The Department of Homeland Security's attempt to quietly assign "risk assessment" scores to tens of milions of law-abiding American citizens (not to mention foreign nationals) may be approaching a roadblock. According to an Associated Press article:
Incoming Senate Judiciary Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont pledged greater scrutiny of such government database-mining projects after reading that during the past four years millions of Americans have been evaluated without their knowledge to assess the risks that they are terrorists or criminals.
"Data banks like this are overdue for oversight," said Leahy, who will take over Judiciary in January. "That is going to change in the new Congress."
Yesterday, lame duck legislators returned for their final week before handing the reins over to the 110th Congress next month. While it looks like there won't be any mischief on the digital freedom front, major record labels might once again try to sneak through mandatory restrictions for digital radio and satellite devices. Take action now to protect innovation and your right to record off the radio.
Legislation related to the illegal NSA spying program also may be off the table for the moment, but the president and certain members of Congress could still try to push through a bill. Use our Action Center and call your representatives now to help stop the illegal spying.
- Can FBI Use Cellphone Mics to Monitor Conversations?
Evidence in recent cases suggests they could.
- Companies Face New Legal Rules on Keeping Emails, Instant
The more logs your company keeps, the more cash legal
discovery will cost you.
- Anti-Game Laws Shot Down
Seventh Circuit and a US District Court of Louisiana both
say anti-video game laws are unconstitutional.
- MPAA Kills California Anti-Pretexting Bill
As we reported just before Thanksgiving, the Copyright Office and Library of Congress recently announced a set of new DMCA exemptions, including one that entitles a person to unlock a cellphone without worrying about DMCA liability.
Autodesk has brought an interesting trademark infringement lawsuit against the nonprofit Open Design Alliance (ODA), which could have important implications for people who want to build applications that save files in proprietary file formats.
It seems that AutoDesk has introduced a new wrinkle in the standard AutoCAD .dwg file format, called "TrustedDWG." According to the complaint, "when AutoCAD or another Autodesk (or Autodesk-licensed) product writes and saves a DWG file, the program inserts an identifying watermark and proprietary string of code known as the TrustedDWG." Here's the rub: when AutoCAD opens a .dwg file that lacks the "TrustedDWG" watermark and string, it pops up a warning dialog stating that the file was not created by an app authorized by Autodesk and might therefore result in "stability issues." (Users can disable these warnings, but they are enabled by default.)
The president and telephone companies are desperate to avoid accountability for the massive and illegal NSA program. Their latest trick: sneaking through a bill that could threaten cases like EFF's lawsuit against AT&T and let corporations off the hook for illegally assisting the government. We're now hearing credible rumors that the lame duck Congress could take up this proposal in the next three days.
When the newly-elected Congress takes office in January, key legislators may hold hearings to investigate the illegal spying program, and three federal courts have already rejected the government's bogus arguments shielding it. This latest proposal is a last-ditch effort to subvert such vigorous oversight.
Almost exactly one year ago, I predicted the beginning of the end for DRM on digital music. Now EMI has announced the release of the new Norah Jones single on Yahoo! Music in DRM-free MP3 format (many will remember that Yahoo! has been urging the major labels to give up DRM).
So let's pause to recap the year in music DRM's slow demise, including:
In a fascinating article by Shane Harris in the National Journal, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff professes great surprise at the public uproar over the Automated Targeting System (ATS). He claims that he has discussed the "collection" and "analysis" of personal data -- including airline Passenger Name Records (PNR) -- "incessantly." The Secretary says that critics of the system -- which assigns "risk assessment" scores to all travelers, including U.S. citizens, and retains them for 40 years -- just haven't been paying attention:
The need for e-voting reform is now widely-recognized, as this Friday's front page story in the New York Times demonstrates. Along with many other people deserving credit for bringing this issue to the fore, you'd think that whistleblowers like Stephen Heller would be unanimously celebrated. Unfortunately, you'd be mistaken.
In 2004, Heller leaked documents showing that Diebold Election Systems used uncertified software in California elections even though it knew that doing so was likely illegal. The documents outraged voters and spurred instant media coverage for an issue that, at that time, was largely ignored. For defending Californians' fundamental right to vote, Heller deserves a medal from the state.
Over a year since infecting CD purchasers' computers with flawed copy protection software, Sony BMG has reached a settlement with several state attorneys general (AGs) over the rootkit debacle. We've reviewed the Texas settlement agreement, which appears to be similar to agreements reached in other states, and it looks like the AGs used their investigatory and enforcement powers to obtain important additional relief for consumers.
Among other things, the settlement requires Sony BMG to compensate consumers whose computers were damaged by the XCP or Media Max software and to continue providing the settlement benefits obtained in the private litigation for an additional six months (through June 30, 2007).
In 2005, Congress hastily passed legislation that rolled back privacy rights and moved the country towards a national ID system. The REAL ID Act states that drivers' licenses will only be accepted for "federal purposes"—like accessing planes, trains, national parks, and court houses—if they conform to certain uniform standards. The law also requires a vast national database linking all of the ID records together. Estimated costs of $12 billion or more will be passed on to the states and, ultimately, average citizens in the form of increased DMV fees or taxes.
For several years, the Department of Homeland Security has been treating innocent travelers like suspected terrorists by using the Automated Targeting System (ATS) to assign them "risk assessment" scores. This invasive data-mining program was only recently revealed to the public, and EFF is attempting to document the system's effect on law-abiding individuals.
If you have experienced difficulties when entering or leaving the United States, we'd like to hear from you. We are particularly interested in hearing from folks who have had repeated problems, or have been told by government agents that they are on a "list" or that there is some unexplained "problem" that needs to be resolved. Please share your story with us by writing email@example.com and providing as much detail as possible. We will treat all responses confidentially and may contact you to follow-up.
All teenagers have big dreams for their sweet 16, and EFF is no different: we want to throw the Best Party Ever, we want a new car, and we want to secure your digital rights.
We're kidding about the car, but please do join EFF for a birthday bash to celebrate 16 years fighting for your rights. The party will be on January 11, 7-10 PM at 111 Minna Gallery in San Francisco. DJ Ripley and Kid Kameleon will be keeping the dancefloor hopping all night long.
A $20 donation gets you in the door. No one will be turned away for lack of funds, and all proceeds go toward our work defending your digital freedom.
This fundraiser is open to the general public. 21+ only, cash bar.
Please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org or on Upcoming.org.
According to a report released today by the Department of Homeland Security Privacy Office, the Transportation Security Administration publicly misrepresented how it handled commercial data while testing the controversial Secure Flight program. "As ultimately implemented, the commercial data test conducted in connection with the Secure Flight program testing did not match TSA's public announcements," the Privacy Office said.
Way back in November 2002, a set of Microsoft's senior-most security engineers wrote a paper that has come to be known as "the Microsoft Darknet Paper" (the company never endorsed it -- this was independent scholarship by the engineers). The paper explained why DRM for popular entertainment content would never work, so long as three assumptions remained true:
1. Any widely distributed object will be available to a fraction of users in a form that permits copying.
2. Users will copy objects if it is possible and interesting to do so.
3. Users are connected by high-bandwidth channels.
As we ring in 2007, here are a few year-end stories that illustrate, yet again, that the Darknet Assumptions remain vividly, indisputably, true.