ICE Releases Documents Detailing Electronic Surveillance Problems . . . and then Demands Them Back a Year Later
November 5, 2012 | By Jennifer Lynch
This is a first for us in all of EFF’s history of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) litigation—Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has demanded we return records it gave us more than a year ago. The release of these documents doesn’t endanger national security or create a risk to an ongoing law enforcement investigation. Instead, it seems that ICE simply wants to stymie further FOIA requests from EFF as we try to get answers about the government’s electronic surveillance procedures.
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It took ICE almost a year to get back to us on the narrowed request, and when it did, its response was frustrating. Not only did the agency decide that it would still be too burdensome to conduct any kind of a search for similar records, but ICE also told us it never should have turned over the original records in the first place—and it wanted them back. The problem for ICE is, these records have already been in the public’s hands for over six months—we filed them as an exhibit (pdf) in our FOIA litigation (pdf) in March 2012, and they’re readily available on the PACER docket for the case (or from the Internet Archive).
This is yet another example of the federal government failing to comply with the letter and spirit of the Freedom of Information Act—reverting to secrecy when it should be promoting transparency. It’s hard to imagine what harm could come from the release of these documents. ICE was careful to block out any information in the records that would identify the target of the investigation, and the information that isn’t blocked out seems to reinforce the government’s position on CALEA.
And it’s another disappointment from an administration that lauded its commitment to transparency on the first day the President took office four years ago. We can only hope that if the President wins this tight election, he’ll use the next four years to fulfill this commitment.
Data Disclosure Guidance
The Privacy Technical Assistance Center invites you to attend a webinar focused on the latest guidance provided by the U.S. Department of Education in the area of Data Disclosure. The webinar is scheduled for Wednesday, November 7th at 1:30 PM ET. The Department and PTAC will provide an overview of the guidance documents around Data Disclosure avoidance and best practice strategies for protecting personally identifiable information from education records (PII) in aggregate reports. The webinar will provide suggestions on how to ensure that necessary confidentiality requirements are met, including compliance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). Michael Hawes, Statistical Privacy Advisor for the U.S. Department of Education and Baron Rodriguez from the Privacy Technical Assistance Center will present.
For your reference, the three guidance documents released are available on the PTAC website:
Frequently Asked Questions – Disclosure Avoidance
Case Study #5 – Minimizing Access to PII: Best Practices for Access Controls and Disclosure Avoidance Techniques
Data De-identification: An Overview of Basic Terms
The network political departments get busy and, in short order, discover that the machines used in Hamilton County, Ohio—the county home of Cincinnati— are supplied by Hart Intercivic, a national provider of voting systems in use in a wide variety of counties scattered throughout the states of Texas, Oklahoma, Hawaii, Colorado and Ohio.
A quick Internet search reveals that there may be reason for concern.
A test conducted in 2007 by the Ohio Secretary of State revealed that five of the electronic voting systems the state was looking to use in the upcoming 2008 presidential election had failed badly, each easily susceptible to chicanery that could alter the results of an election.
As reported in the New York Times, “At polling stations, teams working on the study were able to pick locks to access memory cards and use hand-held devices to plug false vote counts into machines. At boards of election, they were able to introduce malignant software into servers.”
We learn that one of the companies whose machines had failed was none other than Hart Intercivic.
Tony Tamer, H.I.G.’s founder, turns out to be a major bundler for the Mitt Romney campaign, along with three other directors of H.I.G. who are also big-time money raisers for Romney.
Indeed, as fate would have it, two of those directors—Douglas Berman and Brian Schwartz— were actually in attendance at the now infamous “47 percent” fundraiser in Boca Raton, Florida.
Measuring Broadband America, that gauges residential broadband performance.
Agency aims to rate mobile broadband service performance across the U.S.
September 06, 2012
How fast is data access on your smartphone? The Federal Communications Commission wants to find out.
The agency announced plans Wednesday to measure the performance of wireless broadband services across the country. Under the program, called Measuring Mobile America, the FCC will work with major wireless carriers, research and public interest groups, and other parties to assess the performance of wireless services.
The program will be modeled after an existing initiative, Measuring Broadband America, that gauges residential broadband performance. In a report released in July, the FCC said consumers have used the data generated by that program for comparison shopping, leading to increased competition among service providers.
According to the FCC, the residential broadband survey has led to improvements in three areas: Internet service providers (ISPs) are making more accurate promises about network performance; ISPs are more consistent in delivering promised speeds; and consumers are subscribing to higher-speed tiers. [SNIP]