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Mary Franson authors social media privacy bill

by The Big E on February 5, 2013 · 2 comments

Usually Rep. Mary Franson (R-Alexandria) brings the crazy and brings it hard. But for once she’s introduced a bill I think is a good idea: HF293. This bill would prevent employers from demanding social media passwords as a condition of employment.

Is this a case of a broken clock being right at least once per day (or is it twice)? Has Mary suddenly stopped behaving so whacky?

Or is it just self-preservation. She has said and done a whole lot of unhinged things on her social media accounts.

(a) No person, whether acting directly or through an agent, or as the agent or employee of another, shall require as a condition precedent to employment any written statement as to the participation of the applicant in a strike, or as to a personal record, save as to conviction of a public offense, for more than one year immediately preceding the date of application therefor; nor shall any person, acting in any of the aforesaid capacities, use or require blanks or forms of application for employment in contravention of this section.

(b) No person, whether acting directly or through an agent, shall require, as a condition for consideration of employment, that any employee or prospective employee provide any password or other related account information in order to gain access to the employee’s or prospective employee’s account or profile on a social networking Web site. For the purpose of this paragraph, “social networking site” means an Internet-based service that allows individuals to:

  1. construct a public or semipublic profile within a bounded system created by the service;
  2. create a list of other users with whom they share a connection within the system;
  3. and view and navigate their list of connections and those made by others within the system. A social networking site shall not include electronic mail. This paragraph shall not limit an employer’s right to develop and maintain lawful workplace policies governing the use of the employer’s electronic equipment, including policies regarding internet use, social networking site use, and electronic mail.


In the end, CNET got it wrong.

Sen. Patrick Leahy’s bill to rework privacy protections for email passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee today. His bill requires federal law enforcement to get warrants to read our emails. The exception involving possible national security threats (via the Patriot Act) will still exist.

It won’t be up for a final vote until possibly a year from now.

CNET alleged that Leahy was going to weaken email privacy and try to sneak his bill out of committee. A Leahy staffer denied CNET’s claim. Currently, law enforcement don’t need a warrant to gain access to our email. Leahy’s bill actually strengthens our privacy rights.

A Senate committee on Thursday unanimously backed sweeping digital privacy protections requiring the government, for the first time, to get a probable-cause warrant to obtain e-mail and other content stored in the cloud.

The measure, sponsored by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), the head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, amends the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act. The amendment would nullify a provision that allows the government to acquire a suspect’s e-mail or other stored content from an internet service provider without showing probable cause that a crime was committed.

The development comes as e-mail privacy is again in the spotlight after FBI investigators uncovered an affair between then-CIA chief David Petraeus and his biographer Paula Broadwell after gaining access to e-mail accounts used by Broadwell.

Currently, the government can obtain e-mail without a warrant as long as the content has been stored on a third-party server for 180 days or more, and only needs to show, often via an administrative subpoena, that it has “reasonable grounds to believe” the information would be useful in an investigation.

Sorry I ever doubted you. I’m just a little paranoid after FISA and SOPA/PIPA.


Leahy may or may not protect email privacy

by The Big E on November 27, 2012 · 0 comments

Last week I noted that Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) may have been trying to sneak an anti-privacy bill through the US Senate. Initially, CNET reported that he had altered a email privacy bill to allow federal law enforcement the ability to read our emails without getting a warrant.

Changing the bill just before a holiday and scheduling the vote right after the holiday is pretty underhanded. But a Leahy staffer then denied the claim and alleged that CNET got it wrong.

The proof will be this Thursday when the Judiciary Committee votes on the bill. There will be no hearings. At this point nobody is sure what is in the bill.

Minnesota’s Senators both sit on Judiciary. Please call them and ask them to make sure our privacy is protected.

Sen. Franken at (202) 224-5641

Sen. Klobuchar at (202) 224-3244

Here’s the latest details:

When McCullah’s article went live last Tuesday morning, Senator Leahy was faced with a deluge of criticism, including the American Civil Liberties Union saying that warrants should be required, and the conservative group FreedomWorks launching a petition to Congress – with more than 2,300 messages sent so far – titled: “Tell Congress: Stay Out of My Email!”

Since the publication on CNet, Senator Leahy has backpedaled to his original stance on ECPA.  His official twitter account was updated last week with the comment, “Technology has created vacuum in privacy protection. Sen. Leahy believes that needs to be fixed, and #ECPA needs privacy updates.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee is set to vote on the bill this Thursday, but as of the moment, there is a measure of doubt as to how much of our privacy will really be protected and how much latitude the government will still have when it comes to gaining access to our electronic communications.
[my emphasis]


Yesterday I wrote about a sneaky move by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) pulled to try and pass a bill which would allow a wide variety of federal agencies to read our email without a warrant. Changing the bill just before the Thanksgiving holiday and then holding a hearing and trying to pass it immediately after the holiday is particularly sneaky because it doesn’t allow opponents much time to organize.

Now a staffer for Leahy denies the Senator changed the bill and claims CNET has it all wrong.

“CNET has it wrong,” an aide tweeted from Leahy’s account. “Sen. Leahy does NOT support an #ECPA exception to search warrant requirement [for] civil enforcement [for agencies] like FTC, SEC.”

A Judiciary Committee aide confirmed to The Hill that Leahy “does not support broad carve-outs for warrantless email searches.”
(The Hill)

Regardless, please call Senators Franken and Klobuchar and ask them to vote against the bill.

Sen. Franken at (202) 224-5641

Sen. Klobuchar at (202) 224-3244

Many Democrats, including Klobuchar, voted to weaken FISA despite claiming they wanted to protect American citizens from warrantless wiretapping. Many Democrats, including Franken, supported SOPA/PIPA. Unlike FISA, a netroots uprising killed the bill.

If CNET is wrong, then we can relax. But if Leahy is trying to sneak this bill through, I wouldn’t be surprised … it wouldn’t be the first time.


Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) wants to give law enforcement unlimited access to our email without needing a warrant. After losing the fight on FISA back in 2007 which allowed warrantless wiretapping and with the elimination of habeaus corpus, this is yet another advance towards making the United States a police state.

I have called and emailed Sen. Al Franken’s office. I have called and emailed Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s office. Everyone is on vacation for the holiday weekend. I will write a follow-up post with their responses.

Call Sen. Franken at (202) 224-5641

Call Sen. Klobuchar at (202) 224-3244

Tell them to vote NO on warrantless access to our email.

Here’s the details:

A Senate proposal touted as protecting Americans’ e-mail privacy has been quietly rewritten, giving government agencies more surveillance power than they possess under current law.

CNET has learned that Patrick Leahy, the influential Democratic chairman of the Senate Judiciary committee, has dramatically reshaped his legislation in response to law enforcement concerns. A vote on his bill, which now authorizes warrantless access to Americans’ e-mail, is scheduled for next week.

Leahy’s rewritten bill would allow more than 22 agencies — including the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Communications Commission — to access Americans’ e-mail, Google Docs files, Facebook wall posts, and Twitter direct messages without a search warrant. It also would give the FBI and Homeland Security more authority, in some circumstances, to gain full access to Internet accounts without notifying either the owner or a judge. (CNET obtained the revised draft from a source involved in the negotiations with Leahy.)

It’s an abrupt departure from Leahy’s earlier approach, which required police to obtain a search warrant backed by probable cause before they could read the contents of e-mail or other communications. The Vermont Democrat boasted last year that his bill “provides enhanced privacy protections for American consumers by… requiring that the government obtain a search warrant.”

Leahy had planned a vote on an earlier version of his bill, designed to update a pair of 1980s-vintage surveillance laws, in late September. But after law enforcement groups including the National District Attorneys’ Association and the National Sheriffs’ Association organizations objected to the legislation and asked him to “reconsider acting” on it, Leahy pushed back the vote and reworked the bill as a package of amendments to be offered next Thursday. The package (PDF) is a substitute for H.R. 2471, which the House of Representatives already has approved.


Rep. Chip Cravaack (R-MN/NH) has several huge problems. Aside from moving his family to New Hampshire, collecting disability for untreated sleep apnea while serving in Congress, spending $1k/mth of taxpayer dollars on an SUV, his biggest problem is he’s done nothing. No jobs created and he has virtually nothing to point to in terms of accomplishments.

It now appears that Cravaack is coming down on the side of Big Brother and supports surveillance of American citizens.

Its become apparent that the Department of Homeland Security is tracking what people say on social media and are building files on bloggers. So the House Committee on Homeland Security held a hearing on it. Both Republicans and Democrats were alarmed.

But Cravaack’s comment was interesting:

Rep. Chip Cravaack (R-Minn.) expressed concern over a report from EPIC that the Homeland Security Department is using the program to monitor public reactions to government programs.

Chavez said he was not aware of the program being used for that purpose.
(The Hill)

Cravaack’s comment seems as if he’s ignorant of EPIC’s complaint. The complaint has little to do with monitoring the public reactions but more to do with building files about citizens.

This indicates Cravaack wasn’t particularly concerned about civil rights or privacy infringements. Instead of asking a question, it appears he only made a statement:

11:00 AM – Rep. Cravaack is up for questioning. Part of General Dynamics contract to track what is negatively being but to see if agencies or departments are meeting standards. It is part of operational awareness.

Then other committee members have a back and forth over this issue. It appears that Cravaack only wanted to make a supportive statement.


Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) claims to be for smaller government yet she consistently votes for big government programs like the Patriot Act.  Now that she’s running for President, her actions are under greater scrutiny (except in MN by the MN media).  The Patriot Act was extended for yet another year and Bachmann voted for it.

Tea Party favorite Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) on Thursday night spent five minutes on the House floor in an attempt to justify her vote for the Patriot Act, after admitting to receiving significant feedback from her supporters urging her to reject it.

“We have had calls, we’ve had requests on our Facebook, Twitter and on our email urging a ‘no’ vote tonight on the Patriot Act,” she said on the floor. “I cast a yes vote on this act.”
(The Hill)

At least the teabaggers and I agree on one thing — the Patriot Act should end.

She’s so hypocritical on this issue I can’t see how her head doesn’t explode from the cognitive dissonance:

“I think government is too big,” she said. “I think we intervene too much in people’s lives. I certainly don’t want to give the government the unfettered right to go on in and access my personal private records.”

The above quote was actually part of her justification of why she voted for the Patriot Act.

Read her hypocritical explanation in full below the fold …

“We have a new war, a new enemy, new tactics,” she said. “The lone wolf is one actor acting alone, and we get a tip, and maybe at the last minute we’ve gotta go in for national security reasons and find that actor. That is an appropriate use of gaining this intelligence and information.”

On roving wiretaps, she said intelligence authorities need the flexibility to tap various phones that suspects might be using. “So we have to have the ability to be able to go to whichever phone a potential, alleged terrorist may be using,” she said.

On access to business records, she assured listeners that federal agents must go to judges first, and that the documents sought must have a connection to terrorism. She said she would never support a provision that allows unchecked access to personal records, and said she spent “all week” talking to experts on this issue before voting for it.

“I think government is too big,” she said. “I think we intervene too much in people’s lives. I certainly don’t want to give the government the unfettered right to go on in and access my personal private records.”


Al Franken vs. Apple iPhone

by The Big E on May 12, 2011 · 1 comment

Sen. Al Franken held a hearing about Apple storing personal data and location data from iPhone users.  This is both a privacy and security issue.  Apple doesn’t encrypt this data and claim they don’t plan on using the data.  Franken believes that consumers have a fundamental right to their privacy and to be asked when a company wants to track their data.

Here’s the transcript of the key exchange between Franken and a representative from Apple:

Frankin: Mr. Tribble, last month I asked Apple in a letter why it was building a comprehensive location database on iPhones and iPads and storing it on peoples’ computers — when they synced up, of course. Apple’s reply to my letter will be added to the record. But this is what Apple CEO Steve Jobs said to the press: “We build a crowd-sourced database of Wi-Fi and cell tower hot spots but those can be over 100 miles away from where you are. Those are not telling you anything about your location.”

Yet in a written statement issued that same week, Apple explained that this very same data will “help your iPhone rapidly and accurately calculate its location.” Or as the Associated Press summarized it “the data help the phone figure out its location, Apple said.”

But Steve Jobs that same week said “those are not telling you anything about your location.”

Mr. Tribble, it does not appear to me that both these statements could be true at the same time. Does this data indicate anything about your location or doesn’t it?

Tribble: Senator, the data that’s stored in the database is the location of as many Wi-Fi hotspots and cellphone towers as we can have. That data does not actually contain — in our databases — any customer information at all. It’s completely anonymous. It’s only about the cellphone towers and the Wi-Fi hotspots. However, when a portion of that database is downloaded onto your phone, you phone also knows which hotspots and cellphone towers it can receive right now. So the combination of the database of “where are those towers and hotspots” plus your phone knowing which ones it can receive right now is how the phone figures out where it is without the GPS.

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By now you’ve probably heard about Sen. Al Franken concerns about Apple violating the privacy of iPhone users.  Apple is storing vital data, like your exact location, in a non-secure format that would be easy to hack.  Apparently, this data isn’t being used for anything … so far.

Today, U.S. Senator Al Franken (DFL-MN), Chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law, announced that he will be holding the subcommittee’s first hearing, titled Protecting Mobile Privacy: Your Smartphones, Tablets, Cell Phones and Your Privacy on Tuesday, May 10 at 10:00 am. Sen. Franken has invited representatives from Apple and Google. Confirmed witnesses include officials from the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission; Ashkan Soltani, independent privacy researcher and consultant; and Justin Brookman, Director of the Center for Democracy and Technology’s Project on Consumer Privacy.

“Recent advances in mobile technology have allowed Americans to stay connected like never before and put an astonishing number of resources at our fingertips,” said Sen. Franken. “But the same technology that has given us smartphones, tablets, and cell phones has also allowed these devices to gather extremely sensitive information about users, including detailed records of their daily movements and location.  This hearing is the first step in making certain that federal laws protecting consumers’ privacy-particularly when it comes to mobile devices-keep pace with advances in technology.
(Email press release from Sen. Franken)


The controversy surrounding Tom Emmer’s campaign staffer getting busted for posting his shaming photos on Facebook only came to light because of Facebook’s shoddy privacy policies.  Unbeknownst to the staffer, Tripp Emmer, Facebook changed their security settings.  To keep his photos private, he would have had to have known Facebook changed their policy and would have had to go into his account settings and checked a box to keep his photos secret.

Of course, few knew about these settings until weeks if not months after Facebook made their changes.  

Ironically, it was Sen. Al Franken, among many others, who pushed for Facebook to tighten up their security:

“Every day, more and more Minnesotans, young and old, are joining social networking sites like Facebook,” said Sen. Franken. “People give these sites their personal information because they assume it will be used to connect them with their friends. But Facebook is taking its users’ information, giving it to third parties, and letting them keep it indefinitely.  I’m asking Facebook to better protect its users data and make sure that users know who is getting it.”

The Senators said the recent changes by Facebook fundamentally alter the relationship between users and the social networking site. Previously, users had the ability to determine what information they wished to share publicly and what information they wanted to keep private. In their letter, the Senators urged Facebook to adjust its policy so that users’ information stays private by default and can only be shared with third parties if the user opts in.