutional Rights at the Border

Twice this week courts have pushed back against suspicionless, warrantless searches of digital devices at the border, in Alassad v. Neilsen in the First Circuit and United States v. Kolsuz in the Fourth Circuit. In both cases plaintiffs argued that warrantless searches of their digital devices at the border violated their Fourth Amendment rights. Alassad survived a motion to dismiss and the the federal appellate court in Kolsuz determined that under the Fourth Amendment, U.S. border authorities cannot search travelers’ cell phones and other electronic devices without individualized suspicion of wrongdoing.

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Ethically Scraping and Accessing Data: Governments Desperately Seeking Data

As cities get smarter, their appetite and access to information is also increasing. The rise of data-generating technologies has given government agencies unprecedented opportunities to harness useful, real-time information about citizens. But governments often lack dedicated expertise and resources to collect, analyze, and ultimately turn such data into actionable information, and so have turned to private-sector companies and academic researchers to get at this information. As the maze of partnerships among public officials, private companies, academics, and independent researchers becomes more tangled, a clear path out of the status quo may be challenging. On-demand platforms, as they continue to disrupt local economies, continue to be a significant flashpoint.

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Can Cybersecurity Tech Accord Really Curb State Actions?

Guest Post: Thirty-four leading global technology firms announced a new private-sector agreement intended to curb the worst excesses of state behavior in the cyber domain, and to improve the general state of global computer network security. The agreement is a worthwhile effort. It indicates that the private-sector is prepared to take some responsibility for actual and potential harms enabled by their business operations. However, it places firms in clear opposition to states, and commits these companies to taking steps that governments may interpret as inhibiting their legitimate prerogatives in the conduct of foreign policy.

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CDT Urges Court to Uphold Fourth Amendment Protections for Email Content

Recently, CDT joined the Electronic Frontier Foundation, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and the Brennan Center for Justice in a brief to argue that a user’s Fourth Amendment rights in email content do not expire when an email service provider terminates a user’s account pursuant to its terms of service. The government must still obtain a warrant prior to searching that user’s email account. The case is United States v. Ackerman, in which a district court determined – based on those facts – that a warrant was unnecessary to access email content because termination of the account vitiated the account holder’s reasonable expectation of privacy in his email. The case was appealed and we filed an amicus brief opposing this holding.

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