Talk on Surveillance of Internet and Mobile Communications

Chris SoghoianChristopher Soghoian, a technology and privacy expert, will give a presentation "Can You Hear Me Now? Law Enforcement Surveillance of Internet and Mobile Communications" on Wednesday, March 13, 7 p.m., in the Heck Courtroom.

Soghoian will discuss the increase of surveillance by law enforcement and telecommunications companies and how individuals can keep their private information private and out of government databases.

He is the principal technologist and a senior policy analyst with the Speech, Privacy and Technology Project at the American Civil Liberties Union. Soghoian is also a visiting fellow at Yale Law School's Information Society Project.

His Ph.D., which he completed at Indiana University in 2012, focused on the role that third-party service providers play in facilitating law enforcement surveillance of their customers. His research has appeared in publications including the Berkeley Technology Law Journal and been cited by several federal courts, including the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Between 2009 and 2010, he was the first in-house technologist at the Federal Trade Commission's Division of Privacy and Identity Protection, where he worked on investigations of Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and Netflix. Prior to joining the FTC, he co-created the Do Not Track privacy anti-tracking mechanism now adopted by all major web browsers.

Program Overview

Telecommunications carriers and service providers play an essential role in facilitating modern surveillance by law enforcement agencies. While police select the individuals to be monitored, the actual surveillance is performed by third parties: often the same email providers, search engines and telephone companies to whom consumers have entrusted their private data.

Although assisting Big Brother has become a routine part of business, the true scale of law enforcement surveillance has long been shielded from the general public, Congress and the courts. However, recent disclosures by wireless communications carriers reveal that the companies now receive approximately one and a half million requests from U.S. law enforcement agencies per year.

When automated, industrial-scale surveillance is increasingly the norm, is communications privacy a thing of the past? For those of us who'd like to keep our private information out of government databases, what options exist, and which tools and services are the best?