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Government Surveillance

Supreme Court to Review Texas Digital ID Verification Law



The Supreme Court has announced it will review a legal challenge against a Texas statute mandating digital ID verification for any websites and apps that could be deemed “harmful to minors.” While the law is typically associated with pornographic material, the broad term “harmful to minors” could apply to a wide range of websites, preventing users from accessing content without first uploading their ID.

This legal battle revolves around Texas’ age verification bill, introduced in 2023. The law also requires these sites to present health warnings about the alleged psychological dangers of pornography consumption. Notably, this labeling requirement does not yet extend to search engines or social media platforms.

Websites that fail to comply with the law face steep fines, including daily civil penalties of up to $10,000 and potential fines from the Texas attorney general of up to $250,000 per instance if a minor accesses restricted content. Similar laws are currently active in seven other states and are set to be introduced in more states soon.

The Free Speech Coalition, along with several adult website operators, filed a lawsuit against the bill. Their argument is that the law infringes on First Amendment rights. A federal district court initially halted the law’s enforcement just before its implementation on September 1, 2023.

Mandatory digital ID requirements for website and social media use raise significant concerns about the chilling effect on free speech. These requirements can deter online participation due to privacy fears and undermine the anonymity vital for activists and whistleblowers. Such policies may also lead to self-censorship, as users might avoid sharing controversial opinions out of fear of being easily traced. Additionally, implementing digital IDs poses complex legal, technical, and logistical challenges that could result in bureaucratic errors and data breaches. The major Big Tech ID verification company AU10TIX was recently reported to have suffered a data leak, though the company says it hasn’t seen evidence of any user data being exploited.

The majority of the panel at the US Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit concluded that the Texas law is “rationally related to the government’s legitimate interest in preventing minors’ access to pornography,” using the least stringent rational-basis review standard, and thus did not violate the First Amendment. In contrast, Judge Patrick Higginbotham dissented, arguing that the law necessitates strict scrutiny due to its content-based restrictions on adult access to protected speech.

As the 5th Circuit allowed its decision to stand, the Free Speech Coalition and the affected websites escalated the matter to the Supreme Court. Their appeal emphasized the contradiction between the 5th Circuit’s decision and established Supreme Court precedents regarding sexual content and expression. They argue that the law unduly burdens adults’ constitutional rights by requiring the disclosure of personal information, thus increasing the risk of data breaches and privacy violations.

Texas officials defend the legislation, asserting it as a reasonable measure to protect minors from sexually explicit materials and not an undue burden on the porn industry.

As the Supreme Court prepares to review the case, the decision will have significant implications for digital privacy, free speech, and the regulation of online content across the United States.

Biden Administration

DHS and FBI Issue Warning About Large Fourth of July Events as ‘Attractive’ Targets for



The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a warning on Wednesday regarding potential threats to large Fourth of July celebrations. According to an internal bulletin obtained by ABC News, these events are considered “attractive” targets for lone offenders and small groups with malicious intentions.

The bulletin emphasizes the risk posed by individuals and small groups who might exploit the gatherings for terrorism or other harmful activities. The warning comes as the nation prepares for Independence Day festivities, which traditionally draw large crowds to public spaces.

The FBI and DHS are urging local law enforcement and event organizers to increase vigilance and security measures. The agencies highlight the importance of public awareness and cooperation, encouraging individuals to report any suspicious activities immediately.

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Government Surveillance

Automakers Confirm Warrantless Location Data Sharing With US Agencies



Toyota, Nissan, Subaru, Volkswagen, BMW, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, and Kia all have confirmed that they have tech embedded in their vehicles allowing them to turn over location data to US government based solely on a subpoena, without a judge having to sign off on an approval.

Volkswagen is the “outlier” here, in that this company will do the same if the data is six days or less old – a subpoena will do. But an actual warrant will be needed to turn over data that spans data collected over a week, according to reports.

Recognizing the need to address these concerns, Democrat Senators Ron Wyden and Edward Markey reached out to the Federal Trade Commission to investigate car manufacturers’ sharing of data with law enforcement agencies.

Their letter highlighted various scenarios where the sharing of location data could infringe upon individuals’ rights, including cases involving sensitive matters like abortion access and instances of stalking. The broader question remains: why is the fundamental right to privacy seemingly eroding, regardless of suspected violations?

Here is a copy of the newly obtained letter.

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Government Surveillance

TSA Visited Apple and Google To Discuss Digital ID Collaboration



In recent years, the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has been actively engaging in collaborations with major technology companies, particularly Apple and Google, to explore the integration of biometric surveillance technology and the development of digital IDs for passengers.

During a recent visit to California, TSA officials met with representatives from Apple and Google to discuss the ongoing efforts to implement digital ID solutions on smartphones. Administrator David Pekoske led the TSA delegation, referring to Apple and Google as “innovation partners” in this endeavor.

This collaboration between the government and Big Tech represents another example of a “public-private partnership” aimed at enhancing airport security and streamlining the passenger experience. The TSA has been transparent about its collaboration with tech giants, emphasizing its goal of enabling passengers to use IDs stored on their phones to verify their identities at airports.

Google has confirmed its involvement in the collaboration, citing its Google Wallet app as a platform for storing government IDs and facilitating TSA PreCheck in select airports. Although neither Google nor Apple provided comments on the recent TSA post, Connie LaRossa, Google’s Senior Policy Manager, expressed enthusiasm about being part of the TSA’s vision for the future of travel.

According to TSA Chief Innovation Officer Steven Parker, digital IDs of this nature are expected to be accepted at airports in approximately 20 states. The primary incentive for travelers is the prospect of expedited airport procedures and reduced wait times, aiming to alleviate the enduring challenges associated with air travel.

In March, the Biden White House said there were effectively new rules that would allow travelers to opt out of TSA’s facial recognition process, “without losing their place in line.”


Then TSA came back to state this was “not a new option” – and then the White House “updated” its statement to say this was not indeed new, but “continued” to be the case.

Reality on the ground, however, can be quite different, as Senator Jeff Merkley, a Democrat, found out when he tried to avoid facial recognition at a Washington airport last year.

Reports the newspaper: “(Markley) was pressured by a TSA officer who told the senator to step aside while others were allowed to bypass him. The senator published a video showing the TSA officer’s actions on his website.”

Overall, the TSA’s collaboration with Apple and Google underscores the growing role of technology in modernizing airport security and enhancing passenger convenience. While the integration of biometric surveillance and digital ID technologies raises privacy and security concerns, the potential benefits in terms of efficiency and customer experience are driving the exploration of these innovative solutions.

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