Privacy & Technology

#BlackLivesMatter Tracked by Oregon DOJ with Social Media Monitoring Software

by Kimberly McCullough, Legislative Director

privacy and tech imageMay 4, 2016 - As we’ve previously written about, analysts at the Oregon Department of Justice (DOJ) used a tool called Digital Stakeout to surveil people who used over 30 hashtags on social media, including #BlackLivesMatter and #fuckthepolice. Erious Johnson, director of the Oregon DOJ’s own Department of Civil Rights, was scooped up in this illegal dragnet and targeted for a threat assessment which included a review of hundreds of his personal tweets; a memo to Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum flagging him as a potential threat to law enforcement; and an internal investigation into the matter which found that the search was “not in compliance” with state law and revealed a culture of self-reinforcing bias in the Criminal Justice Division of the Oregon DOJ. 

Today, I want to take a closer look at Digital Stakeout, the tool the DOJ used to conduct these searches. Digital Stakeout is social media monitoring software (SMMS) that can be used to covertly monitor, collect, and analyze our social media data from Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. It is part of a rapidly expanding industry that the public knows little about. The goal here is to answer a few basic questions about SMMS: What can the technology do? How widespread is the use of SMMS by law enforcement in Oregon? What privacy concerns does it raise? And how we can protect free speech and privacy moving forward?


Oregon's Privacy Laws Need an Update

by Sarah Armstrong, Outreach Director

Privacy Equals FreedomWe are asking lawmakers to update Oregon's privacy laws and we need your help! Join us for ACLU’s Privacy Day in Salem on Monday, March 16 to help strengthen Oregon's privacy protections and limit the use of dragnet surveillance. 

We have worked with bipartisan support on package of bills to curb mass surveillance. Help to ensure that these important bills have a voice in the legislature by joining us in Salem for ACLU's Privacy Day. 


Face to face meetings with legislators are incredibly powerful – and incredibly effective. We need your help to advocate for:

•    SB 639 - Strict guidelines for the use of automatic license plate readers (ALPR) 

•    SB 640 - A warrant requirement to access email, phone, and location records 

•    SB 641 - A warrant requirement to search cell phones


Oregon Needs Clear Guidelines on the Use of License Plate Readers

By Becky Straus, Legislative Director

Tomorrow, I will be in Salem for the January Legislative Days, a time when our elected officials look ahead to the upcoming 2014 session. One of the issues being addressed will be the use of automatic license plate readers (ALPRs) which have the potential to create permanent records of everywhere you drive, transforming the meaning of a "private life" and opening up many opportunities for abuse.

This surveillance data may be useful to law enforcement in identifying stolen cars or finding missing persons. But most of the information license plate readers capture is the day-to-day movements of innocent people, which is stored for years. Tracking of a person's location is a significant invasion of privacy, and can reveal things like visits to friends, doctors, protests, political events, and churches.


Top 8 Civil Liberties Victories of 2013 in Oregon

By Sarah Armstrong, Outreach Coordinator

It has been quite a year on the civil liberties front lines in Oregon. We picked our top eight civil liberties victories of 2013. Not surprisingly, intersections of privacy and technology make the most appearances on our list, but we also had wins for the rights of transgender people, immigrant rights, free speech, due process, and racial justice.

We love Oregon and are working hard to ensure it remains a place that honors freedom and values the rights of all people. Join us! Support civil liberties in Oregon.

#8 - You can’t be required to “friend” your boss.

It’s hard to believe, but some employers require that folks hand over their social media passwords, allow them to “shoulder surf” their online accounts, or mandate that they “friend” them on sites like Facebook. We helped pass a law in Oregon that prohibits employers (and public colleges) from that type of snooping.

Private activities that would never be intruded upon offline should not receive less privacy protection simply because they take place online. An employer would never be allowed to read an applicant’s diary or postal mail, listen in at private gatherings with friends, or look at that person’s private videos and photo albums. They should not expect the right to do the electronic equivalent.

#7 – No, you may not radio track Oregon students! (Well, at least not without telling us first.)

In November 2012, a Texas student was kicked out of school for failure to wear a radio frequency identification (RFID) tag that was distributed for tracking attendance. RFID tags are tiny computer chips that are more commonly used to track everything from cattle to commercial products moving through warehouses. Oregon legislators took notice and went to work on a new law to prevent this from happening here.


Day of Action to Demand ECPA Reform

stop spying on santaDecember 5, 2013 - Today, the ACLU of Oregon is joining a nationwide day of action calling for reform of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), the law that says the government can access your email and documents in the cloud without a warrant.

ECPA is one of the Internet’s most outdated laws – it was enacted in 1986, before most people had access to a home computer or email. While the public has been rightfully outraged over reports that the NSA accesses communications without a warrant, ECPA says that hundreds of other government agencies—like the IRS, FBI, and DEA, as well as state and local law enforcement agencies—can access many of our stored emails, private social media messages, and documents in the cloud without getting a warrant from a judge. The law flies directly in the face of our Fourth Amendment values.


The DEA Thinks You Have “No Constitutionally Protected Privacy Interest” in Your Confidential Prescription Records

By Nathan Freed Wessler, Staff Attorney, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project

The Drug Enforcement Administration thinks people have “no constitutionally protected privacy interest” in their confidential prescription records, according to a brief filed last month in federal court. That disconcerting statement comes in response to an ACLU lawsuit challenging the DEA’s practice of obtaining private medical information without a warrant. The ACLU has just filed its response brief, explaining to the court why the DEA’s position is both startling and wrong.

We represent four patients and a physician in Oregon whose confidential prescription records are contained in a state database that tracks prescriptions for certain drugs. The database, called the Oregon Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP), was intended to be a public health tool to help physicians avoid drug overdoses and abuse in their patients. Despite a state law requiring law enforcement to obtain a probable cause warrant from a judge before requesting records from the PDMP, the DEA has been requesting records using administrative subpoenas, which do not involve judicial authorization or probable cause. Our clients object to the DEA’s warrantless access to the PDMP because their prescription records reveal deeply private information about their health and medical history, including their gender identity (two of our clients are transgender men taking testosterone as part of their transition from female to male sex) and mental illness (one client takes medication to treat anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorders).


Court Agrees to Consider ACLU Arguments That Fourth Amendment Requires Warrant for Access to Prescription Database

By Nathan Freed Wessler, Staff Attorney, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project

A federal judge has granted the ACLU’s motion to intervene in an Oregon case that raises the question of whether the Fourth Amendment allows Drug Enforcement Administration agents to obtain confidential prescription records without a judge’s prior approval. (We’ve previously written about the case here).

Like most states, Oregon operates a Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP), which tracks prescriptions for certain drugs dispensed in the state. As one of the chief sponsors of the legislation creating the PDMP recently explained, the program is intended to be a public health tool to help physicians and pharmacists prevent drug overdoses and abuse by their patients. It was not created for use by law enforcement. Recognizing that records of a person’s prescriptions can reveal private information about their underlying medical conditions, the Oregon legislature instituted robust privacy protections, including a requirement that law enforcement must obtain a warrant before requesting records for use in an investigation.


ACLU Challenging DEA’s Access to Confidential Prescription Records Without a Warrant

By Nathan Freed Wessler, Staff Attorney, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project

The Drug Enforcement Administration is trying to access private prescription records of patients in Oregon without a warrant, despite a state law forbidding it from doing so. The ACLU and its Oregon affiliate are challenging this practice in a new case that raises the question of whether the Fourth Amendment allows federal law enforcement agents to obtain confidential prescription records without a judge’s prior approval. It should not.


Need for a Warrant for GPS Tracking Still Not Settled

ACLU Files a Friend of the Court Brief in GPS Tracking Case

Yesterday, the national ACLU and ACLU of Oregon filed an amicus brief in United States v. Pineda-Moreno in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. In 2007, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents in Oregon, without a warrant, were able to place a GPS tracking device to the silver Jeep owned by Juan Pineda-Moreno while parked in his driveway. Pineda-Moreno was suspected of growing marijuana.

The Ninth Circuit initially ruled against Pineda-Moreno in 2010, but the U.S. Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case for further consideration by the Ninth Circuit in light of the Supreme Court’s recent decision in United States v. Jones.