U.S. Commerce Secretary says the Census needs $4.5 Billion More for the 2020 Census to be Conducted

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross asked Congress for $4.3 billion in additional funds for the 2020 Census after a federal watchdog highlighted a number of shortcomings in the Census Bureau’s preparation for the decennial count of U.S. residents.

In October 2015, the bureau estimated the 2020 Census would cost roughly $12.5 billion after adjusting for inflation, but an independent review of the process determined the expenses would total closer to $15.6 billion and require another $1.2 billion in reserve funds. In his testimony, Ross stressed how the extra funding is crucial for improving management and oversight within the agency and getting delayed IT programs back on track.

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US Deputy Attorney General Just Called for ‘Responsible Encryption.’ Don’t Fall for It.

From an article by Zack Whittaker in the ZDNet web site:

“You only need to look at the past year of data breaches, leaks, and exposures to see that some of the most precious national security and technological secrets in the US aren’t safe.

“During a speech at the US Naval Academy on Tuesday, deputy US attorney general Rod Rosenstein, one of the most senior government lawyers, called on tech giants to embrace ‘responsible encryption.'”

Perhaps the most important statement of the article is:

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Feds Monitoring Social Media Does More Harm Than Good

Border screening and surveillance has become an increasing area of critical concern over the last year. Around the world, invasive governments have particularly threatened people’s digital privacy. That extends to the US, where Customs and Border Protection has expanded its demands and searches as well. And a fraught situation for travelers is even more so for US immigrants who are having more and more of their digital and social media footprint monitored by the Department of Homeland Security.

The agency’s recent initiatives came into focus last week, when DHS posted updated language in the Federal Register about collecting “social media handles, aliases, associated identifiable information, and search results” on immigrants, including naturalized citizens and permanent residents.

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Court rules Stingray use Without a Warrant Violates Fourth Amendment

The Washington DC Court of Appeals overturned a Superior Court conviction of a man who was located by police using a cell-site simulator, or Stingray. The court ruled that the defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights were violated when law enforcement tracked down the suspect using his own cell phone without a warrant.

Stingrays work by pretending to be a cell tower and once they’re brought close enough to a particular phone, that phone pings a signal off of them. The Stingray then grabs onto that signal and allows whoever’s using it to locate the phone in question. These sorts of devices are used by a number of different agencies including the FBI, ICE, the IRS as well as police officers. However, those agencies will no longer be able to (legally) use the devices.

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Big Brother Grows Stronger in Chile

A new decree in Chile, which still needs to be approved by the Comptroller General’s Office to take force, would run counter to Chileans’ right to privacy and emulates some of the worst such policies around the globe.

The decree would require telecommunication companies to retain, for at least two years, data on electronic and mobile communications of everyone in the country, including phone calls, e-mail, and messaging cellphone applications. It greatly expands the types of data companies must store, while extending the retention period from one year to two.

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Washington State University Professor says IRS is Breaking Privacy Laws by Mining Social Media

Is the Taxman cyberstalking you? People should be aware “that what they say and do online” could be used against them by the IRS, said Kimberly Houser, an associate professor of business law in WSU’s Carson College of Business.

“Those Facebook posts from your vacation on a white sand beach, or that purchase of a fancy new vehicle, could be attracting views from the federal government. As its staff shrinks, the Internal Revenue Service has turned to mining social media and large data sets in search of taxpayers to audit, a Washington State University professor says in a recent report in the Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment and Technology Law.”

In one case, a Florida woman was convicted after bragging about being the ‘Queen of Tax Fraud’ on Facebook. Be careful what you post online!

Houser’s comment:

“My instinct is that because the law is not worded as broadly as it could be to cover these situations, the IRS has just taken the stance of ‘Let’s just do what we can until someone tells us we can’t.’ ”

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