Four myths about privacy

Many privacy discussions follow a similar pattern, and involve the same kinds of arguments. It’s commonplace to hear that privacy is dead, people — especially kids — don’t care about privacy, people with nothing to hide have nothing to fear, and privacy is bad for business. “These claims are common, but they’re myths,” says Neil M. Richards, JD, privacy law expert and professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis.

WUSTL privacy law expert says Obama’s surveillance reforms a good but incomplete start

3.5 out of 12 — That is the score the Electronic Frontier Foundation gave President Obama’s highly anticipated address on NSA spying last week. And while lauding Obama for recognizing the dangers of government surveillance and the importance of discussing it, Washington University in St. Louis privacy law expert Neil Richards agrees that the president did not quite go far enough to protect individual privacy.

Spot-on NSA ruling rightfully questions effectiveness of phone surveillance, privacy law expert says

Federal Judge Richard J. Leon’s recent decision ruling the National Security Agency phone surveillance program unconstitutional is absolutely correct as a matter of law, says Neil M. Richards, JD, privacy law expert and professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis. “The bulk data collection at issue in the case reveals a tremendous amount about us – who we know, who we confide in, where we go, and with whom,” he said. “It’s exactly the sort of information that should require a warrant before the government obtains it.” Richards was struck by Leon’s willingness to question whether this surveillance program was effective.

Email privacy a hallmark of a free society

As encrypted email services like Lavabit shut their doors, the importance of email privacy becomes even more clear writes Neil Richards, JD, privacy law expert and professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis, in a recent CNN opinion piece.

Increasing surveillance a dangerous reaction to Boston bombings, says privacy law expert

In the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings, some people are calling for an increase in surveillance cameras throughout U.S. cities. “This would be a mistake,” says Neil Richards, JD, privacy law expert and professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis. “It would be dangerous to our civil liberties, and it would be bad policy.” Richards gives his personal reaction to the Boston bombings and offers three reasons why increasing the number of surveillance cameras would be an unnecessary response to recent events in a CNN opinion piece, “Surveillance State No Answer to Terror.”

President signs bill to limit STOCK Act’s web-based publication of employees’ financial information

On Monday, April 15, President Obama signed legislation rolling back the disclosure requirements of the STOCK (Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge) Act, which would have required creation of a searchable, sortable database for the annual financial interest forms of 28,000 executive branch employees as well as highly paid Congressional staff. These forms contain detailed information about employees’ assets, outside income and gifts. Former national security officials raised security concerns about this publication requirement. Current employees filed a lawsuit, resulting in a federal court ruling that publishing such information on the web would violate employees’ right to privacy. “Both the court and the National Academy of Public Administration recognized that federal employees have a legitimate right to privacy regarding their personal financial information,” says Kathleen Clark, JD, government ethics expert and professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis.

Law struggling to catch up with use of drone technology, says privacy expert

Charlottesville, Va. recently became the first town in the U.S. to pass an anti-drone resolution, calling for a restriction on the use of the unmanned surveillance vehicles. “For drones, I think the problem is that they do have some legitimate law enforcement purposes, but they raise massive problems of invasion of privacy and government surveillance that we need to think through before we deploy drones in vast numbers in our skies,” says Neil Richards, professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis.

Privacy law expert comments on Bork’s legacy

Robert Bork was a major figure in the history of American law, and of the Supreme Court, says Neil Richards, JD, professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis and former law clerk for Supreme Court Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist. “There is a great irony to Bork’s death this week, a day after the House of Representatives voted to relax the privacy protections in the so-called “Bork Bill,” the federal law that protects the privacy of our video records.”

New Year’s resolutions: 13 for ’13

As the holidays draw near, expect the usual onslaught of well-intentioned suggestions for lifestyle changes guaranteed to make you healthier, wealthier and wiser in the new year. Talk is cheap, but these 13 New Year’s resolutions for 2013 are backed up by decades of research. If your resolve needs strengthening, click through the embedded web links to learn more about the research behind the resolutions, including tips on using your smart phone to quit smoking and the best way to pay down your holiday debt.

Social media auto-overshare to meet its demise in 2013, says privacy law expert

Everyone knows someone who overshares on social media, from constant updates about daily minutiae to an automatically generated stream of songs listened to, articles read, games played and other matters blast-broadcast through various applications. Intentional over-sharers may be a necessary nuisance in our wired world, but the days of the auto-generated social media stream may be numbered, says Neil Richards, JD, privacy law expert and professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis.
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