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ACLU of Virginia demands information on telephone analysis sharing network

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constitutionThe ACLU of Virginia on Friday released a Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request it sent to the cities of Hampton, Newport News, Suffolk, Chesapeake, and Norfolk in response to recent allegations that the Hampton Roads Telephone Analysis Sharing Network may be sharing and storing data unconstitutionally and against state law.

Earlier this month, the ACLU of Virginia received information from the Center for Investigative Reporting stating that it had uncovered an agreement among a network of five police departments in Virginia to share personal information gleaned from telephone records and devices. The Memorandum of Understanding uncovered by the Center is one of the few pieces of public information currently available.

“There is no liberty without privacy,” said ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Claire Guthrie Gastañaga. “That’s why the constitutions of the United States and Virginia set limits on the ability of the government to breach our right to privacy,” she continued. “Police should not be allowed to use mass surveillance to develop probable cause by algorithm just because they can. It is time we return to laws and policies that focus police on individual investigations of individual people who the police have reason to suspect of criminal wrongdoing,” Gastañaga said.

“Elected officials in these five jurisdictions should act immediately to hold law enforcement accountable and  ensure that no private data about their residents is collected and maintained by law enforcement that is not related to specific criminal investigations and that any data maintained by law enforcement now or in the future is, in fact, collected and maintained in a manner that is constitutional  and authorized by state law and respects our privacy to the greatest extent possible,”  Gastañaga concluded.

The five cities have five business days from the date the FOIA request is received to respond with the necessary documentation. The requested data should provide critical insight on whether the Hampton Roads Telephone Analysis Sharing Network conforms to the laws set forth in the Virginia Government Data Collection and Dissemination Practices Act.

The Act limits passive collection and maintenance of private information by the government, including law enforcement. Asthen Attorney General Cuccinelli said in an opinion in February 2013, the Act authorizes collection of data by law enforcement only if it is criminal intelligence information that is relevant to an ongoing investigation.

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