The Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas will be giving a DEF CON keynote address this year. Those attending this weekend’s hybrid event will have a unique opportunity to “engage” with the man who heads the department responsible for surveillance of immigrants, Muslims, Black activists, and other marginalized communities. We at EFF, as longtime supporters of the information security community and having stood toe-to toe with government agencies including DHS, have thoughts on areas where Secretary Mayorkas must address digital civil liberties and human rights. So we thought it prudent to suggest some questions you might ask.
- Will DHS support reforming the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), to clarify that it cannot be used to enforce private contract or policy violations, and to make penalties proportionate with the crime?
- Does DHS support reforming Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), to remove the chill on good faith cybersecurity research, and allow researchers to use the software and tools necessary for that research?
- How does your department consider ambiguous criteria including “feelings of alienation” and “experience of racism” as justification to target communities for domestic surveillance?
- Why does DHS social media monitoring target Muslims, Black activists, and other marginalized communities? Do you believe this is justified?
- Why is your department continuing Trump-era policies of spying on visa holders’ social media?
- Exactly how will you be using Clearview’s invasive facial recognition services, which are hugely privacy invasive, and have been shown to be flawed and lead to misidentification?
- What will ICE do with the hundreds of millions of phone, water, electricity, and other utility records it purchased? Why do you think dragnet data collection like this is justified?
- Knowing the privacy and security risks inherent in digital identification, does DHS support mobile driver’s licenses?
- During the 2020 protests around the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, how many cities did the DHS deploy officers to or digitally surveil racial justice advocates in?
- Will DHS and ICE commit to obtaining a warrant before they purchase access to location data on anyone inside the United States?
If you’re less than optimistic about getting satisfying answers to these from the Secretary, here are some organizations who are actively working to protect the rights of people targeted by the Department of Homeland Security:
Learn more about EFF's virtual participation in DEF CON 29 including EFF Tech Trivia, our annual member shirt puzzle, and a special presentation with author and Special Advisor Cory Doctorow.