EFF in the News
Aaron Mackey, a legal fellow at the Electronic Frontier Foundation says such lawsuits that blame websites for the actions of their users threaten to curtail access to platforms in Middle Eastern countries where users rely on social media to bypass censorship. New social media rules that are too strict in filtering terms related to hate speech, Mackey says, could also strike down “robust political debate” about the topics like the Middle East even if the content does not seek to incite violence.
“That would be a net loss for journalists, bloggers, academics and normal Americans chatting online,” he says. “It would also disempower people in countries who rely on social media for news and debate.”
That approach has drawn criticism. Mixing “secret” and regular messages is not secure by definition, said Nate Cardozo, a staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “It’s too easy to mess up. It’s too easy to send a message believing that it’s secure, but accidentally send it in the insecure mode.”
Shahid Buttar, director of grassroots advocacy for the San Francisco-based digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation, said while his organization advocates for public viewing of body camera footage, the issue becomes tricky when it comes to these sensitive police interactions.
"This is one of the problems with police body cameras," he said. "These are private conversations."
"Police officers are already using mobile tools to collect other biometrics like fingerprints and face recognition when they detain people on the street, and there have been cases where officers have collected DNA on the street as well — even from kids they have detained," said Jennifer Lynch, senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
The whole thing is financed by advertising. Each kiosk's twin 55-inch displays will carry targeted ads based on an audience profile algorithmically derived from the information the kiosks collect from their users. But as the old internet saw goes: If you're not paying for the product, you are the product. And that should give New Yorkers pause, says Lee Tien, a lawyer with the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
"If CityBridge is using a business model that is not charging, and they are spending a bunch of money putting these things in, they are going to be monetizing the data hard," Tien says. "That means that they are always thinking about how to collect your data and how to profit off of it."
Lee Tien, senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, was on the technical advisory committee that led to the pay-by-mile pilot program. His victory was ensuring volunteers could "pay" without being tracked.
"You can do odometer readings," he says. "We wouldn't object to that. There are ways you can design the system to collect money from people without invading privacy."
Asked if there is a way that the state could do GPS tracking with the promise that data would otherwise be kept private, Tien responds: "The problem is if an entity would do that and make that promise, the FBI and courts could also order them to preserve that data or hand it over as soon as they get it. Giving it to the government and trusting them doesn't work."
Some legal experts in the complex area of internet law agreed that Airbnb and other platforms are viewed as intermediaries, not the creators of the content, and they have protections under this law. David Greene, a senior staff attorney and civil liberties director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which calls the CDA the most important law created to protect internet speech, said Airbnb has a good argument here.
“The San Francisco law is going to require that if anyone has a post on Airbnb, they include their license number, to the extent that Airbnb is being held liable because of some defect in the content,” he said.
"Putting the onus on the companies to act as censors is wrong; corporations do not have users' best interests or right to free expression at heart, and lack the expertise to make good decisions about who is or isn't a terrorist," Jillian York, director for international freedom of expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said in an email to The Verge. "This becomes particularly problematic at Facebook's size; Facebook has more users than any country in the world has citizens."
"The underlying motivation behind this kind of development is definitely alarming," said Parker Higgins, a spokesperson for the digital advocacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation. Higgins said that governments at the local, state, and national levels have all advocated to be able to remotely control phones before. "We've seen it before when police in Ferguson called a no-fly zone to keep media from capturing aerial shots, or when authorities in the Bay Area or Egypt shut down cell service during protests. There's no good reason to trust the government to control criticism of its own behavior," he said.
Updated rules adopted by the United States Supreme Court could change the way in which the government can obtain search warrants to access computer systems and electronically stored information of suspected computer criminals. In most circumstances, final approval of the rules is a mere formality. But this time, PayPal, Google, the American Civil Liberties Union, Electronic Frontier Foundation, and even a United States Senator are attempting to block one of the new rules from moving ahead.