Activists are making a last-minute push to get an email privacy bill passed this congressional session, in the hopes they can reform a law that allows the FBI and local police to obtain Americans' emails without a warrant.
The 1986 law, called the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, was a first shot at providing some sort of protection for online messages. But in many cases, it requires law enforcement officials only to state they need an email for an investigation, not to persuade a judge they have probable cause for a warrant.
"Law enforcement doesn't need a warrant to access email that's older than 180 days," said Chris Calabrese, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, who further noted how far this power extends. "Our private communications are accessible to local police, state police, the FBI at a very low legal standard. We're not talking about the [National Security Agency] here."
The ACLU and a long list of others -- from civil liberties advocates to library organizations to social media sites -- have declared Thursday a national day of action on email privacy. They're pressing to collect signatures for a White House petition advocating passage of a pair of House and Senate bills that would add a warrant requirement to the 1986 law. The petition, which seeks to reach 100,000 signatures by Dec. 12, calls on the Obama administration to support the reform.
Without a public push, the email privacy legislation might not get full floor votes this year. The Senate bill, sponsored by Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), has already passed committee, and a House version, sponsored by Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-Kan.), has more than 150 sponsors.
Also on HuffPost:
The Japanese government counter-terrorism practice of <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2007/11/20/us-japan-fingerprinting-idUST23858020071120" target="_hplink">fingerprinting foreigners who enter the country</a> may have inspired Doctor Tsutomu Matsumoto to invent "fingerprinting gels", a way of <a href="http://cryptome.org/gummy.htm" target="_hplink">faking fingerprints for scanners</a>. <a href="http://www.dansdata.com/uareu.htm" target="_hplink">Learn how</a> to make your own here.
White Noise Generator
Worried someone around you is <a href="http://articles.businessinsider.com/2011-07-28/strategy/29998051_1_bank-employee-consent-conversation" target="_hplink">secretly recording everything you do?</a> No fear! There's a relatively low-tech way to defeat such snoops, via white-noise-producing <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Productive-Home-Security-Prducts-Jammer/dp/B002PJ7PYS" target="_hplink">audio jammers</a>. These tiny devices use white noise to blur the sound picked up by hidden microphones and other surreptitious recording devices.
Hidden cameras got you down? Blind them all with a simple baseball cap lined with infrared LEDs. <a href="http://creator.wonderhowto.com/amiehold/" target="_hplink">Amie, a hacker on WonderHowTo</a>, shows the world <a href="http://mods-n-hacks.wonderhowto.com/how-to/make-infrared-mask-hide-your-face-from-cameras-201280/#" target="_hplink">how to make one</a>, while <a href="http://translate.google.com/translate?u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.oberwelt.de%2Fprojects%2F2008%2FFilo%2520art.htm&langpair=de%7Cen&hl=en&ie=UTF8" target="_hplink">this German art exhibition</a> lays out how these ingenious devices work.
These receivers reveal the telltale electronic crackle of hidden mics and cameras. Strangely enough, they were around long before "surveillance culture" became a <a href="http://digitalcommons.law.yale.edu/ylsspps_papers/64/" target="_hplink">common phrase</a>. Today they're sold in all sorts of <a href="http://www.gadget-playground.com/bug-detection.html" target="_hplink">shops for surveillance paranoids</a>.
Sometimes hiding your face isn't enough; sometimes you don't want to be seen at all. For those days, there's camera maps. The <a href="http://www.mediaeater.com/cameras/locations.html " target="_hplink">NYC Surveillance Camera Project</a> in the US is currently working to document the location of and working status of every security camera in New York City. <a href="http://bigbrotheriswatching.co.uk/Anpr_Camera_Locations.html" target="_blank">A similar project</a> is also in progress in the UK.
Credit to artist <a href="http://ahprojects.com/" target="_hplink">Adam Harvey</a> for this one. Inspired by the <a href="http://www.bobolinkbooks.com/Camoupedia/DazzleCamouflage.html" target="_hplink">"dazzle camouflage" </a>used on submarines and warships during World War I, he designed a series of face paint principles meant to fool the facial recognition schemas of security cameras. Check out <a href="http://dismagazine.com/dystopia/evolved-lifestyles/8115/anti-surveillance-how-to-hide-from-machines/ " target="_hplink">The Perilous Glamour of Life Under Surveillance</a> for some tips on designing your own camera-fooling face paint.
Disposable mobile phones <a href="http://www.amazon.co.uk/Pre-Pay-Mobile-Phones-Communication/s?ie=UTF8&page=1&rh=n%3A10394961" target="_blank">are more expensive than you think</a>, but they don't require personal information when you sign up.
Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) chips are now <a href="http://electronics.howstuffworks.com/gadgets/high-tech-gadgets/rfid.htm" target="_hplink">regularly implanted</a> in passports, ID cards, credit cards and travel papers. These tiny chips make machine-reading your documents easier -- but could also let anyone with the right type of scanner <a href="http://articles.cnn.com/2006-07-10/tech/rfid_1_rfid-industry-rfid-journal-rfid-chips?_s=PM:TECH " target="_hplink">scrape your information <em>and</em> track your whereabouts</a>. Luckily, gadget geeks have come to the rescue again, this time with<a href="http://www.thinkgeek.com/product/8cdd/" target="_hplink"> RFID-blocking wallets</a>. These wallets create a Faraday cage around your items, keeping their data secure until you take them out to be scanned where they're supposed to be scanned. Destroying the chip is simpler: <a href="http://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-blockkill-RFID-chips/" target="_hplink">just nuke it in the microwave for five seconds</a>. Of course, whatever you're microwaving might <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4_5UYcyO3Pg" target="_hplink">burst into flames</a> first...
The progress of the government's so-called 'Snooper's Charter' is currently stalled in Parliament, but using Skype may be a way to avoid officials tracking your phone calls. <a href="http://www.techweekeurope.co.uk/comment/how-to-avoid-gchq-snooping-use-skype-71410">Tech Week Europe suggests that Skype users have less cause to be worried about their data</a> being intercepted. The reasons are pretty technical, and any system is fallible, but it may be worth looking into.