The Seventh Circuit just handed down a landmark opinion, ruling 3-0 that the Fourth Amendment protects energy-consumption data collected by smart meters. Smart meters collect energy usage data at high frequencies—typically every 5, 15, or 30 minutes—and therefore know exactly how much electricity is being used, and when, in any given household. The court recognized that data from these devices reveals intimate details about what’s going on inside the home that would otherwise be unavailable to the government without a physical search. The court held that residents have a reasonable expectation of privacy in this data and that the government’s access of it constitutes a “search.” This case, Naperville Smart Meter Awareness v. City of Naperville, is the first case addressing whether the Fourth Amendment protects smart meter data.
(CD) — In a decision that digital rights advocates called “a groundbreaking victory for Americans’ privacy rights,” the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Friday that police generally must obtain a warrant before collecting cellphone records that can be used to track a person’s movements. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which represented the petitioner, predicted the “historic” win “will have a ripple effect for privacy,” particularly as it applies to data held by third parties. As the group explained in a series of tweets, “It will help protect all sorts of digital information stored online, from emails to data from smart home appliances.”
By Whitney Webb for Mint Press News - Ever since Edward Snowden helped reveal the true extent of the National Security Agency’s (NSA) massive spying program, U.S. politicians have attempted to “fix” the program’s gross violations of the Fourth Amendment with legislation. While some legislative efforts were “fake fixes,” others were well-meaning but have fallen short, as legislators still lack key information regarding how the government interprets and uses Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and Section 215 of the Patriot Act to legally justify its dragnet collection of citizen phone records and other information. Indeed, over the past four years, Congress has been stonewalled by the NSA in its attempts to learn more about the program. The NSA has repeatedly refused even to estimate how many Americans are spied on by the agency’s most invasive programs and has even refused to reveal whether it spies on members of Congress or other elected officials in the United States. Despite the NSA’s failure to cooperate, Congress is again attempting to rein in the agency’s internet surveillance program, as its key legislative underpinning is set to expire by year’s end. The newly introduced bill, titled the USA Liberty Act, seeks to address the worst of the program’s abuses while also reauthorizing some aspects of the program to continue for another six years.
By Mark Joseph Stern for The Slate - The Supreme Court issued an extraordinarily disappointing 5–3 decision on Monday in Utah v. Strieff, a Fourth Amendment case about police searches. Yet the terrible ruling came with a bright spot: In a powerful and groundbreaking dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor lambasted the majority for its heartless and illogical rejection of Fourth Amendment freedoms, invoking the Justice Department’s Ferguson report, echoing Black Lives Matter, and even citing Ta-Nehisi Coates.
The Justice Department released two decade-old memos Friday night, offering the fullest public airing to date of the Bush administration’s legal justification for the warrantless wiretapping of Americans’ phone calls and e-mails — a program that began in secret after the 2001 terrorist attacks. The broad outlines of the argument — that the president has inherent constitutional power to monitor Americans’ communications without a warrant in a time of war — were known, but the sweep of the reasoning becomes even clearer in the memos written by then-Assistant Attorney General Jack Goldsmith, who was head of President George W. Bush’s Office of Legal Counsel. “We conclude only that when the nation has been thrust into an armed conflict by a foreign attack on the United States and the president determines in his role as commander in chief . . . that it is essential for defense against a further foreign attack to use the [wiretapping] capabilities of the [National Security Agency] within the United States, he has inherent constitutional authority” to order warrantless wiretapping — “an authority that Congress cannot curtail,” Goldsmith wrote in a redacted 108-page memo dated May 6, 2004.