Deeplinks

February 3, 2008 - 11:24pm 60192

This week, Senators finally cast their votes on amendments to the
Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). This is a critical week
for the privacy and civil liberties of all Americans — the amendments
are the last chance the Senate has to prevent handing the
Administration a blank check to spy on you for years to come.

Of the amendments, the most important is The Dodd-Feingold Amendment to Strike Retroactive Immunity. The vote on this could happen as early as Monday — so email or telephone your Senators now and tell them where you stand!

February 4, 2008 - 3:38pm 60193

It's been almost a year since EFF opened an office in Brussels and focused our attention on political lobbying in the heart of the European Union. In that time, we've learned a great deal about how policies become EC law and how decisions get made in the EU.

February 4, 2008 - 8:52pm 60194

Today EFF submitted a letter to Senators Leahy and Specter calling their attention to a portion of the Draft Judiciary Committee Report of the Patent Reform Act of 2007 which has the potential to kill EFF's Patent Busting Project.

The Report states that “Section 5 of the Act creates a new post-grant review (PGR) system for United States patents, replacing and eliminating inter partes reexamination, in a new chapter 32 in title 35.” This statement is followed by footnote 87:

Ex-parte reexamination, based on a request by the patentee, is retained. See new Section 303(a) of the Act. However, third parties may no longer request an ex-parte reexamination. Thus, third parties wishing to challenge the patent will use the new post grant review system; patentees wishing to have additional art considered by [sic] will use the old ex-parte reexamination system.

February 6, 2008 - 10:00am 60195

This week, CNET launched its four-part series covering Real ID -- the dangerous federal plan to create a national ID card that presents a massive threat to citizens' privacy, among other critical flaws.

February 6, 2008 - 11:13am 60197

Just weeks after signing legislation that significantly updated the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for the first time in more than a decade, the President is attempting to single-handedly strike a major part of the new law.

Among other improvements to the FOIA, the OPEN Government Act created an ombudsman to settle problems between FOIA requesters and federal agencies, as well as keep tabs on how well the FOIA works in practice. Rather than put the new office in the Department of Justice, which has been in charge of the government's FOIA policy for more than 30 years and represents the government in FOIA lawsuits filed by requesters, Congress decided that it should be part of the National Archives and Records Administration to help maintain its independence.

February 6, 2008 - 11:24am 60198

As the Senate prepares to vote on amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act this week -- including the crucial Dodd-Feingold amendment to strip telecom immunity from the bill -- the web is lighting up with news and analysis. A few highlights:

Attorney General Michael Mukasey and Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell sent a letter to Senate leaders reminding them (in case they have forgotten) that the President will veto any FISA bill that does not include immunity for telecoms like AT&T that cooperated in the NSA's domestic spying program.

If any of these amendments [striking or altering immunity conditions in the bill] is part of the bill that is presented to the President, we, as well as the President’s other senior advisors, will recommend that he veto the bill.

February 6, 2008 - 6:11pm 60196

Last March, the ACLU of the National Capital Area and EFF joined forces to defend Dorothy Brizill, Gary Imhoff, and their good-government watchdog organization DCWatch in a lawsuit filed by former DC city employee Roslyn Johnson. The suit was a response to a series of articles written by DC journalist Jonetta Rose Barras about the city's Department of Parks and Recreation. Citing information released from the city through the DC Freedom of Information Act, among other sources, Barras’ reports contended that Johnson had been hired on the basis of an enhanced resume and was being paid an inflated salary.

February 6, 2008 - 9:41pm 60200

"Spies' Battleground Turns Virtual," proclaims a headline in Wednesday's Washington Post. The headline alone would raise concerns — after decades of electronic surveillance, what exactly is it about US spies' work that has suddenly turned virtual? But this turns out to be only the first of the many falsehoods, baseless assertions and lame misperceptions that comprise the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity's new fearmongering paper on the dangers of unmonitored civillian communication.

February 7, 2008 - 9:05am 60201

As if it weren't bad enough that the RIAA's lawsuits against file-sharers are futile, unfair, and immoral [PDF], they are also beginning to distort the law. In many of these cases, the recording industry is urging judges to accept controversial legal theories on the way to busting file sharers. It's not clear whether this is a tactical effort to cut legal corners to save money, or a strategic effort to build lower court precedents for use in other cases. Either way, these are frequently extremely unfair fights (such as in Atlantic v. Howell, where the defendant can't even afford a lawyer), and thus bad vehicles for making controversial new law. The judges simply aren't hearing both sides.

EFF is trying to do something about that.

February 7, 2008 - 1:37pm 60202
February 11, 2008 - 3:39pm 60204

The House passed the College Opportunity and Affordability Act (COAA) last week, leaving the troubling "Campus Digital Theft Prevention" requirements intact despite recent revelations that fears over unauthorized campus-based filesharing were drastically overblown by the motion picture industry.

February 11, 2008 - 4:07pm 60203

Since late last week, the Republican National Committee (RNC) has been circulating a comically lame political advertisement around Capitol Hill. Since the ad isn't actually running on TV anywhere, the message is clearly to members of Congress and their staff: "If you don't do as Bush says on the issue of telecom immunity, this is the kind of ad we will run against you in your home district in November."

February 12, 2008 - 2:58pm 60206

Despite the strong leadership of senators like Chris Dodd and Russ Feingold, the Senate passed the FISA Amendments Act (FAA), failing to strip telecom immunity from a terrible surveillance bill. The Dodd-Feingold amendment to remove immunity from the FAA failed in a 31 to 67 vote (51 votes were needed), and the FAA passed 68 to 29.

February 12, 2008 - 3:33pm 60207

Today, White House Press Secretary Dana Perino admitted that the defendants in the lawsuits against telecommunications carriers "certainly helped us," marking the first time the White House has admitted that the particular companies alleged to have participated in the wiretapping did indeed participate.

February 12, 2008 - 5:13pm 60208

Sixty-seven senators chose to side with corporate interests rather than uphold the Constitution today, passing the FISA Amendments Act (FAA) and voting to reject every amendment that would have improved the bill and protected American civil liberties.

For a list of which Senator cast which shameful vote, here is the official tally.

As Senator Dodd put it:

This warrantless wiretapping program was the single largest invasion of privacy in the history of the country and we just sanctioned it by granting retroactive immunity.

He also vowed to continue the fight when the House returns its version of the bill, using "whatever vehicles we can" to oppose immunity.

February 13, 2008 - 10:50am 58910

We've long been concerned about the human rights risks of printer tracking dots for anyone who publishes printed works with modern technology. Tracking dots are the secret marks that many popular color laser printers and photocopiers scatter across every document they touch. The marks, almost invisible to the eye, uniquely identify the printer that produced the document, and, as EFF uncovered, can even automatically encode the time and date it was created.

Anonymous self-publication and distribution have been, and remain, a vital political communication channel in many countries. A telltale pattern readable by government officials is a tool that oppressive states everywhere would love to have -- not to mention the general threat to individual privacy countries more respectful of human rights.

February 13, 2008 - 2:58pm 60209

Wednesday afternoon, House Republicans and conservative Democrats defeated the House Leadership's attempt to pass a 21-day extension of the Protect America Act. Absent such an extension, the PAA is set to expire this Friday, February 15.

The Bush Administration's allies are trying to use this false deadline to bully the House into an immediate vote on the Senate's new surveillance bill, rather than allow time for negotiation between the Senate and House. The Senate's bill includes immunity for telecoms that assisted in the President's warrantless wiretapping program, whereas the House's RESTORE Act does not.

February 14, 2008 - 4:21pm 60211

SFGate's Mark Fiore has blown a hole through the middle of arguments for telecom immunity. His latest cartoon featuring "Snuggly, the Security Bear" is more eloquent than any newspaper editorial could ever be:

February 14, 2008 - 4:49pm 60212
February 14, 2008 - 5:48pm 60213

Today, in a striking development, Democratic House Leadership has been announcing loud and clear that they don't intend to let Bush bully them into passing the Senate's draconian surveillance bill.

Ever since the Senate passed its bill on Tuesday, Bush has been attempting to railroad the bill through the House by claiming that failure to cave to his demands will result in all American surveillance operations 'going dark' on Friday. Of course, this claim is completely false.

Dems aren't standing for it. Following on Nancy Pelosi's Wednesday evening statement, Representative Silvestre Reyes (D-TX) sent a great letter to President Bush:

February 14, 2008 - 6:25pm 60210

Yesterday, in arguing for immunity for the telecom providers, the President said "If these companies are subjected to lawsuits that could cost them billions of dollars, they won't
participate. They won't help us. They won't help protect America." We just can't resist pointing out what this means:

February 15, 2008 - 4:46pm 60214

When the Senate voted this week to pass retroactive immunity to telecoms that participated in the President's illegal spying program, newspaper editorial boards from New York to Memphis to San Francisco repeated a cry of outrage that has been building for months. And when the House subsequently refused to pass the Senate's version without significant debate, the same boards cheered their representatives' apparent willingness to call the President's bluff. Here's a sampling of editorial opinion from around the country:

February 15, 2008 - 5:02pm 60216

Over the last several years, EFF has strongly opposed the use of closed, unverifiable voting technologies, bringing litigation to investigate faulty machines and challenge bad practices as well as backing legislation that would move us towards more trustworthy elections. For 2008, EFF is making a new contribution to help keep track of election issues, technology-related or otherwise.

February 16, 2008 - 2:06am 60215

Today, Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell admitted that corporate complicity in legally dubious activities far exceeds what's already publicly known:

The utYBdh9wDwD8UQVG481">Associated Press reports:

Already, [DNI McConnell] says the roughly 40 lawsuits
filed against telecom companies nationwide have chilled the private
sector's willingness to help the intelligence agencies in ways
unrelated to electronic surveillance
. Exactly how is classified,
and he won't elaborate.

February 16, 2008 - 11:47am 59843

According to a document obtained by the Electronic Frontier Foundation through the Freedom of Information Act, an "apparent miscommunication" resulted in unauthorized FBI access to an entire domain's email, rather than the single email account the Bureau had permission to monitor. As Eric Lichtblau of the New York Times reports:

A technical glitch gave the F.B.I. access to the e-mail messages from an entire computer network — perhaps hundreds of accounts or more — instead of simply the lone e-mail address that was approved by a secret intelligence court as part of a national security investigation, according to an internal report of the 2006 episode.

February 19, 2008 - 11:34pm 60205

The immense popularity of sites like YouTube has unexpectedly turned Flash Video (FLV) into one of the de facto standards for Internet video. The proliferation of sites using FLV has been a boon for remix culture, as creators made their own versions of posted videos. And thus far there has been no widespread DRM standard for Flash or Flash Video formats; indeed, most sites that use these formats simply serve standalone, unencrypted files via ordinary web servers.

February 21, 2008 - 6:21pm 59842

In its endless quest to wring value from users’ personal data, Google is branching out into health records. The Internet search giant has just announced a pilot project that would allow users to combine all their personal health records (PHRs) -- information about prescriptions, allergies, injuries, health history etc -- into a single new service that would be as accessible as a Gmail account.

The convenience factor is clear -- the new service would make it easier for people who may have multiple health providers to make sure their doctors all have the same information. And for people who seek medical attention while traveling, the ability to bypass their HMO's byzantine bureaucracy in order to have a prescription filled might be welcome.

February 22, 2008 - 9:22am 60217

FISA legislation is stalled in the House. After walking out of meetings last week, House Republicans refused on Thursday to meet with congressional Democrats to discuss hammering out differences between the Senate and House bills. The message from the Republicans is clear: Absolutely no compromise, especially on the crucial question of retroactive immunity for telecoms.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer accused the Republicans of playing politics, and wondered whether they expect the House to simply rubberstamp the Senate bill:

February 24, 2008 - 4:49pm 60218

The copyright geeks among you will be interested in an impressive historical project underway in the UK, sponsored by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. Housed at CopyrightHistory.org, the project is self-explanatorily entitled "Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900)."

The project kicks off with a conference on March 19-20 at the Stationers' Hall (still held by the Worshipful Company of Stationers and Newspaper Makers) in London. I wish I could go!

February 25, 2008 - 12:07pm 60219
February 25, 2008 - 3:21pm 60220

Bush Administration Press Secretary Dana Perino stooped to a new low at today's White House press briefing, presenting numerous myths about trial attorneys as part of the Administration's desperate plea to get retroactive immunity for its telecommunications partners.

MS. PERINO: [Telecommunications companies] have the technology, they have the means, and they want to cooperate, but they have been burdened with over 40 lawsuits, class-action lawsuits that would -- that, one, already are costing them lots of money to deal with. And if the suits were to go forward, it could cost them possibly billions. And that cost is going to be borne by the consumers of those businesses, the customers of those businesses.

...

February 25, 2008 - 6:24pm 60221

The recording industry's litigation campaign against individual file-sharers suffered a setback earlier this month when a federal judge ruled in Atlantic v. Brennan that the boilerplate complaint used by the recording industry in these cases would not support a default judgment. Ars Technica has an excellent summary of the legal standards and why the ruling represents a blow to the "spam-igation" techniques of the recording industry.

February 26, 2008 - 11:01am 60223

Four former senior intelligence officials wrote a strong letter yesterday to Director of National Intelligence McConnell, calling the Administration's hard line on telecom immunity an impediment to negotiations on the pending FISA legislation.

The letter, signed by former Senior Director for Combating Terrorism at the National Security Council Rand Beers, former head of counterterrorism at the National Security Council Richard A. Clarke, former Deputy National Security Advisor Lt. Gen. Donald Kerrick and former assistant general counsel at the CIA Suzanne Spaulding, acknowledges that the "sunset of the Protect America Act (PAA) does not put America at greater risk."

February 26, 2008 - 11:55am 60224

Statements from the White House Press Secretary aren't known for being informative, and they rarely give much away. But yesterday's statement from Dana Perino, aside from its myths and inaccuracies, also included this gem of an admission:

These lawsuits are abusive and, if they are allowed to proceed, would serve only to line the pockets of class-action trial lawyers.

Excuse us if we heard incorrectly, but did the Secretary just admit that the telecoms would lose if the cases against them were "allowed to proceed? In the past, the President and his advisors have claimed that the cases against the telecoms were "frivolous," but now it seems they have some merit after all.

February 26, 2008 - 4:52pm 60225

The Bush Administration appears to have forgotten that of the dozens of lawsuits over warrantless surveillance, six of them seek to stop "state officials in Missouri, Maine, New Jersey, Connecticut and Vermont from investigating various telecommunication carriers concerning their alleged disclosure of customer telephone records to the National Security Agency (NSA)."

February 26, 2008 - 6:00pm 60222

We've recently started embedding video from YouTube and elsewhere into Deeplinks and other areas of EFF.org. This posed a challenge: On one hand, embedded video is an important tool that we want to be able to use. But, on the other hand, embedded video has worrisome privacy implications that we thought we should do something about.

February 27, 2008 - 4:35pm 60226

The German Constitutional Court (the Bundesverfassungsgericht) ruled today on a what the German press is calling "a new basic right" - one that guarantees the confidentiality and integrity of computer systems.

The court spelled out the protection as part of its judgement (available in German) on the constitutionality of a law that let police infiltrate a suspect's computer by using trojan horses or rootkits. Such police powers had been repeatedly called for by the Federal Minister of the Interior, Wolfgang Schäuble, as well as the head of the German Federal Police.

February 28, 2008 - 6:31pm 60228

Comcast has a habit of blocking things it doesn’t like. First it was caught red-handed blocking P2P traffic on its networks. Now, Comcast has admitted to paying supporters to pack a public hearing in Massachusetts – a likely attempt to block the public from voicing concerns about their P2P policies.

The Register has a great quote from Comcast spokesman Charlie Douglas:

As is common practice in Washington, we did pay a few people to stand in line [outside the meeting hall] and then hold seats for some of our Comcast executives and other Comcast employees who were attending. We were just trying to make sure the hearing was well-attended on our side.

February 28, 2008 - 7:07pm 60227

Last week, proponents of telecom immunity spent loads of money on a slick, partisan, fear-mongering, television attack ad that is flat out wrong about the Protect America Act and severely misleading on all other counts. The video is on YouTube, but the built-in comment and voting system have been disabled by the ad's sponsor, "Defense of Democracies." (Note to Defense of Democracies: eliminating free debate and voting is not a good way to defend a democracy.)

February 29, 2008 - 11:21am 60229

In response to the FCC's inquiry into Comcast's interference with BitTorrent traffic, EFF filed comments yesterday urging the FCC to make it clear that ISPs must, at a minimum, adequately disclose their "network management" practices before they can hide behind the excuse of "reasonable network management."

February 29, 2008 - 2:26pm 60230

Charlie McCreevy, the EU's Commissioner for the Internal Market and Services, wants to nearly double the European copyright term in sound recordings - from 50 years to an astounding 95. Join us and stop overextending copyright.

If you read Commissioner McCreevy's declaration this month to bring American-style copyright terms for sound recordings to the EU, one might have thought that it was all a done deal. He gave the impression that he had consulted with everybody who counted in the matter, balanced all the arguments, and had all the powerful players on his side.

February 29, 2008 - 7:40pm 60231

Deceptive exploitation of Americans' fears of terrorism has been a central weapon in the GOP's campaign to prevent phone companies from being held accountable for lawbreaking. Two weeks ago, EFF looked at the evidence and concluded that this strategy would fail to sway voters.

Today, events have borne that prediction out. From the subscription-only Congress Daily newsletter:

February 29, 2008 - 9:17pm 60232

What caught our eye among the world's digital rights news this week:

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