Join #MassOps, Restore the Fourth, and the Massachusetts Pirates on Sunday, August 4th (19-8/4) in the SW Corridor Park behind Boston Police HQ and the Boston Regional Intelligence Center (BRIC), just round the corner from the Ruggles T stop on the Orange Line. There will be food, training in cryptographic techniques, barbecue, and a series of great speakers.
Confirmed speakers include: Alex Marthews – President, Digital Fourth (that’d be me); Kinetic Theorist – Founder, MassOps; Chris Faraone – Journalist, Author, Mensch; Nadeem Mazen – Candidate, Cambridge City Council; Kade Crockford – ACLU activist; Jeffrey Nunes – Occupy activist; (Name withheld by request) – Activist targeted by the BRIC; Steve Revilak – Quartermaster, Mass Pirate Party; Joan Livingston – Veterans for Peace; Dan Consigli – Student;
From 5pm-6pm, the Mass Pirates will hold a “Cryptoparty”. Bring your laptops and find out how to protect yourself and your data from the surveillance state; if you have them, bring binoculars (quis custodet ipsos custodes?).
For background on the fusion centers issue, and on how they spy on innocent Boston residents and label them as extremists, see our previous reporting here.
In a week of devastating disclosures about government surveillance, here’s one ray of light.
The ACLU of Massachusetts reports the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court‘s verdict in Commonwealth v. Rousseau. In separate trials, John Rousseau and Michael Dreslinski were each convicted of four charges relating to a spree of burning and vandalizing properties. As part of their case, law enforcement had obtained a warrant to place a GPS tracker on Dreslinski’s truck for 15 days, which was then renewed twice. Two issues came up: whether GPS tracking needed a warrant anyway, and whether Rousseau had standing to challenge the warrant as he had no property interest in Dreslinski’s car.
Continue reading Ray of Light in Massachusetts: Supreme Judicial Court Rules in Commonwealth v. Rousseau that GPS Tracking Requires Probable Cause, Mere Fact of Surveillance Establishes Standing
One of the curious things about digitization is that it allows data to be circulated and shared almost effortlessly. New, cheap ways of sharing and storing data can turn data collection that was previously quite innocent into a serious threat to our ability to be free from government surveillance.
Historically, the law has recognized no constitutional issue with law enforcement collection of license plate numbers, because cars are normally out in public when the numbers are collected. But what happens if cop cars can collect every license plate from every car they pass, moving or parked; check the plate against a database of outstanding warrants; link them to GPS coordinates; and retain the records of which car was where forever, so that they can retrospectively construct a map of your movements?
Well, folks, that bright new day is here. The devices are called “automated license plate readers”, or ALPRs for short. And the ACLU of Massachusetts is supporting a bill that tries to grapple with their implications, and that received its first Joint Committee on Transportation hearing on May 16.
Continue reading Microscope Monday: Analysis of Massachusetts’ proposed License Plate Privacy Act, H 3068 / S 1648
Scott Thistle at the Bangor Daily News reports that the Maine Senate is now considering a bill regulating the use of drones.
The bill is the result of consultations including legislators of both parties, the ACLU of Maine, and the Defense of Liberty PAC. It imposes a one-year moratorium on the use of drones by law enforcement in Maine, “except in emergencies”, pending a report from the Maine Criminal Justice Academy on how they could be used. However, the ACLU of Maine is unhappy with the version that has just passed out of the Judiciary Committee on a 7-6 vote, because it would in some circumstances allow police to operate drones without getting a Fourth Amendment compliant warrant. According to Thistle, the bill also does not make clear whether a drone could collect incidental footage that could later be used against a person other than the suspect detailed in a warrant.
There is also a Drone Privacy Act making its way through the Massachusetts legislature, though it is at an earlier stage and has the ACLU of Massachusetts’ strong support.
Perhaps the reason why the Maine bill has lost the support of the ACLU of Maine is that the “emergency exceptions” where a warrant is not required are rather broader in the Maine bill than in the Massachusetts bill. In Maine, the exceptions even include “conspiratorial activity that threatens the national security interest or is characteristic of organized crime”, which is vague, non-imminent, and broad enough to drive a truck through. The Massachusetts bill does not contain exceptions for those things.
Shenna Bellows, executive director of the ACLU of Maine, also objects to letting the police-run Criminal Justice Academy set the detailed rules for drone use. She states the problem plainly enough:
“The ACLU thinks that law enforcement should have a warrant before spying on Mainers with a drone and the [attorney general] does not. That’s the one issue where we cannot compromise.”
Good on you, Ms. Bellows. You have our full support.
Have you ever wondered why your Mondays have become an unending bliss of delight, falling upon you like Zeus visiting Danae in a shower of gold? It must surely be because of Microscope Monday, your weekly look at notable surveillance-related bills on Beacon Hill.
This week’s bill, tying in with our new Campaign to Close the Fusion Centers, is “An Act to protect freedom of speech and association”, more conveniently referred to as the “Free Speech Act”. The bill updates last legislative session’s “Act to protect privacy and personal data”, covered in October 2012 on this blog here. It was proposed by Assistant Majority Leader Sen. Harriette Chandler (D-Worcester) and Rep. Jason Lewis (D-Winchester). Its basic purpose is to deal with the fallout from the Policing Dissent scandal, where the Boston Police Department, in concert with the Boston Regional Intelligence Center, was found to have been spying on peaceful groups like Veterans for Peace and defining them as “extremists.” Protesters, including one person I knew, were hauled in and interrogated about their associates, without any actual crime having been committed.
We’re glad to see some action being taken to deal with these problems. But, what does the bill actually say?
[Previous Microscope Mondays covered: the Electronic Privacy Bill; the Drone Privacy Bill; and the infamous Act Updating the Wire Interception Law.]
Continue reading Microscope Monday: Analysis of Massachusetts’ proposed Free Speech Act, S. 642 / H. 1357