Electronic Privacy Information Center

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Electronic Privacy Information Center
Electronic Privacy Information Center logo.gif
Formation 1994
Website epic.org

Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) is a public interest research group in Washington, D.C. EPIC was established in 1994 to focus public attention on emerging civil liberties issues and to protect privacy, the First Amendment and constitutional values in the information age. EPIC pursues activities including privacy research, public education, conferences, litigation, publications and advocacy.

EPIC maintains web sites and publishes the online EPIC Alert every two weeks on privacy and civil liberties issues. EPIC also publishes Privacy and Human Rights, Litigation Under the Federal Open Government Laws, The Public Voice WSIS Sourcebook, The Privacy Law Sourcebook, and The Consumer Law Sourcebook. EPIC litigates privacy, First Amendment, and Freedom of Information Act cases. EPIC advocates for strong privacy safeguards.

In addition to maintaining privacy.org, EPIC also coordinates the Public Voice coalition, and the Privacy Coalition.

Background[edit]

EPIC was founded in 1994 as a joint project of the Fund for Constitutional Government and Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility. Early on, the organization focused on government surveillance and cryptography issues, such as the Clipper Chip and the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act. After becoming an independent non-profit 501(c)(3) organization in November 2000, EPIC continued to work on governmental issues: surveillance; transparency, using the Freedom of Information Act to publicize documents; and the security, verifiability, and privacy of electronic voting. It has also taken up consumer privacy issues, such as identity theft, phone record security, medical record privacy and commercial data mining.

EPIC is registered as a non-profit public charity, and receives most of its funding from contributors, as well as through grants and publication sales. EPIC has an advisory board, a board of directors and a small paid staff.

Awards[edit]

EPIC established the Champion of Freedom Award in 2004 to recognize individuals and organizations that have helped safeguard the right of privacy with courage and integrity.

Recipients included:

In 2012:[1]

In 2013:[2]

Conferences[edit]

EPIC established The Public Voice[3] coalition to promote public participation in the Internet. The Public Voice pursues issues ranging from privacy and freedom of expression to consumer protection and Internet governance. Through international conferences, reports and funding for travel, it works in cooperation with the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), UNESCO and other international non-governmental organizations.

The Public Voice holds annual conferences, usually in conjunction with the annual International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners. In 2009, The Public Voice via EPIC was one of more than 100 organizational signatories to the Madrid Privacy Declaration.[4]

Publications and web sites[edit]

I Want Your Data

EPIC maintains and publishes its newsletter, the EPIC Alert, every two weeks.

EPIC also publishes several books on privacy and open government, including Privacy and Human Rights, Litigation Under the Federal Open Government Laws, Filters and Freedom, The Public Voice WSIS Sourcebook, The Privacy Law Sourcebook, and The Consumer Law Sourcebook. Other publications include reports on Internet privacy, an analysis of industry self-regulation and how Internet filtering software can block innocuous sites.

EPIC maintains web sites for privacy.org, the Privacy Coalition, the Public Voice coalition, and the National Committee for Voting Integrity, established to promote voter-verified balloting and to preserve privacy protections for elections in the United States.

History[edit]

  • January 2005: EPIC learned through Freedom of Information Act litigation that the FBI had obtained 257.5 million Passenger Name Records following 9/11, and that the Bureau has permanently incorporated the travel details of tens of millions of innocent people into its law enforcement databases.
  • March 2005: EPIC urged lawmakers to regulate Choicepoint and other data brokers in testimony before the House Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection. EPIC testified that there is too much secrecy and too little accountability in the business dealings of data brokers, and that Choicepoint's selling of customer information to identity thieves underscored the need for federal regulation of the information broker industry.
  • April 2005: EPIC filed a complaint[5] asking a federal court to force the FBI to disclose information about its use of expanded investigative authority granted by sun setting provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act. The agency had agreed[6] to quickly process EPIC's Freedom of Information Act request[7] for the data, but had not complied with the timeline for even a standard FOIA request.
  • May 2005: EPIC testified before the House Judiciary Committee on one of several proposals before Congress to impose new employment verification requirements on those wishing to work within the U.S. The legislation would require all workers to obtain a digital Social Security card and would also empower the Department of Homeland Security to determine employment eligibility of those seeking employment. EPIC opposed the creation of this new employment verification system.
  • July 2005: EPIC testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in opposition to the ratification of the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime. EPIC urged the Senate to oppose ratification because of the convention's sweeping expansion of law enforcement authority, the lack of legal safeguards, and the impact on U.S. Constitutional rights.
  • July 2005: EPIC testified before the House Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection. EPIC urged Congress to pass strong data security legislation that includes privacy protections for use of personal information.
  • August 2005: EPIC and a coalition of open government organizations filed an amicus curiae brief[8] in Gonzales v. Doe, a lawsuit concerning the FBI's authority to issue national security letters without judicial approval and under a permanent gag order that bans the recipient from telling anyone about the demand.
  • August 2005: EPIC petitioned[9] the Federal Communications Commission to initiate a rulemaking to enhance security safeguards for individuals' calling records. The petition follows a complaint[10] concerning the illegal sale of personal information obtained from telephone carriers, and an updated filing[11] where EPIC identified 40 websites that openly offer to obtain calling records without the knowledge and consent of the account holder.
  • October 2005: EPIC led a campaign of more than 100 organizations that urged Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to end the "Joint Advertising and Market Research Studies" Recruiting Database.
  • October 2005: EPIC filed an amicus brief in a federal case that raised the question of whether the police may coerce a person to provide a DNA sample. EPIC's brief, which provided detailed information on the many problems with DNA dragnets, argued that very clear guidelines must be established before the police may engage in this practice.
  • October 2005: EPIC and Patient Privacy Rights launched a joint campaign to strengthen protections for patients' medical information.
  • October 2005: Documents obtained by EPIC under the Freedom of Information Act described thirteen cases of possible FBI misconduct in intelligence investigations.
  • November 2005: Judge Gladys Kessler ordered the FBI to publicly release or account for 1,500 pages responsive to EPIC's Freedom of Information Act request every fifteen days.
  • November 2005: EPIC testified before the House Homeland Security Committee and warned that the new plan for passenger screening was still flawed. EPIC recommended that the program not go forward until its problems were fixed.
  • January 2006: EPIC filed suit[12] in federal court against the Justice Department for reports of possible misconduct submitted by the FBI to the Intelligence Oversight Board.
  • January 2006: EPIC filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit[13] against the Justice Department, asking a federal court to order the disclosure of information about the Administration's warrantless domestic surveillance program within 20 days.
  • January 2006: The Federal Trade Commission announced a settlement with Choicepoint, under which the company had to pay $10 million to the Commission and $5 million to redress consumer harms. It was the largest civil penalty in FTC history. EPIC had filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission in December 2004 urging the agency to investigate the compilation and sale of personal dossiers by data brokers.
  • February 2006: EPIC Executive Director Marc Rotenberg testified[14] before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce on the sale of personal phone records. EPIC called for laws that would ban pretexting (a technique used by data brokers to obtain personal information), as well as enhanced security procedures, and restrictions on the collection of customer data.
  • February 2006: In a Freedom of Information Act complaint[15] filed in federal court, EPIC sought the release of National Security Agency documents detailing the Administration's warrantless domestic surveillance program.
  • February 2006: In testimony[16] before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, Rotenberg called for a ban on the sale of communications records, as well as a ban on pretexting.
  • April 2006: EPIC filed a friend of the court brief[17] in Peterson v. NTIA supporting the rights of .US domain name holders not to publish their personal information on the Internet. In 2005, the Department of Commerce, which administers the .US domain, banned users from using proxy services that would protect privacy.
  • May 2006: Rotenberg testified[18] at a hearing before the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet on the Truth in Caller ID Act of 2006, a bill that would outlaw "spoofing" telephone calls.
  • November 2006: EPIC joined with other organizations in urging the Supreme Court to review Gilmore v. Gonzales. The case concerns a secret rule that allows airport personnel to require travelers in the United States to produce identification. EPIC's brief said that the secret agency rule "offends the Constitution and implicates the rights of millions of American travelers who are presently subject to arbitrary and unaccountable governmental authority."
  • February 2007: In testimony[19] before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, EPIC staff counsel Allison Knight testified in support of the Truth in Caller ID Act of 2007.
  • March 2007: In testimony[20] before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Rotenberg expressed support for H.R. 936, the Prevention of Fraudulent Access to Phone Records Act.
  • April 2007: In response to an EPIC petition, the FCC issued rules to protect the privacy of consumers' telephone records.
  • April 2007: EPIC, along with the Center for Digital Democracy and U.S. PIRG, filed a complaint[21] with the Federal Trade Commission, urging the Commission to open an investigation into the proposed acquisition of DoubleClick by Google. The groups urged the FTC to assess the ability of Google to record, analyze, track, and profile the activities of Internet users with data that is both personally identifiable and data that is not personally identifiable. The groups further urged the FTC to require Google to publicly present a plan to comply with well-established government and industry privacy standards such as the OECD Privacy Guidelines. Pending the resolution of these and other issues, EPIC encouraged the FTC to halt the acquisition.
  • March 2009: EPIC filed a complaint with the FTC asking it to examine the privacy protections in Google's cloud computing applications including Picasa, Google Docs and Gmail after an error exposed users' documents publicly without permission.[22]
  • February 2012: EPIC filed a complaint with the FTC about Google's new consolidated Privacy Policy saying it allowed advertising companies easier access to the data the user viewed in Google services.
  • July 2013: EPIC petitioned the US Supreme Court to halt the NSA's domestic surveillance program in In Re Electronic Privacy Information Center.[23] On November 18, 2013 the U.S. Supreme Court denied without stating any reason a “writ of mandamus or prohibition” filed by EPIC seeking to vacate the FISC order requiring Verizon to turn over to the NSA telephone metadata for all calls between the US and abroad, and all domestic calls.[24][25]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Champion of Freedom Awards Dinner". Promotional web page. June 11, 2012. 
  2. ^ "Champion of Freedom Awards Dinner". Promotional web page. June 3, 2013. 
  3. ^ The Public Voice
  4. ^ "Madrid Privacy Declaration". 
  5. ^ "EPIC v. DOJ (sunset complaint)" (PDF). EPIC. Retrieved 2013-07-08. 
  6. ^ "PATRIOT Act Provisions letter" (PDF). US DOJ. April 12, 2005. Retrieved 2013-07-08. 
  7. ^ "FOIA request" (PDF). EPIC. Retrieved 2013-07-08. 
  8. ^ "Microsoft Word - FINAL NSL Amicus Brief.doc" (PDF). Retrieved August 12, 2010. 
  9. ^ "CPNI". EPIC. Retrieved August 12, 2010. 
  10. ^ "EPIC Online Investigation Complaint". Epic.org. Retrieved August 12, 2010. 
  11. ^ "EPIC Update to the Federal Trade Commission on Online Data Brokers and CPNI". Epic.org. Retrieved August 12, 2010. 
  12. ^ "EPIC v. DOJ (iob complaint)" (PDF). EPIC. Retrieved 2013-07-08. 
  13. ^ "EPIC v. DOJ" (PDF). EPIC. Retrieved 2013-07-08. 
  14. ^ "Microsoft Word - pretext_testimony.doc" (PDF). Retrieved August 12, 2010. 
  15. ^ "EPIC v. NSA (amended complaint)" (PDF). EPIC. Retrieved 2013-07-08. 
  16. ^ "EPIC Testimony on Protecting Consumers' Phone Records, February 8, 2006". Epic.org. Retrieved August 12, 2010. 
  17. ^ "Peterson Amicus Curiae" (PDF). EPIC. Retrieved 2013-07-08. 
  18. ^ "Rotenberg testimony for the Truth in Caller ID Act" (PDF). EPIC. May 18, 2006. Retrieved 2013-07-08. 
  19. ^ "Testimony and Statement for the Record of Allison Knight" (PDF). EPIC. February 28, 2007. Retrieved 2013-07-08. 
  20. ^ "Prepared Testimony and Statement for the Record of Marc Rotenberg" (PDF). EPIC. March 7, 2009. Retrieved 2013-07-08. 
  21. ^ "Complaint and Request for Injunction" (PDF). Federal Trade Commission. April 20, 2007. Retrieved 2013-07-08. 
  22. ^ "Privacy group asks FTC to investigate Google reliability". MarketWatch. Retrieved August 12, 2010. 
  23. ^ Risen, James (July 7, 2013). "Privacy Group to Ask Supreme Court to Stop N.S.A.’s Phone Spying Program". The New York Times. 
  24. ^ Denniston, Lyle (18 November 2013). "NSA spying challenge turned aside". Retrieved 18 November 2013. 
  25. ^ Straw, Joseph (18 November 2013). "Supreme Court allows government to keep collecting phone data". The New York Daily News. Retrieved 19 November 2013. 

External links[edit]