Court Rules Details of DHS Cellphone Service Kill Switch Can Remain SecretThe U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington DC has ruled that the Department of Homeland Security’s procedure for shutting down cell phone service during a declared emergency can remain secret. The lawsuit was brought by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) after the DHS failed to release its criteria for network shutdowns following an incident in 2011 when government officials in San Francisco disabled cell phone service during a peaceful protest. The demonstration was against the police killing of Charles Hill, a homeless man shot dead by a Bay Area Rapid Transit (“BART”) officer. A federal judge initially ruled in EPIC’s favor but the DHS won the case on appeal. However, the federal agency may still have to disclose some portions of the protocol.  All that is known about the DHS procedure for the cellphone service kill switch is its name – SOP 303 – which “provides detailed procedures for the [NCC] to coordinate requests for the disruption of cellular service,” including kill switches for, “commercial and private wireless networks during national crises.” EPIC’s FOIA request and subsequent lawsuit attempted to uncover the full text of Standard Operating Procedure 303 and the pre-determined “series of questions” that determine whether or not a shutdown is necessary. After the DHS initially claimed that the agency was “unable to locate or identify any responsive records” in relation to SOP 303, a district court ruled that the feds had improperly withheld the information and ordered its release. The DHS subsequently filed an appeal challenging the lower court’s decision. EPIC filed a response to the DHS’ appeal, identifying the issue as, “Whether the Department of Homeland Security’s policy for coordinating the ‘disruption’ of wireless communications networks during a peaceful protest is exempt from disclosure under Exemptions 7(E) or 7(F) of the Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552(b) (2012).” More