April 7, 2014
How the Digital Age Has Eroded Student Privacy

In 1965, when Mary Beth Tinker was 13 years old, she wore a black armband to her junior high school to protest the Vietnam War. The school promptly suspended her, but her protest eventually led to a landmark Supreme Court case: Tinker v. Des Moines. In their verdict, the court vindicated Tinker by saying students do not “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.” The 7-2 ruling ushered in a new era of free speech rights for students. First Amendment advocates basked in the glow of the Tinker decision for decades.
However, the Internet has since complicated the meaning of the ruling, and those same advocates now worry students’ rights to freedom of speech are again under attack. Schools regularly punish students for online comments, even if those comments are made away from school property and after school hours. Although some administrators target cyber-bullies, others punish students whose only offense is posting an online comment that the school doesn’t like.
The situation has inspired Tinker herself to tour the nation’s schools to revive student speech rights, nearly 50 years after her famous protest.
Read more. [Image: Adam Hunger/Reuters]

How the Digital Age Has Eroded Student Privacy

In 1965, when Mary Beth Tinker was 13 years old, she wore a black armband to her junior high school to protest the Vietnam War. The school promptly suspended her, but her protest eventually led to a landmark Supreme Court case: Tinker v. Des Moines. In their verdict, the court vindicated Tinker by saying students do not “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.” The 7-2 ruling ushered in a new era of free speech rights for students. First Amendment advocates basked in the glow of the Tinker decision for decades.

However, the Internet has since complicated the meaning of the ruling, and those same advocates now worry students’ rights to freedom of speech are again under attack. Schools regularly punish students for online comments, even if those comments are made away from school property and after school hours. Although some administrators target cyber-bullies, others punish students whose only offense is posting an online comment that the school doesn’t like.

The situation has inspired Tinker herself to tour the nation’s schools to revive student speech rights, nearly 50 years after her famous protest.

Read more. [Image: Adam Hunger/Reuters]

February 4, 2014
Our Best Weapon Against Revenge Porn: Copyright Law?

Most revenge-porn victims took the photographs themselves—meaning that they own the rights to those selfies.
Read more. [Image: Titian/Rebecca J. Rosen]

Our Best Weapon Against Revenge Porn: Copyright Law?

Most revenge-porn victims took the photographs themselves—meaning that they own the rights to those selfies.

Read more. [Image: Titian/Rebecca J. Rosen]

January 23, 2014
Independent Federal Agency: The Phone Dragnet is Illegal, Shut It Down

The National Security Agency’s practice of collecting and storing data on all phone calls is illegal and should be shut down—that’s the conclusion of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, an independent executive-branch agency. Its board members are empowered to investigate and analyze classified material. They’re the latest independent voice to cast doubt on various NSA claims.
Read more. [Image: Julian Carvajal/Flickr]

Independent Federal Agency: The Phone Dragnet is Illegal, Shut It Down

The National Security Agency’s practice of collecting and storing data on all phone calls is illegal and should be shut down—that’s the conclusion of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, an independent executive-branch agency. Its board members are empowered to investigate and analyze classified material. They’re the latest independent voice to cast doubt on various NSA claims.

Read more. [Image: Julian Carvajal/Flickr]

January 14, 2014
Does America Owe Foreigners Any Privacy?

Domestic spying has been the understandable focus of U.S. citizens and policymakers as Edward Snowden’s disclosures about the NSA made international headlines. But the leaks have given us a fuller understanding of foreign surveillance, too. Abroad, the NSA operates with less oversight and fewer legal constraints. Is it behaving in accordance with America’s interests and values? For the first time, Americans have the ability to make an informed judgment. 
The panel that President Obama convened to study the NSA has already made suggestions for reforming the way that it behaves overseas. Among the “significant steps” they urged to protect the privacy of foreigners: Surveillance of non-Americans should be directed exclusively at protecting national security; shouldn’t attempt to secure commercial gain; shouldn’t target anyone “based solely on that person’s political views or religious convictions;” shouldn’t disseminate information about non-U.S. persons unless it protects national security; and “must be subject to careful oversight” and “the highest degree of transparency” consistent with protecting national security. The panel concluded that absent a specific, compelling showing, the Privacy Act of 1974 should apply to foreigners. 
Read more. [Image: Ivan McClellan Photography/Flickr]

Does America Owe Foreigners Any Privacy?

Domestic spying has been the understandable focus of U.S. citizens and policymakers as Edward Snowden’s disclosures about the NSA made international headlines. But the leaks have given us a fuller understanding of foreign surveillance, too. Abroad, the NSA operates with less oversight and fewer legal constraints. Is it behaving in accordance with America’s interests and values? For the first time, Americans have the ability to make an informed judgment. 

The panel that President Obama convened to study the NSA has already made suggestions for reforming the way that it behaves overseas. Among the “significant steps” they urged to protect the privacy of foreigners: Surveillance of non-Americans should be directed exclusively at protecting national security; shouldn’t attempt to secure commercial gain; shouldn’t target anyone “based solely on that person’s political views or religious convictions;” shouldn’t disseminate information about non-U.S. persons unless it protects national security; and “must be subject to careful oversight” and “the highest degree of transparency” consistent with protecting national security. The panel concluded that absent a specific, compelling showing, the Privacy Act of 1974 should apply to foreigners.

Read more. [Image: Ivan McClellan Photography/Flickr]

January 8, 2014
The NSA Leaks Are About Democracy, Not Privacy

A defense of Edward Snowden-sourced stories that aren’t about spying on Americans.
Read more. [Image: Reuters]

The NSA Leaks Are About Democracy, Not Privacy

A defense of Edward Snowden-sourced stories that aren’t about spying on Americans.

Read more. [Image: Reuters]

December 30, 2013
The Supreme Court Logic That Could Destroy Privacy in America

Many Americans reacted with outrage when they learned that the NSA stores details about phone calls made by virtually everyone in the United States. They felt a strong, if vague, notion that the practice must violate their constitutional rights. Couldn’t NSA analysis of telephone metadata reveal sensitive, private details about most anyone in the country, like their network of friends, the identity of their sexual partners, or their contact with medical or mental health professionals? Aren’t mass searches of innocents anathema to the Fourth Amendment?
The legal response from NSA defenders has leaned heavily on the precedent set in Smith v. Maryland, a Supreme Court case decided in 1979, before the era of big data. 
Read more. [Image: Reuters]

The Supreme Court Logic That Could Destroy Privacy in America

Many Americans reacted with outrage when they learned that the NSA stores details about phone calls made by virtually everyone in the United States. They felt a strong, if vague, notion that the practice must violate their constitutional rights. Couldn’t NSA analysis of telephone metadata reveal sensitive, private details about most anyone in the country, like their network of friends, the identity of their sexual partners, or their contact with medical or mental health professionals? Aren’t mass searches of innocents anathema to the Fourth Amendment?

The legal response from NSA defenders has leaned heavily on the precedent set in Smith v. Maryland, a Supreme Court case decided in 1979, before the era of big data.

Read more. [Image: Reuters]

December 26, 2013
Study: Consumers Will Pay $5 for an App that Respects Their Privacy

Ever since the iPhone came out in 2007, the going rate for many of the most popular apps has been exactly $0.00. Consumers pay nothing.
But of course, nothing is free. Instead, consumers pay with their data, that’s sold to marketers, or with screenspace, which is forked over to make room for ads. It’s a trade consumers are happy to make.
But are they?
A new study from economists at the University of Colorado finds otherwise. It shows that the average consumer would prefer to pay small fees for their apps, in exchange for keeping their information private and their screens uncluttered.
Read more. [Image: Reuters]

Study: Consumers Will Pay $5 for an App that Respects Their Privacy

Ever since the iPhone came out in 2007, the going rate for many of the most popular apps has been exactly $0.00. Consumers pay nothing.

But of course, nothing is free. Instead, consumers pay with their data, that’s sold to marketers, or with screenspace, which is forked over to make room for ads. It’s a trade consumers are happy to make.

But are they?

A new study from economists at the University of Colorado finds otherwise. It shows that the average consumer would prefer to pay small fees for their apps, in exchange for keeping their information private and their screens uncluttered.

Read more. [Image: Reuters]

December 19, 2013
The Latest Weapon in Your Battle for Online Privacy: Duct Tape

Duct tape: You can use it to make wallets. You can use it to remove warts(!). You can use it to hem your pants, to catch pesky flies, to create a makeshift bandage, or, should it come to that, to save your life during an aborted space mission.
And add one more use to the list: Duct tape can also help you to protect your privacy as you use your computer. Maybe even the computer you are using to read these very words right now. Because you know how the camera that’s built into many machines is supposed to indicate its on-ness or off-ness with a light? And how you are taught to assume, quite logically, that an off light means an off camera?
Not always, apparently. 
Read more. [Image: Shutterstock/donfiore and The Atlantic]

The Latest Weapon in Your Battle for Online Privacy: Duct Tape

Duct tape: You can use it to make wallets. You can use it to remove warts(!). You can use it to hem your pants, to catch pesky flies, to create a makeshift bandage, or, should it come to that, to save your life during an aborted space mission.

And add one more use to the list: Duct tape can also help you to protect your privacy as you use your computer. Maybe even the computer you are using to read these very words right now. Because you know how the camera that’s built into many machines is supposed to indicate its on-ness or off-ness with a light? And how you are taught to assume, quite logically, that an off light means an off camera?

Not always, apparently.

Read more. [Image: Shutterstock/donfiore and The Atlantic]

November 15, 2013
"The Seattle Police Department did something amazing this week: After word got out that the department had created a citywide surveillance network without input from community members or a policy to govern the system’s use, the police department agreed to deactivate the whole thing."

Seattle Presses Pause on Its Mass Surveillance Plans (via theatlanticcities)

November 8, 2013
On Sharing Naked Baby Pictures

I have an old friend who is remarkably unguarded and open about himself. He’ll tell you just about anything, even things that would make lesser humans wither with embarrassment. 
We follow each other on Instagram. He has three kids under the age of four, so naturally, his feed consists mostly of their cute little faces. 
Recently, he posted a cute photo of his young ones splashing naked in a kiddie pool. It made me squirm. Not for the image itself—which was as innocent as could be—but because he had an unlocked account. There was a photograph of his naked kids that anybody could access on the Internet. He had, hypothetically, opened up his kids to a globe full of pedophiles. 
Or had he?
Read more. [Image: Alexis Madrigal]

On Sharing Naked Baby Pictures

I have an old friend who is remarkably unguarded and open about himself. He’ll tell you just about anything, even things that would make lesser humans wither with embarrassment. 

We follow each other on Instagram. He has three kids under the age of four, so naturally, his feed consists mostly of their cute little faces. 

Recently, he posted a cute photo of his young ones splashing naked in a kiddie pool. It made me squirm. Not for the image itself—which was as innocent as could be—but because he had an unlocked account. There was a photograph of his naked kids that anybody could access on the Internet. He had, hypothetically, opened up his kids to a globe full of pedophiles. 

Or had he?

Read more. [Image: Alexis Madrigal]

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