Daily Digest (6/8)

House Democrats Seek Probe Into Improper Sharing of DACA Data With Immigration Officials; US Watchdog: Airport COVID Fever Screenings Raise Discrimination, Privacy Concerns; NY Officials Raise Privacy Issues as 3,700 Contact-Tracers Begin Work; Signal App Downloads Spike as US Protesters Seek Message Encryption. Click “Continue reading” below.

House Democrats Seek Probe Into Improper Sharing of DACA Data With Immigration Officials

Two Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives asked the General Accounting Office last week to investigate whether the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was improperly sharing information of “Dreamers” in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program with immigration officials.

Reps. Jerrold Nadler, N.Y., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and Immigration and Citizenship Committee Chair Zoe Lofgren, Calif., sought the probe in a letter Thursday to U.S. Comptroller General Gene Dodaro.

The House members based their request on an April report by ProPublica that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) had access to this information.

Digital Privacy News last week detailed the privacy implications of immigration agencies having such access, particularly as the Supreme Court decides the fate of DACA.

The program was created in 2012 by former President Barack Obama by executive action to protect undocumented individuals who were brought to the United States before they were 16 to obtain driver’s licenses and renewable work-authorization cards.

The court is expected to issue its decision this month.

“These recently released documents have created confusion as to what information has already been shared with ICE and CBP as it relates to DACA recipients, and whether such information could be used for enforcement purposes,” the representatives said in their letter.

“These disclosures are all the more concerning, as ICE repeatedly has stated that the agency is prepared to remove DACA recipients with final orders of removal if the Supreme Court ends DACA.”

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US Watchdog: Airport COVID Fever Screenings Raise Discrimination, Privacy Concerns

A federal government watchdog is challenging a plan to screen air travelers for fever to detect COVID-19, raising concerns about risks to privacy intrusions and racial discrimination without evidence that such checks will keep Americans safer.  

Travis LeBlanc, a board member of an independent federal agency charged with protecting Americans’ privacy and civil liberties, asked the U.S. Homeland Security Department to specify how it intended to collect, use and safeguard the sensitive health information, USA Today reports. 

In his Monday letter, LeBlanc sought answers to a dozen questions about the government’s yet-unpublished airport screening plan.

“The ongoing pandemic is not a hall pass to disregard the privacy and civil liberties of the traveling public,” wrote LeBlanc, a Democrat on the five-member bipartisan Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board. 

The agency was created in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks to counter government overstepping in the fight against terrorism. It has been investigating the use of body-measurement calculations, such as facial recognition and fingerprinting technology, in airport security.

Scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) objected to a White House plan to check travelers’ temperatures at 20 U.S. airports, noting that earlier agency-led efforts to screen travelers returning from China had failed to stop the virus from reaching the United States.

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NY Officials Raise Privacy Issues as 3,700 Contact-Tracers Begin Work

Privacy concerns are rising in New York City, where 3,700 contact-tracers are expected to be mobilized this month, as privacy advocates said Thursday that a detailed plan on how data would be kept private and secure had not been provided.

New Yorkers will be asked to disclose personal information as part of the city’s massive Covid-19 tracing effort, USA Today reports. 

But fears over how the government will use the information are threatening the city’s best chance to rise from its coronavirus lockdown, Politico reports.

Contact-tracing requires handing over intimate personal data — including home addresses, names of friends and relatives — to strangers, many of whom were only recently trained and hired to collect the information.

City officials expect to have 3,700 contact-tracers mobilized this month, and as many as 10,000 when the effort reaches its capacity.

Elected officials, advocates and privacy experts argue Mayor Bill de Blasio administration’s unwillingness to specify how privacy will be protected will limit the tracing effort’s reach — potentially prolonging the need for strict lockdown measures the city has had in place since March.

“People who were at these protests should be concerned that the government could use that data,” Public Advocate Jumaane Williams told Politico.

“I want to encourage (contact-tracing), but it’s hard to when our executive leaders are not clarifying how that data will be used.”

The city has not specified how the information will remain private and secure, especially among agencies like the New York City Police Department, according to the report.

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Signal App Downloads Spike as US Protesters Seek Message Encryption

Daily U.S. downloads of the encrypted messaging app Signal have tripled in the last week, as protestors staged large demonstrations against racism and police brutality across the country.

According to data from the mobile app analytics firm SensorTower, Signal’s rank among overall iOS App Store downloads jumped from 936 to 126 in the past week, Quartz.com reports.

“Increased rankings among overall apps and games is particularly impressive, as it illustrates the growth in demand for private, encrypted messaging relative to other apps and games,” Lexi Sydow, who analyzes mobile app trends for App Annie, told the site.

Signal provides stronger anonymity than some other popular messaging apps, because — besides encrypting the content of messages — it does not store various metadata.

That includes who sent and received a message, when it was sent and the location of the participants, Quartz reports.

Signal also includes a tool that makes blurring out faces on photos exchanged through the app much easier.

“Clearly, the increased use of Signal shows a response from protesters and the population at large as a defense mechanism, reacting to the evaporation of anonymity,” Ilia Siatitsa, a lawyer and privacy advocate at the London nonprofit Privacy International, told Quartz.

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— By DPN Staff