Mar 312010
 March 31, 2010  Posted by  Non-U.S., Surveillance, U.S., Youth & Schools

Syma Mohammed and Robert Verkaik report:

Personal information concerning the private lives of almost 1,000 British Muslim university students is to be shared with US intelligence agencies in the wake of the Detroit bomb scare.

The disclosure has outraged Muslim groups and students who are not involved in extremism but have been targeted by police and now fear that their names will appear on international terrorist watch lists. So far, the homes of more than 50 of the students have been visited by police officers, but nobody has been arrested. The case has raised concerns about how the police use the data of innocent people and calls into question the heavy-handed treatment of Muslim students by UK security agencies.

Read more in The Independent.

Mar 312010
 March 31, 2010  Posted by  Breaches, Laws, U.S.

The UPI reports:

The U.S. Social Security Administration plans to propose legislation to ban prisoners from access to data that could be used for identity theft, officials say.

Most states have laws barring inmates in training or work programs from seeing Social Security numbers and other personal data, The Kansas City (Mo.) Star reports. But eight states, including Kansas, do not.

Read more in the St. Louis Globe-Democrat.

Mar 312010
 March 31, 2010  Posted by  Online

As a follow-up to a report that Pete Warden was harvesting social network data discussed here,  Jim Giles reports:

Legal threats from Facebook have led to the destruction of a social science dataset about to be released to researchers.

Lawyers from the social networking site contacted Pete Warden, an entrepreneur based in Boulder, Colorado, in February after he announced plans to release data he had collected from the public profiles of 210 million Facebook users.


Facebook may have lucked out that Warden does not have the resources to fight them, as Giles points out other instances where researchers have used crawler software to capture Facebook data. Facebook’s robots.txt file does not prevent such crawling.

Has the FTC ever looked at the issue of whether failure to at least try to block such crawling constitutes “reasonable security?” I don’t know.

Mar 312010
 March 31, 2010  Posted by  Court, Featured News, Govt, Surveillance, U.S.

Maria Dinzeo reports:

A federal judge ruled has ruled that government spying on a charity called Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation violated federal laws on domestic surveillance.

The government admittedly relied on the surveillance of phone conversations between two of the non-profit’s lawyers and an Al-Haramain director in Saudi Arabia when it designated the group as a terrorist organization associated with Osama bin Laden.

U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker ruled the government’s warrantless wiretapping of the lawyers’ phones violated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.


Walker said Al-Haramain can file a request for damages in an amount to be determined by the court.

The court opinion can be found here.

The Al-Haramain case started in 2006 and has had a bumpy ride in the courts.  Court-related documents and files can be found on EFF’s site.

I’ve only just managed to skim some of the decision, but Judge Walker gets in a few shots at the government, who have consistently tried to do an end run around his rulings. In one passage, Judge Walker writes:

The court also directed defendants to review their classified submissions to date and to determine whether the Sealed Document and/or any of defendants’ classified submissions could be declassified. Upon completion of this review, defendants informed the court that nothing they had filed under seal during the three years in which the case had by then been pending could be declassified. Doc #577/078.

What followed were several months of which the defining feature was defendants’ refusal to cooperate with the court’s orders punctuated by their unsuccessful attempts to obtain untimely appellate review.


In an impressive display of argumentative acrobatics, defendants contend, in essence, that the court’s orders of June 3 and June 5, 2009 setting the rules for these cross-motions make FISA inapplicable and that “the Ninth Circuit’s rulings on the privilege assertion therefore control the summary judgment motions now before the Court.” Doc #672/105 at 6. In other words, defendants contend, this is not a FISA case and defendants are therefore free to hide behind the SSP [state secrets privilege] all facts that could help plaintiffs’ case. In so contending, defendants take a flying leap and miss by a wide margin.


Defendants’ nit-picking of each item of plaintiffs’ evidence, their remarkable insinuation (unsupported by any evidence of their own) that the al-Buthi/al-Timimi intercepts might have been pursuant to a FISA warrant and their insistence that they need proffer nothing in response to plaintiffs’ prima facie case do not amount to an effective opposition to plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment.

Oh yeah, I’m looking forward to reading this decision.

Update 1: EFF’s Kevin Bankston has issued a statement, here.