EFF in the News
Twitter dropped its legal fight with the federal government Friday after U.S. Customs and Border Protection reversed course and withdrew a summons seeking to unmask the users of an account critical of the Trump administration. "Once there’s push back and legal rights are asserted, then those things typically go away. The surprise with this one was that the government even let it get as far as it did,” said David Greene, a lawyer and civil liberties director for the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
Although authorities retreated, the case has laid bare the broad power of the U.S. government to demand information from technology companies, sometimes with no oversight from the courts and often with built-in secrecy provisions that prevent the public from knowing what the government is seeking. "It's important to keep in mind how formidable the government's range of investigatory powers is," said Andrew Crocker, a staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which advocates for digital rights.
Hawaii and Minnesota are exploring proposals, and California is expected to as well, said Falcon, legislative counsel for the San Francisco-based civil-liberties organization. The Montana Senate voted on Monday to approve its own language seeking to strengthen privacy protections, and Illinois is looking at the issue. “These are all cropping up very quickly,” Falcon said.
The US government sought to unmask the identity of an anonymous Twitter account criticizing its policies, according to a lawsuit filed by the social media platform Thursday. “The government must not be able to use its formidable investigatory powers to intimidate and silence its critics,” said staff attorney Andrew Crocker in a statement.
“The basic structure of copyright law never contemplated computers, let alone the idea that computers might need to learn from the world,” Eckersley told Vocativ.
Sophia Cope, staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, called the harms-based approach outrageous and said it is "exactly what companies have been hoping for. It removes consumer choice and control over their privacy," Cope said in an email to ConsumerAffairs.
While the US government is giving ISPs free rein to track their customers’ Internet usage for purposes of serving personalized advertisements, some Internet users are determined to fill their browsing history with junk so ISPs can’t discover their real browsing habits. Electronic Frontier Foundation Senior Staff Technologist Jeremy Gillula is skeptical but hopes he’s wrong. “I'd love to be proven wrong about this,” he told Ars. “I'd want to see solid research showing how well such a noise-creation system works on a large scale before I trust it."
The congressional action to snuff the rule, which Flake has called a "midnight regulation" because it was passed late in former President Barack Obama's second term, has caused a furor among privacy advocates and consumer watchdogs. Thanks to Congress, "big internet providers will be given new powers to harvest your personal information in extraordinarily creepy ways," Ernesto Falcon, legislative counsel for the San Francisco-based digital-rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation, said in a written statement. "They will watch your every action online and create highly personalized and sensitive profiles for the highest bidder. All without your consent."
California lawmaker Ed Chau pulled a bill proposing to ban intentionally false stories about elections after critics called it “disastrous for free speech.” EFF’s investigative researcher Dave Maass told the Wrap: “Misleading statements have been part of politics since the very beginning of American politics and I don’t think a law in 2017 will change that.”
It is supposed to help protect human-rights activists, labor organizers and journalists working in risky environments, but a GPS-enabled "panic button" that Colombia's government has issued to about 400 people could be exposing them to more peril. The pocket-sized devices are designed to notify authorities in the event of an attack or attempted kidnapping. But the Associated Press, with an independent security audit , uncovered technical flaws that could let hostile parties disable them, eavesdrop on conversations and track users' movements. There is no evidence the vulnerabilities have been exploited, but security experts are alarmed. "This is negligent in the extreme," said Eva Galperin, director of cybersecurity at the nonprofit Electronic Frontier Foundation, calling the finding "a tremendous security failure."