EPIC v. DHS (Commission Voter Data Communications)

Top News

  • EPIC FOIA: National Archives Finds More Kavanaugh E-mails on Surveillance Programs: The National Archives has found hundreds of e-mails about Justice Kavanaugh's role in controversial White House surveillance programs, including warrantless wiretapping and passenger profiling. Following EPIC's Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, the agency found hundreds of Kavanaugh email messages about the wiretapping program from 2003. Kavanaugh also exchanged 95 e-mail messages about the controversial renewal in 2004, which the Attorney General and FBI Director opposed. There are also 573 Kavanaugh email messages about "Lichtblau" and "Risen" prior to the New York Times expose on the warrantless wiretapping program. The National Archives also found more than 8,000 e-mails that Kavanaugh sent or received about passenger profiling programs. Prior to the nomination hearing, EPIC warned that Kavanaugh, both as a White House legal advisor and then as a federal appellate judge, showed little regard for the constitutional privacy rights of Americans. (Oct. 24, 2018)
  • EPIC v. FTC: EPIC Obtains Facebook-FTC Emails About 2011 Consent Order: In response to EPIC's Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, the FTC has released agency emails about the 2011 Facebook Consent Order. Following a detailed complaint by EPIC and other consumer privacy organizations, the FTC issued an order in 2011 that required biennial audits of Facebook's privacy practices. EPIC pursued public release of these reports and related emails to understand why the FTC failed to bring an enforcement action action against the company. Today the FTC released to EPIC 89 emails between the FTC and Facebook from the years 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018. In March 2018, following the Cambridge Analytica data breach, the FTC announced it was reopening the Facebook investigation. To date, there is still no announcement, no report, and no fine. (Oct. 19, 2018)
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  • EPIC FOIA: Records Show DHS Ignored Privacy, First Amendment Threats of Media Monitoring Program » (Oct. 17, 2018)
    EPIC has obtained records concerning "Media Monitoring Services," a controversial DHS project to track journalists, news outlets, and social media accounts. The records, released in EPIC's FOIA lawsuit against the federal agency, reveal that the DHS bypassed the agency's own privacy officials and ignored the privacy and First Amendment implications of monitoring the coverage by particular journalists of a federal agency. As a result of EPIC's lawsuit, the agency previously admitted that it did not conduct a Privacy Impact Assessment for the program, as required by law. EPIC has successfully obtained several Privacy Impact Assessments, including for a related media tracking system (EPIC v. DHS) and for facial recognition technology (EPIC v. FBI). In EPIC v. Presidential Election Commission, EPIC challenged the Commission's failure to publish a Privacy Impact Assessment prior to the collection of state voter data.
  • EPIC FOIA: EPIC Obtains Secure Flight Documents » (Oct. 12, 2018)
    In response to EPIC's Freedom of Information Act request, the Transportation Security Administration has released records about Secure Flight, a program that compares airline passenger records with various watch lists. The documents provided to EPIC contain an interagency agreement between the TSA and Customs and Border Protection, as well as related documents about Secure Flight. During the processing of EPIC's request, the TSA destroyed over a hundred pages of responsive records "due to the records disposition schedule." EPIC has testified before Congress and published a "Spotlight on Surveillance" report about the Watchlist Program. For more information, see EPIC: Passenger Profiling, and EPIC: Air Travel Privacy.
  • In EPIC Suit, National Archives Identifies Thousands of Kavanaugh E-mails on Surveillance Programs » (Oct. 11, 2018)
    In EPIC's Freedom of Information Act suit, the National Archives has now identified thousands of additional records concerning Justice Kavanaugh's role in controversial White House surveillance programs, including warrantless wiretapping and the Patriot Act. These programs were later suspended, curtailed, or modified by Congress. The agency completed its second search of e-mails on Wednesday, in response to EPIC's case, and found that Kavanaugh received 183 messages from John Yoo, the architect of the warrantless wiretapping program. The Archives also found 1,988 e-mails concerning Kavanaugh and "surveillance" programs and the "Patriot Act" and 754 e-mails concerning Kavanaugh "CAPPS II" (passenger profiling), "Fusion Centers" (government surveillance centers), and the Privacy Act. The National Archives will eventually release these records to the public as a result of EPIC's lawsuit. Prior to nomination hearing, EPIC had warned that Kavanaugh, both as a White House legal advisor and then as a federal appellate judge, showed little regard for the constitutional privacy rights of Americans.
  • Inspector General Report: Airport Facial Recognition Faces Technical Problems » (Oct. 4, 2018)
    A Department of Homeland Security Inspector General report highlighted many challenges to facial recognition at airports. The problems of accurate biometric matches apply to all travelers, and particularly U.S. citizens. According to the Inspector General's report, "U.S. citizens accounted for the lowest biometric confirmation rate." A report obtained by EPIC last year through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit revealed that iris imaging and facial recognition for border control did not perform at a "satisfactory" level. In a statement to Congress earlier this year, EPIC warned that biometric identification techniques are unreliable and lack proper privacy safeguards.
  • National Archives Confirms Existence of Numerous Kavanaugh Records on Surveillance Programs » (Oct. 3, 2018)
    In response to EPIC's Freedom of Information Act suit, the National Archives has now confirmed that there are hundreds of records concerning Brett Kavanaugh's role in controversial White House surveillance programs, including warrantless wiretapping and the Patriot Act. The programs were later suspended, curtailed, or modified by Congress. The communication to EPIC revealed that Kavanaugh sent 11 e-mails to John Yoo, the architect of warrantless wiretapping; 227 e-mails about "surveillance" programs and the "Patriot Act;" and 119 e-mails concerning "CAPPS II" (passenger profiling), "Fusion Centers" (government surveillance centers), and the Privacy Act. The National Archives has processed roughly 300,000 pages of Judge Kavanaugh's records between 2001 and 2003. These records will be released this month pending White House approval. EPIC has warned that Kavanaugh, both as a top-level White House aide and then as a federal appellate judge, has shown little regard for the Constitutional privacy rights of Americans.
  • EPIC Opposes OMB FOIA Regs that Block Access to Public Information » (Sep. 26, 2018)
    In comments to the Office of Management and Budget, EPIC opposed changes to FOIA regulations that would create obstacles to those seeking access to public information. EPIC urged the agency to remove changes that would delay FOIA requests, increase request costs, and reduce agency accountability. The proposed rules also conflict with the federal law and cases that favor disclosure over withholding. EPIC routinely comments on agency proposals that affect the rights of FOIA requestors. Several agencies, including the Federal Trade Commission, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, and the Defense Logistics Agency have adopted EPIC's recommendations on proposed FOIA rule changes.
  • EPIC Seeks Injunction to Compel Release of Kavanaugh Records » (Sep. 21, 2018)
    EPIC has filed a motion seeking a preliminary injunction against the National Archives to compel the release of Brett Kavanaugh’s White House records about warrantless surveillance and the Patriot Act. EPIC argues that these records are essential to understand Kavanaugh’s views on privacy, and must be released prior to the Senate votes on the Supreme Court nominee. EPIC explained that the agency has already missed deadlines established by the Freedom of Information Act. EPIC filed suit against NARA on September 17 after NARA failed to process EPIC’s two urgent Freedom of Information Act requests. EPIC earlier sent two letters to the Senate Judiciary Committee highlighting concerns about Kavanaugh’s role in the creation of the Patriot Act, his defense of warrantless wiretapping in the White House, and his troubling opinion as a judge in Klayman v. Obama, which justified the warrantless collection of phone records of all Americans.
  • EPIC FOIA Docs Show FBI and CBP Accessed "Hemisphere" Records » (Sep. 18, 2018)
    The Drug Enforcement Agency has released to EPIC a new FOIA production about the AT&T "Hemisphere" program. Hemisphere is a massive call records database made available to government agents by the nation's largest telecommunication company. AT&T discloses to the government billions of detailed customer phone records, including location data, without judicial review. The new release to EPIC reveals that both the FBI and CBP obtained access to these call details records. EPIC filed suit against the DEA in 2013 after the agency failed to respond to EPIC's FOIA request for information about the Hemisphere program. EPIC previously argued that the names of other agencies with access to Hemisphere records should be released. In June, the Supreme Court held in Carpenter v US that government access to location data is a search subject to Fourth Amendment review. EPIC filed an amicus brief in the Carpenter case.
  • EPIC Sues for Release of Kavanaugh White House Records on Warrantless Surveillance, Patriot Act » (Sep. 18, 2018)
    EPIC has filed a lawsuit to compel the National Archives and Records Administration to release Brett Kavanaugh's White House records about warrantless surveillance and the Patriot Act. EPIC's lawsuit follows the agency's failure to respond to EPIC's two urgent Freedom of Information Act requests. In the complaint, EPIC explains that timely release of these records is now essential to assess Kavanaugh's role in the White House surveillance programs. In Senate testimony, Kavanaugh claimed that he knew nothing about these programs, but documents indicate that he drafted President Bush's speech on the Patriot Act, communicated with John Yoo, the architect of the warrantless surveillance program, and defended suspicionless surveillance of the American public. Last week, EPIC sent a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee urging postponement of the the committee vote on Kavanaugh until the documents EPIC requested are released. EPIC highlighted concerns about Kavanaugh’s White House years in an earlier letter to the Committee.
  • EPIC FOIA: EPIC Obtains Facebook Privacy Documents » (Sep. 12, 2018)
    In response to an EPIC Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, the Federal Trade Commission has released supplemental materials from the biennial Facebook audits (production 1, production 2, production 3, production 4). The audits were required by the FTC's 2011 Consent Order with Facebook. The documents include letters from the FTC to Facebook inquiring about Facebook's relationship with Instagram and telling the company that "whenever a corporate change such as an acquisition may affect the design and/or implementation of the Company's privacy program, the Company must notify the Commission." EPIC opposed Facebook's acquisition of WhatsApp and submitted comments for the FTC's review of the merger remedy process. FTC reopened its investigation into Facebook in March after EPIC, consumer groups urged action. The UK Information Commissioner completed its initial investigation, published report, and issued a fine in July. The FTC begins hearings this week on competition and consumer protection in the 21st century.
  • In Privacy Victory, ICE Backs Down from Voter Data Demand » (Sep. 7, 2018)
    ICE has reversed position and is no longer seeking the immediate release of over 18 million voting records from North Carolina. Citing administrative difficulties and the unprecedented scope of the subpoena, ICE agreed to limit its demand to preserve voter privacy and will allow state officials to respond after the midterm elections in January 2019. The demand still poses substantial privacy risks and departs from testimony by Homeland Security Secretary Kristjen Nielsen, who told Congress that DHS would not make such requests. EPIC previously highlighted these problems and explained that the data demand violates DHS policy. EPIC has long fought to ensure voter privacy and recently forced the defunct Presidential Election Commission to delete millions of state voter records unlawfully obtained.
  • Contrary to DHS Policy and Prior Statements, ICE Seeks NC State Voter Data » (Sep. 6, 2018)
    Immigration and Customs Enforcement has demanded that North Carolina provide over 18 million voter records from the past eight years. The subpoena is outside the Department of Homeland Security authority and goes against testimony by DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, who told Congress this year that DHS’s role is limited to voluntary requests for assistance from the states. Nielsen also wrote, in records obtained through an EPIC FOIA request, that associating the DHS with voter data collection “could disrupt critical efforts” to work with state officials on election cybersecurity. EPIC has long fought to ensure voter privacy and recently forced the defunct Presidential Election Commission to delete millions of state voter records unlawfully obtained.
  • EPIC Urges DHS To Abandon Privacy Act Exemptions for New Biometric Database » (Aug. 31, 2018)
    In comments to the Department of Homeland Security, EPIC urged the agency to withdraw proposed Privacy Act exemptions that would reduce privacy safeguards in the federal government. The Immigration Biometric and Background Check database will contain personal data on U.S. and non-U.S. citizens. DHS has proposed to exempt the database from several Privacy Act protections, including ensuring that records are accurate, timely, and complete. DHS also claims numerous “routine uses” that allow the agency to disseminate the data to law enforcement and intelligence agencies. EPIC has urged strict compliance with Privacy Act obligations and warned that inaccurate, insecure, and overbroad government databases threaten both privacy and national security.
  • EPIC Settles Suit Against DHS regarding Communications with Election Commission » (Aug. 29, 2018)
    EPIC has settled a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security that sought communications between the agency and the Presidential Election Commission. Through the lawsuit, EPIC obtained records showing that DHS communicated frequently with the Presidential Election Commission after EPIC sued to block the Commission's efforts to obtain state voter data. The records also revealed that Kirstjen Nielsen, now the DHS Secretary, worried that the Commission’s voter data grab would "disrupt critical efforts DHS is leading to work with state and local officials" on election cybersecurity. EPIC's separate lawsuit against the Presidential Election Commission led to the suspension of state voter data collection and ultimately to the complete destruction of the wrongfully collected data.
  • EPIC and Open Government Groups Urge Senate to Delay Hearing on Kavanaugh » (Aug. 27, 2018)
    EPIC along with a nonpartisan coalition of open government groups sent a letter to the Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee urging the Senate to delay hearings on Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh until all relevant records are released. In the letter, the groups stated, "Secrecy and selective availability of information continue to plague public confidence in the Senate's ability to conduct a fair and impartial review of Judge Kavanaugh's background and qualification." The groups urged the senators to work across party lines to ensure maximum transparency and protect the public's right to know. Judge Kavanaugh's confirmation hearing is currently scheduled for September 4, yet most of the records from his White House years have been withheld. Traditionally, the records of Supreme Court nominees who served in the White House are routinely made available prior to committee hearings. Earlier this month, EPIC submitted two urgent Freedom of Information Act requests for the records. At issue are concerns about Judge Kavanaugh's role in the warrantless wiretapping program and the secret expansion of the Patriot Act.
  • EPIC and Open Government Groups Urge Senate to Delay Hearing on Kavanaugh » (Aug. 27, 2018)
    EPIC along with a nonpartisan coalition of open government groups sent a letter to the Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee urging the Senate to delay hearings on Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh until all relevant records are released. In the letter, the groups stated, "Secrecy and selective availability of information continue to plague public confidence in the Senate's ability to conduct a fair and impartial review of Judge Kavanaugh's background and qualification." The groups urged the senators to work across party lines to ensure maximum transparency and protect the public's right to know. Judge Kavanaugh's confirmation hearing is currently scheduled for September 4, yet most of the records from his White House years have been withheld. Traditionally, the records of Supreme Court nominees who served in the White House are routinely made available prior to committee hearings. Earlier this month, EPIC submitted two urgent Freedom of Information Act requests for the records. At issue are concerns about Judge Kavanaugh's role in the warrantless wiretapping program and the secret expansion of the Patriot Act.
  • EPIC FOIA: EPIC Obtains Emails About White House AI Committee » (Aug. 22, 2018)
    Through a Freedom of Information Act request to the National Science Foundation, EPIC has obtained communications between the Office of Science and Technology Policy and the NSF about the White House's Select Committee on Artificial Intelligence. The Committee was announced earlier this year at the White House Artificial Intelligence Summit. In an e-mail Michael Kratsios, Deputy Assistant to the President for Technology Policy, stated that the summit was "well received by industry and academia" but makes no mention of the absence of public participation. The Committee's inaugural meeting in May was held in secret, and the OSTP has still not announced a plan for public participation. EPIC and leading scientific organizations, including AAAS, ACM, and IEEE, and technology experts petitioned the OSTP to solicit public comments on artificial intelligence policy. EPIC again argued for public participation in US AI policy in a recent statement to the Senate Commerce Committee.
  • VICTORY - EPIC v Commission: Presidential Election Commission Destroys State Voter Data Wrongfully Obtained » (Aug. 20, 2018)
    The White House confirmed Monday that it has destroyed the state voter data unlawfully collected by the Presidential Election Commission. Responding to a court order in EPIC v. Commission the White House stated that the voter data is now "entirely deleted and unrecoverable." The deletion of the voter data is the outcome EPIC sought in its case, which challenged the Commission's failure to conduct a required Privacy Impact Assessment before collecting personal data. As a result of EPIC's lawsuit in July 2017, the Commission suspended data collection, discontinued the use of an unsafe computer server, and deleted state voter data that was illegally obtained. The Commission was disbanded in January 2018.
  • Court Blocks EPIC's Efforts to Obtain "Predictive Analytics Report" » (Aug. 16, 2018)
    A federal court in the District of Columbia has blocked EPIC's efforts to obtain a secret "Predictive Analytics Report" in a FOIA case against the Department of Justice. The court sided with the agency which had withheld the report and asserted the "Presidential communications privilege." Neither the Supreme Court nor the D.C. Circuit has ever permitted a federal agency to invoke that privilege in a FOIA case. EPIC sued the agency in 2017 to obtain records about "risk assessment" tools in the criminal justice system. These techniques are used to set bail, determine criminal sentences, and even contribute to determinations about guilt or innocence. Many criminal justice experts oppose their use. EPIC has pursued several FOIA cases concerning "algorithmic transparency," passenger risk assessment, "future crime" prediction, and proprietary forensic analysis. The case is EPIC v. DOJ (Aug. 14, 2018 D.D.C.). EPIC is considering an appeal.
  • EPIC FOIA: EPIC Obtains DOD Inspector General Audits of Hotline Allegations » (Aug. 15, 2018)
    Through a Freedom of Information Act request, EPIC has obtained the Department of Defense's Inspector General report on audit of hotline allegations involving improper use of agency funds for foreign counterintelligence billets. The report found that the Defense Intelligence Agency followed proper appropriation authorities but did not ensure proper function and management for the program. The Inspector General found that "employees were performing duties not aligned with their position descriptions and funding." In a 2012 FOIA case, EPIC v. CIA, EPIC uncovered an Inspector General's report which revealed that the CIA, in collaboration with the NYPD, conducted domestic surveillance of mosques, Muslim student groups, and Muslim stores and businesses. EPIC continues to pursue the release of government documents to improve oversight and accountability through litigation and EPIC's Open Government Project.
  • Two More Nominees for Intelligence Oversight Board » (Aug. 13, 2018)
    The White House announced the nomination of two board members to the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB). Travis LeBlanc is a partner at Boies Schiller, and former Federal Communications Commission Enforcement Bureau Chief. Aditya Bamzai is a law professor at the University of Virginia and former Department of Justice attorney. The intelligence oversight body has been unable to act due to long-term vacancies. The European Parliament has called for suspension of the Privacy Shield if the U.S. does not to improve data protection and restore the PCLOB. Three other members have been nominated but have yet to be confirmed. EPIC opposed the nomination of Adam Klein to serve as Chairman of the Board. EPIC previously testified before PCLOB, made recommendations for PCLOB's handling of FOIA requests, and set out a broad agenda for the work of the independent agency. EPIC previously sought public release of the PCLOB report on Executive order 12333.
  • Senator Feinstein Rebuts National Archives' Decision to Withhold Kavanaugh Records » (Aug. 8, 2018)
    Senator Feinstein has sent an urgent letter to Archivist David S. Ferriero demanding reconsideration of the National Archives' decision to withhold documents related to Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. In the letter, Senator Feinstein stated that the "records are crucially important to the Senate's understanding of Mr. Kavanaugh's full record, and withholding them prevents the minority from satisfying its constitutional obligation to provide advice and consent on his nomination." Under the National Archives' unprecedented interpretation of the Presidential Records Act, Feinstein explained that "minority members of the Senate Judiciary Committee now have no greater right to Mr. Kavanaugh's records than members of the press and the public." EPIC recently submitted two urgent Freedom of Information Act requests for Judge Kavanaugh's records during the time he served in the White House when many of the post-September 11 mass surveillance systems were implemented.
  • Open Government Groups Call for Full Access to Kavanaugh Records » (Aug. 8, 2018)
    A coalition of nonpartisan open government groups has called for the disclosure of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh's White House records. In a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, the coalition asserted that "curtailed document requests will hinder the Senate's ability to fully assess Judge Kavanaugh's background and qualifications..." To uphold the constitution, the coalition emphasized that "senators from both parties must have equal access to all documents relevant to a nominee, in as timely and complete a manner as possible." EPIC recently submitted two urgent Freedom of Information Act requests for Judge Kavanaugh's White House records during the time when many of the post-September 11 mass surveillance systems were implemented.
  • EPIC Opposes Citizenship Question on 2020 Census » (Aug. 8, 2018)
    In comments to the U.S. Census Bureau, EPIC opposed the agency's decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census. The administration's stated purpose for the question is to assist the DOJ, but EPIC argued that census data should never be used for enforcement purposes because collecting data to enforce laws will interfere with the census's constitutional purpose and will undermine the integrity of the census. The Bureau earlier conducted a Privacy Impact Assessment for the census, but it did not acknowledge the privacy risks raised by the recently added citizenship question. EPIC said the assessment does not meet the Commerce Department's standards and that it is required to conduct a revised assessment, analyzing the privacy risks created by the citizenship question. Through a Freedom of Information Act request, EPIC obtained documents (part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4) concerning Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and the citizenship question. The census raises significant privacy risks and was used to target Japanese-Americans for internment in World War II. EPIC previously obtained documents which revealed that the Census Bureau transferred the personal data of Muslim Americans to DHS after 9-11. As a consequence of EPIC's lawsuit, the Census Bureau revised its policy on disclosing statistical information about "sensitive populations" to law enforcement and intelligence agencies.
  • Justice Department Releases 2018 FOIA Report » (Jul. 19, 2018)
    Today the Department of Justice released a summary and assessment of federal agencies' Chief FOIA Officer Reports. The annual FOIA Report provides a detailed assessment of FOIA processing across the federal government. The summary tracks the Department's FOIA Guidelines: Applying the Presumption of Openness, Having Effective Systems for Responding to Requests, Making Information Available Proactively, Utilizing Technology, and Reducing Backlogs and Improving Timeliness. The guidance offers methods to manage these backlogs, guidance on closing oldest consultations, and recommending that agencies post raw data from the annual FOIA reports. EPIC pursues an extensive FOIA docket.
  • Presidential Commission to Delete State Voter Data Wrongfully Obtained » (Jul. 19, 2018)
    EPIC and a coalition of groups gave the White House the final go-ahead today to destroy the state voter data unlawfully collected by the Presidential Election Commission. In a notice to the federal court overseeing EPIC v. Commission, EPIC and the other groups that sued the Commission said that the White House should delete the data as it stated earlier it would. The deletion of the voter data is the outcome EPIC sought in EPIC v. Commission, which challenged the Commission for failing to conduct a required Privacy Impact Assessment before collecting personal data. As a result of EPIC's case, the Commission previously suspended its data collection, discontinued the use of an unsafe computer server, and deleted a prior batch of voter information that was illegally obtained. The Commission was disbanded in January.
  • Court Orders Defunct Presidential Election Commission to Release Records » (Jun. 28, 2018)
    A federal court in Washington, DC has ruled that the Presidential Election Commission must release a large volume of records detailing its activities from last year. The ruling, in a case brought by Maine Secretary of State and EPIC Champion of Freedom Matthew Dunlap, requires the Commission to disclose all "relevant documents that any of the former commissioners generated or received." After the court ordered the Commission to release the same records in December, the President abruptly disbanded the Commission. EPIC brought the lead case against the Commission, forcing it to suspend the collection of voter data, discontinue the use of an unsafe computer server, and delete the voter information that was unlawfully obtained. EPIC is continuing to pursue its case on appeal and will ask the Supreme Court to grant review.
  • EPIC Pursues Privacy Impact Assessments for Proposed DHS Biometric Database » (Jun. 18, 2018)
    EPIC has submitted an urgent Freedom of Information Act request to the Department of Homeland Security seeking the Privacy Impact Assessment for the "Homeland Advanced Recognition Technology," a proposed system that will integrate biometric identifiers across the federal government. HART would replace IDENT, which now contains biometric records on over 220 million unique individuals. In 2015 a breach at the Office of Personnel Management compromised 22 m records, including 5 m digitized fingerprints. It appears that Homeland Security failed to complete the Privacy Assessment prior to launching HART. By law, a federal agency is required to conduct a Privacy Impact Assessment before procuring information technology that stores personally identifiable information. In EPIC v. Presidential Election Commission, EPIC challenged the failure of the Commission to undertake a Privacy Impact Assessment prior to the collection of state voter data. The Commission was shuttered earlier this year.
  • EPIC FOIA: DHS Collaborated With Presidential Election Commission on Voter Data Collection » (May. 31, 2018)
    EPIC has obtained records under the Freedom of Information Act showing that the Department of Homeland Security communicated frequently with the Presidential Election Commission after EPIC filed a lawsuit to block the Commission's efforts to obtain state voter data. The documents show that DHS officials had numerous communications with Commission staff beginning in June 2017. The records obtained by EPIC also reveal that Kirstjen Nielsen, now the DHS Secretary, worried that the Commission's voter data grab would "disrupt critical efforts DHS is leading to work with state and local officials" on election cybersecurity. After EPIC brought suit in July, the Commission suspended the data collection program, discontinued the use of an unsafe computer server, and deleted voter information that was illegally obtained. The Commission was ultimately shut down in January 2018.
  • Senators Urge DHS to Address Concerns Over Facial Recognition at Airports; Conduct Public Rule-Making » (May. 11, 2018)
    In a letter to DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielson, Senators Edward Markey (D-MA) and Mike Lee (R-UT) urged the agency to promptly conduct a public rulemaking on the agency's biometric exit program prior to any expansion of the program. The program, currently implemented in nine U.S. airports, requires travelers on departing international flights to submit to facial recognition identification. The Senators requested that DHS determine the accuracy of the technique and the procedures for collecting passenger data. EPIC is currently pursuing documents about the biometric exit program, but documents EPIC obtained about a related program that tested iris and facial recognition scanning at the border revealed that the technology did not perform operational matching at a "satisfactory" level. An earlier EPIC lawsuit against the DHS led to the removal of backscatter x-ray devices — "body scanners" — at US airports.
  • EPIC FOIAs Commerce Department about Citizenship Question on 2020 Census » (Mar. 22, 2018)
    EPIC has submitted an urgent Freedom of Information Act request to the Department of Commerce seeking information about a proposed citizenship question on the 2020 census. Secretary Wilbur Ross stated today that the Department of Commerce will make a decision as to whether to include the controversial question in the 2020 census by March 31. Secretary Ross also said, “there are probably 15 or 20 different very complicated issues involved in the request.” EPIC specifically requested information about these issues. The census raises significant privacy risks. EPIC previously obtained documents which revealed that the Census Bureau transferred the personal data of Muslim Americans to DHS after 9-11.
  • EPIC FOIA: EPIC Obtains FBI Policy for Disseminating Biometric Info » (Mar. 22, 2018)
    Through a Freedom of Information Act request, EPIC has obtained the FBI’s “Policy for Biometric Information Sharing with Domestic and International Agencies.” The documents EPIC obtained also contain details of the United States’ agreement with Iraq to exchange biometric data, including to not subject the information to any dissemination restrictions of the US or Iraq. The FBI maintains one of the world's largest biometric databases, known as the "Next Generation Identification” system, which includes facial IDs gathered from international conflicts. In 2007, EPIC, Privacy International, and Human Rights Watch warned the Secretary of Defense that the “system of biometric identification contravene international privacy standards and could lead to further reprisals and killings.” EPIC noted in 2010 "President Obama’s address on the end of the combat mission in Iraq has left open the question of what will happen to the massive biometric databases on Iraqis, assembled by the United States, during the course of the conflict."
  • EPIC FOIA: EPIC Sues DHS for Drone Reports » (Mar. 9, 2018)
    EPIC has filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security to obtain the public release of information about the use of drones for domestic surveillance. EPIC cited a Presidential Memorandum that required all federal agencies to prepare public reports on drone deployment. EPIC's lawsuit charges that the DHS has failed to make these reports public. In a previous lawsuit against the DHS, EPIC obtained records which revealed that DHS drones had the capability to intercept electronic communications and identity humans at a distance. EPIC has also brought a lawsuit against the FAA to establish drone privacy regulations in the United States.
  • EPIC Presses Department of Defense on Privacy of Cyber Threat Information » (Feb. 27, 2018)
    In a statement to Congress in advance of a hearing on the Department of Defense's cyber operations, EPIC urged lawmakers to consider the privacy impact of cyber policies. The Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act of 2015 allowed the federal government to obtain cyber threat information from the private sector—much of which concerns the activities of individual Internet users—without privacy safeguards. EPIC urged Congress to ask Michael Rogers, the Commander of U.S. Cyber Command, about the steps the Defense Department will take to reduce privacy risks. EPIC previously sued the federal government for information regarding a Department of Homeland Security program that allowed the NSA to monitor the Internet traffic of defense contractors.
  • EPIC Files FOIA Request About DHS's Investigation of Voter Fraud » (Feb. 9, 2018)
    EPIC filed a Freedom of Information Act request to the Department of Homeland Security seeking records about DHS's investigation of state voter fraud. Since the termination of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, President Trump suggested that the DHS investigate voter fraud, which falls outside the agency's jurisdiction. The agency has stated that its top priority is securing election systems from cyberattacks. This week, the DHS admitted that Russian hackers successfully penetrated election systems in the 2016 Presidential Election. EPIC had earlier submitted a statement to Congress seeking assurances that DHS will not continue the work of the disbanded Commission.
  • BREAKING: Facing EPIC Lawsuit, Presidential Election Commission Disbands » (Jan. 3, 2018)
    The Presidential Election Commission, which unlawfully sought to collect state voter data on hundreds of millions of Americans, was disbanded Wednesday by President Trump. The Commission had faced an ongoing lawsuit by EPIC over its failure to conduct and publish a Privacy Impact Assessment before collecting personal data, as required by law. EPIC’s lawsuit led the Commission to suspend the collection of voter data last year, discontinue the use of an unsafe computer server, and delete voter information that was unlawfully obtained. Many states and over 150 members of Congress opposed the Commission’s efforts to collect state voter data. In a statement, the President said that he had asked the Department of Homeland Security “to determine next courses of action.” EPIC has a pending Freedom of Information Act request to the DHS for records concerning the federal government’s collection of personal data on voters. EPIC’s case against the Commission, which remains open, is EPIC v. Commission, No. 17-1320 (D.D.C.) & 17-5171 (D.C. Cir.).
  • D.C. Circuit Sets Schedule for EPIC Case to Obtain Trump Tax Returns » (Dec. 19, 2017)
    The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals has set a schedule in EPIC’s case to obtain President Trump’s tax returns. EPIC previously argued that the IRS has the authority to release the records to correct numerous misstatements of fact concerning financial ties to Russia, such as President Trump’s tweet "Russia has never tried to use leverage over me. I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH RUSSIA - NO DEALS, NO LOANS, NO NOTHING." The IRS recently admitted to EPIC that it has used this authority at least 10 times in one year. The schedule for the appeal was announced the same week that Congress considers sweeping tax legislation, but Congress and the public remain in the dark about the consequences of the legislation on the President’s personal finances. According to CNN, 73% of Americans favor release of the President’s tax returns. EPIC v. IRS is one of several FOIA cases concerning Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential election, including EPIC v. ODNI (scope of Russian interference), EPIC v. FBI (response to Russian cyber attack), and EPIC v. DHS (election cybersecurity). EPIC’s opening brief in EPIC v. IRS is due January 24, 2018.
  • Presidential Election Commission Sued by Commission Member » (Nov. 9, 2017)
    A member of the Presidential Election Commission has sued the Commission, arguing that the Commission has violated the Federal Advisory Committee Act. According to Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, the Commission violated FACA by "excluding certain members of the Commission from substantively participating in its work" and by "preventing certain members of the Commission from accessing documents made available to some Commission members." EPIC filed the first lawsuit against the Commission, charging that it had violated federal law when it failed to conduct and publish a Privacy Impact Assessment prior to the collection of state voter. EPIC v. Presidential Commission is now before the federal appeals court for the D.C. Circuit. Oral argument is scheduled for November 21, 2017.
  • Nominee for DHS Secretary Favors Less Wall, More Surveillance Tech at Border » (Nov. 9, 2017)
    Today Congress considered the nomination of Kirstjen M. Nielsen as Secretary at the Department of Homeland Security. Ms. Nielsen opposes a border wall but suggested an expansion of border surveillance. "Technology, as you know, plays a key part, and we can't forget it," she said. EPIC is pursuing a FOIA request regarding the use of DHS drones for border surveillance. Earlier EPIC cases - including EPIC v. DHS which led to the removal of x-ray body scanners in US airports - revealed that technologies for border surveillance invariably impact the privacy rights of Americans. Ms. Nielsen views on the use of DACA applicant data for enforcement remains unclear. EPIC recently warned that 800,000 DACA applicants face privacy risks as a result of the decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
  • Government Accountability Office to Investigate Presidential Election Commission » (Oct. 27, 2017)
    The Government Accountability Office announced this week that it will conduct an investigation into the activities of the Presidential Election Commission. The decision follows a letter by three senators urging the GAO to launch a probe and warning that the Commission’s lack of transparency will “unnecessarily diminish confidence in our democratic process.” Among the issues raised in the letter from the Senators are: “The steps the PACEI has taken to protect any voter information that is has collected” and “The steps the PACEI took to adhere to regulations governing its activity.” EPIC sued the Commission in July for failing to conduct a Privacy Impact Assessment prior to establishing a database of personal voter data. Last week, EPIC urged Congress and the General Services Administration to block the Commission from collecting voter information. EPIC's case is EPIC v. Commission, No. 17-1320 (D.D.C.), and the related appeal is EPIC v. Commission, No. 17-5171 (D.C. Cir.). The argument before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals is scheduled for November 21, 2017.
  • EPIC Opposes DHS Plan for Social Media Surveillance » (Oct. 19, 2017)
    In comments to the Department of Homeland Security, EPIC opposed a plan to add social media information to the official files of all immigrants. EPIC said the DHS proposal threatens First Amendment rights, risked abuse, and would disproportionately impact minority groups. A coalition of organizations also submitted comments to express concern about the proposal. EPIC previously opposed a Customs and Border Protection proposal to collect social media identifiers from visa applicants. In a FOIA lawsuit against DHS, EPIC obtained documents which revealed that federal agencies gather social media comments to identify individuals critical of the government. EPIC is currently pursuing a FOIA request about a revised DHS plan to require disclosure of social media passwords before allowing entry into the country.
  • EPIC Urges Congress, GSA to Suspend Collection of State Voter Data » (Oct. 19, 2017)
    In a letter to a Senate oversight committee, EPIC urged Congress and the incoming Administrator of the General Services Administration to block the Presidential Election Commission from collecting state voter data. As EPIC recently explained in a case before a federal judge in Washington, DC, the Commission is part of the GSA and must comply with that agency’s requirement to conduct a Privacy Impact Assessment prior to the collection of personal data. In the letter to the Senate Committee, EPIC wrote that "the very last thing that the Senate Committee or the incoming GSA Administrator should tolerate is a federal entity that seeks to avoid legal obligations to protect the privacy of Americans." The Commission was previously forced to suspend the collection of voter data in response to EPIC's lawsuit, but it later resumed that process. EPIC's case is EPIC v. Commission, No. 17-1320 (D.D.C.), and the related appeal is EPIC v. Commission, No. 17-5171 (D.C. Cir.). The argument before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals is scheduled for November 21, 2017.
  • Scrutiny of Presidential Election Commission Grows » (Oct. 18, 2017)
    The Presidential Election Commission is coming under increasing scrutiny from lawmakers and even its own members. On Tuesday, Commissioner Matthew Dunlap charged that the Commission had given him "utterly no information" about the Commission's activities. Dunlap involved the public records statute to demand documents about the Commission he sits on. Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee are also demanding records from the Department of Justice about the Department's possibly unlawful coordination with the Commission. Questions have also been raised about the Commission's hiring practices. The Commission was previously forced to suspend the collection of voter data in response to EPIC's lawsuit, but it recently resumed that process. EPIC has urged state election officials not to release any voter information until the Commission conducts a Privacy Impact Assessment. EPIC's case is EPIC v. Commission, No. 17-1320 (D.D.C.), and the related appeal is EPIC v. Commission, No. 17-5171 (D.C. Cir.). The argument before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals is scheduled for November 21, 2017.
  • EPIC Renews Lawsuit Against Presidential Election Commission to Protect Voter Data » (Oct. 12, 2017)
    EPIC has filed a revised complaint against the Presidential Election Commission, charging that the Commission has violated federal law by collecting state voter data without a required Privacy Impact Assessment and misrepresented its legal status. The Commission has claimed that, unlike every other federal agency, it can collect sensitive personal data without a privacy assessment. But EPIC's new complaint, following revelations by the Commission itself, makes clear that the Commission is part of the General Services Administration, which must complete Privacy Impact Assessments. EPIC also highlighted to the court misrepresentations made by the Commission in earlier proceedings. EPIC's original lawsuit forced the Commission to suspend the collection of voter data in July. The case is EPIC v. Commission, No. 17-1320, and the related appeal is EPIC v. Commission, No. 17-5171. The argument before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals is scheduled for November 21, 2017.
  • EPIC Sues Department of Homeland Security for Release of Russian Interference Records » (Oct. 4, 2017)
    EPIC has filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security to obtain records related to Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election. Earlier this year, the DHS has designated state election systems as critical infrastructure and published a Joint Analysis Report acknowledging Russian interference with U.S. election systems. However, DHS has not provided any significant new information to the American public about the extent of the Russian interference. EPIC now seeks disclosure of the agency's "research, integration, analysis" related to the scope of Russian interference. EPIC's FOIA lawsuit follows H.Res. 235, a bill sponsored by Rep. Thompson (D-MS) that would have directed the DHS to provide this information to Congress, but was blocked by the House Homeland Security Committee. EPIC has filed several FOIA lawsuits to determine the scope of Russian interference. The cases include: EPIC v. FBI (Russian Hacking), EPIC v. ODNI (Russian Hacking), and EPIC v. IRS (Donald Trump's Tax Records).
  • EPIC Seeks Details of Election Commission's Attempts to Obtain Personal Data » (Sep. 11, 2017)
    Ahead of the Presidential Election Commission's September 12 meeting, EPIC has submitted urgent Freedom of Information Act requests to the Department of Homeland Security, Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys, and Social Security Administration seeking details of the Commission's latest attempts to obtain sensitive, personal data. At the Commission's first meeting, Vice Chair Kobach tasked the Commission staff with "trying to collect whatever data there is that's already in the possession of the federal government that might be helpful to us," including data stored in federal agency record systems that is protected under the Privacy Act. Earlier this summer, the Commission suspended collection of state voter data in response to a lawsuit brought by EPIC. EPIC's case, which calls for the disclosure of a Privacy Impact Assessment prior to the collection, is now on appeal to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. EPIC has also advised state election officials not to provide voter data until the Privacy Impact Assessment is completed.
  • EPIC Backs Public Comments to End Commission's Collection of Voter Data » (Sep. 6, 2017)
    The Presidential Election Commission is seeking public comments in advance of the Commission's September 12 meeting. EPIC encourages commenters to tell the Commission to end the collection of state voter data. "The Commission's actions have placed the privacy of voters at risk and undermined confidence in the integrity of voting in the United State," said EPIC. As EPIC has explained, the Commission failed to complete a required Privacy Impact Assessment and is violating the constitutional right to information privacy. The Commission was forced to suspend the data collection plan in response to EPIC's lawsuit, but it recently resumed activities. EPIC, and many other organizations, continue to contest the legality of the Commission's actions. Public comments, which are due by Friday, September 8 at 5 p.m., may be submitted at this link.
  • Court Rules California Police Can't Avoid Public Scrutiny of License Plate Reader Program » (Aug. 31, 2017)
    The California Supreme Court ruled that the mass, indiscriminate collection of license plate data by California police cannot be shielded from public scrutiny. In response to an open records request by EFF and the ACLU of Southern California, Los Angeles area law enforcement attempted to prevent disclosure by claiming all license plate data were "investigative records." The court ruled that the license plate data of millions of law-abiding citizens was not an "investigative record." The Court stated, "It is hard to imagine that the Legislature intended for the records of investigations exemption to reach the large volume of data that plate scanners and other similar technologies now enable agencies to collect indiscriminately." EPIC filed an amicus brief in the public records case stating, "Public scrutiny is essential to counter the unique threats posed by these programs of broad-scale surveillance." Documents obtained by EPIC about the FBI's use of license plate readers showed the agency failed to address the system's privacy implications.
  • Court Criticizes Presidential Election Commission for Withholding Documents from the Public » (Aug. 31, 2017)
    A federal judge in Washington, DC expressed disbelief this week at the Presidential Election Commission’s failure to disclose documents from the July 19 inaugural public meeting. The Commission failed to make available to the public the meeting agenda and a 381-page “voter fraud” report prepared by a special interest group that was circulated privately to Commission members. Speaking at a court hearing, the federal judge overseeing the case criticized the Commission for failing “to live up to the government’s representations," about transparency. The Commission is attempting to assemble a nationwide database of voter data over the objections of state election officials. But earlier this summer, the Commission suspended collection of voter data in response to a lawsuit brought by EPIC. EPIC’s case, which calls for the disclosure of a Privacy Impact Assessment prior to the collection, is now on appeal to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.
  • EPIC Appeals Voter Data Privacy Decision » (Aug. 18, 2017)
    EPIC has appealed a federal district court ruling that allowed the Presidential Election Commission to move forward with a controversial plan to gather state voter data in a White House database. EPIC told the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals that the Commission was obligated to undertake a Privacy Impact Assessment before amassing voters’ personal information. EPIC's case, which led the Commission to suspend the collection of voter data in July, after EPIC's lawsuit revealed agency incompetence, is before the D.C. Circuit on an expedited basis. The case is EPIC v. Commission, No. 17-5171 (D.C. Cir. filed July 27, 2017).
  • EPIC Opposes Commission's Renewed Request for Voter Data » (Jul. 27, 2017)

    EPIC has sent an Advisory to state election officials, urging opposition to the renewed request for state voter data. The EPIC Advisory follows a letter from the Presidential Election Commission to state election officials. Following EPIC’s lawsuit, seeking a temporary restraining order, the Commission suspended collection of the data. The court ruled on the TRO motion, which EPIC has now appealed. The recent letter falsely claims that the Commission is only seeking “publicly available information.” In fact, the Commission’s June 28 letter called for the release of social security numbers, criminal records, military statuses, and other personal information protected by state laws. California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, and many state election officials, have reaffirmed their opposition to the Commission's effort to gather state voter data.

  • EPIC Appeals Decision in Voter Data Case » (Jul. 25, 2017)
    EPIC has appealed the decision of a federal district court which declined to block the collection of sensitive voter data by the Presidential Election Commission. EPIC had argued that the Commission failed to complete a Privacy Impact Assessment before collecting voter data and violated the constitutional right to information privacy. Though the district court agreed that EPIC had standing to bring the lawsuit, the court concluded that it couldn't halt the data collection because, according to the court's opinion, the Commission is exempt from the obligation to undertake a privacy assessment. EPIC's case, which led the Commission to suspend the collection of voter data two weeks ago, will now be reviewed on an expedited basis by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. "Absent expedited review," EPIC warned, "the Commission will be allowed to systematically amass the sensitive, personal information of the nation's voters without establishing any procedures to protect voter privacy or the security and integrity of the data." The case is EPIC v. Commission, No. 17-1320 (D.D.C. filed July 3, 2017).
  • EPIC's Voter Data Case Moves Forward After Court Denies Injunction » (Jul. 24, 2017)
    A federal district court in Washington, DC has denied EPIC’s motion for an injunction against the Presidential Election Commission and declined to block the Commission’s nationwide collection of voter data. As EPIC told the court last week, the Commission failed to undertake and publish a Privacy Impact Assessment before collecting voter data and violated the constitutional right to information privacy. The court agreed that EPIC had “standing” to bring the case because the Commission had “an obligation to disclose information” and because the Commission’s actions “required [EPIC] to expend resources” in order to obtain a Privacy Impact Assessment. But the court concluded that it could not halt the Commission’s plan to aggregate millions of voter records because the Commission is exempt from statutes that govern the conduct of federal “agencies.” The court noted, however, that “this determination may need to be revisited” at a later time. The court also warned the Commission must “strictly abide” by promises to only collect information that is “already publicly available” and to “de-identif[y]” voter data “to the extent it is made public.” EPIC intends to press forward with the lawsuit, which led the Commission to suspend the collection of voter data two weeks ago. The case is EPIC v. Commission, No. 17-1320 (D.D.C. filed July 3, 2017). [Press Release]
  • Civil Rights, Voting Rights Groups File Suits to Block Release of Voter Data » (Jul. 21, 2017)
    The Texas NAACP and the League of Women Voters of Texas have filed suit against state election officials to prevent the transfer of personal voter data to the Presidential Election Commission. "The information sought by the Commission is not widely available in Texas, but instead may be released only under certain circumstances and conditions imposed by Texas's voting laws," the complaint reads. The suit notes that the state's disclosure of election records to the Commission, "even if cabined to information generally available to candidates or other organizations who are entitled to request voter information under Texas law, would undermine, and run afoul of, the State's carefully-crafted regulation of the use of voter data." The Texas case joins at least two other lawsuits—one in Florida and one in New Hampshire—seeking to block state officials from providing voter data to the Election Commission. In Washington DC, EPIC has filed suit against the Commission and is urging a federal court to issue a preliminary injunction. The Commission suspended the collection of personal voter data last week in response to EPIC's lawsuit. The Court is expected to rule on EPIC's motion shortly. The case is EPIC v. Commission, No. 17-1320 (D.D.C. filed July 3, 2017).
  • EPIC Files FOIA Lawsuit Over Border Biometrics, Expanded Tracking » (Jul. 20, 2017)
    EPIC has filed a FOIA lawsuit against Customs and Border Protection for information about the agency’s deployment of a biometric entry/exit tracking system, including at US airports. Trump's recent Executive Order regarding immigration ordered the expedited implementation of a biometric entry/exit tracking system, which will include U.S. citizens. Biometric techniques, including facial recognition, lack proper privacy safeguards. EPIC previously sued the FBI over the Bureau’s Next Generation Identification database, which contains face prints, fingerprints, and other biometrics of millions of Americans. EPIC's lawsuit against the FBI revealed that biometric identification is often inaccurate.
  • 70 Members of Congress Oppose Election Commission's Request for State Data » (Jul. 19, 2017)
    A group of more than 70 U.S. Representatives sent a letter to the Presidential Election Commission on Tuesday urging the Commission to "immediately" withdraw a nationwide request for state voter data. "The federal government has an obligation to protect the personally identifiable information of the American people," the letter reads. "We believe your June 28 request to the States would do the opposite by ignoring the critical need for robust security protocols when transmitting and storing sensitive personally identifiable information and by centralizing it in one place." As the letter notes, the Commission suspended the collection of personal voter data last week in response to EPIC's lawsuit. EPIC has asked a federal court in Washington, DC to issue an injunction against the Commission and indefinitely block the transfer of election records. The case is EPIC v. Commission, No. 17-1320 (D.D.C. filed July 3, 2017).
  • EPIC Calls for End to Collection of State Voter Records by Presidential Commission » (Jul. 18, 2017)
    In a statement today for a Forum organized by the House Judiciary Committee and the Congressional Black Caucus, EPIC President Marc Rotenberg called for an end to the efforts of the Presidential Commission on Election Integrity to gather state voter records. Rotenberg said the program was "ill-conceived, poorly executed, and most likely unconstitutional." EPIC brought suit against the Commission, charging violations of federal laws and the federal constitution, and noting also that the Commission's plan to gather data on a military site that returned error messages was pure incompetence. The Commission has since suspended the program, pending a decision by the federal court in EPIC's case. But the Commission meets this week in Washington to discuss next steps. In the prepared statement, Rotenberg said, "I hope the Commission will simply announce the termination of the program. But if it does not, EPIC will pursue its case until we obtain a favorable outcome. And we welcome the many organizations across the country that have also filed lawsuits." The case is EPIC v. Commission, No. 17-1320 (D.D.C. July 3, 2017).
  • UPDATE - EPIC Files Reply, Urges Court to Block Collection of State Voter Records » (Jul. 17, 2017)
    In a brief filed this afternoon in Washington, DC, EPIC urged a federal court to issue a temporary restraining order and prevent the collection of state voter records by the Presidential Election Commission. Calling the Commission’s plans to “collect the nation’s voting records” “outside of the privacy laws” that protect personal data “alarming and absurd,” EPIC asked the Court to block this "ill-conceived, poorly executed, and unlawful plan.” EPIC warned that the Commission has “already revealed personally identifiable information” from those who have expressed opposition to the plan. In the original motion, EPIC argued that the Commission had failed to undertake and publish a Privacy Impact Assessment, failed to issue a Federal Advisory Committee Act notice, and violated the constitutional right to information privacy. The Commission, which temporarily suspended the program last week in response to EPIC’s lawsuit, filed an opposition brief earlier on Monday. The case is EPIC v. Commission, No. 17-1320 (D.D.C. filed July 3, 2017).
  • EPIC Launches "51 Reasons - Protect Voter Data" » (Jul. 17, 2017)
    EPIC has established a new web site in response to the request from the Presidential Commission on Election Integrity for state voter records. "51 Reasons to End the Collection of State Voter Records by the Presidential Election Commission" includes comments from state election officials, specialists in election integrity, news organizations, voters, and public officials across the country, who have described the Commission's plan as "unlawful," "politicized," "unprecedented," "naive," "crazy," "ill-conceived," "poorly executed," "outrageous," and "a breach of trust with voters." In EPIC v. Commission, EPIC is seeking to end the Commission's collection of personal data of registered voters.
  • In Voter Privacy Case, EPIC Files Amended Motion, Seeks to End Collection of Records by Presidential Commission » (Jul. 13, 2017)
    In a motion filed today, EPIC urged a federal court to issue a preliminary injunction to block the collection of state voter records by the Presidential Election Commission. The Commission suspended collection of personal voter data earlier this week in response to EPIC's lawsuit. But as EPIC told the court, "the threat to voter privacy and democratic institutions remains. The Commission intends to move forward, pending this Court's determination. It has established a new server within the White House to receive the voter data. It has advised state election officials that further communications regarding this undertaking are forthcoming." A response from the Commission is due Monday, July 17. The Commission is scheduled to hold its first public meeting on July 19, in Washington, DC. The case is EPIC v. Commission, No. 17-1320 (D.D.C. filed July 3, 2017).
  • EPIC Seeks Evidence of Election Commission Compliance with State Procedures » (Jul. 12, 2017)
    EPIC has submitted urgent FOIA requests to the General Services Administration, the Election Commission, and the Arkansas Secretary of State for information about the State of Arkansas's production of voter data to the federal Commission. The request follows EPIC's lawsuit to block the transfer of state voter records to the Commission. In a hearing in federal court on July 7th, the Department of Justice revealed that Arkansas had transferred voter histories to the Commission, contradicting an July 5th statement by Vice Chair Kobach that no such transfers had occurred. EPIC is now seeking records of the Commission's compliance with Arkansas procedures for obtaining voter registration data, including designation of appropriate data elements, payment of fees, compliance with security requirements, and completion of necessary forms. In EPIC v. Commission, EPIC has argued that "As a matter of law, there is no 'publicly available' voter data that may be transferred to the Commission."
  • Senators Demand Presidential Election Commission Rescind Its Request for Voter Data » (Jul. 11, 2017)
    Twenty-four Senators have sent a letter to the Presidential Election Commission demanding that the Commission abandon its attempt to collect nationwide voter data. "This request is unprecedented in scope and raises serious privacy concerns," the Senators wrote. "The requested data is highly sensitive and after recent data breaches and cyber-attacks targeting our election infrastructure, we are deeply concerned about how the Commission will maintain the security and privacy of the data." The Senators also wrote that "the Commission's lack of focus on legitimate threats, such as foreign cyber-attacks on our election infrastructure," was "troubling." In EPIC v. Commission, EPIC is seeking to block the Commission from obtaining state voter records.
  • EPIC Voter Privacy Case - Court Sets Briefing Schedule, Data Collection Suspended, Commission to Meet » (Jul. 11, 2017)
    A federal court has ordered additional briefing in EPIC's lawsuit to block the collection of state voter records by the Presidential Election Commission. The court asked EPIC to file an amended motion by Thursday, July 13. The Commission would then respond to EPIC by Monday, July 17. A ruling will likely follow. The court noted that "no additional voter roll information will be collected until this Court issues a ruling, and that information that has already been collected will be purged." Earlier this week, the Commission suspended collection of voter data in response to EPIC's lawsuit. The Commission is scheduled to hold its first public meeting on July 19, in Washington, DC. The case is EPIC v. Commission, No. 17-1320 (D.D.C. filed July 3, 2017).
  • In Voter Privacy Case, EPIC Sues White House IT Director » (Jul. 11, 2017)
    EPIC has sued the White House IT Director as part of EPIC's ongoing case to block the transfer of sensitive voter data to the Presidential Election Commission. The White House IT Director, as well as the Commission, are required by law to publish a Privacy Impact Assessment before collecting any personal information. As EPIC explained to the Court earlier today, "The Commission may not play 'hide the ball' with the nation's voter records. With such vast demands for personal information come commensurate responsibilities to provide security and privacy, and to comply with all legal obligations." The case is EPIC v. Commission, No. 17-1320 (D.D.C. filed July 3, 2017).
  • EPIC Posts Legal Team for Voter Privacy Case » (Jul. 11, 2017)
    The EPIC legal team for EPIC v. Commission includes EPIC President Marc Rotenberg (lead counsel), EPIC Senior Counsel Alan Butler, EPIC Policy Director Caitriona Fitzgerald, EPIC National Security Counsel Jeramie Scott, and EPIC Appellate Advocacy Fellow John Davisson. In EPIC v. Commission, EPIC is seeking to block the efforts of the President's Election Commission from obtaining state voter records.
  • In Voter Privacy Case, EPIC Urges Court to Issue TRO » (Jul. 11, 2017)
    In a court filing on Tuesday, EPIC urged a federal court to issue a temporary restraining order to block the collection of voter data by the Presidential Election Commission. "The Commission may not play 'hide the ball' with the nation's voter records," EPIC wrote. "With such vast demands for personal information come commensurate responsibilities to provide security and privacy, and to comply with all legal obligations. Surely that is fundamental for an organization charged with promoting 'election integrity.'" On Monday, the Commission suspended the collection of voter data in response to EPIC's suit. The case is EPIC v. Commission, No. 17-1320 (D.D.C. filed July 3, 2017).
  • Civil Rights Groups Join EPIC in Challenge to Election Commission » (Jul. 11, 2017)
    Several civil rights organizations have filed lawsuits challenging the Presidential Election Commission, which EPIC sued last week. The groups include the American Civil Liberties Union, the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and Public Citizen. The organizations raised several challenges similar to those in EPIC v. Commission. In response to the EPIC lawsuit, the Commission has suspended the collection of voter data from the states.
  • UPDATE - EPIC Lawsuit - Election Commission Suspends Collection of State Voter Data » (Jul. 10, 2017)
    The President’s Election Commission announced today it would suspend the collection of state voter data in response to a lawsuit filed by EPIC last week in Washington, DC. EPIC had challenged the Commission’s use of a Department of Defense website to collect millions of state voter records—an unsecure system that is not approved for storing the public’s personal data. EPIC also charged that the Commission lacked authority to gather state voter data and said that the Commission had violated the right to information privacy. The Commission said it would not use the “SAFE” system to collect personal data. The Commission also told states “not to submit any data until this Court rules” on EPIC’s motion. The case is EPIC v. Commission, No. 17-1320 (D.D.C. filed July 3, 2017).
  • Court Sets Monday Deadline in EPIC Voter Privacy Case » (Jul. 10, 2017)
    A federal court set a Monday, 4 p.m. deadline for the government to file a brief in EPIC v. Commission. The court is expected to rule shortly in EPIC's lawsuit to block the President's Election Commission from collecting state voter records from across the country. In a series of filings with the court, EPIC explained that the Commission failed to prepare a Privacy Impact Assessment as required by Federal law. EPIC also charged that the Commission's demand for detailed voter histories violated the Constitutional right to privacy. And EPIC explained that the Commission has already committed multiple egregious security blunders, including directing state election officials to send voter records to an unsecure website that is not approved for storing the public's personal data. The case is EPIC v. Commission, No. 17-1320 (D.D.C. filed July 3, 2017).
  • UPDATE - Court Sets Friday Hearing for EPIC v. Commission » (Jul. 6, 2017)
    The federal District Court in Washington, DC has scheduled a hearing on Friday, July 7, 2017 at 4:00 pm, to consider EPIC's motion for a Temporary Restraining Order. EPIC is seeking to block the transfer of sensitive voter data to a Presidential Commission on Election Integrity. The case is EPIC v. Commission, No. 17-1320 (D.D.C. filed July 3, 2017).
  • EPIC Files Response to Election Commission in Voter Privacy Case » (Jul. 6, 2017)
    In a reply filed today in federal district court, EPIC charged that the President's Election Commission "has conceded the obvious: the privacy implications of this unprecedented demand for voter roll data from across the country are staggering." EPIC rebutted every point in the government's response, noting that the Commission often failed to cite any support for its extraordinary claims to gather personal data outside of federal privacy law. Members of the EPIC Advisory Board, experts in computer technology, contributed affidavits that underscored the vulnerabilities of the Commission's plan to aggregate personal voter data. EPIC also called Vice Chair Kobach's statements "alternately misleading or meritless." EPIC said the Commission's actions "places at risk the privacy interests of registered voters across the country." In EPIC v. Commission, EPIC is seeking to block the transfer of sensitive voter data to a Presidential Commission on Election Integrity. EPIC explained to the Court that it has "a clear likelihood of success on the merits."
  • Kobach Responds in EPIC Case to Block Release of State Voter Rolls » (Jul. 5, 2017)
    In a declaration filed in federal court in Washington, DC, Kris Kobach, Kansas Secretary of State and Vice Chair of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, said that he “intended” that the voter data he requested from the states not be sent by email (the letter to the states indicated otherwise). Kobach also said that “the Commission intends to maintain the data on the White House computer systems.” Kobach acknowledged that “numerous states have indicated that they will decline to provide all or some portion of the information, in some cases because state law prohibits such transfer of information.” Kobach also said, “As of July 5, 2017, no Secretary of State had yet provided to the Commission any of the information requested in my letter.” There is no indication that the Commission has completed a Privacy Impact Assessment or complied with the requirements of the Federal Advisory Committee Act. EPIC filed an emergency motion earlier this week to block the disclosure of state voter information to the Commission, calling the data demand a violation of the Constitutional right to privacy. The Department of Justice has filed an opposition.
  • EPIC FOIA: EPIC Seeks Details of Election Commission Demand for Voter Data » (Jul. 5, 2017)
    EPIC has submitted an urgent FOIA request for details of the Election Commission's attempt to gather voter records from state election officials. The Commission requested dates of birth, party affiliation, partial SSNs, voter history, and felony convictions and military service status. EPIC wants the Commission to turn over records about compliance with the Federal Advisory Committee Act, the Privacy Act, and the E-Government Act. EPIC is also seeking communications among Commission officials as well as information about the failure to conduct a Privacy Impact Assessment. Over 40 states now partially or fully oppose the request for voter records. In a related lawsuit, EPIC v. Commission, EPIC has filed for a Temporary Restraining Order to block the Commission's efforts.
  • In Voter Privacy Case, EPIC Files for Temporary Restraining Order » (Jul. 3, 2017)
    EPIC today filed for a Temporary Restraining Order to block a demand from a Presidential Commission for millions of state voter records. In papers filed in federal district court in Washington, D.C., EPIC explained that the Commission failed to produce and publish a Privacy Impact Assessment, required by Federal law. EPIC also charged that the Commission’s demand for detailed voter histories violated the Constitutional right to privacy. And EPIC explained that the Commission had already committed two egregious security blunders—(1) directing state election officials to send voter records to an unsecure web site and (2) proposing to publish partial SSNs that would enable identity theft and financial fraud. The Court gave the government until Wednesday, July 5 to file an opposition. EPIC will then file a reply. A ruling is expected by the end of the week. The EPIC lawsuit follows a letter from 50 voting experts and 20 privacy organizations urging state election officials to oppose the Commission’s demand. The case is EPIC v. Commission, No. 17-1320 (D.D.C. filed July 3, 2017).
  • EPIC Seeks Information About Unprecedented DOJ Request for State Voter Procedures » (Jun. 30, 2017)
    EPIC has submitted an urgent Freedom of Information Act request about the Justice Department's attempts to obtain state voter procedures. In a June 28th letter to the forty-four states, the DOJ requested detailed information about state voter registration maintenance requirements within 30 days. The DOJ request to the states was sent the same day a new Presidential Commission demanded extensive voter registration data from all the states. Both he DOJ request and the request of the Presidential Commission are without precedent. EPIC has a long history of defending voter privacy and election integrity. EPIC has testified before the Election Assistance Commission on Voting System Guidelines, and published a joint report The Secret Ballot at Risk: Recommendations for Protecting Democracy, highlighting how Internet voting threatens voter privacy. For more information, visit: https://epic.org/privacy/voting/.
  • EPIC Urges DHS To Abandon Privacy Act Exemptions for ICE Database » (Jun. 8, 2017)
    In comments to the Department of Homeland Security, EPIC urged the agency to withdraw proposed Privacy Act exemptions. The FALCON database contains detailed personal information on ICE and CBP employees, and individuals associated with ICE investigations including victims and witnesses. For this government database, DHS has proposed to exempt itself from several Privacy Act protections including ensuring that the records are accurate, timely, and complete. EPIC has consistently warned against inaccurate, insecure, and overbroad government databases. The FBI recently postponed an "Insider Threat" database that also lacked adequate Privacy Act safeguards.
  • Intelligence Agency Provides Non-Responsive Response in EPIC Lawsuit for Russia Report » (May. 3, 2017)
    The Director of National Intelligence has failed to provide a sufficient response in EPIC v. ODNI, concerning release of the report on the Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential election. The intelligence agency was required to release all “non-exempt portions" of the report to EPIC on May 3, 2017. However the agency withheld the entire document, refusing to provide even partial information that should have been released to EPIC under the Freedom of Information Act. As EPIC made clear in the complaint, “There is an urgent need to make available to the public the Complete ODNI Assessment to fully assess the Russian interference with the 2016 Presidential election and to prevent future attacks on democratic institutions.” EPIC will challenge the agency’s response as the litigation continues in federal district court in Washington, DC. EPIC v. ODNI is a part of the EPIC Cybersecurity and Democracy Project, which focuses on US cyber policies, threats to election systems and foreign attempts to influence American policymaking.
  • EPIC, Coalition Urge DHS Secretary to Reject Social Media Password Requirement » (Apr. 18, 2017)
    EPIC has joined the Fly Don't Spy! campaign to urge DHS Secretary Kelly to reject plans to require to hand over passwords to the federal government. Such a requirement would undermine privacy and human rights, chill freedom of speech and association, and create greater security risks for travelers. Earlier this year, Secretary Kelly testified before Congress about collecting social media passwords. In response, EPIC immediately filed a Freedom of Information Act request regarding all DHS plans to use individuals' internet and social media information to vet potential entrants to the U.S.
  • EPIC Sues IRS for Release of Trump's Tax Records » (Apr. 15, 2017)
    Today EPIC filed a FOIA lawsuit against the IRS after the agency failed to release Donald J. Trump’s tax records. According to EPIC, "There has never been a more compelling FOIA request presented to the IRS.” In the request to the IRS, EPIC explained that the IRS Commissioner may release tax returns to "correct misstatements of fact" and to ensure the “integrity and fairness" of the tax system. EPIC cited an earlier statement of Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA), a member of the Joint Committee on Taxation, in support of the release. The case is captioned EPIC v. IRS, 17-670 (D.D.C. filed Apr. 15, 2017). For more information, see the Press Release about EPIC v. IRS. EPIC is currently pursuing several high level FOIA cases, including EPIC v. FBI and EPIC v. ODNI, to determine the scope of Russian interference with the 2016 Presidential election.
  • EPIC Appeals Passenger Profiling Case to DC Circuit » (Apr. 7, 2017)
    EPIC has appealed the ruling in EPIC v. CBP, case involving a controversial passenger screening program that combines detailed personal information with secret algorithms to assign "risk assessments" to travelers—including US citizens. EPIC sued the agency for information about the "Analytic Framework for Intelligence" under the Freedom of Information Act. As a consequence of the EPIC FOIA lawsuit, EPIC obtained important documents and prevailed in an earlier phase of the case. However, the federal court in Washington, DC declined last month to order the release of certain additional materials. EPIC is now asking the DC Circuit Court of Appeals to overrule the lower court's decision and compel the release of documents sought by EPIC.
  • Following Congress, EPIC Seeks Public Release of DHS Records on Russian Interference » (Mar. 31, 2017)
    EPIC has submitted an urgent Freedom of Information Act request for DHS's review of the Russian Interference with the presidential election. The EPIC FOIA request follows House Resolution 235, sponsored by Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), which would direct the Secretary of Homeland Security to transmit DHS's documents related to Russian interference to the House of Representative. EPIC is now pursuing public release of the same records, and has notified Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and Ranking Member Cummings (D-MD), of the House Oversight Committee of the pending FOIA request. Earlier this week, EPIC argued "the public has the right to know" about the extent of Russian interference with the 2016 election.
  • EPIC Submits FOIA Request Seeking Documents on Airline Electronics Ban » (Mar. 22, 2017)
    EPIC has submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the TSA seeking information on the recently announced ban on electronics on flights bound for the United States. The ban applies to ten airports in eight majority Muslim countries. EPIC is seeking documents related to the reasons for implementing the ban as well as documentation on TSA policies and procedures for searching electronics in checked luggage. EPIC regularly submits FOIA requests to government agencies and is also seeking information on eye scans conducted at US airports on US travelers. In EPIC v. DHS, EPIC is challenging the TSA's efforts to mandate airport body scanners.
  • EPIC Appeals DOJ Response to "Neither Confirm nor Deny" FISA Order on Trump Tower » (Mar. 20, 2017)
    EPIC has appealed the DOJ’s decision to “neither confirm nor deny" the existence of a FISA application to monitor Trump Tower. Following tweets by the President alleging that President Obama "had [his] wires tapped in Trump Tower,” EPIC submitted an urgent FOIA request with the DOJ’s National Security Division for public release of any FISA applications for wiretapping Trump Tower. In response, the DOJ stated on Friday that "we can neither confirm nor deny the existence of records in these files responsive to your request." Yet, in today’s hearing before the House Select Committee on Intelligence, FBI Director James Comey stated that both the FBI and the DOJ had “no information to support those tweets.” EPIC has appealed the agency's response to the FOIA request, stating "Based on the FBI Director’s statement today... the agency may not hide behind the “neither confirm nor deny" response," and the "agency should immediately process EPIC’s FOIA Request." The heads of the Senate and House Intelligence committees have also publicly rejected the allegations, along with House Speaker Paul Ryan. EPIC will continue to press the DOJ for release of the information.
  • EPIC FOIA: DOJ will neither "confirm nor deny" existence of FISA Application for Trump Tower » (Mar. 18, 2017)
    In a letter to EPIC, the Department of Justice’s National Security Division stated it will neither "confirm nor deny" the existence of a FISA application to monitor Trump Tower. After the President has charged that President Obama "had [his] wires tapped in Trump Tower,” EPIC filed an urgent FOIA request with the DOJ for the public release of any applications filed under "FISA" for wiretapping Trump Tower. In response to EPIC’s FOIA request, the DOJ has stated, "we can neither confirm nor deny the existence of records in these files responsive to your request." EPIC will challenge the agency's determination. The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released a bipartisan statement rejecting the allegations, and House Speaker Paul Ryan stated on Thursday they have "seen no evidence" of wiretapping. EPIC also filed a related request for five categories of FISA applications related to the alleged surveillance of the Trump team. The DOJ provided the same response to EPIC to that request.
  • EPIC FOIA: EPIC Seeks Information about Airport Eye Scans of U.S. Travelers » (Mar. 2, 2017)
    EPIC has filed an urgent FOIA request with U.S. Customs and Border Protection for details of eye scans conducted on U.S. citizens traveling internationally. The CBP has long been testing biometric identification of travelers, including U.S. citizens, and a recent report indicates U.S. citizens were subject to eye scans before traveling abroad. EPIC seeks public disclosure of the details of CBP policies for scanning U.S. citizen irises and retinas upon entry or exit to the U.S. EPIC makes frequent use of the Freedom of Information Act. As the result of a FOIA lawsuit, EPIC recently obtained several memorandum of understanding regarding the transfer of biometric identifiers between the FBI and DOD. Last month, EPIC also prevailed in EPIC v. FBI, a FOIA lawsuit public release of the FBI's privacy assessments.
  • EPIC Obtains Documents About DHS Immigration Enforcement Priorities » (Feb. 23, 2017)
    As a result of a Freedom of Information Act request, EPIC has obtained over 650 pages about DHS's immigration enforcement priorities. The documents detail the "Priorities Enforcement Program," a controversial program that relied on biometric data collection for immigration enforcement. EPIC recently submitted two new urgent FOIA requests to DHS, the first about DHS plans to step up social media monitoring and a second to reveal the agency's compliance with recent immigration court orders. This week, EPIC also prevailed in a FOIA lawsuit for public release of privacy assessments the FBI is required to prepare.
  • Coalition Urges UN to Investigate US Social Media Monitoring » (Feb. 16, 2017)
    A coalition of human rights groups is urging the UN to investigate reports that the US is demanding entrants provide access to their cell phones and social media accounts. "These practices persist in violation of the United States human rights treaty obligations and your action is needed to hold the government accountable," the group stated in a letter to the the UN High Commissioner on Human rights and other UN offices. EPIC recently submitted an urgent request for disclosure of DHS plans to step up social media monitoring, and previously prevailed in a lawsuit against the agency to reveal records of its monitoring programs. EPIC's Privacy Law Sourcebook 2016, available in the EPIC bookstore, provides an overview of privacy frameworks around the world and tracks emerging privacy challenges.
  • Senators Calls for Answers from Secretary Kelly on Privacy Act Exclusion » (Feb. 9, 2017)
    In a letter to DHS Secretary Kelly, Senator Markey (D-MA) and five other Senators pressed DHS about the impact of an Executive Order limiting federal Privacy Act protections. "These Privacy Act exclusions could have a devastating impact on immigrant communities and would be inconsistent with the commitments made when the government collected much of this information," the Senators contended. The Senators also called on Secretary Kelly to explain the Order's impact on international commitments that permit U.S. firms to obtain access to the data of European consumers. EPIC is participating in Data Protection Commissioner v. Facebook, a case which follows a landmark decision that found insufficient legal protections for the transfer of European consumer data to the United States.
  • EPIC Pursues FOIA Requests at DHS Concerning Aerial Surveillance, Social Media Monitoring, and ID Theft » (Feb. 8, 2017)
    EPIC has submitted an urgent FOIA request to the Department of Homeland Security about aerial surveillance, social media monitoring and ID theft following statements made by DHS Secretary John Kelly in a Congressional hearing on Homeland Security. The Secretary described plans to expand the use of "aerostats" (surveillance blimps) and monitoring of social media. The Secretary also stated that he has been a victim of data breach. The EPIC FOIA request follows earlier cases brought by EPIC which revealed efforts by the DHS to expand aerial surveillance within the United States, develop techniques for "pre-crime" detection, interrupt Internet service, as well as the impermissible monitoring of social media services and news organizations.
  • EPIC FOIA: EPIC Seeks Information About Immigration Executive Order » (Feb. 3, 2017)
    EPIC has filed an urgent FOIA request with the Department for Homeland Security for further information about a DHS press release on "Compliance With Court Orders And The President's Executive Order." The DHS Press Release follows an Executive Order on entry to the United States and a series of court decisions suspending the Order. EPIC is now seeking details about the DHS's activities, including communications with other agencies, communications with airlines, and legal memos supporting the agency's actions. The Inspector General of DHS also announced an investigation to review "allegations of individual misconduct on the part of DHS personnel." EPIC cited both an "urgency to inform the public" and "exceptional media interest" in questions about the "government's integrity" in support of the request for expedited processing. EPIC will continue to press the DHS for prompt release of the documents sought. More information about EPIC's FOIA work is available on the FOIA Case page.
  • EPIC Seeks Public Release of Secret Directive on Cybersecurity » (Jan. 28, 2017)
    EPIC has filed an urgent FOIA request with the DHS, the Department of Justice, and the NSA, seeking the expedited release of NSPD-1. The National Security Presidential Directive sets out procedures for cybersecurity "policy coordination, guidance, dispute resolution, and periodic in-progress review." EPIC has previously litigated, and successfully obtained, NSPD-54, a Presidential Directive concerning the NSA's authority to conduct surveillance within the United States.
  • Intelligence Director Removes Key Privacy Safeguards for Raw Intelligence » (Jan. 12, 2017)
    The Director of National Intelligence has announced new rules that permit intelligence agencies to disseminate "raw" signals intelligence without first removing or "minimizing" personal information. EPIC and other civil liberties groups opposed these changes in a letter last year to the Director, explaining that the changes would "fatally weaken existing restrictions on access to the phone calls, emails, and other data the NSA collects." The Director said that the new rules would "prohibit recipient elements from querying raw [intelligence] for a law enforcement purpose." But EPIC previously highlighted the risks of consolidating personal data in a FOIA lawsuit, EPIC v. ODNI, against the Director of National Intelligence.
  • Senate Armed Services Committee to Examine Foreign Cyber Threats » (Jan. 4, 2017)
    The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing on "Foreign Cyber Threats to the United States" on January 5, 2016. EPIC submitted a statement to the Committee to alert Senators about a pending Freedom of Information Act request. The EPIC FOIA request concerns the lax response of the FBI to the Russian interference with the 2016 Presidential election. EPIC wrote “we believe that the information that we are seeking from the FBI will also be helpful to the Senate Armed Services Committee as you investigate foreign cyber threats to the United States.”“Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, National Security Agency and Cyber Command Chief Adm. Mike Rogers and Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Marcel Lettre are scheduled to testify.
  • The Verge Features EPIC FOIA Docs on Secret Profiling System » (Dec. 21, 2016)
    In an article today, The Verge featured an EPIC Freedom of Information Act lawsuit about a controversial government data mining program, operated by the Department of Homeland Security. EPIC is seeking documents on the "Analytical Framework for Intelligence," a program that assigns "risk assessment" scores to travelers using data from sources including the Automated Targeting System, also operated by the DHS. Travelers "don't know how the scores are being generated and what the factors are," said EPIC FOIA Counsel, John Tran. "What if there's an error? Users should have an opportunity to correct the error, users should have an opportunity to understand what goes into generating the score." The case is currently pending before a federal judge in Washington, DC. EPIC expects to obtain more records on AFI. The FOIA case is also related to EPIC's ongoing work on "Algorithmic Transparency."
  • Open Government Lawsuits at Near-Record Highs in 2016 » (Dec. 9, 2016)
    Advocates, journalists, and businesses have brought a near-record 512 lawsuits under the Freedom of Information Act in 2016. The findings, complied by for FOIAproject.org by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, show a 35 percent increase in FOIA litigation over the past five years. According to the new report, the lawsuits have covered diverse issues including "private email accounts, national security, immigration, the environment and even Donald Trump." In 2016, EPIC brought FOIA suits for the DOJ's secret inspector general reports, the DOT's drone task force records, and the FBI's biometric data transfer memos.
  • Government Breaches Continue, Hacker Compromises more than 130,000 Navy Records » (Nov. 29, 2016)
    In the latest government data breach, the Navy reported that a hacker gathered the personal data of more than 130,000 current and former sailors from a laptop that belonged to a government contractor. Government security vulnerabilities are on the rise. In 2015, the records of more than 21 million federal workers, friends and family members were breached. In 2016, EPIC urged candidates for office to focus on "data protection." EPIC has warned that inaccurate, insecure, and overbroad government databases pose a risks to the safety of Americans. Earlier this year, EPIC urged the Dept. of Defense and Dept. of Homeland Security to drop proposals to expand government databases that lacked adequate privacy safeguards.
  • DHS Releases Revised FOIA Regulations, Agrees and Disagrees with EPIC's Suggestions » (Nov. 23, 2016)
    The Department of Homeland Security has released revised Freedom of Information Act regulations. EPIC submitted extensive comments on the proposed changes to the agency's open government practices. The DHS agreed to make some changes, recommended by EPIC, that should improve the processing of FOIA requests. The agency maintained a broad definition of "educational institutions" so that individual researchers will be able to access government records at minimal cost, and clarified steps that could be taken to delay "administrative closure," a controversial agency practice. The agency disagreed with EPIC about agency referrals, the definition of "commercial interest," and the routine release of public information to general public.
  • Report: Facial Recognition is Expansive, Unregulated; Coalition Calls for DOJ Review » (Oct. 18, 2016)
    EPIC and a coalition of civil liberties organizations urged the Justice Department to review the disparate impact of facial recognition. The letter follows a report on law enforcement use of the technology. The report builds on work pursued by EPIC and others. Freedom of Information Act documents obtained by EPIC showed that the DHS system lacked privacy safeguards, the FBI accepts a 20% error rate for its Next Generation Identification system and has agreements to run facial recognition searches on DMV databases. In 2012, EPIC urged the Federal Trade Commission to suspend the use of facial recognition techniques pending the establishment of legal safeguards. And the 2009 Madrid Privacy Declaration, authored by NGOs and privacy experts, calls for a moratorium on the face scanning technology.
  • Reuters: US Government Issued Secret Order to Yahoo to Scan All E-mails » (Oct. 4, 2016)
    Reuters reported today that Yahoo scanned the private email of Yahoo users pursuant to a secret directive issued by the FBI. The email scanning technique, based on a search for key terms, recalled a similar FBI program “Carnivore” that was found to capture far more information than authorized, according to documents obtained by EPIC under the Freedom of Information Act. The news report also renews concerns about the scope of US Internet surveillance.  The European Court of Justice struck down an EU-US data transfer deal last year, following revelations that US Internet firms collaborated with the NSA to enable mass surveillance.  A related case, Irish Data Protection Commissioner v. Facebook, is now pending. The Irish High Court has selected EPIC as "a friend of the court" to "counterbalance" the submission of the United States intelligence community.
  • EPIC FOIA: Google Secretly Attempted to Narrow FCC Privacy Protections, Exclude Customer IP Addresses » (Oct. 4, 2016)
    In response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by EPIC, the Federal Communications Commission has released communications about the FCC’s broadband privacy rulemaking. One of the key proposals for the privacy rules concerns the scope of consumer data covered by the rule, such as a customer’s IP address. An email exchange between Google’s Vinton Cerf and FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler reveals Google’s backdoor efforts to narrow the scope of the proposed rules to exclude privacy protections for customers’ IP addresses. While EPIC has repeatedly argued that the FCC’s rules can and should go further, the current proposal would safeguard some consumer data, including IP addresses.
  • EPIC Opposes DHS Plan to Collect Social Media Identifiers » (Sep. 30, 2016)
    In comments to the Department of Homeland Security, EPIC urged the agency to drop a plan to review the social media accounts of people seeking to visit the U.S. EPIC argued that the proposal threatens important First Amendment rights, risked abuse, and would disproportionately impact against minority groups. Documents obtained by EPIC in 2011 in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit revealed that the DHS gathered social media comments to identify individuals, including US citizens, critical of the agency and the government. A 2012 Congressional hearing, based on the documents obtained by EPIC, revealed bipartisan opposition to the original DHS social media monitoring program. 
  • EPIC Celebrates International Access to Information Day » (Sep. 28, 2016)
    Today marks the first annual International Day for Universal Access to Information. This day celebrating the right to information—September 28th of every year—was established by the UN Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization in a resolution last year. Freedom of information, declared UNESCO, "is an integral part of the fundamental right to freedom of expression," and is established as a right in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. International efforts to promote the right to information have also produced the Open Government Partnership, a multilateral initiative to secure transparency commitments from governments. EPIC, as part of a coalition of transparency groups, has proposed recommendations to the US open government plan, as well as plans from US agencies.
  • Federal Agencies Unable to Measure FOIA Litigation Costs » (Sep. 9, 2016)
    In a new report the Government Accountability Office found that the Justice Department and other federal agencies are unable to determine how much they spend on defending Freedom of Information Act lawsuits. The watchdog agency found that of the 112 FOIA lawsuits decided between 2009 and 2012 in which the requester prevailed, agencies were able to calculate costs for only half, and estimated $1.4 million in costs. The GAO—which conducted the investigation in response to a request from Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) of the Senate Judiciary Committee—urged Congress to explore the possibility of requiring agencies to track FOIA litigation costs. EPIC routinely litigates FOIA cases against federal agencies, and is currently fighting to obtain secret Inspector General reports  surveillance oversight reports, and details on the government’s largest-ever phone surveillance program
  • EPIC Opposes DHS Plan to Collect Social Media Identifiers » (Aug. 23, 2016)
    In comments to the Department of Homeland Security, EPIC urged the agency to drop a plan to review the social media accounts of people seeking to visit the U.S. EPIC argued that the proposal threatens important First Amendment rights, risked abuse, and would disproportionately impact against minority groups. Documents obtained by EPIC in 2011 in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit revealed that the DHS gathered social media comments to identify individuals, including US citizens, critical of the agency and the government. A 2012 Congressional hearing, based on the documents obtained by EPIC, revealed bipartisan opposition to the original DHS social media monitoring program.
  • EPIC Sues for Release of Government Oversight Reports » (Jul. 5, 2016)
    EPIC has filed a FOIA lawsuit against the Department of Justice to obtain the agency’s secret watchdog reports. The mission of the Office of the Inspector General is “to detect and deter waste, fraud, abuse, and misconduct.” However, many of the reports are kept secret. Those reports, EPIC explained in the complaint, "are critical for the public to understand the measures taken to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the DOJ, and as a mechanism to hold the agency accountable.” EPIC previously obtained oversight reports on the CIA surveillance of muslims in New York, and CIA spying on Senate staff.
  • President Obama Signs FOIA Reform Bill Into Law » (Jul. 1, 2016)
    Celebrating 50 years since enactment of the Freedom of Information Act, the Congress has passed, and the President has signed the FOIA Improvements Act of 2016. The Act creates a new portal for requesters, requires the proactive disclosure of frequently requested records, strengthens the Office of Government Information Services, and codifies the "Presumption of Openness" in the processing of requests for information about government. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), a champion of open government, stated "Our founders had the revolutionary vision to create a government of, by, and for the people. Today we have helped strengthen that ideal." EPIC and many open government advocates urged the President to support these reforms. EPIC also established the website FOIA.ROCKS.
  • FOIA Ombudsman Recommends Changes to Use of "Still Interested" Letters » (Jun. 21, 2016)
    The FOIA ombudsman has issued the third part of a report on the use of "still interested" letters (part 1part 2). Such letters are used by federal agencies to prematurely terminate FOIA requests. In 2014, an EPIC-led coalition urged the Office of Government Information Services to investigate the pervasive use of such letters. Today’s report recognizes that this agency practice is "not addressed in the FOIA statute or in agency regulations,” and that reporting on the practice is inconsistent. The FOIA ombudsman  urged agencies to provide additional guidance on the use of such letters, and to document the practice in annual reporting. Congress recently passed legislation to strengthen the FOIA, which the President is expected to sign.
  • House to Consider Overdue FOIA Reform Bill » (Jun. 10, 2016)
    Congress is poised to take up a FOIA reform bill next Monday. The bill would require federal agencies to operate under a "presumption of openness" and places time limits on agency responses, improvements that EPIC has long supported. EPIC routinely uses the Freedom of Information Act to promote government oversight and agency accountability. July 4, 2016 will mark the 50th anniversary of the enactment of the FOIA.
  • EPIC FOIA: Secret Drone Task Force Ignored Privacy Concerns » (Jun. 9, 2016)
    second batch of previously secret documents show that the government’s secret drone task force ignored public concerns about drone surveillance. Included in the documents are opening remarks by FAA Administrator Michael Huerta, who urged the task force to take into consideration “the interests of all stakeholders,” but who declined to invite any privacy or consumer advocates to the closed door meetings. The newly released records stem from EPIC v. DOT, a lawsuit filed to uncover records relating to the private meetings held last November in Washington, DC between agency officials and industry representatives. EPIC expects to obtain more documents from the agency.
  • EPIC, Coalition Recommend Improvements to U.S. Open Government Plan » (May. 23, 2016)
    EPIC and a coalition of open government groups have urged the country’s trade agency to improve the open government plan for the United States. The coalition called on the United States Trade Representative to (1) make public the rules for trade negotiations, (2) publish comprehensive updates after each round of negotiation, and (3) appoint an independent transparency officer. EPIC and others also developed model Freedom of Information Act Regulations that would apply across the government.
  • Federal Court Strikes Down Obstacle to Student FOIA Requests » (May. 20, 2016)
    A federal appeals court has ruled that government agencies must give students who pursue Freedom of Information Act requests favorable fee treatment. The case involved a Ph.D. student who was charged $900 to process a FOIA request. The Department of Defense contended that students are not entitled to the favorable fee standards of “educational institutions." The D.C. Circuit disagreed and ruled today that “[s]tudents who make FOIA requests to further their coursework or other school-sponsored activities are eligible for reduced fees under FOIA because students, like teachers, are part of an educational institution.” In 2011, EPIC criticized the practice of charging students extra fees for FOIA requests, calling the government’s position “absurd.”
  • Justice Department Releases 2016 FOIA Reports » (May. 19, 2016)
    The Justice Department has released an assessment of the 2016 FOIA compliance reports. Every year, federal agencies prepare reports describing steps taken to implement President Obama's Memo and former AG Eric Holder's Guidelines. The DOJ grades FOIA compliance in five areas: applying the presumption of openness, effective and responsive systems, proactively releasing information, utilizing technology, and reducing backlogs and improving response times. The Senate recently passed by unanimous consent the Freedom of Information Improvement Act of 2015; the bill is now in the House. EPIC and other open government organizations have called on President Obama to strengthen the FOIA.

  • FOIA Ombudsman Releases First Part of "Still Interested" Report » (Apr. 27, 2016)
    In response to a letter from EPIC and open government advocates, the FOIA ombudsman has issued the first part of a report on the use of "still interested" letters by federal agencies. The DHS and other agencies have sent these letters to prematurely terminate FOIA requests. In 2014, an EPIC-led coalition urged the Office of Government Information Services to investigate the pervasive use of such letters. In today's report, OGIS found that there is no "guidance or standard for reporting requests that agencies close" through "still interested" letters, and that it does not yet understand the impact such letters have on FOIA requesters.
  • TSA Releases New Body Scanner Document to EPIC » (Apr. 25, 2016)
    In response to an EPIC FOIA request, the Transportation Security Administration has released a document describing the technical capabilities of the airport body scanners. EPIC previously obtained documents from TSA revealing that body scanners can record, store, and transmit digital strip search images of airline passengers. Last month, the TSA issued a regulation on airport body scanners, nearly five years after a federal appeals court ordered the agency to "promptly” undertake a rule making. In 2011, EPIC successfully challenged the TSA's unlawful deployment of airport body scanners. Despite public comments that overwhelmingly favor less invasive security screenings, the TSA plans to use invasive body scanners at US airports. The TSA also said it may mandate airport body scanners, even though the agency previously told the D.C. Circuit that the body scanner program was optional and the federal appeals court upheld the program, relying on the agency’s statements.
  • DHS, Federal Agencies Publish 2016 FOIA Reports » (Apr. 6, 2016)
    Most federal agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security, have now published the 2016 FOIA Reports. These annual reports, required by former Attorney General Holder's 2009 FOIA Memo, describe each agency's compliance with the FOIA, including steps to taken to improve processing and promote openness. The federal FOIA ombudsman is currently investigating the practices of six DHS component agencies in response to a 2015 letter from EPIC and open government advocates. EPIC and other have recently urged the President to support bipartisan legislation aimed at improving the FOIA.
  • EPIC Successfully Obtains Boater Tracking Documents, Settles Case with Homeland Security » (Mar. 28, 2016)
    After successfully obtaining nearly 2,500 pages of documents concerning a controversial boater tracking program, EPIC has settled a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit with the Department of Homeland Security about the "Nationwide Automatic Identification Systems." According to the documents released to EPIC, the DHS believes that boaters have "no expectation of privacy with regard to any information transmitted" about the location of their boats. The documents also reveal that the agency fuses tracking data with other government data to develop detailed profiles on boaters. EPIC did not objet to the use of NAIS for marine safety; the concern is government surveillance. EPIC has also opposed a DHS plan to collect and maintain records on sea travelers.
  • Senate Passes FOIA Reform Bill » (Mar. 16, 2016)
    The Senate has passed by unanimous consent the Freedom of Information Improvement Act of 2015. The bill, cosponsored by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), requires federal agencies to operate under a "presumption of openness," and places time limits on the FOIA's Exemption 5. Senator Leahy said that the bill "will help open the government to the 300 million Americans it serves and ensure that future administrations place an emphasis on openness and transparency." The House passed a similar bill in January 2016. Differences between the two versions must now be reconciled before President Obama can sign the bill into law. EPIC and a coalition of open government advocates urged the President to support the bipartisan legislation.
  • EPIC Publishes 2016 FOIA Gallery » (Mar. 11, 2016)
    In celebration of Sunshine Week, a national recognition of public access to information, EPIC has unveiled the 2016 FOIA Gallery. Since 2001, EPIC has released annual highlights of EPIC's most significant open government cases. In 2015, EPIC obtained records on e-voting tests from the Department of Defense, a secret EU-US data transfer agreement, and a massive boater tracking program operated by the DHS. In the latest FOIA Gallery, EPIC also highlights the victory in EPIC v. DOJ a FOIA case concerning electronic surveillance reports, EPIC v. NSA about cyber surveillance, and EPIC's role as "friend of the court" in an open government case before the California Supreme Court.
  • European Commission Wrongly Denies EPIC's Request For "Privacy Shield" » (Feb. 26, 2016)
    The European Commission has wrongly denied EPIC's Freedom of Information request for the text of the "Privacy Shield." The Commission said the adequacy decision about Safe Harbor is "in preparation" and "negotiations with the U.S. are still ongoing." The Commission confused the text of the political agreement, known as "the Privacy Shield," with a legal determination about whether the agreement meets EU data protection law. EPIC will pursue public release of the Privacy Shield, which was previously announced, and then the release of the adequacy determination when it is final. EU and US Consumer and privacy organizations have opposed the agreement because it fails to provide adequate privacy protections.
  • EPIC FOIA - Information about Controversial DNA Forensic Technique Released » (Feb. 23, 2016)
    In response to EPIC's FOIA request, the California Department of Justice has released records on a controversial forensic technique. The records show that in 2014, the state agency spent more than $300,000 on STRMix, a secret technique for matching DNA. Investigators in Australia subsequently found an error in the STRMix code that produced incorrect results in 60 criminal cases, including a high-profile murder case. STRMix promises prosecutors the ability to "[c]arry out familial searches against a database, searching for close relatives of contributors to mixed DNA profiles" but the algorithm remains secret. EPIC is pursuing FOIA requests on the secret DNA matching algorithms with state agencies across the U.S.
  • EPIC Recommends Greater Accountability for Government Screening Database » (Feb. 23, 2016)
    EPIC submitted comments to DHS urging the agency to improve transparency and privacy protections for the controversial Terrorist Screening Database that is used for Watchlist programs, such as the No Fly List, containing information that is often inaccurate and incomplete. The agency solicited comments on a proposal to remove Privacy Act safeguards while simultaneously expanding data collection and distributing data more widely across the DHS. EPIC and many other organization opposed the establishment of the Screening Database and called for the suspension pending a full review of the privacy and security implications. EPIC has testified before Congress about the risks of the Watchlist program.
  • Department of Commerce: Privacy Shield "does not exist" » (Feb. 10, 2016)
    As a response to EPIC's Freedom of Information request for the "Privacy Shield," the Commerce Department responded that "the record you requested does not exist." EU and US officials celebrated earlier this month that the EU and the US reached an agreement for transatlantic data transfers but they did not make the agreement public. Apparently there was nothing to make public since the agreement does not exist. The EPIC FOIA request is designated DOC-ITA-2016-000577.
  • EPIC v. DOJ: EPIC Prevails, DOJ Releases Secret EU-US Umbrella Agreement » (Jan. 25, 2016)
    After months of delay, the Department of Justice has finally released to EPIC the full text of the EU-US Umbrella Agreement. EPIC sued the DOJ last year after the agency failed to act on EPIC's FOIA request for the secret agreement. Today's release comes on the heels of EPIC's opposition to the agency's attempt to further delay the Agreement's release. The Umbrella Agreement outlines data transfers between EU and US law enforcement agencies, and is the basis for the Judicial Redress Act currently before Congress. EPIC has criticized the legislation, and recently urged the Senate to delay action on the bill until the DOJ releases the Umbrella Agreement and the Judiciary Committee holds a hearing on the legislation.
  • Amid Criticism of Agency Compliance, House Passes Substantial FOIA Reforms » (Jan. 11, 2016)
    Congress has passed the FOIA Oversight and Implementation Act, H.R. 653, which would limit exemptions that allow agencies to withhold public records, create an online portal for FOIA requests, and require agencies to post frequently requested documents. Open government advocates and members of Congress have criticized federal agencies for lax compliance with the Freedom of Information Act. The House Oversight Committee concluded that "[e]xcessive delays and redactions" have undermined the Act." The FOIA Ombudsman criticized the Transportation Security Administration for its "weak management" and lack of a "FOIA tracking system." EPIC has pursued many FOIA cases. EPIC and a coalition previously urged President Obama to strengthen the FOIA by committing to a "presumption of openness" and narrowing the use of FOIA exemptions.
  • EPIC Seeks Default Judgment in Umbrella Agreement Lawsuit » (Jan. 6, 2016)
    In its fight to obtain a copy of the EU-US Umbrella Agreement, EPIC asked a federal court in Washington, D.C. today to grant default judgment against the Department of Justice. EPIC sued the agency to obtain the secret agreement, which concerns the transfer of personal information between the EU and US. After the DOJ failed to answer EPIC's complaint, the court entered default against the agency. The Agreement is central to pending legislation, which the Senate Judiciary Committee is set to debate this month yet the DOJ has not made the document available to the public or to Members of Congress.
  • EPIC Opposes Sea Traveller Surveillance Program » (Jan. 4, 2016)
    In comments to the DHS, EPIC criticized a proposal to collect detailed records on people traveling by boat. The DHS is planning to track people arriving and departing the United States by sea, including between ports within the United States. However, DHS will ignore Privacy Act protections, and make the data collected routinely available to private companies and foreign governments. The proposal, explained EPIC, would "create a massive government database of detailed personal information that lacks accountability." EPIC has opposed other boat surveillance programs. And a FOIA case pursued by EPIC about a controversial boater tracking program revealed that the DHS fuses tracking data with other intelligence data to develop detailed profiles on boaters.
  • EPIC Urges OMB to Update Open Government Plan » (Dec. 21, 2015)
    EPIC and a coalition of transparency advocates urged the Office of Management and Budget to comply with President Obama's plan to promote open government. The OMB is expected to produce an open government plan, "describ[ing] how it will improve transparency." However, OMB Has failed to act even as the Administration has urged other governments to adopt similar plans. "The failure is particularly troubling," wrote the groups, "because OMB is an agency with a central oversight role on information policy, it has responsibility for implementation of this plan, and it often serves as the right hand of the President." EPIC and others previously called on President Obama to address weaknesses in open government administration and support FOIA reform.
  • DHS and State Department Pushing for Increased Social Media Monitoring » (Dec. 16, 2015)
    According to reports and statements from former Homeland Security officials, the DHS has initiated three "pilot programs" to analyze social media posts during the visa review process. Prior to 2014, a DHS policy prohibited social media monitoring by immigration officials. EPIC successfully obtained documents in 2012 detailing the DHS social media monitoring policies, including instructions to analysts to monitor criticism of the agency. EPIC also submitted a letter to congressional leaders, outlining how DHS officials misrepresented their policies in a Homeland Security Committee hearing. EPIC wrote that the DHS' monitoring program should be suspended, as it exceeds the agency's statutory authority and chills First Amendment activity.
  • Report on "Still Interested?" Letters Delayed Until 2016 » (Dec. 10, 2015)
    The federal FOIA Ombudsman informed EPIC that an investigation into the open government practices of the Department of Homeland Security won't be finished until March 2016. In 2014, EPIC and other open government advocates urged the Office of Government Information Services to investigate "still interested?" letters. The DHS has sent these letters to FOIA requesters to prematurely terminate open government requests. EPIC objected to the practice and explained that "no provision in the FOIA allows for administrative closures."
  • EPIC, Coalition Criticize Platform for Comments to Government » (Dec. 4, 2015)
    EPIC and a coalition of open government organizations submitted a letter to the Office of Management and Budget regarding revisions to Circular A-130, a government policy for access to information resources. The groups expressed concern about a poorly designed Internet service -- GitHub -- that created "new barriers to public participation in government decision-making." EPIC and its partners called on the OMB to "ensure meaningful public participation by notifying the public of opportunities to comment and accepting comments in other formats." EPIC frequently submits comments to state and federal agencies. OMB is accepting comments on A-130 through December 5.
  • EPIC to Receive More Documents in Boater Surveillance Case » (Nov. 24, 2015)
    This morning a federal judge in Washington, D.C. ordered the U.S. Coast Guard to release to EPIC, within sixty days, additional documents on the "National Automated Identification System,' a controversial boater tracking program that EPIC is investigating. According to documents previously obtained by EPIC, the Department of Homeland Security believes that boaters have "no expectation of privacy with regard to any information transmitted" on the Automated Identification System. The documents also reveal that the DHS fuses AIS data with other government data to develop detailed profiles on boaters. EPIC has previously expressed support for AIS to promote maritime safety, but warned that the NAIS system exceeds this purpose. In January, EPIC expects to receive contracts and privacy impact assessments that were previously withheld.
  • EPIC Obtains Documents on Secret DNA Forensic Source Code » (Nov. 10, 2015)
    In response to EPIC's state public records requests, Virginia and Pennsylvania have both released documents about "TrueAllele," a proprietary technique used in DNA forensic analysis. Virginia released to EPIC a validation study and validation summary prepared by the Virginia Department of Forensic Science. Pennsylvania produced purchase and service contracts, technical specifications, and user manuals for TrueAllele. Agencies in California, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, and Virginia have stated that they do not have access to the TrueAllele source code that they are using to produce evidence against defendants. EPIC's open government requests cited the importance of algorithmic transparency in the criminal justice system.
  • US Releases Updated Open Government Plan » (Nov. 5, 2015)
    The United States has released its Third Open Government National Action Plan, an initiative pursued by countries and NGOs participating in the Open Government Partnership. In response to recommendations proposed by EPIC and a coalition of civil society groups, the administration pledged to modernize implementation of the FOIA, streamline record declassification, and increase transparency of the intelligence community. The White House, however, failed to incorporate other recommendations such as publishing FISC opinions and pledging to limit the use of the FOIA's b(5) Exemption. EPIC and others previously called on President Obama to address weaknesses in open government administration and push for meaningful FOIA reform.
  • Senator Leahy Opposes FOIA Exemptions in Cyber Security Bill » (Oct. 27, 2015)
    Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) urged fellow Senators to remove a proposed open government exemption in a pending cybersecurity bill. The Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA), said Sen. Leahy, "contains an overly broad new FOIA exemption that is both unnecessary and harmful." Sen. Leahy called the FOIA "our nation's premier transparency law," and said that any modifications must go through the Senate Judiciary Committee. "The Senate must have an open and honest debate about the Senate Intelligence Committee's bill and its implications for Americans' privacy and government transparency," remarked the Senator. Last year, EPIC won a five-year court battle against the NSA for NSPD 54, the foundational legal document for U.S. cybersecurity policies. EPIC has also set out recommendations for FOIA reform.
  • EPIC Pursues Public Release of Secret DNA Forensic Source Code » (Oct. 14, 2015)
    EPIC has filed public records requests in six states to obtain the source code of "TrueAllele," a software product used in DNA forensic analysis. According to recent news reports, law enforcement officials use TrueAllele test results to establish guilt, but individuals accused of crimes are denied access to the source code that produces the results. A similar program used by New Zealand prosecutors was recently found to have a coding error that provided incorrect results in 60 cases, including a high-profile murder case. EPIC has previously urged the US Supreme Court to carefully consider the reliability of new investigative techniques and argued a federal appeals case against DNA dragnet surveillance. Citing the importance of algorithmic transparency in the criminal justice system, EPIC filed requests in California, Louisiana, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.
  • Government Gets Second Extension in EPIC Supreme Court Case about Cellphone Shutdown Policy » (Oct. 12, 2015)
    The US Supreme Court has granted the Solicitor General more time to respond to EPIC's charges that the government's effort to keep under wraps a controversial cellphone shutdown policy violates the law. EPIC has pursued public release of the government policy since BART subway officials shut down cellphone service during a peaceful protest in 2011. After EPIC prevailed in district court and a judge ordered release of the policy, the government appealed and a federal appeals court reversed. In the Supreme Court petition, EPIC argued that the was "contrary to the intent of Congress, this Court's precedent, and this Court's specific guidance on statutory interpretation." The government's response is now due on November 13.
  • EPIC Urges Homeland Security to Uphold the Public's Right to Know » (Sep. 29, 2015)
    On International Right to Know Day, EPIC submitted comments to the Department of Homeland Security, urging the agency to uphold the Freedom of Information Act. EPIC objected to several of the agency's proposals, including changes to the FOIA that would: (1) prematurely terminate FOIA requests; (2) withhold the names of agencies to which DHS may refer FOIA requests; and (3) increase open government fees for students conducting research. EPIC also supported several changes that will make it easier for the public to obtain information from the DHS. EPIC routinely comments on agency proposals that impact the rights of FOIA requesters.
  • EPIC celebrates International Right to Know Day » (Sep. 25, 2015)
    On September 28, EPIC celebrates International Right to Know Day and government transparency. EPIC has pursued numerous FOIA cases and routinely made the information obtained available to Congress and the public. EPIC recently filed a FOIA request to obtain the secret US-EU data transfer agreement. For more information, see EPIC Open Government. @EPICprivacy #FOISuccess #IRTKD2015
  • EPIC Sues Coast Guard, DHS for Information on Boater Tracking Program » (Sep. 20, 2015)
    EPIC has sued the U.S. Coast Guard and the Department of Homeland Security to obtain information on a federal government program to track and record the location of boaters. According to EPIC, the DHS intends to transfer the data from the Nationwide Automatic Identification System to federal and state agencies, as well as foreign governments. "The NAIS program exceeds the stated purpose of marine safety and constitutes an ongoing risk to the privacy and civil liberties of mariners across the United States," wrote EPIC in the FOIA lawsuit. The boating community has expressed concern over the tracking program. A previous FOIA request from EPIC to the agency went unanswered. Press Release - EPIC v. CG, DHS, No, 15-1527.
  • EPIC Recommends Changes to Judicial Redress Act » (Sep. 16, 2015)
    In a letter to the House Judiciary Committee, EPIC recommended changes to the Judicial Redress Act to provide meaningful protections for data collected on non-U.S. persons. The bill, also pending in the Senate, seeks to amend the federal Privacy Act. EPIC explained that the legislation under consideration fails to provide adequate protection to permit transborder data flows. EPIC also pointed to increasing public concern in the United States about failure to enforce the law. EPIC has previously recommended Congressional action to ensure adequate protections for all personal information collected by U.S. federal agencies. EPIC is also seeking public release of the text of the EU-US "Umbrella Agreement."
  • Congress Moves to Advance Judicial Redress Act as Secret Police Agreement is Leaked in Europe » (Sep. 15, 2015)
    A Congressional committee will this week consider endorsement of the Judicial Redress Act, after announcement of the just concluded EU-US "Umbrella Agreement." EPIC filed expedited an FOIA requests to obtain the text of the secret agreement. The document was since made available by Statewatch. EPIC will pursue official release of the Agreement from US and EU authorities to the public. Regarding amendments to the Privacy Act, EPIC has made extensive recommendations for Privacy Act modernization, including specific changes to the damages provision that would correct a Supreme Court holding and address such problems as the OPM data breach.
  • EPIC Pursues Public Release of EU-US Agreement on Data Transfers » (Sep. 10, 2015)
    EPIC has filed an expedited FOIA request to obtain a secret agreement between US and EU law enforcement agencies concerning the transfer of personal data. Citing legislation pending in Congress and NGO concern about the scope of the data protection safeguards, EPIC said "there is an urgency to inform the public" about the contents of the agreement. EPIC has pursued numerous FOIA cases and routinely made the information obtained available to Congress and the public. The agency has 10 days to respond to EPIC's request about the law enforcement "umbrella agreement."
  • Following EPIC Complaint, FOIA Ombudsman Announces Investigation of Practices at DHS » (Aug. 28, 2015)
    The federal FOIA ombudsman has informed EPIC that it is investigating the FOIA practices of six DHS component agencies. In 2014, EPIC and a dozen open government organizations urged the Office of Government Information Services to investigate the impermissible closures of FOIA requests. Through "still interested" letters, some federal agencies notify FOIA requesters that unprocessed requests will be closed by the agency if there is no further communication. EPIC and the open government groups object to the practice and reminded OGIS that "no provision in the [FOIA] allows for administrative closures." An earlier EPIC letter to OGIS led to a reduction of fee payments for FOIA requesters.
  • Federal Court: DHS Failed to Justify Withholdings in Defense Contractor Monitoring FOIA Case » (Aug. 5, 2015)
    In EPIC v. DHS, a federal district court ruled that the Department of Homeland Security failed to justify withholding documents subject to the Freedom of Information Act. EPIC sued DHS to compel the disclosure of records relating to a cybersecurity program designed to monitor traffic flowing through ISPs to a select number of defense contractors. The court concluded that the agency's argument relied on "a weak assumption," but will allow the agency to submit a revised justification for withholding the records. EPIC previously won a five-year legal battle to release NSPD-54, the foundational legal document for U.S. cybersecurity policies.
  • State Department and Homeland Security Propose Open Government Rules » (Aug. 3, 2015)
    The State Department and the Department of Homeland Security have each proposed to amend their Freedom of Information Act programs. Both agencies propose several favorable changes to their FOIA programs, including more circumstances in which the agencies would expedite processing for open government requests. The agencies are currently accepting public comments on their proposals until September 28. EPIC recently submitted extensive comments to the Defense Department, opposing several of the agency's plans to amend its FOIA program. EPIC routinely comments on FOIA rulemakings and has had past success with the Justice Department, Federal Trade Commission, and several other federal agencies.
  • Open Government Groups Oppose Proposed FOIA Exemptions » (Jul. 27, 2015)
    Over the weekend, several open government groups urged Sen. Mitch McConnell (R) and Sen. Harry Reid (D) to remove proposed FOIA "b(3)" exemptions from a pending transportation bill. The exemptions would exclude public access to information about safety audits, trucking company safety scores, accident footage, and records related to hazardous train service. The groups oppose the exemptions and also explained that such proposals should be reviewed by the Senate Judiciary Committee which is responsible for FOIA oversight. EPIC previously set out recommendations for FOIA reform.
  • Justice Department Releases 2015 FOIA Reports » (Jul. 23, 2015)
    The DOJ has released its assessment of federal agencies' 2015 FOIA compliance reports. Every year, agencies submit reports to the Justice Department describing their progress in implementing President Obama's Memo and former AG Eric Holder's Guidelines to promote FOIA compliance. The DOJ grades progress in five areas: applying the presumption of openness, effective and responsive systems, proactively releasing information, utilizing technology, and reducing backlogs and improving response times. EPIC and other open government organizations have called on President Obama to strengthen the FOIA.
  • Justice Department Issues Guidance on "Administrative Closures" for FOIA Requests » (Jul. 7, 2015)
    The Department of Justice has told federal agencies to continue processing FOIA requests after EPIC and many FOIA groups objected to the practice of "administrate closures." The Department advised agencies to limit administrative closures of FOIA requests and to provide "reasonable grounds" for ending processing. The Department also said agencies should provide requesters at least 30 days to respond to a proposal to end processing of a FOIA request. In 2014 EPIC and a dozen open government organizations stated that "no provision in the [FOIA] allows for administrative closures . . ."
  • EPIC Pursues Documents about Secret Government Profiling Program » (Jul. 1, 2015)
    EPIC has filed papers in federal court challenging the government's claim that it can withhold information about automated profiling. In EPIC v. CBP, a Freedom of Information Act case, EPIC seeks documents about the "Analytical Framework for Intelligence" which incorporates personal information from government agencies, commercial data brokers, and the Internet. The agency then uses secret, analytic tools to assign "risk assessments" to travelers, including U.S. citizens traveling solely within the United States. EPIC has called for "algorithmic transparency" in automated decisions concerning individuals.
  • EPIC Obtains Documents on "Violent Intent Modeling and Simulation" Program » (Jun. 9, 2015)
    Pursuant to a FOIA request, the DHS has released to EPIC the first set of documents about a new pre-crime detection program. The so-called "Violent Intent Modeling and Simulation" Program attempts to predict violent behavior based on public record information. EPIC previously uncovered documents about the DHS's Future Attribute Screening Program, another pre-crime initiative. "Minority Report," a 2002 film starring Tom Cruise, also explored the topic of pre-crime detection.
  • EPIC Sues Drug Enforcement Administration For Release of Privacy Assessments » (May. 1, 2015)
    EPIC has filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit to obtain details about the Drug Enforcement Administration’s surveillance programs. The agency is required to publish privacy impact assessments for its data collection programs. However, the agency has failed to make available privacy impact assessments for many of its programs, including the massive cell phone metadata program "Hemisphere" and a nationwide license plate reader program. EPIC has a related lawsuit against the Federal Bureau of Investigation for that agency’s privacy impact assessments for several programs including "Next Generation Identification."
  • DHS Defends Government Secrecy in "Internet Kill Switch" Case » (Apr. 28, 2015)
    The Department of Homeland Security has filed a brief in response to EPIC's petition for rehearing in the "Internet Kill Switch" case. EPIC is seeking the release of the public policy that allows the government to suspend cell phone service. The D.C. Circuit previously ruled that DHS may withhold the policy. EPIC pursued the shutdown policy after government officials disabled cell phone service during a peaceful protest in San Francisco. EPIC cited both free speech and public safety concerns and noted that the policy was never subject to public rule making. The Federal Communications Commission recently warned government agencies not to use "jammers," devices that block cell phone signals, because of public safety risks.
  • Drug Enforcement Agency Gathered Telephone Records on Millions of Americans » (Apr. 8, 2015)
    According to USA Today the Drug Enforcement Agency has engaged in a secret telephone record collection program involving Americans for many years. The federal agency collected the telephone call records of Americans for nearly a decade before September 11. Government officials told USA Today that the program was discontinued in 2013, but documents obtained by EPIC indicate that the DEA program "Hemisphere" is ongoing. EPIC is pursuing a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, EPIC v. DEA, to obtain further details about the DEA's bulk collection activities. EPIC is also pursuing related suits against the National Security Agency and the Department of Justice concerning metadata collection.
  • Department of Justice Adopts Improved FOIA Rule » (Apr. 3, 2015)
    In response to extensive comments by EPIC and the Sunlight Foundation, the Department of Justice has issued an improved final rule that will govern the agency's Freedom of Information Act practices. The initial rule would have made it difficult for FOIA requesters to obtain favorable fee status, created new obstacles to open government, and reduced agency oversight. The final rule adopted by the agency incorporates nearly all of EPIC's recommendations, including provisions that help ensure accountability, access, and favorable fee status for news media and educational requesters. EPIC routinely comments on agency FOIA rulemakings, and has had past success with the Federal Trade Commission, Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, and other federal agencies.
  • Court Orders Government to Respond to EPIC's Petition in Case Over Cell Phone Shutdown Policy » (Apr. 3, 2015)
    The federal appeals court in Washington, DC, has ordered DHS to respond to EPIC's petition to reconsider a recent decision allowing the federal agency to withhold the criteria for shutdown of cell phone networks. EPIC sued the DHS for the policy following a 2011 San Francisco BART incident, when government officials shut down cell phone service during a peaceful protest. EPIC argued that the recent decision would "create an untethered national security exemption for law enforcement agencies," and is contrary to other court decisions and the intent of Congress. The appeals court has determined that the government must respond to EPIC's petition.
  • EPIC Continues Pursuit of Network Shutdown Policy » (Mar. 27, 2015)
    Today EPIC filed a Petition in the federals appeal court in Washington, D.C., seeking review of a recent opinion allowing DHS to withhold the criteria to shutdown cell phone networks. EPIC sued the agency for the shutdown policy following a 2011 San Francisco BART incident, where government officials shut down cell phone service during a peaceful protest. In its Petition, EPIC argued that the recent decision would "create an untethered national security exemption for law enforcement agencies," and is contrary to other court decisions and the intent of Congress.
  • EPIC Pursues Investigation of FTC's 2012 Investigation of Google » (Mar. 26, 2015)
    EPIC has filed a FOIA request with the Federal Trade Commission, reopening a 2013 FOIA request from EPIC regarding the Commission's Google antitrust investigation. After the agency closed the investigation in 2013, EPIC asked for agency communications with the White House. The FTC denied having any such records. Now, the Wall Street Journal has reported that the Chairman of the FTC attended White House meetings on the same day as Google lobbyists. EPIC also filed a request this week for the FTC staff reports recommending that the agency file an antitrust lawsuit against Google.
  • EPIC Partially Prevails in FOIA Case, Wikileaks Investigation Ongoing » (Mar. 5, 2015)
    A federal judge has granted in part EPIC's motion for summary judgment in a FOIA case about the government's surveillance of Wikileaks supporters. Three divisions of the Justice Department - the FBI, the National Security Division, and the Criminal Division - failed to provide any documents in response to EPIC's FOIA request. The FBI stated that there was no surveillance of supporters and that an investigation was ongoing. Judge Rothstein sided with the FBI and the Criminal Division, but held that the National Security Division had failed to justify its withholdings.
  • In EPIC v. DHS, DC Circuit Backs Agency Secrecy on "Internet Kill Switch" » (Feb. 10, 2015)
    The federal court of appeals based in Washington, DC has ruled that the Department of Homeland Security may withhold from the public a secret procedure for shutting down cell phone service. EPIC pursued the DHS policy after government officials in San Francisco disabled cell phone service during a peaceful protest in 2011. EPIC sued DHS when the agency failed to release the criteria for network shutdowns. A federal judge ruled in EPIC's favor. On appeal, the D.C. Circuit held for the DHS but said that the agency might still be required to disclose some portions of the protocol.
  • Senators Seek Answers on Use of Cell Phone Surveillance Devices » (Jan. 2, 2015)
    Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) have asked Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson several questions about the government’s use of cell site simulators or “Stingray” devices to track cell phones. According to the letter, the Senators previously asked FBI Director James Comey about the FBI’s use of cell site simulators and, after two briefings with the Senators, the FBI announced a new policy that it would obtain search warrants before using the devices, subject to certain exceptions. The new letter raises questions about the broader use of cell site simulators by other law enforcement agencies and their impact on the privacy of innocent individuals. EPIC filled a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act in 2012, seeking information about the FBI’s use of cell site simulators and, in particular, what legal process the agency required before deploying the technology. As a result of EPIC’s lawsuit, more than 4,000 pages of partially-redacted FBI records were released to the public. For more information, see EPIC v. FBI - Stingray / Cell Site Simulator.
  • Leahy FOIA Reform Bill Passes in Senate » (Dec. 9, 2014)
    The Senate has unanimously passed the Freedom of Information Improvement Act of 2014. (Outline of bill.) The bill, cosponsored by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), requires Federal agencies to operate under a "presumption of openness." "The FOIA Improvement Act will help open the government to all Americans by placing an emphasis on openness and transparency, rather than allowing agencies simply to hide behind exemptions," Leahy and Cornyn said in a joint statement. The FOIA Improvement Act will also close a loophole that agencies have used to make requesters pay excessive fees, even when the agency takes years to process the request. EPIC has recommended many of these reforms, including changes to the "(b)(5)" exemption for agency memos. The bill goes next to the House for consideration. For more information, see EPIC: FOIA and FOIA.ROCKS.
  • EPIC Pursues Information About "Hemisphere," Massive Phone Record Database » (Dec. 3, 2014)
    EPIC has filed a motion for summary judgment in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Drug Enforcement Administration. More than a year ago, EPIC sought documents from the agency concerning "Hemisphere," a massive AT&T call records database available to government agents. EPIC asked for the legal basis and privacy impact of the program. After the agency failed to respond to the request, EPIC filed a lawsuit. The DEA then produced several hundred pages of records. However, almost all were entirely redacted. EPIC now contends that the agency has failed to comply with the law. For more information, see EPIC: EPIC v. DEA - Hemisphere and EPIC: Freedom of Information Act.
  • EPIC FOIA Case - Army Blimps over Washington Loaded with Surveillance Gear, Cost $1.6 Billion » (Aug. 29, 2014)
    EPIC has received substantial new information about the surveillance blimps, now deployed over Washington, DC. The documents were released to EPIC in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Department of the Army. The documents also reveal that the Army paid Raytheon $1.6 billion. EPiC will receive more documents about the controversial program In October. For more information, see EPIC: EPIC v. Army - Surveillance Blimps and EPIC: Freedom of Information Act Litigation.
  • DC Circuit Rules for EPIC in Case Against NSA, Vacates Lower Court Ruling That Secret Order Is Not Subject to FOIA » (Jul. 31, 2014)
    The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled in favor of EPIC today in a Freedom of Information Act case seeking the full text of National Security Presidential Directive 54, a previously-secret Presidential order granting the government broad authority over cybersecurity matters. EPIC successfully obtained the Directive from the NSA, and the DC Circuit has vacated the lower court’s Fall 2013 ruling that NSPD-54 was not an “agency record” subject to the FOIA. The Directive also includes the Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative and evidences government efforts to enlist private sector companies to assist in monitoring Internet traffic. EPIC has several related FOIA cases against the NSA pending in federal court. For more information, see EPIC v. NSA: NSPD-54 Appeal and EPIC: Freedom of Information Act Cases.
  • Senators Leahy and Cornyn Introduce FOIA Reform Bill » (Jun. 25, 2014)
    A bipartisan Freedom of Information Act reform bill was introduced today by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and John Cornyn (R-TX). The FOIA Improvement Act of 2014 addresses chronic problems with overuse of exemptions by federal agencies, excessive fee assessments, and the culture of secrecy. The bill will codify a "presumption of openness" in the processing of FOIA requests. The bill will require agencies to weigh the public interest in disclosure against the agency’s interest in secrecy before withholding documents such as Office of Legal Counsel memos. The FOIA Improvement Act will also close a loophole that agencies have used to make requesters pay excessive fees, even when the agency takes years to process the request. EPIC has recommended many of these reforms. EPIC specifically recommended proposed changes to the "(b)(5)" exemption. For more information see: EPIC: FOIA Cases.
  • EPIC Open Government Director Appointed to FOIA Advisory Committee » (Jun. 6, 2014)
    EPIC Open Government Project Director Ginger McCall has been appointed to the federal government's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Modernization Committee. The Committee's goal is to advise on ways to improve the administration of FOIA. It will have 20 members - 10 from within government and 10 from outside of government - and will chaired by Office of Government Information Services director Miriam Nisbet. The first meeting of the Committee will be held at the National Archives and Records Administration in Washington, DC on June 24, from 10:00AM to 1:00PM. For more information see: NARA: Modernizing FOIA and EPIC: FOIA Cases.
  • DHS Privacy Complaints Increase in 2013, Many Databases Kept Secret » (May. 27, 2014)
    The Department of Homeland Security Quarterly Report to Congress details programs and databases affecting privacy. According to the agency, DHS received 964 privacy complaints between September 1, 2013 and November 30, 2013. By contrast, DHS received 295 privacy complaints during the same period in 2011. According to the report, most DHS systems complies with Privacy Act notice requirements. However, the report also indicates that the DHS maintains many databases with personally identifiable information that lack required Privacy Act notices. For more information, see EPIC: Department of Homeland Security Chief Privacy Office and Privacy.
  • EPIC Publishes 2014 FOIA Gallery, Highlights Documents Obtained Under Open Government Law » (Mar. 17, 2014)
    In celebration of Sunshine Week, EPIC has published the 2014 EPIC FOIA Gallery. The gallery highlights documents obtained by EPIC in the past year, such as previously secret records about government surveillance of telephone calls, FBI facial recognition technologies, DHS drones that identify human targets on the ground, the CIA's collaboration with the New York Police Department, and student debt-collectors' lax data security systems. In many of these cases, EPIC "substantially prevailed" and obtained attorneys fees. EPIC routinely pursues Freedom of Information Act matters to promote government accountability. EPIC published the first FOIA Gallery in 2001. EPIC also publishes an authoritative FOIA litigation manual. For more information, see EPIC: Open Government and EPIC Bookstore: FOIA.
  • DHS Appeals Ruling in EPIC's "Internet" Kill Switch Case » (Jan. 13, 2014)
    The Department of Homeland Security has appealed a ruling for EPIC in a Freedom of Information Case involving Standard Operating Procedure 303, a protocol which describes the government's plan for deactivating wireless communications networks. Seeking information about the First Amendment and public safety implications of the protocol, EPIC filed a FOIA lawsuit against the agency. A federal court ruled that the protocol could not be withheld under the FOIA because it was not an investigative technique and DHS had not established that releasing the document would cause harm to any individual. Therefore, the court concluded, the documents EPIC sought should be turned over. The Department of Justice has now appealed that decision to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. For more information, see EPIC: EPIC v. DHS (SOP 303) and EPIC: FOIA.
  • EPIC Files FOIA Request with FTC About Facebook Investigation » (Nov. 19, 2013)
    EPIC filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Federal Trade Commission for documents concerning the FTC's recent "investigation" of Facebook's policy changes. The investigation concerned changes to Facebook’s Data Use Policy that permit the use of the names, images, and content of Facebook users for commercial endorsement without user consent. Following announcement of the proposed change, EPIC and several several privacy groups wrote to the FTC objecting to the changes as a violation of a 2011 consent order with Federal Trade Commission. Senator Markey also expressed concern about the policy changes. The Commission opened an investigation which was then quietly closed allowing Facebook to go forward with the changes. For more information, see EPIC: Federal Trade Commission and EPIC: FOIA.
  • EPIC Prevails in FOIA Case About "Internet Kill Switch" » (Nov. 12, 2013)
    In a Freedom of Information Act case brought by EPIC against the Department of Homeland Security, a federal court has ruled that the DHS may not withhold the agency's plan to deactivate wireless communications networks in a crisis. EPIC had sought "Standard Operating Procedure 303," also known as the "internet Kill Switch," to determine whether the agency's plan could adversely impact free speech or public safety. EPIC filed the FOIA lawsuit in 2012 after the the technique was used by police in San Francisco to shut down cell service for protesters at a BART station, who had gathered peacefully to object to police practices. The federal court determined that the agency wrongly claimed that it could withhold SOP 303 as a "technique for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions." The phrase, the court explained, "refers only to acts by law enforcement after or during the prevention of a crime, not crime prevention techniques." The court repeatedly emphasized that FOIA exemptions are to be read narrowly. For more information, see EPIC: EPIC v. DHS (SOP 303) and EPIC: FOIA.
  • EPIC Objects to Secret Profiling of Air Travelers » (Oct. 10, 2013)
    EPIC has submitted comments to the Department of Homeland Security, objecting to the agency's plan to secretly profile U.S. air travelers and remove Privacy Act safeguards. The DHS proposed to exempt TSA PreCheck from the federal privacy law. The PreCheck database contains detailed personal information, including name, birthdate, biometric information, Social Security Number, and financial information. The TSA plans to release applicant data to federal, state, tribal, local, territorial agencies and foreign governments. However, the TSA proposes to remove the rights of PreCheck applications concerning notification, access, and correction. The agency also intends to keep secret the basis for approving PreCheck applicants. EPIC described the substantial privacy and security risks of Precheck, urged the DHS to narrow the Privacy Act exemptions, and recommended that the DHS withdraw routine use disclosures. For more information, see EPIC: Secure Flight, EPIC: Passenger Profiling, and EPIC: Air Travel Privacy.
  • EPIC Opposes DHS Biometric Collection » (Jun. 21, 2013)
    EPIC has submitted comments to the Department of Homeland Security, staunchly opposing the agency's border biometric collection, facilitated through the Office of Biometric Identity Management program. Since at least 2004, DHS has collected fingerprint and facial photos from individuals entering the United States. DHS then disseminates this information to DHS agency components, other federal agencies, and "federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies," and the "federal intelligence community." Currently, at least 30,000 individuals from federal, state, and local governments access the data contained obtained by DHS's biometric collection program. DHS shares this biometric data with foreign governments, including Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom. In its comments, EPIC urged the agency to cease collecting biometric information without proper privacy safeguards in place. Should the agency continue to collect this sensitive information, EPIC recommends that DHS: (1) impose strict information security safeguards on its biometric information collection and limit its dissemination of biometric information; (2) conduct a comprehensive privacy impact assessment on the biometric collection program; (3) grant individuals Privacy Act rights before collecting additional biometric information; and (4) adhere to international privacy standards. For more information, see EPIC: US-VISIT and EPIC: Biometric Identifiers.
  • EPIC Comments on FTC's FOIA Procedures » (Apr. 4, 2013)
    EPIC has submitted comments to the Federal Trade Commission, supporting several of the agency's changes to its FOIA regulations. EPIC applauded the agency for reducing fees for requesters. EPIC also urged the Committee to: (1) update its definition for news media representative; (2) clarify which documents are public information and ensure that hyperlinks to those records work properly; (3) disclose private sector contract rates for FOIA processing; (4) refrain from prematurely closing FOIA requests; and (5) adopt alternative dispute resolution or arbitration when resolving delinquent FOIA fees. EPIC routinely comments on agency proposals that impact the rights of FOIA requesters. Last year, EPIC submitted extensive comments to theDepartment of Defense, warning the agency not to erect new obstacles for FOIA requesters. For more information, see EPIC: Open Government.
  • EPIC Publishes 2013 FOIA Gallery, Highlights Documents Obtained Under Open Government Law » (Mar. 12, 2013)
    In celebration of Sunshine Week, EPIC has published the 2013 EPIC FOIA Gallery. The gallery highlights key documents obtained by EPIC in the past year, such as previously secret documents about cell phone traffic monitoring, domestic drones that identify human targets and intercept electronic communications, Google's interception of WiFi transmissions, DHS monitoring of Twitter, technology that can scan crowds at a molecular level, and the government's use of license plate datas. EPIC regularly files Freedom of Information Act requests and pursues lawsuits to force disclosure of government documents that impact privacy. EPIC also publishes the authoritative FOIA litigation manual. For more information, see EPIC: Open Government and EPIC Bookstore: FOIA.
  • EPIC Thanks Congress for FOIA Oversight, Calls for Renewed Attention to Transparency » (Feb. 20, 2013)
    EPIC, along with more than 40 transparency organizations, thanked the House Committee on Oversight for sending a letter to the Department of Justice about the importance of the Freedom of Information Act. The open government organizations said "outdated FOIA regulations, excessive fee assessments, growing FOIA backlogs, and the misuse of exemptions are issues that continually frustrate FOIA requesters" and expressed hope that the Committee would share the Department of Justice's responses with the public. EPIC also joined more than two dozen transparency groups in a letter to President Obama, asking him to renew his commitment to transparency and FOIA. The President issued a memorandum on Transparency and Open Government in 2009.For more information see: EPIC: Open Government.
  • Congress Challenges Justice Department Commitment to Open Government » (Feb. 7, 2013)
    In a letter to the director of the Office of Information Policy, a Congressional oversight committee has asked a series of question, challenging the government's compliance with the FOIA. The Office of Information Policy is tasked with "encouraging agency compliance with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and for ensuring that the President's FOIA Memorandum and the Attorney General's FOIA Guidelines are fully implemented across the government." The letter from Chairman Issa (R-CA) and Ranking Member Cummings (D-MD) called on the Justice Department to address concerns about "outdated FOIA regulations, exorbitant and possibly illegal fee assessments, FOIA backlogs, the excessive use and abuse of exemptions, and dispute resolution services." EPIC makes frequent use of the FOIA to obtain information from the government about surveillance and privacy policy. EPIC has also raised concerns in comments to federal agencies and to the Office of Government Information Services about systemic problems with FOIA compliance. For more information, see EPIC: Open Government and EPIC: FOIA Litigation Docket.
  • EPIC Succeeds in Fight Against Protective Order in FOIA Case » (Jan. 9, 2013)
    A federal judge has vacated provisions in a prior order that would have limited the ability of FOIA requesters to disseminate information to the public. EPIC filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security after the agency failed to respond to a request for documents about a plan to monitor internet traffic. In arguments before the court, the Department of Justice contended that EPIC should agree to a protective order that would prevent EPIC from disclosing documents obtained in the case. EPIC challenged this argument, stating that it was contrary to FOIA law and that the use of protective orders in FOIA cases would make it more difficult for the public to obtain information about government activities. Judge Kessler agreed with EPIC and discarded the protective order requirement. She also chastised the agency for its repeated delays in processing EPIC's FOIA request. The case is EPIC v. DHS, 12-333. For more information see: EPIC v. DHS - Defense Contractor Monitoring.
  • EPIC Obtains Documents on NSA's "Perfect Citizen" Program » (Jan. 2, 2013)
    The NSA has turned over documents on the controversial "Perfect Citizen" program to EPIC in response to a FOIA request. "Perfect Citizen" is an NSA program that monitors private networks in the United States. The redacted documents obtained from the federal agency by EPIC state that "[t]he prevention of a loss due to a cyber or physical attack [on Sensitive Control Systems, like large-scale utilities], or recovery of operational capability after such an event, is crucial to the continuity of the [Department of Defense] , the [Intelligence Community], and the operation of SIGNIT systems." The NSA claims that Perfect Citizen is merely a research and development program. The documents obtained by EPIC suggest that the program is operational. For more information, see EPIC: Perfect Citizen.
  • UPDATED: EPIC Appeals NSA's Withholding of Cybersecurity Directive » (Nov. 27, 2012)
    EPIC has appealed a decision by the National Security Agency to deny EPIC's Freedom of Information Act Request for the public release of Presidential Policy Directive 20. The Policy Directive expands the NSA's cybersecurity authority and has raised concerns about government surveillance of the Internet. EPIC's FOIA appeal points to numerous substantive and procedural defects in the NSA's response, and highlights the importance of public discussion of cyber security authority. The NSA has ten days to respond to EPIC's appeal. For more information, see EPIC: Cybersecurity Privacy Practical Implications, EPIC: EPIC v. NSA - Cybersecurity Authority.
  • EPIC Urges the Interior Department to Preserve Strong Open Government Rules » (Nov. 14, 2012)
    In comments the Department of the Interior, EPIC has urged the federal agency not to weaken the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) as it has proposed. The Interior Department is considering regulations that would place new burdens on FOIA requesters by: (1) terminating FOIA requests, (2) denying FOIA requests without providing justifications as required by law, and (3) withholding the identity of agencies to which the Department refers FOIA requests. EPIC said that the Interior Department's proposal would undermine the open government law, is contrary to law, and the views expressed by the President and the Attorney General about the FOIA. EPIC routinely comments on agency proposals that impact the rights of FOIA requesters. In 2011, EPIC submitted extensive comments to the Department of Justice, warning the agency not to erect new obstacles for FOIA requesters. For more information, see EPIC: Open Government.
  • DHS Privacy Review Fails to Address DHS Monitoring of Online Dissent » (Nov. 9, 2012)
    The Department of Homeland Security released a Privacy Compliance Review which found that the DHS social media monitoring program complied the DHS's own privacy requirements. Documents obtained by EPIC through a FOIA lawsuit revealed that DHS is monitoring social networks and media organizations for criticism of the agency. Congress held a Hearing earlier this year to determine why DHS is tracking political statements on Twitter and social networks. EPIC's lawsuit against DHS is ongoing. For more information, see EPIC: EPIC v. Department of Homeland Security: Media Monitoring.
  • EPIC FOIA Cases Move Forward in Federal Court » (Oct. 18, 2012)
    Federal judges have recently issued orders compelling government agencies to produce documents in two open government cases pursued by EPIC. In EPIC v. Office of Director of National Intelligence, 12-1282, EPIC is seeking information about a plan to integrate databases across the federal government, without the legal safeguards typically in place for personal data held by government agencies. (EPIC press release). In response to the EPIC FOIA lawsuit, a federal judge has ordered the agency to disclose the procedures it has established to safeguard privacy rights. In EPIC v. DHS, 12-333, EPIC is L6[seeking documents] about the monitoring of the Internet that some Justice Department officials believe may "run afoul of privacy laws forbidding government surveillance of private Internet traffic." The government sought a 16 month extension. The court has ordered the agency to start producing documents in the next month. For more information, see EPIC - Open Government.
  • Appeals Court Hears Arguments in Open Government Case » (Oct. 16, 2012)
    The DC Circuit Court of appeals today considered arguments in Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington v. Federal Election Commission, concerning an agency's failure to comply with statutory obligations to process a Freedom of Information Act request. EPIC joined with Public Citizen and several other prominent open government organizations in an amicus brief supporting CREW's appeal. The open governments group argued that the FEC's practice conflicts with the plain language of the Freedom of Information of Act and would wreak havoc on open government. For more information, see EPIC, Open Government.
  • EPIC FOIA Uncovers Google’s Privacy Assessment » (Sep. 28, 2012)
    Through a Freedom of Information Act request to the Federal Trade Commission, EPIC has obtained Google's initial privacy assessment. The assessment was required by a settlement between Google and the FTC that followed from a 2010 complaint filed by EPIC over Google Buzz. The FTC has withheld from public disclosure information about the audit process, procedures to assess privacy controls, techniques to identify privacy risks, and the types of personal data Google collects from users. EPIC intends to challenge the agency withholdings. For more information, see EPIC: Federal Trade Commission, EPIC: Google Buzz, and EPIC: Open Government.
  • Department of Homeland Security Releases 2012 Privacy Report » (Sep. 20, 2012)
    The Department of Homeland Security released the 2012 Privacy Office Annual Report to Congress. The report describes a social media monitoring policy, and privacy training for fusion centers personnel. According to the report, the TSA has still failed to adopt privacy safeguards for whole body image devices. The report is silent on several new DHS-funded initiatives, including the Future Attribute Screening Technology, a Minority-Report like proposal for "pre-crime" detection. The report also notes the expansion of the National Counterterrorism Center's five-year retention policy for records on U.S. Persons that do not contain terrorism information. The Chief Privacy Officer of the DHS is required by law to ensure that new agency programs do not diminish privacy in the United States. For more information, see EPIC: Privacy Report Held Hostage.
  • EPIC and Others Ask Supreme Court to Review Controversial State FOI Law » (Aug. 30, 2012)
    EPIC, and several other leading open government organizations, have filed an amicus brief in support of a petition for Supreme Court review challenging the Virginia Freedom of Information law, which allows only Virginia residents and news media representatives to access state public records. The amicus brief argues that Virginia's "citizens-only" provision is constitutionally impermissible as it unecessarily burdens the rights of individuals and organizations outside of Virginia. This case is of particular interest to EPIC because state FOI laws are often necessary for oversight of new surveiilance programs. In 2008, EPIC brought a successful FOIA lawsuit in Virginia and obtained documents revealing an agreement to limit oversight of a State Fusion Center. For more information, see EPIC: v Virginia Department of State Police: Fusion Center Secrecy Bill.
  • Department of Homeland Security Limits E-Verify Data and Disclosures » (Aug. 9, 2012)
    The Department of Homeland Security has issued a Privacy Act system of records notice for the E-Verify Program. E-Verify is a government records system that informs employers about the citizenship status of current and prospective employees. The database contains detailed personal information including names, dates of birth, Social Security numbers, and citizenship status for all individuals subject to review. This Privacy Act notice minimizes the information that the agency will collect, and also limits the agency's ability to disclose personal information to outside entities. Last year EPIC, along with a coalition of privacy, consumer rights, and civil rights organizations, encouraged DHS to strengthen privacy and security safeguards for E-Verify. For more information, see EPIC: E-Verify and Privacy.
  • EPIC Files Lawsuit for Details of ODNI Plan to Amass Data on Americans » (Aug. 2, 2012)
    EPIC has filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Office of the Director of National Intelligence for details of the agency’s plan to gather personal data from across the federal government. The ODNI is the top intelligence agency in the United States, coordinating the activities of the CIA, the FBI, the DHS, and others. Under revised guidelines, the ODNI plans to obtain and integrate databases containing detailed personal information from across the federal government. The data will be kept for up to five years without the legal safeguards typically in place for personal data held by government agencies. EPIC's lawsuit asks the agencies to disclose the procedures it has established to safeguard privacy rights. For more information see: EPIC: Open Government.
  • EPIC Demands Evidence of TSA Body Scanner Rulemaking » (Jul. 19, 2012)
    EPIC has submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the TSA, seeking documents about whether the agency actually intends to give the public the opportunity to comment on the controversial body scanner program. One year has passed since the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the agency to "act promptly" and undertake a public notice-and-comment rulemaking. The agency has not done so but claims to be working on it. In a separate Petition for Mandamus EPIC asked the Court to require the agency to issue a proposed rule within 60 days or suspend the program. For more information, see EPIC v. DHS (airport body scanners).
  • EPIC Urges Privacy Safeguards for Defense Department Cybersecurity Program » (Jul. 11, 2012)
    EPIC has submitted comments to the Department of Defense, urging the agency to protect individual privacy when it obtains detailed information about Internet users from the private sector. Under current Department regulations, companies are encouraged to provide information about Internet users that may relate to "cyber incidents" and cyber "threats."This is similar to a controversial provision in Cyber Intelligence Information Protection Act ("CISPA"). EPIC recommended that the agency revise the regulations for the "Cyber Security and Information Assurance" program so that: (1) the program remain voluntary, (2) "cyber incident" and "threat" are narrowly defined, (3) liability is imposed on private companies for disclosing excess user information, (4) the Attorney General conduct annual audits, and (5) the agency adheres to federal privacy laws. EPIC also warned the agency to fully comply with the Freedom of Information Act, which has provided the public with important information about network security. For more information, see EPIC: Cybersecurity and EPIC: EPIC v. NSA (FOIA for NSA Cybersecurity Authority), and EPIC: EPIC v. NSA (FOIA for Google/NSA Relationship).
  • Homeland Security Seeking Applicants to Join Privacy Board » (Jun. 28, 2012)
    The Department of Homeland Security has announced that it is seeking applicants for the Data Privacy and Integrity Advisory Committee. The Committee was established to advise the agency on issues related to personally identifiable information, data integrity, and other privacy-related matters. The agency has a mandate from Congress to ensure that its programs "do not erode privacy protections" and to ensure that personal information is "handled in full compliance with fair information practices as set out in the Privacy Act of 1974." For more information, see EPIC: Department of Homeland Security Chief Privacy Office and Privacy and EPIC: EPIC v. DHS (Suspension of Body Scanner Program).
  • EPIC Joins Open Government Groups in Freedom of Information Act Case » (Jun. 20, 2012)
    EPIC has joined five other prominent open government groups in a friend of the court brief in support of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. The organization is seeking to reverse a federal court which held that federal agencies do not have to say whether they will comply with a FOIA request. In the friend of the court brief, the open government groups said that the ruling conflicts with the plain language of the Freedom of Information Act and would produce unnecessary confusion in FOIA cases. For more information, see EPIC: Open Government.
  • Homeland Security Seeks to Expand "Risk-Based" Profiles » (Jun. 6, 2012)
    The Department of Homeland Security has proposed to exempt its "Automated Targeting System" from certain Privacy Act provisions. The Automated Targeting System creates "risk-based" profiles of individuals traveling to, from, and throughout the United States. The profile contains a plethora of personal data, including, nationality, race, occupation, and biometrics. The System accesses and "ingests" this information from many sources, including government databases and commercial data aggregators. The DHS issued a Privacy Impact Assessment, which describes some of the privacy risks, including unauthorized access. In detailed comments to DHS in 2007, EPIC opposed the use of "risk-based" profiles. For more information, see EPIC: Automated Targeting System.
  • EPIC Asks Ombudsman to Investigate DHS FOIA Practices » (Jun. 4, 2012)
    EPIC has submitted a letter to the Office of Government Information Services, asking for an investigation into FOIA practices at the Department of Homeland Security. EPIC explained that the federal agency, which includes the TSA and the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, routinely denies fee waivers in circumstances where the agency knows that the requester properly qualifies. By way of example, EPIC cited a recent FOIA appeal in which the agency wrongly denied a fee waiver request. EPIC said that the practice creates additional work for sophisticated FOIA requesters and may, as a practical matter, prevent other requesters from pursuing important FOIA requests. For more information, see EPIC: DHS Privacy Office and EPIC: Litigation Under the Federal Open Government Laws.
  • FOIA "Ombudsman" Releases Open Government Report » (May. 1, 2012)
    In response to several demands from Congress, the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) has released a long-delayed report with recommendations to improve the administration of the Freedom of Information Act. The report addresses several FOIA processing issues, but doesn't examine the significant issue of delays in FOIA processing and efforts by agencies - such as the Department of Justice - to create new obstacles for FOIA requestors. And OGIS did not address EPIC's pending request to determine whether DHS's practice of vetting FOIA requests by political appointees is permissible. For more information, see EPIC: Open Government.
  • EPIC Appeals Denial in Surveillance Export FOIA Request; Files Follow-Up Request » (Apr. 27, 2012)
    EPIC has appealed a denial of a Freedom of Information Act request that sought records concerning the sale of surveillance technology by U.S. companies to repressive regimes like Syria and Yemen. "The failure to adequately justify the claim that no segregable portions of records exist violates FOIA, especially given the past practice of releasing aggregate data in response to substantially similar requests," the appeal states. EPIC also filed a follow-up request to the Department of Commerce seeking records related to the agency's investigation of companies like Blue Coat Systems, which sold surveillance devices to Syria. Recently, President Obama signed an executive order authorizing U.S. officials to impose sanctions against persons involved in the use of information and communications technology to facilitate human rights abuses in Syria and Iran. For more information, see EPIC: Freedom of Information Act.
  • EPIC Pursues Justice Dept. Records of Google Street View Investigation » (Apr. 27, 2012)
    EPIC has submitted a FOIA request to the Department of Justice for documents related to the agency's investigation of Google Street View and possible violations of federal wiretap laws. In an April 26, 2012 letter to the FCC In a related matter, Google claimed that the Department of Justice had "conducted and long ago completed its own thorough examination of the facts" related to the Google Street View matter. EPIC had asked the Justice Department to pursuer the matter. EPIC also has a pending FOIA request for the FCC's heavily redacted report on the Google Street View investigation. For more information see EPIC: Investigations of Google Street View.
  • Flawed Cybersecurity Bill Passes House, Headed for Senate without Privacy, FOIA Safeguards » (Apr. 27, 2012)
    The House of Representatives passed the Cyber Intelligence Information Protection Act ("CISPA"), a cybersecurity bill that allows the government to obtain detailed information about Internet users from the private sector. The bill preempts established privacy protections in other federal laws and opens the door for increased surveillance of individuals in the United States. The bill also creates a new Freedom of Information Act exemption, which will reduce government transparency and accountability. Earlier this year, EPIC said in a statement to the Senate that the Freedom of Information Act provides the public important information about network security, and warned that the National Security Agency has become a “black hole” for public information about cybersecurity. For more information, see EPIC: Cybersecurity and EPIC: EPIC v. NSA (FOIA for NSA Cybersecurity Authority), and EPIC: EPIC v. NSA (FOIA for Google/NSA Relatioship).
  • White House Targets Use of Technology by Human Rights Abusers » (Apr. 24, 2012)
    President Obama signed an executive order authorizing U.S. officials to impose sanctions against persons involved in the use of information and communications technology to facilitate human rights abuses in Syria and Iran. EPIC previously filed a Freedom of Information Act request seeking information regarding the export of surveillance technology by U.S. companies. In 2006, EPIC urged the Commerce Department to reexamine policies that allow for the export of surveillance technology to China. For more information, see EPIC: Freedom of Information Act.
  • Department of Homeland Security Expands Use of Watch Lists for "Known Traveler" Program » (Apr. 23, 2012)
    The Department of Homeland Security has published a Privacy Impact Assessment Update for Secure Flight, a DHS program that compares airline passenger records with various watch lists. The assessment describes the agency's plans to expand the Known Traveler program so as to expedite airline screening for certain categories of individuals. The DHS also intends to incorporate into Secure Flight the Automated Targeting System, a controversial program that allows the government to assign a risk assessment number to individual travelers. That number provides the basis for further screening. In 2007, EPIC urged DHS to either suspend the Automated Targeting System or to fully apply all Privacy Act safeguards to any individual subject to ATS. In 2010, EPIC advocated for stronger privacy protections of DHS trusted traveler programs that compare passenger names against watch lists. For more information, see EPIC: Secure Flight and EPIC: Automated Targeting Systems.
  • EPIC Demands Details of Federal Communications Commission's Google Investigation » (Apr. 19, 2012)
    EPIC has filed a FOIA request for the unredacted version of the FCC's Google Street View report. The Federal Communications Commission announced that it will fine Google $25,000 for obstructing an investigation concerning Google Street View and federal wiretap law. A heavily redacted report released this week revealed that the Commission found that Google impeded the investigation by "delaying its search for and production of responsive emails and other communications, by failing to identify employees, and by withholding verification of the completeness and accuracy of its submissions." But the redacted report also raised questions about the scope of the FCC' Street View investigation. Surprisingly, the FCC concluded that Google had not violated the federal wiretap act, even though a federal court recently held otherwise. For more information, see EPIC: Investigations of Google Street View.
  • Coalition Urges Congress to Remove Cybersecurity FOIA Limitations » (Apr. 18, 2012)
    An open government coalition has asked House lawmakers to oppose provisions in "CISPA" that would cut off public access to information held by federal agencies. The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act would allow the government to refuse to disclose broad swaths of information, otherwise subject to FOIA, that companies provide to the government. More than three dozen groups have signed the petition - including Openthegovernment.org, the Sunlight Foundation, Project On Government Oversight, and EFF. The groups have asserted that the legislation "constitutes a wholesale attack on public access to information under the Freedom of Information Act" and would impede the public's ability to evaluate whether the government is adequately combating cybersecurity threats. In a statement for a hearing on the FOIA and critical infrastructure information, EPIC also warned against new FOIA exemptions and said that the National Security Agency has become a "black hole" for public information about cybersecurity. For more information see EPIC: Cybersecurity, EPIC: EPIC v. NSA, Litigation Under the Federal Open Government Laws 2010.
  • EPIC Obtains New Details on PATRIOT Act » (Apr. 4, 2012)
    As the result of a Freedom of Information Act request, EPIC has obtained more than 650 pages of documents related to the PATRIOT Act. EPIC had requested information related to the FBI's abuse of PATRIOT Act authorities and documents concerning the 2009 sunset of the PATRIOT Act. The documents disclosed by the FBI include training presentations, answers to questions from Senators Leahy and Specter, and a list of reporting requirements. In an answer to Senator Leahy, the FBI stated that while it would discontinue the use of exigent letters, which the Inspector General had previously noted as a frequent source of abuse, the agency planned to continue its use of the emergency disclosures provision of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act. For more information, see EPIC: USA PATRIOT Act.
  • DHS Privacy Office Issues Quarterly Report to Congress » (Mar. 26, 2012)
    The DHS Privacy Office has issued its First Quarter Fiscal Year 2012 Report to Congress. The report details DHS programs and functions that affect privacy, such as privacy impact assessments and system of records notices. The report also summarizes the 295 privacy compliance complaints that DHS has received between September 1, 2011 and November 30, 2011. EPIC has closely followed DHS Privacy Office activities, and has worked to ensure timely release of DHS privacy reports. For more information, see EPIC: Department of Homeland Security Chief Privacy Office and Privacy.
  • Department of Homeland Security Releases Revised Privacy Impact Assessments » (Mar. 23, 2012)
    The Privacy Office of DHS has released several revised Privacy Impact Assessments for various DHS programs. These reports analyze the privacy risks of federal government systems. Last year, EPIC FOIA requests regarding a Minority Report-like program called "FAST" found that the DHS had failed to adequately assess privacy risks. According to the agency, the "Future Attribute Screening Technology" program assesses "physiological and behavioral signals" to determine the probability that an individual might commit a crime. For more information, see: EPIC: Future Attribute Screening Technology (FAST) Project FOIA Request. To order the movie Minority Report from Amazon and support EPIC, click here.
  • House of Representatives Issues FOIA Request Management Report Card » (Mar. 20, 2012)
    The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform issued a "Report Card on Federal Government's Efforts to Track and Manage FOIA Requests." The Report Card assigned letter grades to agencies based upon their "ability and willingness . . . to submit information" to the House Committee about the agencies’ FOIA tracking systems. This information included the requester's name, the date of the request, a description of the records sought by requesters, the date the request was closed, and whether the agency provided responsive records to the request. The Federal Trade Commission was one of the highest scoring agencies, earning an "A+" for its FOIA management. The Department of Justice, the Department of Defense, and the Department of Homeland Security each received a "D" letter grade for their FOIA tracking systems. For more information, see: EPIC: Open Government.
  • EPIC to Argue for Disclosure of Google-NSA Agreement before Federal Appeals Court » (Mar. 19, 2012)
    EPIC will pursue its Freedom of Information Act request with the National Security Agency in scheduled arguments before the Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit this Tuesday morning. EPIC submitted the FOIA request in February 2010, following a widely reported collaboration between Google and the NSA after the China hack. The agency replied that it could "neither confirm nor deny" the existence of records responsive to EPIC's request. A lower court ruled in favor of the NSA, but EPIC has challenged that opinion, and the federal appeals court will hear the case on March 20, 2012. The case is EPIC v. NSA, No. 11-5233.
  • House and Senate Call for Investigation on Airport Body Scanner Radiation Risks » (Mar. 15, 2012)
    Both the House and the Senate introduced bills last month that would require the Department of Homeland Security "to contract with an independent laboratory to study the health effects of backscatter x-ray machines used at airline checkpoints operated by the Transportation Security Administration," and to provide improved notice of the health effects to airline passengers. The bills focus on the health effects of those screened by the backscatter x-ray machines, including frequent air travelers, flight crews, and individuals with greater sensitivity to radiation, such as children, pregnant women, the elderly, and cancer patients. In 2010, EPIC filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit asking a court to force the Department of Homeland Security to disclose documents about radiation testing results and agency fact sheets on radiation risks. For more information, see EPIC: EPIC v. DHS - Full Body Scanner Radiation Risks.
  • Open Government Groups Oppose Cyber Security FOIA Exemption » (Mar. 14, 2012)
    Open government organizations have sent a letter to Senator John McCain, opposing specific provisions in a cybersecurity bill he introduced. The SECURE IT Act would create a new Freedom of Information Act exemptions for "cyber threat information" as well as for all information shared with a cybersecurity center. FOIA exemptions limit public access to government information. The organizations stated, "Unnecessarily wide-ranging exemptions of this type have the potential to harm public safety and the national defense more than they enhance those interests." In a statement for a hearing on the FOIA and critical infrastructure information, EPIC also warned against new FOIA exemptions and said that the National Security Agency has become a "black hole" for public information about cybersecurity. For more information, see EPIC: Cybersecurity.
  • EPIC Urges Senate to Safeguard FOIA for Cybersecurity » (Mar. 12, 2012)
    In a detailed statement to the Senate for a hearing on the "Freedom of Information Act: Safeguarding Critical Infrastructure and the Public's Right to Know," EPIC said that safeguarding FOIA was critical to ensure government oversight and accountability. EPIC described how the FOIA provides the public important information about safety and security, but also warned that the National Security Agency has become a "black hole" for public information about cyber security. EPIC described several NSA programs, including "Perfect Citizen," Internet wiretapping, and even the NSA's own legal authority which the agency has refused to release to the public. EPIC v. NSA, a challenge to the agency's "neither confirm nor deny" response to an EPIC FOIA request will be heard next week by the DC Circuit Court of Appeals. For more information, see EPIC: Cybersecurity.
  • EPIC Publishes 2012 FOIA Gallery » (Mar. 12, 2012)
    In celebration of Sunshine Week, EPIC published the EPIC FOIA Gallery: 2012. The gallery highlights key documents obtained by EPIC in the past year, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation's watch list guidelines, records of the Department of Homeland Security's social media monitoring program, Google's first Privacy Compliance Report, records detailing the government's FAST scanning program, records of the FBI's surveillance of Wikileaks supporters, and DHS records detailing the use of body scanners at the U.S. border. EPIC regularly files Freedom of Information Act requests and pursues lawsuits to force disclosure of critical documents that impact privacy. EPIC also publishes the authoritative FOIA litigation manual. For more, see EPIC Open Government and EPIC Bookstore: FOIA.
  • Video, Blog Post Raise New Questions About Airport Body Scanners » (Mar. 9, 2012)
    A popular video "How To Get Anything Through TSA Nude Body Scanners" show that it is easy to bypass airport body scanners by hiding materials perpendicular to the plane of the scanning devices. The video also notes that traditional metal detectors, now being removed from US airports, would routinely alert to the presence of metallic objects. Still more interesting may be the recent blog post by a 25-year FBI agent, expert in aviation security, who writes that the "TSA has never foiled a terrorist plot or stopped an attack on an airliner" and that "the entire TSA paradigm is flawed." In a federal lawsuit, EPIC challenged the TSA airport scanner program, calling it "invasive, unlawful, and ineffective." For more information, see EPIC v. DHS (Suspension of body scanners).
  • DHS Privacy Office Releases 2011 Data Mining Report » (Mar. 5, 2012)
    The Department of Homeland Security has released the 2011 Annual Data Mining Report. The report must include all of the Agency's current activities that fall within the legislative definition of "data mining." Among other things, this year's report references the Agency's programs to profile individuals entering or leaving the country to determine who should be subject to "additional screening." A FOIA request by EPIC in 2011 revealed that the FBI's standard for inclusion on the list is "particularized derogatory information," which has never been recognized by a court of law. The report also provides information on Secure Flight and Air Cargo Advanced Screening. For more information, see EPIC: FBI Watch List FOIA and EPIC: DHS Privacy Office.
  • EPIC Obtains New Documents on DHS Media Monitoring, Urges Congress to Suspend Program » (Feb. 23, 2012)
    EPIC has submitted a letter to Congress following a hearing on DHS monitoring of social networks and media organizations. In the letter, EPIC highlights new documents obtained as a result of a FOIA lawsuit and points out to inconsistencies in DHS' testimony about the program. Though DHS testified that it does not monitor for public reaction to government proposals, the documents obtained by EPIC indicate that the DHS analysts are specifically instructed to look for criticism of the agency and then to redirect reports that would otherwise be circulated to other agencies. EPIC wrote that the DHS' monitoring program should be suspended, as it exceeds the agency's statutory authority and chills First Amendment activity. For more information, see EPIC: EPIC v. DHS: Media Monitoring.
  • 2013 Federal Budget Limits Body Scanners, But Expands Domestic Surveillance » (Feb. 20, 2012)
    According to White House budget documents and the Congressional Testimony of Secretary Napolitano, DHS will not purchase any new airport body scanners in 2013. However, the agency will expand a wide range of programs for monitoring and tracking individuals within the United States. This includes the development of biometric identification techniques for programs such as Secure Communities. DHS will also seek funding for "Einstein 3," a network intrusion detection program that enables surveillance of private networks. EPIC has urged the DHS to comply with the requirements of the federal Privacy Act, and is currently pursuing several Freedom of Information Act lawsuits against the agency. For more information see, EPIC - Body Scanners and Radiation Risks, EPIC - E-Verify, EPIC - Secure Communities, EPIC - Fusion Centers, EPIC - Drones, EPIC - Cybersecurity, EPIC - Secure Flight.
  • Congress Grills Department of Homeland Security » (Feb. 16, 2012)
    Members of a House Committee today questioned DHS officials about the agency's monitoring of social networks and media organizations for information that "reflects adversely" on the agency or the federal government. Several members expressed support for EPIC's proposal that DHS suspend the program, warning that this activity violates First Amendment rights. New questions also arose when the DHS witnesses claimed that no other federal agencies were engaged in similar practices. According to many news sources, the FBI wants to monitor social media. The House hearing was called after EPIC obtained nearly 300 pages of documents detailing the Department of Homeland Security's activities. For more information see: EPIC v. Department of Homeland Security: Media Monitoring.
  • EPIC Asks Congress to Suspend DHS Social Network Monitoring Program » (Feb. 15, 2012)
    In a Statement for the Record, EPIC has asked the House Committee on Homeland Security to suspend a DHS program that has permitted the agency to gather comments critical of the agency and the government by monitoring social networks and media organizations. The hearing on "DHS Monitoring of Social Networking and Media: Enhancing Intelligence Gathering and Ensuring Privacy" was called after EPIC obtained nearly 300 pages of documents detailing the Department of Homeland Security's activities. The documents, obtained as a result of EPIC's Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, include instructions from the DHS to General Dynamics to monitor media reports that "reflect adversely" on the agency or the federal government. For more information see: EPIC v. Department of Homeland Security: Media Monitoring.
  • Congress to Hold Hearing on Department of Homeland Security Social Network Monitoring » (Feb. 6, 2012)
    On February 16, 2012, the House Committee on Homeland Security will hold a hearing on "DHS Monitoring of Social Networking and Media: Enhancing Intelligence Gathering and Ensuring Privacy." The hearing was called after EPIC obtained nearly 300 pages of documents, as a result of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, detailing the Department of Homeland Security's monitoring of social networks and media organizations. The documents included guidelines from DHS instructing General Dynamics to monitor for media reports that "reflect adversely" on the agency or the federal government. For more information see: EPIC v. Department of Homeland Security: Media Monitoring.
  • EPIC Seeks Public Release of Google's Privacy Report » (Feb. 1, 2012)
    EPIC has filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Federal Trade Commission for the Privacy Report that Google was recently required to submit to the agency. The Commission had previously investigated Google after EPIC filed a complaint regarding Google's Buzz product, which transformed private user contacts into publicly available social network data. Last fall the Commission reached a settlement with Google and, as a result, the company is subject to a consent order that requires it to file regular reports with the Commission. EPIC has requested that Google's first report, filed on January 26, 2012, be released to the public. Because of Google's plan to change its business practice on March 1, 2012, EPIC has asked the FTC to expedite the disclosure of the report. For more information see EPIC: In re Google Buzz.
  • EPIC - FOIA Documents Reveal Homeland Security is Monitoring Political Dissent » (Jan. 13, 2012)
    As the result of EPIC v. DHS, a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, EPIC has obtained nearly thee hundred pages of documents detailing a Department of Homeland Security's surveillance program. The documents include contracts and statements of work with General Dynamics for 24/7 media and social network monitoring and periodic reports to DHS. The documents reveal that the agency is tracking media stories that "reflect adversely" on DHS or the U.S. government. One tracking report -- "Residents Voice Opposition Over Possible Plan to Bring Guantanamo Detainees to Local Prison-Standish MI" -- summarizes dissent on blogs and social networking cites, quoting commenters. EPIC sent a request for these documents in April 2004 and filed suit against the agency in December. For more information, see EPIC: EPIC v. Department of Homeland Security: Media Monitoring.
  • DHS Memo Reveals Plan to Impose "Secure Communities" on All States » (Jan. 10, 2012)
    According to a draft memo, the Department of Homeland Security intends to require that all states comply with the agency's "Secure Communities" program by 2013. Secure communities is a controversial deportation program that relies on extensive data collection and biometric identification. Several states, including Illinois, New York and Massachusetts, objected to the federal program, citing mismanagement, and refused to participate. Previously, the DHS maintained that the program would be voluntary. For more, see EPIC: Secure Communities.
  • EPIC Warns DHS: Plan to Release Personal Data Held by Agency is Unlawful » (Dec. 22, 2011)
    EPIC has submitted comments to the Department of Homeland Security, objecting to the agency's plan to disclose internal agency records to former DHS employees, third party employers, and foreign and international agencies. DHS plans to disclose criminal conviction records, employee records, and foreclosures, about a broad category of individuals, including members of the public, individuals who file administrative complaints with DHS, and even individuals who are named parties in cases "in which DHS believes it will or may become involved." All of this information is protected under the federal Privacy Act, but the DHS proposes to invoke the "routine use" exemption to allow disclosure. EPIC said the plan would "undermine privacy safeguards set out in the Privacy Act and would unnecessarily increase privacy risks for individuals whose records are maintained by the federal government." EPIC also noted that the agency has failed to allow sufficient time to meaningfully consider public comment on the plan. For more information, see EPIC: the Privacy Act of 1974.
  • EPIC Sues DHS Over Covert Surveillance of Facebook and Twitter » (Dec. 20, 2011)
    EPIC has filed a Freedom of information Act lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security to force disclosure of the details of the agency's social network monitoring program. In news reports and a Federal Register notice, the DHS has stated that it will routinely monitor the public postings of users on Twitter and Facebook. The agency plans to create fictitious user accounts and scan posts of users for key terms. User data will be stored for five years and shared with other government agencies.The legal authority for the DHS program remains unclear. EPIC filed the lawsuit after the DHS failed to reply to an April 2011 FOIA request. For more information, see EPIC: Social Networking Privacy.
  • EPIC to DHS: Proposed Expansion of "Routine Use" Exception is Unlawful » (Nov. 30, 2011)
    In comments to the Department of Homeland Security regarding a proposal to expand the Privacy Act "routine use" exemption, EPIC has said that the agency is exceeding its legal authority. The DHS is seeking to disclose information about current and former government employees, including members of the US Secret Service, for the the development of "civil, administrative, or background investigation." The information includes names, social security numbers, addresses, and dates of birth. The "routine use" exemption allows federal agencies to disclose personal information in their possession in certain, narrow circumstances, not for open-ended investigations. EPIC stated that the change would "undermine privacy safeguards set out in the Privacy Act and would unnecessarily increase privacy risks for individuals whose records are maintained by the federal government." For more information, see EPIC: the Privacy Act of 1974.
  • Justice Department Revises FOIA Proposal, But Problems Remain » (Nov. 4, 2011)
    In response to widespread criticism from EPIC and other open government groups, the Department of Justice has agreed to withdraw one of its proposed Freedom of Information Act revisions. The section would have allowed the agency to make misrepresentations about the existence of documents subject to the FOIA. In extensive comments to the Department of Justice, EPIC said that the Justice Department proposal would undermine the FOIA and is contrary to law as well as the views expressed by the President and the Attorney General. But EPIC also pointed to proposed changes that would place new burdens on FOIA requesters, make it more difficult to qualify for educational and news media fee status, allow the agency to terminate FOIA requests, and even destroy records subject to FOIA. For more information see EPIC: Open Government.
  • EPIC to Justice Department: Maintain Strong Open Government Regulations » (Oct. 20, 2011)
    In extensive comments to the Department of Justice, EPIC has urged the federal agency not to weaken the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) as it has proposed. The Justice Department is considering regulations that would place new burdens on FOIA requesters, make it more difficult to qualify for educational and news media fee status, and allow agencies to terminate FOIA requests, and even make misrepresentations about the existence of documents and destroy records subject to a FOIA request. EPIC said that the Justice Department proposal would undermine the FOIA, is contrary to law as well as the views expressed by the President and the Attorney General. EPIC has an extensive FOIA practice and has recently uncovered documents regarding the FBI's Watchlist and the Department of Homeland Security's "Minority Report" Pre-crime Detection Program. The Justice Department must now decide whether to adopt the changes it has proposed, withdraw the rule, or make modifications. For more information, see EPIC: Open Government.
  • Congressional Watchdog: DHS Data Mining Programs Pose Risk to Privacy » (Oct. 11, 2011)
    The Government Accountability Office has performed a detailed evaluation of data mining practices at the Department of Homeland Security. According to the report, privacy protections and transparency are vital to data mining operation, however the Department's practices did not "adequately ensure the protection of privacy-related information." in 2009, EPIC called for an investigation of the Department's Privacy Office and said that the Chief Privacy Officer was not complying with the statutory requirements to protect privacy. For more information, see EPIC: Department of Homeland Security Chief Privacy Office and Privacy.
  • Documents Obtained by EPIC Reveal Government's "Minority Report" Scanning Program » (Oct. 7, 2011)
    Through a Freedom of Information Act request, EPIC has obtained documents from the Department of Homeland Security about a secretive "pre-crime" detection program. The "Future Attribute Screening Technology" (FAST) Program gathers "physiological measurements" from subjects, including heart rate, breathing patterns, and thermal activity, to determine "malintent." According to the documents obtained by EPIC, the agency is considering the use of the device at conventions and sporting events, and has already conducted field testing. CNET first reported on the EPIC FOIA request. For more information, see: EPIC: Future Attribute Screening Technology Project.
  • Documents Obtained by EPIC Reveal FBI Watch List Details » (Sep. 28, 2011)
    EPIC has obtained documents that reveal new details about standards for adding and removing names from the FBI watch list. The documents were obtained as the result of an EPIC Freedom of Information Act request to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The FBI's standard for inclusion on the list is "particularized derogatory information," which has never been recognized by a court of law. Also, individuals may remain on the FBI watch list even if charges are dropped or a case is dismissed. The New York Times broke the story and posted the documents obtained by EPIC. For more information, see EPIC: FBI Watch List FOIA and EPIC: Open Government.
  • EPIC Asks Court to Require DHS Disclosure of Mobile Body Scanner Documents » (Sep. 22, 2011)
    EPIC has filed a motion for summary judgment in EPIC v. DHS, No. 1:11-cv-00945-ABJ, a FOIA case against the Department of Homeland Security for information about the planned expansion of the body scanner program. EPIC has asked the court to force the agency to disclose documents containing communications with Rapiscan and other vendors about the deployment of mobile body scanners. EPIC has already obtained hundreds of pages of documents describing how the agency is exploring the use of body scanners on people who travel by train, attend sporting events, enter federal buildings, or travel along public highways. For more information, see: EPIC: Body Scanner Technology and EPIC: FOIA Note #20.
  • DHS Refuses to Disclose Details of Mobile Body Scanner Technology » (Aug. 17, 2011)
    New documents released by the Department of Homeland Security to EPIC indicate the the agency continues to hide details about body scanners. In November 2010, EPIC filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the agency regarding the deployment of body scanners in surface transit and street-roving vans. In its latest document release the agency supplied several papers that were completely redacted. As a result of the agency's failure to comply with the Freedom of Information Act, EPIC has filed suit to force disclosure of the records. For more information, see: EPIC: Body Scanner Technology and EPIC: FOIA Note #20.
  • Senate Passes Faster FOIA Act » (Aug. 2, 2011)
    The Senate unanimously approved bipartisan legislation, cosponsored by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and John Cornyn (R-TX), to improve Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) processing. The Faster FOIA Act will create an advisory panel to examine agency backlogs and provide recommendations to Congress. The bill awaits action by the House of Representatives. EPIC previously testified before the House Oversight Committee about FOIA delays and politicized processing within the Department of Homeland Security. For more information see: EPIC: Open Government and EPIC: Litigation Under the Federal Open Government Laws.
  • EPIC v. NSA: FOIA Suit for Cybersecurity Authority Will Move Forward, though National Security Council Remains a "FOIA-Free Zone" » (Jul. 8, 2011)
    A District of Columbia federal court ordered an EPIC lawsuit against the National Security Agency to proceed, holding that EPIC can "pursue its claim against the NSA for wrongfully withholding an agency record in its possession." EPIC's Freedom of Information Act suit seeks disclosure of National Security Presidential Directive 54 - the document that provides the legal basis for the NSA's cybersecurity activities. The NSA failed to disclose the document in response to EPIC's FOIA request, instead forwarding the request to the National Security Council. The Court held that the NSC is not subject to FOIA, but that the NSA's transfer of EPIC's request does not absolve the agency of its responsibility to respond to EPIC. For more, see: EPIC: EPIC v. NSA.
  • Senate Unanimously Passes Faster FOIA Act » (Jun. 1, 2011)
    The Senate has unanimously approved bipartisan legislation, sponsored by Senators Leahy (D-VT) and Cornyn (R-TX), that will improve the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The Faster FOIA Act will establish an advisory panel to examine agency backlogs in processing FOIA requests and provide recommendations to Congress for legislative and administrative action to enhance agency processing. The bill now moves on to the House of Representatives for consideration. EPIC testified earlier this year in a House Oversight Committee hearing on the need to strengthen FOIA. For more information, see EPIC: Open Government.
  • Faster FOIA Act Moves Forward in Senate » (Apr. 12, 2011)
    The Senate Judiciary Committee has approved bipartisan legislation, cosponsored by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and John Cornyn (R-TX), to improve the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) processing. The Faster FOIA Act will create an advisory panel to examine agency backlogs and provide recommendations to Congress. EPIC recently testified before the House Oversight Committee about FOIA delays and politicized processing within the Department of Homeland Security. For more information see: EPIC: Open Government and EPIC: Litigation Under the Federal Open Government Laws.
  • EPIC: DHS Review of FOIA Requests is "Unlawful" » (Mar. 31, 2011)
    EPIC testified today before the House Oversight Committee hearing "Why Isn't The Department Of Homeland Security Meeting The President's Standard On FOIA?" The hearing examined the DHS's political review of open government requests. The DHS "Awareness" program singled out FOIA requests for additional scrutiny by political appointees based on the subject of the requests and the identities of the requesters. EPIC Senior Counsel John Verdi called the program "uniquely harmful" and "unlawful." He pointed to Supreme Court precedent and the additional delay in FOIA processing. Also testifying at the hearing were the DHS General Counsel, the DHS Chief FOIA Officer, and the DHS Inspector General. For more information, see EPIC: Open Government and EPIC: Litigation under the Federal Open Government Laws 2010.
  • EPIC to Testify at House Oversight Hearing on FOIA » (Mar. 28, 2011)
    EPIC Senior Counsel John Verdi will testify before the House Oversight Committee on March 31, 2011 regarding Homeland Security’s political review of FOIA requests and the effects of the agency’s policies on requesters. The hearing arises as the AP reports that DHS career staff repeatedly questioned the political review policy. This report also follows an earlier release of 1,000 agency documents revealing the long-standing process of vetting FOIA requests by political appointees. In a previous letter to the Committee, EPIC and a coalition of open government groups wrote that FOIA does not permit agencies to select requests for political scrutiny. For more information, see EPIC: Open Government and EPIC: Litigation under the Federal Open Government Laws 2010.
  • EPIC Publishes 2011 FOIA Gallery » (Mar. 14, 2011)
    In celebration of Sunshine Week, EPIC published the EPIC FOIA Gallery: 2011. The gallery highlights key documents obtained by EPIC in the past year, including records detailing the privacy risks posed by airport body scanners, agency plans to expand the scanner program to non-airport locations, FBI abuse of surveillance authorities, and the Federal Trade Commission's failure to investigate Google Street View. EPIC regularly files Freedom of Information Act requests and pursues lawsuits to force disclosure of critical documents that impact privacy. EPIC also publishes the authoritative FOIA litigation manual. For more, see EPIC Open Government and EPIC Bookstore: FOIA.
  • Supreme Court Affirms Open Government, Limits Exemptions » (Mar. 7, 2011)
    In Navy v. Milner, the Supreme Court held that the Freedom of Information Act’s “Exemption 2” is limited to employee relations and human resources issues. The decision overturns previous decisions by lower courts that applied the exemption to broader categories of records, allowing federal agencies to block disclosure of documents to the public. The Court stated that this practice contravened Congress’s intent. The Court emphasized that Congress intended all nine FOIA exemptions to be construed narrowly. EPIC is currently challenging the use of Exemption 2 in its lawsuit to force disclosure of records concerning full body scanners at airport checkpoints. The Court's decision in Navy v. Milner demonstrates that the Department of Homeland Security is improperly withholding information about the scanners from the public. For more information, see EPIC-Milner v. Dept. of Navy, and EPIC: OPEN Government.
  • Supreme Court: No "Personal Privacy" For Corporations in FOIA Cases » (Mar. 1, 2011)
    In FCC v. AT&T, The Supreme Court held that federal protections for "personal privacy" do not permit corporations to prevent disclosure of government records. AT&T sought to prevent the disclosure of documents the company had submitted to a federal agency, claiming that the corporation's "personal privacy" prevented release of the records pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act. EPIC filed a "friend of the court" brief in the case urging the Justices to reject AT&T's claim. The Court agreed with the FCC, EPIC and other amici, writing, "The protection in FOIA against disclosure of law enforcement information on the ground that it would constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy does not extend to corporations. We trust that AT&T will not take it personally." EPIC's brief cited the commonly understood meaning of "personal privacy" in the work of legal scholars and technical experts, as well as the use of these terms in an extensive survey of US privacy laws. For more information, see EPIC: FCC v. AT&T.
  • Chairman Issa Subpoenas Homeland Security Officials about FOIA Practices » (Feb. 25, 2011)
    Rep. Darrell E. Issa (R-CA), Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, issued subpoenas to two Department of Homeland Security employees for depositions to take place on March 7 and March 8. Rep. Issa has undertaken an investigation of DHS’s policy of submitting FOIA requests to political review. EPIC and a coalition of open government organizations sent Rep. Issa and Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-MD) a letter supporting the investigation. The political review policy came to light after the release of over 1,000 agency documents revealed a long-standing process of submitting FOIA requests from watchdog organizations to review by political appointees. EPIC has also recommended that the FOIA Ombudsman undertake an investigation of this practice. For related information see EPIC: Open Government and EPIC: Litigation under the Federal Open Government Laws 2010.
  • In Response to EPIC, Justice Department Offers No Public Justification for Data Retention » (Feb. 18, 2011)
    In response to an EPIC Freedom of Information Act request, the Department of Justice sent back only heavily redacted documents with no justification for data retention legislation. EPIC filed the request in 2010, seeking the Department's views on he Internet SAFETY Act, which would require internet service providers to retain user records for at least two years. The DOJ publicly supported the Act but has refused to provide a single substantive reason for that support. The Internet SAFETY Act has not yet been reintroduced in the 112th Congress. For more information, see EPIC: Data Retention.
  • EPIC v. NSA FOIA Lawsuit: NSA Will Neither Confirm Nor Deny Communications with Google » (Feb. 18, 2011)
    In a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by EPIC against the National Security Agency for information about the NSA's relationship with Google, the NSA has replied that "confirming or denying the existence of any such records would reveal information relating to its core functions and activities . . ." EPIC sought the information, including a widely discussed cooperative research agreement between NSA and Google, because the agency's practices would impact the privacy interests of millions of Internet users both in the United States and around the world. The case is EPIC v. NSA, Civ. Action No. 10-1533 (RJL). EPIC has a related release against the NSA concerning the agency's cybersecurity authority. For more information, see EPIC - EPIC v. NSA.
  • EPIC, Coalition Urge Congress to Pursue FOIA Oversight » (Feb. 16, 2011)
    EPIC and a coalition of over 30 organizations and open government experts sent a letter to Rep. Darrell E. Issa (R-CA), Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, urging public hearings on the DHS policy of vetting FOIA requests by political appointees. Rep. Issa has undertaken an investigation of this "political review" policy. The coalition also recommended that the Committee support the Office of Government Information Services, the "FOIA Ombudsman," and encourage the Government Accountability Office to conduct investigations of agency FOIA practices. EPIC previously requested an investigation into DHS's FOIA practices. EPIC said that the FOIA does not permit agencies to sect requests for political scrutiny. For related information see EPIC: Open Government and EPIC: Litigation under the Federal Open Government Laws 2010.
  • EPIC Opposes TSA's Secret Evidence in Body Scanner Case » (Feb. 10, 2011)
    EPIC has opposed an effort by the Transportation Security Administration to provide secret evidence to the court in EPIC's challenge to the the airport body scanner program. The TSA claimed that it can withhold documents that it has designated "Sensitive Security Information" and scientific studies because they are "copyrighted materials." EPIC responded that the TSA failed to establish that the documents are Sensitive Security Information, and also that the TSA cannot withhold materials in a judicial proceeding because they are subject copyright. The argument before the DC Circuit in the case is scheduled for March 10. For more information, see EPIC: EPIC v. DHS: Body Scanners (Suspend the Program) and EPIC: EPIC v. DHS (FOIA).
  • Patriot Act Extension Fails in House Vote » (Feb. 9, 2011)
    A House vote on extending provisions of the Patriot Act that will lapse on February 28 failed. The three provisions concerned authorizing the FBI’s use of roving wiretaps, granting the government access to “any tangible items” of individuals under surveillance, and allowing the surveillance of individuals and groups not connected to identified terrorist groups. The House bill would have extended these provisions until December. The Senate Judiciary Committee is considering a bill that would extend the expiring provisions to 2013. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) issued a statement explaining that he did not support efforts to extend the provisions that “undercut important oversight and government accountability of these intelligence gathering tools.” EPIC, through the Freedom of Information Act, recently obtained from the Intelligence Oversight Board, internal reports of intelligence law violations by the FBI that do not comply with Attorney General guidelines for oversight. EPIC has in the past urged the Senate Judiciary Committee to require the Attorney General to report to Congress on potentially unlawful investigations. For related information, see EPIC: USA Patriot Act and EPIC: PATRIOT FOIA Litigation.
  • Chairman Issa Investigates "Political Review" Policy at Homeland Security » (Feb. 2, 2011)
    Rep. Darrell E. Issa (R-CA), chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, has issued a letter to Secretary Janet Napolitano demanding that DHS release all documents regarding the agency's policy of vetting FOIA requests through political appointees. Rep. Issa also asked that DHS political appointees appear before the Committee for interviews regarding the policy. Previously, EPIC urged the FOIA Ombudsman to conduct an investigation of the DHS. EPIC said the "political review" policy is contrary to federal law and Supreme Court holdings; the FOIA does not permit agencies to select requests for political scrutiny. For related information see EPIC: Open Government and EPIC: Litigation under the Federal Open Government Laws 2010.
  • DHS Releases FOIA Report, But Questions Remain » (Jan. 24, 2011)
    The Department of Homeland Security has released the Freedom of Information Act Report for 2010. The report analyzes the processing of FOIA requests made throughout the year by each DHS component, detailing the disposition of each request, response times, and the number of backlogged requests. DHS is under scrutiny for their policy of referring FOIA requests to political appointees before processing. The release of over 1,000 agency documents revealed a persistent agency practice of flagging FOIA requests from EPIC and other watchdog organizations for referral.The FOIA does not permit agencies to select FOIA requests for political scrutiny and the Supreme Court has stated that neither the identity of the FOIA requester nor the reason for the request is relevant to the processing of requests. EPIC has recommended that the FOIA Ombudsman investigate the Department’s policy. For related information see EPIC: Open Government and EPIC: Litigation under the Federal Open Government Laws 2010.
  • EPIC Urges Investigation of White House FOIA Review Policy » (Dec. 8, 2010)
    In a letter (Appendix 1-6, 7-12, 13-18)sent today to the FOIA Ombudsman, EPIC recommended an investigation of the Department of Homeland Security’s policy of referring FOIA requests to political appointees in the White House. Under the DHS policy, political appointees receive detailed information about the identity of FOIA requesters and the topics of their requests. This policy is contrary to federal law and Supreme Court holdings, as the FOIA does not permit agencies to select FOIA requests for political scrutiny. The release of over 1,000 agency documents reveals a persistent agency practice of flagging FOIA requests from EPIC and other organizations for referral to political appointees. For related information see EPIC: Open Government and EPIC: Litigation under the Federal Open Government Laws 2010.
  • EPIC Challenges DoD FOIA Processing Policies » (Nov. 23, 2010)
    EPIC filed a request with the FOIA Ombudsman challenging the Department of Defense's unlawful assertion that the DoD has the statutory authority to administratively withdraw a FOIA request without input or consultation from the FOIA requester. DoD made the assertion in response to a FOIA request EPIC had filed seeking documents detailing the agency's agreements with Project Vigilant, a private sector company that monitors Internet Service Providers and provides that information to federal agencies. The FOIA Ombudsman is authorized to review policies and procedures of administrative agencies, review compliance by administrative agencies, and recommend policy changes to Congress and the President. EPIC requested that the FOIA Ombudsman investigate DoD's policies and publish a report of its findings. For related information see Litigation Under the Federal Open Government Laws 2010 and EPIC: Open Government.
  • DHS Privacy Office Releases 2010 Annual Report » (Sep. 24, 2010)
    The Department of Homeland Security has released the Privacy Office 2010 Annual Report. The Agency's Chief Privacy Officer must prepare an annual report to Congress that details activities of the Department that affect privacy, including complaints of privacy violations, and DHS compliance with the Privacy Act of 1974. This year’s report details the establishment of privacy officers within each component of the Agency. The report also provides updates on Fusion Centers, Cybersecurity, and Cloud Computing activities of the agency. For more information, see EPIC: DHS Privacy Office.
  • EPIC Files Suit For Documents Regarding Google/NSA Partnership » (Sep. 13, 2010)
    Today, EPIC filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the National Security Agency in the United States District Court in the District of Columbia. The agency failed to respond to EPIC's FOIA request for documents about an "Information Assurance" partnership with Google. EPIC previously appealed to the agency to comply with its legal duty to produce the documents, but he agency failed to respond. EPIC is also seeking the Presidential Directive that grants the NSA authority to conduct electronic surveillance in the United States. For more information, see EPIC: Open Government.
  • Senators Question Safety of Airport Body Scanners, Object to Program Expansion » (Aug. 18, 2010)
    Three U.S. Senators have objected to the Department of Homeland Security's expansion of the airport body scanner program. In a letter to DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, Senators Collins (R-ME), Burr (R-NC), and Coburn (R-OK) have asked "why the Department continues to purchase this technology when legitimate concerns about its safety appear to remain unanswered." The Senators noted that "the issue of radiation associated with the backscatter x-ray AIT machines has not been adequately addressed by TSA." They urged the agency's Chief Medical Officer, working with independent experts, to conduct a review of the health effects on travelers and airport personnel. EPIC recently submitted a FOIA request to the DHS for all records of tests conducted by the agency regarding radiation impacts. EPIC has also filed an emergency motion in federal court to suspend the program, pending an thorough review of the airport body scanner program. For more information, see EPIC: Whole Body Imaging Technology and EPIC v. DHS (Suspension of Body Scanner Program).
  • EPIC FOIA - Feds Save Thousands of Body Scan Images » (Aug. 4, 2010)
    In an open government lawsuit against the United States Marshals Service, EPIC has obtained more than one hundred images of undressed individuals entering federal courthouses. The images, which are routinely captured by the federal agency, prove that body scanning devices store and record images of individuals stripped naked. The 100 images are a small sample of more than 35,000 at issue in the EPIC lawsuit. EPIC has pursued a similar FOIA lawsuit against the Dept. of Homeland Security but the DHS refuses to release the images it has obtained. EPIC has also filed suit to stop the deployment of the machines in US airports. For more information, see EPIC Body Scanners, EPIC - EPIC v. DOJ (Marshall Service FOIA), and EPIC Press Release.
  • DHS Announces Dramatic Expansion of Airport Body Scanner Program » (Jul. 21, 2010)
    On July 20, 2010, the Department of Homeland Security announced a substantial change in the deployment of body scanners in US airports. According to the DHS Secretary, the devices, which had once been part of a pilot program for seconary screening, will now be deployed in 28 additional airports. The devices are designed to capture and store photographic images of naked air travelers. EPIC has filed an emergency motion in federal court, urging the suspension of the program and citing violations of several federal statutes and the Fourth Amendment. Public opposition to the program is also growing. For more information, see EPIC v. DHS (Body scanners) and EPIC Body Scanners.
  • EPIC FOIAs NSA for Details of "Perfect Citizen" » (Jul. 16, 2010)
    EPIC has filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the National Security Agency regarding the new secret cybersecurity program known as "Perfect Citizen." According to the Wall Street Journal, the program "would rely on a set of sensors deployed in computer networks for critical infrastructure that would be triggered by unusual activity suggesting an impending cyber attack," although the agency has claimed that there "is no monitoring activity involved, and no sensors are employed in this endeavor" but has refused to release the details of the program. In its request, EPIC has sought contracts, memoranda, and other records relating to "Perfect Citizen." For more information, see EPIC Cybersecurity and Privacy.
  • Supreme Court to Review Freedom of Information Act Case Exempting Agency Documents from Public Disclosure » (Jun. 28, 2010)
    Today, the Supreme Court agreed to hear Milner v. Department of the Navy a case in which a federal appeals court allowed the Navy to withhold records sought under the Freedom of Information Act. At issue in the case is the scope of Exemption 2 of the FOIA, which permits agencies, in some circumstances, to withhold information requested pursuant to FOIA. The exemption at issue exempts information “related solely to the internal personnel rules and practices of an agency.” Writing in dissent, Judge Fletcher said that the FOIA exemptions "must be narrowly construed." For more information see EPIC: Open Government; EPIC FOIA Manual.
  • FOIA Update - EPIC Forces Disclosure of Report on Obama Passport Breach  » (Jun. 23, 2010)
    EPIC's Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the State Department, EPIC v. State, has produced a report detailing security breaches of passport data for several Presidential candidates. Federal investigators prepared the report in the wake of March 2008 breaches that exposed Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John McCain's personal information. Previously secret sections state "the Department was ineffective at detecting possible incidents of unauthorized access," and criticized the agency's failure to "provide adequate control or oversight." Portions of the report remain secret - the agency hasn't fully implemented investigators' recommendations. EPIC testified before the Senate in 2008 concerning the security breaches, urging lawmakers to limit employee and contractor access to personal data. For more, see EPIC Passport Privacy and EPIC Open Government.
  • Federal Judge Limits Suspicionless Laptop Searches at Borders » (Jun. 11, 2010)
    A federal judge has ruled against the Department of Homeland Security's Customs and Border Protection claim that agents could not only search the electronic devices of cross-border travelers without a warrant or even reasonable suspicion, they could also seize the devices indefinitely for more invasive searches. In United States v. Hanson, U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White ruled that "[g]iven the passage of time between the January and February searches and the fact that the February search was not conduct[ed] at the border, or its functional equivalent, the court concludes that the February search . . . must be justified by reasonable suspicion." Last October, EPIC and 20 other organizations sent a letter to the House Committee on Homeland Security objecting to this practice and other privacy violations. For more information, see EPIC: DHS Privacy Office.
  • Senate Unanimously Passes Faster FOIA Act » (May. 7, 2010)
    The Senate unanimously passed the Faster FOIA Act of 2010, introduced by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and John Cornyn (R-TX), that will establish a 16-member commission to determine methods for reducing delays in processing FOIA requests. Government reports reveal substantial delays in disclosing records subject to the open government law. The legislation seeks to improve the processing of FOIA requests. EPIC frequently uses the FOIA to obtain information about government programs that impact privacy rights. For more information, see EPIC: FOIA Litigation Docket, EPIC: FOIA Litigation Manual.
  • EPIC Demands Release of Classified Answers on Privacy and Internet Standards from Cyber Command Nominee » (Apr. 19, 2010)
    EPIC has filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the National Security Agency (NSA) seeking the "classified supplement" that Director Lt. Gen. Keith Alexander filed with his answers to questions from the Senate Armed Services Committee regarding his nomination to be the Commander of the newly formed United States Cyber Command. Several of Lt. Gen. Alexander's classified responses were to questions regarding the privacy of Americans' communications, and EPIC's request urges the Agency to make the full responses public. EPIC is currently in litigation with the NSA to obtain the secret policy for NSA surveillance authority. For more information, see EPIC Sues NSA to Force Disclosure of Cybersecurity Authority.
  • Faster FOIA Act Heading for Senate Vote » (Apr. 19, 2010)
    A bill to improve the speed at which the government processes requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), called the Faster FOIA Act of 2010, was passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee late last week and has been reported to the full Senate for a vote. The bill was introduced in March by Senators Leahy (D-Vt.) and Cornyn (R-Tx.) and will establish a 16-member commission to conduct a study to determine methods for reducing delays in processing FOIA requests. For more information, see EPIC FOIA Litigation Docket, EPIC FOIA Litigation Manual.
  • EPIC v. Homeland Security: Government has Over 2,000 Photos from Airport Body Scanners » (Apr. 16, 2010)
    As a result of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, EPIC has obtained hundreds of pages of documents from the Department of Homeland Security about the plan to deploy full body scanners in US airports. A letter to EPIC reveals that the government agency possesses about 2,000 body scanner photos from devices that the DHS said earlier "could not store or record images." EPIC has also obtained the most recent device procurement specifications, and several hundred new pages of traveler complaints. For more information, see EPIC: Whole Body Imaging and EPIC: EPIC v. Department of Homeland Security
  • Senators Leahy and Cornyn Introduce Bill to Reduce FOIA Delays » (Mar. 16, 2010)
    Senators Patrick Leahy and John Cornyn introduced the Faster FOIA Act, which would establish a panel to examine agency backlogs in processing FOIA requests. Government reports reveal substantial agency delays in disclosing FOIA records. The bill comes at the beginning of Sunshine Week, a national observance of the importance of open government. EPIC makes frequent use of the FOIA to obtain information about privacy issues. EPIC celebrated Sunshine Week by publishing the EPIC FOIA Gallery: 2010. For more, see EPIC: Open Government and EPIC Bookstore: FOIA.
  • EPIC Publishes 2010 FOIA Gallery » (Mar. 16, 2010)
    In celebration of Sunshine Week, EPIC published the EPIC FOIA Gallery: 2010. The gallery highlights key documents obtained by EPIC in the past year, including records detailing the privacy risks posed by airport body scanners, fraudulent "parental control" software, and federal agencies' contracts with social networking web sites. EPIC regularly files Freedom of Information Act requests and pursues lawsuits to force disclosure of critical documents that impact privacy. EPIC also publishes the authoritative FOIA litigation manual. For more, see EPIC Open Government and EPIC Bookstore: FOIA.
  • Independent Open Government Audit Finds Mixed Results for Obama Administration » (Mar. 15, 2010)
    The National Security Archive at George Washington University has released the results of its annual government-wide FOIA audit. The audit tested agency responsiveness to President Obama's new directives on government transparency and openness. The Archive report concluded that less than half of federal agencies have responded to the new open government directives with concrete changes, and only four agencies "show both increases in releases and decreases in denials under the FOIA." Attorney General Eric Holder spoke today about the administration's FOIA record. For more information, see EPIC Open Government.
  • EPIC Seeks Records on Google-NSA Relationship » (Feb. 4, 2010)
    Today EPIC filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the National Security Agency, seeking records regarding the relationship between Google and the NSA. The press reported that Google and the NSA have entered into a partnership following a recent hacker attack on Google originating from China. The EPIC FOIA request also seeks NSA communications with Google regarding Google's failure to encrypt Gmail and cloud computing services. In March 2009, EPIC filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission urging it to investigate the adequacy of Google's cloud computing privacy and security safeguards. Today EPIC also filed a lawsuit against the National Security Agency and the National Security Council, seeking a key document governing national cybersecurity policy. For more information, see EPIC FOIA Litigation and EPIC Cloud Computing.
  • EPIC Sues NSA to Force Disclosure of Cyber Security Authority » (Feb. 4, 2010)
    EPIC has filed a lawsuit against the National Security Agency and the National Security Council, seeking a key document governing national cybersecurity policy. The document, National Security Presidential Directive 54 grants the NSA broad authority over the security of American computer networks. The agencies violated the Freedom of Information Act by failing to make public the Directive and related records in response to EPIC's request. EPIC's suit asks a federal judge to require the release of the documents. Congress is currently debating cyber security policy. For more information, see EPIC FOIA Litigation, EPIC Critical Infrastructure Protection.
  • Federal Budget Announced for Fiscal Year 2011, Surveillance Projects Scrutinized » (Feb. 3, 2010)
    The Office of Management and Budget has released the federal budget for fiscal year 2011. The budget proposes funding for several new surveillance initiatives, including over $700 million to the Department of Homeland Security for "Passenger Aviation Security". The Department would like to purchase 500 body scanner machines for U.S. airports, bringing the projected total number of machines to 1,000 at a cost of over $200 million by the end of 2011. The new budget also includes several hundred million dollars for the Department of Justice's national security programs, which were recently the subject of a critical Inspector-General's report for improper use of authority. For more information, see EPIC DHS and Privacy, EPIC Domestic Surveillance, EPIC Air Travel Privacy, and EPIC Whole Body Imaging.
  • Homeland Security Releases Annual FOIA Report » (Feb. 1, 2010)
    The Department of Homeland Security has released the 2009 Freedom of Information Act Report. The report shows that the Department processed over 160,000 requests in the past year, with 27,182 requests remaining pending. Of the requests processed, 11% were granted in full, 60% were classified as "partial grants/partial denials," and the remaining 29% were denied in full. The overwhelming majority of backlogged requests and appeals are pending at the Customs and Immigration Service. For denied requests with processed appeals, nearly 30% were fully reversed on appeal, and another 32% were reversed in part. EPIC currently has two FOIA cases pending against the Department relating to its use of Body Scanner machines. For more information, see EPIC v. DHS, EPIC FOIA Litigation Docket.
  • Defense Department Pulls Parental Control Software Product Following EPIC Complaint » (Dec. 4, 2009)
    Documents obtained by EPIC, pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, revealed the Defense Department canceled a contract with Echometrix, following an EPIC complaint to the Federal Trade Commission earlier this year. According to the documents obtained by EPIC, the Army and Air Force Exchange Service pulled My Military Sentry, which collects data for marketing purposes, from its online store: “The collection of AAFES customer information (personal or otherwise) for any other purpose than to provide quality customer service is prohibited . . . . Giving our customers the ability to opt out does not address this issue.” For more information, see EPIC: In re Echometrix.
  • EPIC Files Appeal for NSA Policy on Network Surveillance » (Nov. 24, 2009)
    Today, EPIC filed a Freedom of Information Act appeal, seeking disclosure of NPSD 54, the classified Directive that describes a National Security Agency program to monitor American computer networks. EPIC submitted the original request to shed light on the extent of the federal government's surveillance of civilian computer systems, but the agency refused to disclose the document. EPIC's appeal warns that the NSA’s improper withholding of the Directive "flatly contravenes" the President's policy on open government and "explicit FOIA guidance promulgated by the Attorney General." EPIC further stated, without public disclosure of the Directive, "the government cannot meaningfully make assurances about the adequacy of privacy and civil liberties safeguards." For more information, see EPIC Open Government.
  • Congressional Committee Investigating Privacy Office at Homeland Security, Acknowledges Privacy Coalition Letter » (Nov. 12, 2009)
    House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson has responded to the Privacy Coalition letter regarding the Chief Privacy Officer of the Department of Homeland Security. Chairman Thompson said that "the Committee is in the process of reviewing the programs outlined" in the letter, and thanked the Coalition for bringing the issues to the attention of the committee. He further stated that the Committee "will continue to examine the Department's programs and policies and vigorously address privacy concerns and issues." For more information, see EPIC DHS Privacy Office and Privacy Coalition.
  • EPIC Celebrates International Right to Know Day » (Sep. 28, 2009)
    Today, EPIC celebrates International Right to Know Day, which was established to raise awareness of every individual's right of access to government-held information. EPIC is speaking at American University's Third Annual International Right-To-Know Day Celebration concerning opportunities to restore US leadership in government transparency. Recently, the Obama Administration announced revisions to the "state secrets" privilege and increased access to White House visitor records. Both initiatives aim to expand disclosure of information. Last week, EPIC filed papers to force the Department of Homeland Security to comply with federal open government law, citing the President's commitment to transparency. For more information, see EPIC Open Government and EPIC FOIA Litigation Manual 2008.
  • EPIC Reminds Homeland Security Agency to Publish Privacy Report » (Sep. 22, 2009)
    In a letter to the Chief Privacy Officer of the Department of Homeland Security, EPIC asked when the annual privacy report will be made available. The Department is required by law to provide an annual report "on activities of the Department that affect privacy, including complaints of privacy violations, implementation of the Privacy Act of 1974, internal controls, and other matters." The last privacy report was published in July 2008. EPIC has previously sent similar letters to the Department, reminding the agency of its legal obligation to inform the public about its activities. For more information, see EPIC’s Privacy Report Held Hostage page.
  • EPIC Pursues DHS Official's Public Calendar » (Sep. 18, 2009)
    EPIC has filed a FOIA appeal with the Department of Homeland Security for the calendar of the Chief Privacy Officer. EPIC submitted the original request to find out why the DHS Privacy Officer could not meet with privacy groups in Washington, DC. The agency turned over many pages from the calendar, but the entries were all blacked out. In the appeal, EPIC said the agency has failed to comply with the open government law and also cited the President's commitment to government transparency concerning the activities of public officials. For more information, see EPIC Open Government.
  • EPIC Forces Disclosure of Government Contracts with Social Media Companies, Privacy Terms Missing » (Aug. 12, 2009)
    In response to an EPIC Freedom of Information Act Request, the Government Services Administration released several contracts between the federal government and web 2.0 companies, including agreements with Blip.tv, Blist, Google (YouTube), Yahoo (Flickr), and MySpace. EPIC also obtained amendments to agreements with Facebook, Slideshare.net, Vimeo.com, and AddThis.com. The contracts do not address the privacy obligations of social media companies. The GSA letter to EPIC explained that “no specific Web 2.0 guidance currently exists,” but provided EPIC with Training Slides that raise privacy issues. The GSA Agreement with Google actually states that, “to the extent any rules or guidelines exist prohibiting the use of persistent cookies in connection with Provider Content applies to Google, Provider expressly waives those rules or guidelines as they may apply to Google.” Some of the agreements also permit companies to track users of government web sites for advertising purposes. For more information see EPIC Social Network Privacy, EPIC Facebook, and EPIC Cloud Computing.
  • White House Seeks Comments on Web Tracking, EPIC Urges Ban be Maintained on Persistent Identifiers » (Jul. 27, 2009)
    The Office of Management and Budget is seeking public comments on the use of Web tracking techniques on federal government websites. Government agencies are currently prohibited from using persistent identifiers, such as cookies, except when there is a compelling need. EPIC, in comments to the President's Office of Science & Technology, said that the government should not track users who are seeking online access to public information. EPIC is also pursuing a FOIA request concerning the transfer of personal information collected by federal agencies to private vendors. Comments are due to OMB by Aug. 10, 2009. Suggestions may also be submitted at the OSTP blog. For more information on persistent tracking, see EPIC Cookies.
  • Senate Judiciary Committee Considers National Biometric Identification System » (Jul. 22, 2009)
    Senator Schumer (D-NY) is proposing a new system to track all US workers to determine employment eligibility. The plan for the employment verifiability system involves the collection of biometric information. The Department of Homeland Security would approve or disapprove individuals for employment. Automated biometric identification systems raise questions about the scalability, reliability, accuracy, and security of the data collected. See EPIC Biometric Identification.
  • Workshop: Government 2.0: Privacy and Best Practices » (Jun. 22, 2009)
    Lillie Coney EPIC Associate Director DHS Data Privacy and Integrity Advisory Committee June 22-23, 2009
  • EPIC Endorses Better Approaches on Government Transparency » (Jun. 3, 2009)
  • White House Seeks User Comments on Government Transparency » (May. 21, 2009)
    The White House is seeking public comments on the open government proposal. President Obama's memorandum on Transparency and Open Government directed the Chief Technology Officer, the Office of Management and Budget, and the General Services Administration to develop these recommendations. The Open Government Directive will instruct executive departments and agencies on specific actions to implement transparency principles. The first phase of the initiative involves an online brainstorming session and comments are due by May 28, 2009. To learn more about transparency and open government, consider purchasing EPIC's FOIA litigation manual.
  • DHS Seeks Nominations to the Agency's Data Privacy and Integrity Advisory Committee » (May. 5, 2009)
    The Department of Homeland Security is seeking applications for appointments to the agency's Data Privacy and Integrity Advisory Committee. The committee provides advice at the request of the Secretary of DHS and the agency's Chief Privacy Officer on privacy related matters. The agency is seeking to fill two terms that would expire in January 2012, and January 2013. Applications for the positions must be received by the agency on or before June 8, 2009. For more information, see: EPIC's Web page Spotlight on Surveillance.
  • EPIC Seeks Government Agreements with Social Networking Companies » (Apr. 30, 2009)
    EPIC submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the Government Services Administration seeking agency records concerning agreements the GSA negotiated between federal agencies and social networking services, including Flickr, YouTube, Vimeo, Blip.tv, and Facebook. In the FOIA request, EPIC is asking for the public release of the contracts and any legal opinions concerning the application of the Privacy Act of 1974 and Freedom of Information Act to the services that collect information on citizens. For more information see EPIC’s pages Social Networking, Facebook, and Cloud Computing.
  • Senate to Investigate NSA "Overcollection" » (Apr. 17, 2009)
    Senator Dianne Feinstein has announced that the Senate Intelligence Committee will hold a hearing on the National Security Agency's interception of phone calls and private e-mail messages of Americans. Recently, the New York Times reported that the NSA's activities went beyond the legal limits established by the Congress last year. EPIC has a related lawsuit asking a federal court to force the release of memos on the legal authority for domestic surveillance of American citizens. For more information, see EPIC's page on Freedom of Information Act Work on the National Security Agency's Warrantless Surveillance Program.
  • EPIC Demands Disclosure of Documents Detailing "Virtual Strip Search" Airport Scanners » (Apr. 14, 2009)
    Today, EPIC filed a Freedom of Information Act request demanding disclosure of records detailing airport scanners that take naked pictures of American travelers. Security experts describe the "whole body imaging" scanners as virtual strip searches. The Transportation Security Administration plans to make the scans mandatory at all airport security checkpoints, despite prior assurances that whole body imaging would be optional. EPIC's request seeks documents concerning the agency's ability to store and transmit detailed images of naked U.S. citizens. For more information, see EPIC's Whole Body Imaging page and EPIC's FOIA Litigation Manual.
  • Attorney General Issues New FOIA Guidelines » (Mar. 19, 2009)
    The Attorney General today set out new Freedom of Information guidelines pursuant to President Obama's memorandum directing all executive branch departments and agencies to maintain a presumption of openness in releasing information requested from them. In the memorandum, the Attorney General strongly encouraged agencies to make discretionary disclosures of information to the fullest extent possible. Rescinding the FOIA Memorandum of October 12, 2001, the Attorney General stated that the Justice Department will defend a FOIA request only if the disclosure would harm an interest protected by a statutory exemption or its disclosure is prohibited by law. The memorandum also directs that each agency is fully accountable for its administration of FOIA and should be mindful of their obligation to work "in a spirit of cooperation." For more information, see EPIC's Open Government page.
  • EPIC v. DOJ - EPIC Urges Court to Require Disclosure of Warrantless Wiretap Memos » (Mar. 6, 2009)
    EPIC, the ACLU, and the National Security Archive asked a federal court in Washington, DC to order the immediate disclosure of government memos describing the legal basis for the warrantless wiretapping of American citizens by the Bush Administration. The court is currently reviewing the documents, prepared by the Office of Legal Counsel, as part of an EPIC Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. This week, the Attorney General released several related memos, which previously were secret. The new release follows President Obama's recent statement on government transparency. "The Freedom of Information Act should be administered with a clear presumption: In the face of doubt, openness prevails," the President said. For more information, see EPIC v. DOJ.
  • Homeland Security Secretary Proposes Increase in Spending for Domestic Surveillance Programs » (Feb. 27, 2009)
  • EPIC, Freedom of Information Advocates Endorse President » (Jan. 29, 2009)
    EPIC joined Freedom of Information advocates from around the world in an Open Letter welcoming "President Obama's Initiative on Transparency." The organizations also supported the President's call for a "clear presumption in favor of disclosure of information." They called on "governments around the world to take similar action to promote transparency and respect for the right of access to information." For more information about open government, see EPIC's Open Government manual.
  • President Obama Issues New Orders on FOIA » (Jan. 21, 2009)
    In his first 24 hours in Office, President Obama issued a series of Executive Orders. One of the Orders dealt with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) activity of federal government agencies. He stated that prior FOIA rules were governed by a "defensible argument" for not disclosing information to the public. The President said that, "Starting today, every agency and department should know that his administration stands on the side, not of those who seek to withhold information, but with those who seek to make it known." In other initiatives President Obama issued a suspension of legal proceedings against detainees being held in Guantanamo Bay. For more information, see EPIC's page on Former Secrets.

Background

In Freedom of Information Act lawsuit EPIC v. DHS, EPIC is seeking records of communications between the Department of Homeland Security and the now-defunct Presidential Advisory Committee on Election Integrity (the Commission) regarding the transfer of personal voter data.

On May 11, 2017, President Trump signed an Executive Order establishing the Commission. Its purpose was to “study the registration and voting processes used in the Federal Elections” and to issue a report to the President addressing three specific issues. The Commission was created after President Trump’s repeated assertions that roughly three to five million illegal votes were cast in the 2016 Presidential election.

In an unprecedented request for sensitive voter data, the Commission sent letters to all fifty states and the District of Columbia asking for names, dates of birth, addresses, political party affiliation, last four digits of voter’s social security number, and voter history. The Commission’s demand for detailed voter records included directing state election officials to send voter records to an unsecured website and proposing to publish partial social security numbers that would enable identity theft and fraud.

On July 3,2017, EPIC filed a lawsuit for a temporary restraining order to halt the Commission’s collection of state voter information. A week later, the Commission announced that it would suspend the collection of voter data pending the court’s decision on EPIC’s motion.

The Commission not only sought state voter data, but it also sought information from federal agencies. On July 19, 2017, the Commission discussed the collection of data from federal agencies, including the DHS. Commission member Hans Anatol von Spakovsky described data that he thinks the Commission should get from federal databases, including two unnamed DHS databases on immigration detentions and citizen applications. EPIC swiftly filed a Freedom of Information Act request to the DHS seeking communications between the agency and the Commission regarding the transfer of sensitive voter information.

President Trump Disbands the Commission

On January 3, 2018, President Trump issued an Executive Order terminating the Commission. EPIC filed this suit after President Trump said he asked the DHS “to determine the next course of action.” A DHS spokesman stated that the DHS is taking over the panel “in support of state governments who are responsible for administering elections, with efforts focused on securing elections against those who seek to undermine the election system or its integrity.”

Immediately after the Commission’s termination, former Vice Chairman Kris Kobach announced that the data collection activity would shift to the DHS, specifically the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. A DHS spokesman stated that former Vice Chairman Kobach will not be advising the DHS.

In a January 9, 2018 court filing, the White House intends to destroy all state voter data collected by the Commission “pending resolution of outstanding litigation involving the Commission and pending consultation with the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).”

EPIC's Interest

The public has a right to know about any proposals to transfer personal data between the DHS and the Commission. The sensitive information that the Commission sought is almost certainly protected by the Privacy Act, which restricts disclosure of personal data maintained by federal agencies. The Commission’s previous interests in privacy, transparency, and its treatment of data security has consistently fallen short. The collection and transfer of state voter data to DHS would be an egregious violation of millions of American’s privacy.

EPIC urged the Senate to seek assurances that “the DHS will not continue the activities of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity.” EPIC, along with ten other organizations, also wrote to Secretary of Homeland Security Kristjen Nielson warning her that accepting or maintaining personal voter data would subject the DHS to obligations under the E-Government Act of 2002, the Privacy Act of 1974, and the Paperwork Reduction Act.

In addition to this Freedom of Information Act case, EPIC v. Commission is still pending in federal court.

FOIA Documents

Legal Documents

U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia (No.18-43)

Resources

News

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