IMMUNITY. A federal court has ruled that Transportation and Security Administration officers are not immune from civil suits when they exercise their authority to knowingly violate established constitutional rights. In its ruling on Pellegrino v. U.S. Transportation Security Administration, the court said that government officials may not exercise their authority for personal motives, including in response to real or perceived slights to their dignity.
BRIBERY. A federal appeals court has ruled that it is not necessary to have actual power over a government agency to be convicted of corruption. Instead, in U.S. v. Bencivengo, the court held that bribing an official who could influence the agency’s actions is sufficient evidence to convict an official.
SURVEILLANCE. The House of Representatives has passed a bill that would amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 to place limits on bulk collection of metadata. Known as the USA Freedom Act, H.R. 3361 seeks to amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the use of national security letters, and how the federal government collects and searches through massive amounts of collected data.
PRIVACY. Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) has reintroduced legislation (S. 2171) to ban companies’ surreptitious collection of location data from smartphones and other electronic devices. If passed, the bill would order companies to secure the permission of their customers before gathering location data from smartphones, tablets, and navigation devices used in cars.
LIABILITY. California lawmakers have introduced a bill that would make retailers responsible for customers’ financial losses after a business data breach. The bill, A.B. 1710, would shift the responsibility for data breaches from banks and credit card issuers to the retail businesses where the breach occurred. It would make retailers responsible for notifying customers when a hacking incident occurs and would make them liable for financial damages. In addition to the changes for liability, the bill would also ban the sale of Social Security numbers.
PRIVACY. Brazil’s Senate has unanimously approved legislation intended to protect the privacy of Brazilian Internet users in the wake of United States spying allegations. Called Brazil’s “Internet Constitution,” the legislation guarantees equal access to the Internet and protects the privacy of Brazilian users by limiting the gathering and use of metadata on Internet users in Brazil.
IMMIGRATION. The Supreme Court has declined to review a provision in an Arizona law that attempted to criminalize the harboring and transportation of illegal immigrants. The harboring provision was part of Arizona’s 2010 immigration law, which made it a criminal offense to encourage illegal immigrants to enter the state or to harbor or transport them within the state. The provision was challenged by advocacy groups and was struck down by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco in October 2013.
DRONES. A federal appeals court has ordered the Department of Justice to turn over a redacted version of a memorandum that provides legal justification for the government to conduct targeted killings of people linked to terrorism, including Americans. The court ruled that the government waived the secrecy of the legal analysis by having publicly discussed the justification for such killings, including the 2011 death of U.S. citizen and Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki in a drone strike in Yemen.
BIOMETRICS. The FBI has released documents about its biometrics database in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an organization that promotes civil liberties as they relate to technology. The suit was filed to gain access to documents that provide details about the FBI’s Next Generation Identification biometrics database, which contains information collected through the Department of Homeland Security’s Secure Communities program and the State Department’s civil biometric data programs.
CENSORSHIP. The Court of Justice of the European Union has issued an order to Google to comply with requests from Europeans to remove specific Internet search results. The court ruled that people have the “right to be forgotten” and that citizens can request to have information removed from search engines’ search results if it’s shown to be outdated or irrelevant. However, search engines must examine the merit of the request before removing information from their search results. The ruling currently applies only to Europe.