EFF in the News
Former public defender and current Electronic Frontier Foundation Staff Attorney Hanni Fakhoury also applauded the move, noting that all the secrecy hurt public safety in concrete ways through the dismissed cases. "The fact the federal government wasn't providing any real oversight or guidance on how to use these devices, coupled with the non-disclosure agreement, meant local departments were out figuring it out on their own," he told Ars via e-mail. "You've seen the backlash as local communities learn about the existence of these devices. I just hope there's more than an internal conversation and investigation but meaningful change, including the use of a warrant nationwide before deploying these devices, as well as significantly improved transparency and accountability."
To find out more about the legality of these notices, and the options Internet providers and subscribers have, TorrentFreak sat down with Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) staff attorney Mitch Stoltz.
According to Stoltz, Internet providers should carefully review what they’re forwarding to their users. Under U.S. law they are not required to forward DMCA notices and stripping out settlement demands is in the best interest of the consumer.
“In the U.S., ISPs don’t have any legal obligation to forward infringement notices in their entirety. An ISP that cares about protecting its customers from abuse should strip out demands for money before forwarding infringement notices. Many do this,” he says.
“An ISP can also choose not to forward notices at all if they are deficient, misleading, or inaccurate,” Stoltz adds.
“Nobody’s looking for an exception to copyright law,” said Parker Higgins, director of copyright activism for the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “They’re saying that they would be allowed to do this under copyright law, and 1201 is getting in the way.”
In that project, the foundation aims to cut through the current complexity and bureaucracy inhibiting encryption’s adoption, making it simple and seamless for any system administrator to deploy. “If the internet were designed today that’s how it would have been designed,” says Jeremy Gillula, an Electronic Frontier Foundation staff technologist. “But it was designed in the ’80s—or even earlier depending on which protocol you’re talking about—and was an academic network where people weren’t initially thinking about privacy, or security, or that our lives would eventually revolve around this technology.”
“Secure by default is how we want that system to be,” he adds.
Daily Kos members have been very engaged on pressuring Congress to reject Fast Track, and we have been working with coalition partners like CREDO Action, Public Citizen, Sum of Us, Corporate Accountability International, Electronic Frontier Foundation, and Food & Water Watch.
"It's definitely in flux," says Mitch Stoltz, a staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
Stoltz argued that copyright law likely would not apply to a Dodger fan using a VPN service because the fan is merely watching the game — not copying it — and is, in fact, paying to do so. (An MLB.TV subscription costs $130 a year.)
"Accessing something you’re already paying for is hardly piracy," Stoltz says.
But Lee Tien, senior staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said privacy concerns are rising precisely because of these new devices.
“More and more devices in the home are capable of sensing or recording household activity,” he said in an e-mail. “That’s not to mention the power of smart meters and electrical usage data to make inferences about appliance use and human presence.”
Congress wrote the CFAA in 1984, when it was impossible to imagine the ways ordinary people now use computers every day. That makes it long overdue for an upgrade, according to Mark Jaycox of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
“The CFAA was originally intended to cover the hacking of defense department and bank computers, but it's been expanded so that it now covers virtually every computer on the Internet while meting out disproportionate penalties for virtual crimes. [The reform] bill is a step forward as it makes key fixes in a law that has for years been misinterpreted because of its vague definitions,” Mr. Jaycox says.
“I think there's been a larger trend in the last few years for the state legislatures to start thinking about electronic privacy protections,” said Hanni Fakhoury, a senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights advocacy group. “All this bill is saying is that if you're going to use it you have to get a warrant, which means you can use it. And most states have statutes that say you don't need a warrant if it's an immediate life-threatening situation.”
Parker Higgins, director of copyright activism at California's Electronic Frontier Foundation, says that while his organization has not taken an official stance on the bill, "We do think there's a real problem of recording and passing along data."
He continued: Gatto's law would require consumers to have control over whether or not a smart television's voice-recognition system is activated.
"Advertising will survive without knowing what I said to my wife during a detergent commercial," he said. "It's just too much. At some point you have to draw the line."