EFF in the News
Cindy Cohn has a lot to do. The bespectacled 53-year-old civil rights lawyer has her hands full in her new job overseeing the digital advocacy work of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a sort of ACLU for the tech set. Now there’s an extra sense of urgency. “Until the new administration is named, it’s pretty difficult to tell what they will be doing. The early signs are not good for civil liberties and may require us to fight some old battles in addition to the new ones,” she said.
The Wikimedia Foundation wants a judge to decide whether a major US surveillance program is constitutional. The US government says the organization has no business bringing the case to court. As privacy advocates see it, "This is a case about the warrantless collection of communications straight from the backbone of the internet," Andrew Crocker, a staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said in an email. "Cases like this are important to establish that such unbounded surveillance violates the constitution."
But some companies are working to integrate facial recognition software into their bodycams—and without strong regulation, that could make them just another tool to catalog, track, and monitor individuals. It’s easy to think there’s nothing to worry about if you’re not doing anything criminal, but Jennifer Lynch, staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, pointed out that many social movements were once seen as unacceptable, such as LGBT rights.Imagine how things might be different had those communities been under constant surveillance by people who considered their behavior unlawful.
Armed with the support of human rights and civil liberties organizations, Google is at the Supreme Court of Canada on Tuesday to appeal a ruling it says poses a threat to freedom of expression and access to information both in Canada and around the world. We've argued essentially that they should only be ordered [to delete search results] in the most extreme circumstances, where the rights at issue are so fundamental that they outweigh any concerns about free expression or the right to receive information," said Vera Ranieri, a staff attorney with EFF.
A U.S. man convicted after his emails were revealed by the NSA’s PRISM program, the first public case of its kind, will not have his case overturned, an appeals court has found.In its ruling, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals declared that Mohamud wasn’t actually a victim of a backdoor search, and didn’t need to be informed. But it’s not clear everyone in the court was on the same page. “We think the court almost certainly got the facts wrong,” Andrew Crocker, an EFF staff attorney who helped craft Mohamud’s appeal, told Vocativ.“What I think they got wrong is the chain by which the government actually read Mohamud’s emails,” Crocker said.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation is accusing the Drug Enforcement Agency of improperly withholding documents in a court case that hopes to reveal details about the government’s controversial surveillance program known as Hemisphere. The EFF, which is suing the DEA as part of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, is demanding the agency turn over documents that have been withheld or have been highly redacted. “The DEA has refused to comply with its FOIA obligations to disclose important details about the Hemisphere program. We believe DEA has improperly withheld these records,” said Aaron Mackey, a Frank Stanton legal fellow at the EFF.
The new ruling concludes that government surveillance of Mohamud, the target of an FBI sting operation, did not violate his Fourth Amendment rights. The decision deals a considerable blow to anti-surveillance advocates seeking to rein in activity under Section 702. TechCrunch spoke to Andrew Crocker, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, to clarify the bounds of the appeals court ruling.“First, the surveillance of the defendant did not involve the NSA’s so-called Upstream program, where the government taps directly into the fiber optic backbone of the Internet, a practice that the court said would raise more serious constitutional issues,” Crocker explained.
After Uber introduced a controversial app update that tracks users’ locations even when they’re not using the app, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a leading privacy group, has asked the company roll it back. "Tracking you five minutes after you have been dropped off — some people might have very legitimate reasons why they don’t want a record about that,” said Kurt Opsahl, deputy executive director and general counsel at EFF. “They may be concerned about getting into some database about their location and may get dropped off across the street. It’s sad to take that away."
Consider AT&T, the telecommunications giant. Police departments across the country pay it as much as $100,000 a year for special access to the telephone records of its clients (without first obtaining a warrant). The program is called “Hemisphere” and the company requires buyers to keep its existence secret. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco–based activist group, calls this “evidence laundering.” As Adam Schwartz, senior staff attorney on the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s civil liberties team, puts it: “When police hide their sources of evidence, the accused cannot challenge the quality or veracity of the government’s investigation, or seek out favorable information still in the government’s possession"
Daniel Nazer, a lawyer with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told Fortune that applications to patent the blockchain - which is a form of software - face a high hurdle due to a Supreme Court case called Alice.