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Latest News - June 13, 2009

Sotomayor Nomination Hearings To Begin July 13

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy has set Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s Supreme Court nomination hearings for July 13. Judge Sotomayor is currently a Judge for the Second Circuit and was formerly a District Court judge in New York. EPIC has launched a new web page providing background on the nomination process, brief summaries of Sotomayor’s opinions that are relevant to privacy law, and various commentaries.

Rep. Markey, Paul Smith, D.J. Caruso Receive 2009 EPIC Champion of Freedom Awards

On the occasion of EPIC's 15th anniversary, EPIC awarded the 2009 Champion of Freedom Awards to Congressman Edward Markey, Supreme Court litigator Paul M. Smith and Hollywood director and producer D.J. Caruso. Slate Supreme Court correspondent Dahlia Lithwick emceed the event. Congressman Markey is a leading champion of privacy protections for all Americans. Paul Smith, a partner with Jenner & Block, has argued groundbreaking cases in the Supreme Court, defending privacy, freedom of expression, and voting rights. D.J. Caruso is the director of the hit movie Eagle Eye, about identification, automation, and surveillance in Washington D.C. Calling the award "an incredible honor", Caruso thanked the people at EPIC who "dedicate their lives to educating Americans and preserving our right to privacy."

EPIC Calls on FCC to Continue Privacy Commitments for Broadband Deployment

In response to a request from the Federal Communication Commission concerning the future of the US Broadband Infrastructure, EPIC urged the FCC to secure the privacy interests of consumers and Internet users. EPIC recommended the Commission desist from collecting personal information, adopt robust privacy safeguards, avoid use of Deep Packet Inspection, and require protections for electronic medical records. EPIC noted the long tradition of establishing privacy protections as new communications technologies emerged in the United States. EPIC previously advocated for the FCC to require strong privacy safeguards for telephone customers' personal information, and protect wireless subscribers from telemarketing. See EPIC's page on CPNI and Deep Packet Inspection and Privacy.

Obama Administration Recommends that Supreme Court Preserve California Financial Privacy Law, Dismiss Bankers' Appeal

In a filing this week, the Department of Justice urged the nation's highest court to leave intact California's financial privacy law, saying the law does not impose hardships on banks. The California law provides strong financial privacy safeguards, including the right to curtail sale of personal information by financial firms to affiliated companies, and to bar the sale of data to non-affiliates unless consumers explicitly "opt-in." A consortium of financial services companies have challenged the law and, in December 2008, asked the Supreme Court to consider the case. The firms argued that the California statute conflicts with other federal rules. The Supreme Court requested the Administration's view on the case, and has often followed the Department's opinions. Earlier in the litigation, EPIC urged a federal appeals court to uphold the California privacy law. For more information, see EPIC's ABA v. Brown and Privacy and Preemption Watch pages.

Congress Approves Bill Limiting TSA's Use of Whole-Body Imaging

Today, the House approved a bill that will limit the use of Whole-Body Imaging machines, installed by the Transportation Security Administration, in US airports. The devices photograph American air travelers stripped naked and could easily be programmed to record images. Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) sponsored the bill that will prohibit the use of the devices as the sole or primary method of screening aircraft passengers; require that passengers be provided information on the operation of such technology and offered a pat-down search in lieu of such screening; and prohibit the storage of an image of a passenger after a boarding determination is made. EPIC launched a campaign and a Facebook Group seeking to raise public awareness about Whole Body Imaging. See EPIC's Backscatter X-ray, Whole Body Imaging, and Air Travel Privacy pages.

Administration Moves to Second Phase of Open Government Directive

Last week, the White House received public comments in the First Phase of its open government proposal, "Brainstorming." The next phase, "Discussion," invites comments focusing on several transparency themes: principles, governance, access, data, and operations, to be followed by a series of posts on participation and collaboration. In the first phase, EPIC made five recommendations to promote government transparency and accountability. See EPIC's page on Open Government.

Congress Holds Open Markup Session on Data Breach Bill

The Committee on Energy and Commerce held an open markup session on the Data Breach Bill. The Chairman of the subcommittee intends to have a law that is strong and adequately protects consumers. EPIC testified before Congress on this bill, which requires security policies for consumer information, regulates the information broker industry, and establishes a national breach notification law. For more information, see EPIC's page on Identity Theft.

EPIC Endorses Better Approaches on Government Transparency

In response to President Obama's plan to develop a new open government policy, EPIC submitted comments recommending that users are not tracked on government sites; promoting open government; allowing meaningful public participation in government decisions; stopping commercialization of personal data; and the application of Privacy Act to all data collected by the Government. See also EPIC's page on Open Government and consider purchasing EPIC's FOIA litigation manual.

EPIC Urges Privacy Protections for Government's Use of Social Media

The DHS Privacy Office is seeking public comments on developing best practices on the government's use of social media. EPIC submitted comments on the benefits, issues and privacy best practices. EPIC recommended Privacy Act protections to the data collected, prohibit commercialization and sharing, and the use of a model certification system. See also EPIC's page on Social Networking Privacy, Network Advertising Initiative, and Deep Packet Inspection and Privacy..

EPIC Urges Homeland Security to Stop Digital Strip-Searches

EPIC sent a letter to the Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, urging the suspension of the Whole Body Imaging program. The devices would capture detailed naked images of all passengers at US airports. EPIC and thirty organizations asked Napolitano to begin a formal rulemaking and investigate less invasive means of screening. EPIC has also launched a campaign and established a Facebook Group to stop the program. See EPIC's Backscatter X-ray, Whole Body Imaging, and Air Travel Privacy pages.

EPIC Submits Comments on Health Breach Notification to the FTC

The Federal Trade Commission proposed a rule requiring notification when the security of medical information is compromised. EPIC recommends that all entities handling health records be subject to standard security; tightening exemptions for de-identified data, enhancing media notification of health data breaches, ensuring additional breach notification through means such as text messages and social networking sites, and verification of receipt of notifications. See also EPIC's Page on Medical Privacy.

Despite Privacy Objections, Enhanced Identity Documents Required for Travel

The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative went into effect today despite substantial privacy and security risks. The federal government now requires US citizens to present identity documents when entering the US. These documents incorporate RFID technology that jeopardizes the privacy and security of US travelers. EPIC has previously urged the State Department to abandon the proposal. Senator Leahy has also criticized the program. See also EPIC's Spotlight on Surveillance.

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