Posts Tagged American Civil Liberties Union

Biometric Database of All Adult Americans Hidden in Immigration Reform | Threat Level | Wired.com


Biometric Database of All Adult Americans Hidden in Immigration Reform

BY DAVID KRAVETS

05.10.13

The immigration reform measure the Senate began debating yesterday would create a national biometric database of virtually every adult in the U.S., in what privacy groups fear could be the first step to a ubiquitous national identification system.

Buried in the more than 800 pages of the bipartisan legislation (.pdf)  is language mandating the creation of the innocuously-named “photo tool,” a massive federal database administered by the Department of Homeland Security and containing names, ages, Social Security numbers and photographs of everyone in the country with a driver’s license or other state-issued photo ID.

Employers would be obliged to look up every new hire in the database to verify that they match their photo.

This piece of the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act is aimed at curbing employment of undocumented immigrants. But privacy advocates fear the inevitable mission creep, ending with the proof of self being required at polling places, to rent a house, buy a gun, open a bank account, acquire credit, board a plane or even attend a sporting event or log on the internet. Think of it as a government version of Foursquare, with Big Brother cataloging every check-in.

“It starts to change the relationship between the citizen and state, you do have to get permission to do things,” said Chris Calabrese, a congressional lobbyist with the American Civil Liberties Union. “More fundamentally, it could be the start of keeping a record of all things.”

For now, the legislation allows the database to be used solely for employment purposes. But historically such limitations don’t last. The Social Security card, for example, was created to track your government retirement benefits. Now you need it to purchase health insurance.

“The Social Security number itself, it’s pretty ubiquitous in your life,” Calabrese said.

David Bier, an analyst with the Competitive Enterprise Institute, agrees with the ACLU’s fears.

“The most worrying aspect is that this creates a principle of permission basically to do certain activities and it can be used to restrict activities,” he said. “It’s like a national ID system without the card.”

For the moment, the debate in the Senate Judiciary Committee is focused on the parameters of legalization for unauthorized immigrants, a border fence and legal immigration in the future.

The committee is scheduled to resume debate on the package Tuesday.

 Biometric Database of All Adult Americans Hidden in Immigration Reform | Threat Level | Wired.com.

 

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Maryland bans employers from asking for Facebook passwords – The Hill’s Hillicon Valley


http://thehill.com/templates/thehill/images/space.gif

Maryland bans employers from asking for Facebook passwords

By Andrew Feinberg - 04/09/1 

Maryland on Monday became the first state in the nation to ban employers from requesting access to the social media accounts of employees and job applicants.

The state’s General Assembly passed legislation that would prohibit employers from requiring or seeking user names, passwords or any other means of accessing personal Internet sites such as Facebook as a condition of employment.

The bill has its genesis in a controversy that began when Maryland Corrections Officer Robert Collins returned to work following a leave of absence taken after the death of his mother. While completing a re-certification process needed to return to duty, Collins was asked for his personal Facebook password, ostensibly to check for known gang activity. He refused, and obtained the assistance of the Maryland chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, which quickly filed a lawsuit, bringing the case onto the national stage. 

Collins’s case reached the halls of Congress, where several lawmakers gave speeches against the practice of employers asking for passwords or “friending” applicants. Lawmakers in the House and Senate are working on legislation that would ban the practice nationally.

Maryland ACLU legislative director Melissa Goemann said that Maryland “has trail-blazed a new frontier in protecting freedom of expression in the digital age, and has created a model for other states to follow.” 

Collins said he is “excited to know that our esteemed policymakers in Maryland found it important to protect the privacy of Maryland’s citizens.” 

“I hope that other state legislatures, and more importantly the federal government, follow Maryland’s lead and ensure these essential protections for all Americans nationwide,” Collins said.

 Maryland bans employers from asking for Facebook passwords – The Hill’s Hillicon Valley.

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High court throws out human gene patents – Yahoo! News


High court throws out human gene patents

Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court on Monday threw out a lower court ruling allowinghuman genes to be patented, a topic of enormous interest to cancer researchers, patients and drug makers.

The court overturned patents belonging to Myriad Genetics Inc. of Salt Lake City on two genes linked to increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer.

Myriad’s BRACAnalysis test looks for mutations on the breast cancer predisposition gene, or BRCA. Those mutations are associated with much greater risks of breast and ovarian cancer.

The American Civil Liberties Union has been arguing that genes couldn’t be patented, a position taken by a district court judge but overturned on appeal.

The justices’ decision sends the case back down for a continuation of the battle between the scientists who believe that genes carrying the secrets of life should not be exploited for commercial gain and companies that argue that a patent is a reward for years of expensive research that moves science forward.

In 2010, a federal judge ruled that genes cannot be patented. U.S. District Judge Robert Sweet said he invalidated the patents because DNA’s existence in an isolated form does not alter the fundamental quality of DNA as it exists in the body nor the information it encodes.

But last year, a divided panel of the federal appeals court in Washington that handles patent cases reversed Sweet’s ruling. The appeals court said genes can be patented because the isolated DNA has a “markedly different chemical structure” from DNA within the body.

The Supreme Court threw out that decision, and sent the case back to the lower courts for rehearing. The high court said it sent the case back for rehearing because of its decision in another case last week saying that the laws of nature are unpatentable.

In that case, the court unanimously threw out patents on a Prometheus Laboratories, Inc., test that could help doctors set drug doses for autoimmune diseases like Crohn’s disease.

“The question before us is whether the claims do significantly more than simply describe these natural relations,” said Justice Stephen Breyer, who wrote the opinion in the Prometheus Laboratories case. “To put the matter more precisely, do the patent claims add enough to their statements of the correlations to allow the processes they describe to qualify as patent-eligible processes that apply natural law? We believe the answer to this question is no.”

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has been awarding patents on human genes for almost 30 years.

Testing for mutations in the so-called BRCA genes has been around for just over a decade. Women with a faulty gene have a three to seven times greater risk of developing breast cancer and a higher risk of ovarian cancer.

Men can also carry a BRCA mutation, raising their risk of prostate, pancreatic and other types of cancer. The mutations are most common in people of eastern European Jewish descent.

Myriad Genetics Inc. sells the only BRCA gene test.

The case is Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, 11-725.

 High court throws out human gene patents – Yahoo! News.

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Should Employers Be Allowed to Ask for Your Facebook Login? – Alexis Madrigal – Technology – The Atlantic


Should Employers Be Allowed to Ask for Your Facebook Login? 

FEB 19 2011

Update 2/22, 5:11pm: The Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services has suspended the practice of asking for Facebook login information for 45 days, according to an email they sent to The Atlantic. See our full story on the development.

The American Civil Liberties Union has taken up the cause of a Maryland man who was forced to cough up his Facebook password during a job interview with the Department of Corrections in that state. 

According to an ACLU letter sent to the Maryland Department of Corrections, the organization requires that new applicants and those applying for recertifications give the government “their social media account usernames and personal passwords for use in employee background checks.”

The ACLU calls this policy “a frightening and illegal invasion of privacy” and I can’t say that I disagree. Keep in mind that this isn’t looking at what you’ve posted to a public Twitter account; the government agency here could look through private Facebook messages, which seems a lot like reading through your mail, paper or digital.

While it’s not surprising that some employers might want to snoop in your social media life, it strikes me as a remarkable misapprehension of what Facebook is to think that it should be wholly open for background investigations. Legally, things are probably more complex, but it seems commonsensical that carte blanche access to your communications should be off-limits.

The case also shows a downside to Facebook’s scale. It stands to reason that the bigger they get, the more that employers and others concerned with the age-old enterprise of covering their asses will feel the need to know what their employees are up to on the service. That alone isn’t going to derail the Facebook juggernaut, but it might slow down people’s engagement on the site as they realize maybe a private, unknown e-mail account is a better way of sending sensitive messages.

Here’s the Maryland man, Officer Robert Collins, describing what happened in his specific case:

<embed src=’http://www.aclu.org/swfobject/mediaplayer.swf’ height=’493′ width=’600′ allowscriptaccess=’always’ allowfullscreen=’true’ flashvars=”&bandwidth=5000&dock=false&file=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DbDaX5DTmbfY&image=http%3A%2F%2Fi.ytimg.com%2Fvi%2FbDaX5DTmbfY%2F0.jpg&level=0&plugins=viral-2d”/>Should Employers Be Allowed to Ask for Your Facebook Login? – Alexis Madrigal – Technology – The Atlantic.

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Making Facebook private won’t protect you | ITworld


Making Facebook private won’t protect you

State agencies are forcing prospective employees to reveal their private Facebook profiles — or face the consequences.

By Dan Tynan  March 06, 2012

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I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: Setting your Facebook page to “friends only” and your Twitter feed to private is a good idea, especially if you’re hunting for a job or trying to get into the college of your choice. You want to be selective in the details you reveal about yourself and, quite frankly, what you post on a social network is none of their damned business.

Bottom of Form

But it appears even that may not be enough to protect you any more.

Bob Sullivan of MSNBC reports that some state agencies and colleges are forcing prospective employees and students to grant them full access to their social networks. Per Sullivan:

In Maryland, job seekers applying to the state’s Department of Corrections have been asked during interviews to log into their accounts and let an interviewer watch while the potential employee clicks through wall posts, friends, photos and anything else that might be found behind the privacy wall….

Maryland’s Department of Corrections policy first came to light last year, when corrections officer Robert Collins complained to the ACLU that he was forced to surrender his Facebook user name and password during an interview. The state agency suspended the policy for 45 days, and eventually settled on the “shoulder-surfing” substitute.

Submitting to a Facebook frisk is voluntary, but only nominally. If you want the job (and to want to be a prison guard you’re probably pretty desperate) you’ll do whatever it takes.

Sullivan adds that student athletes around the country have also been forced to ‘friend’ a coach or administrator on social networks, so they can keep a close watch on what the athlete is posting online.

He explains that the prisons want to know if any of their guards are flashing gang signs in their photos. The colleges want to avoid embarrassing incidents caused by athletes posting inappropriate things – or, in the case of North Carolina defensive lineman Marvin Austin, who apparently was flashing a bit too much bling on Twitter for an otherwise unemployed student-athlete, NCAA investigations into illicit contacts with sports agents.

Still, this is wrong on many counts. If prisons managed to hire guards before Facebook existed, they can still hire them now without forcing them to open their social networks. If you need to scan Facebook to find out if someone is a Blood or a Crip, you’ve got bigger problems. Worried about a student athlete embarrassing your college? Having them keep their accounts private (and educating them on what is and isn’t appropriate to post) is the best way to do that.

Essentially, Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks have turned into de facto background checks. The problem: Actual background check agencies are somewhat regulated; consumers have some protections about how the information is used and who has access to it. Not so with social media — at least, not yet.

Granted, if I were an employer, I would probably look at the Facebook profile of someone I was considering hiring, just as I would call their references. If I was looking for someone clever and creative, for example, I’d expect their Facebook profile to be clever and creative. But if the profile was private, I wouldn’t attempt to coerce them into revealing it. And if I did, why would any sane person want to work for me?

Got a question about social media? TY4NS blogger Dan Tynan may have the answer (and if not, he’ll make something up). Visit his snarky, occasionally NSFW blog eSarcasm or follow him on Twitter: @tynan_on_tech. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-to’s, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

 Making Facebook private won’t protect you | ITworld.

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Government, Schools, and Companies Want Your Facebook Login Information | Double Dip Politics


BY ANNABEL LEE

 

Following September 11th, 2001, the United States Congress passed the Patriot Act. This act began stripping away American freedoms, civil liberties, and rights to privacy. In the years since, legal challenges to aspects of the law, and subsequent laws, have sided with the government. This erosion of the American democracy has created a scenario similar to George Orwell’s “1984″. Not only are we being watched by satellites and cameras, having our emails and phone conversations recorded by the government, but now, we are seeing companies requiring individuals to hand over their user IDs and passwords to social media websites, primarily Facebook. 

Read more… 

Government, Schools, and Companies Want Your Facebook Login Information | Double Dip Politics.

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