A federal district court judge today threw out the misdemeanor convictions of Lori Drew after the judge determined that the federal anti-hacking statute under which Drew was prosecuted was inapplicable to the allegation that she violated MySpace's terms of service. Drew was convicted by a jury in November of 2008 of violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) which bars "unauthorized access" to a computer. Prosecutors argued that Drew had violated the CFAA by harassing 13-year-old neighbor Megan Meier through the use of a fake Myspace profile, harassment that prosecutors say directly led to Meier's suicide.
A classified report to Congress on the National Security Agency's warrantless surveillance program was submitted today -- as required by the FISA Amendments Act, passed one year ago today -- by the Inspectors General of the Justice Department, the NSA, and other agencies involved in the program. Hot off the presses, here's a PDF we've obtained of the the unclassified version of the report.
Today, the Inspectors General of five government agencies released the unclassified version of a report on the Bush Administration’s warrantless domestic surveillance program. The report was required by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Amendments Act of 2008, which was signed into law one year ago today.
The IG report has been carefully scrubbed so that it reveals as little new information as possible about the illegal surveillance of ordinary Americans. Given the wide range of information already publicly known about the program, it is disappointing that today’s report is not more informative.
What does Facebook have in common with wireless phone companies like AT&T? Both companies try to lock customers in, even if we'd rather take our business elsewhere. Facebook is suing Power.com, a company that gives users a tool to pull copies of their own friends lists, postings and other information out of Facebook so that they can aggregate it with their other social networking platforms.
Similarly, CTIA - The Wireless Association, the trade group for the mobile phone industry, is trying to prevent customers of companies like AT&T Wireless and Sprint from taking their own phones with them when they switch providers. When businesses strive to maintain customer loyalty through improvement to the product or service offered, everyone benefits. But keeping your audience captive by holding hostage something that is valuable to the customer is bad for users and for innovation.
The California Department of Insurance (DOI) is considering regulations that would enable insurance prices to depend on the precise number of miles a car is driven in a given billing period. But in implementing these "Pay As You Drive" regulations, the DOI appears poised to empower insurance companies to require customers' cars to be outfitted with "black-box" devices that could transmit back to the insurance companies all sorts of data about car motion (acceleration, braking, and so forth) as well as driver behavior (steering and seat-belt wearing).
Although DOI has retreated from its prior position that these devices should track your location – a definite improvement – it's still true that every car already has a reliable, tamper-resistant device that verifies actual mileage: an odometer.
The EFF Pioneer Awards were established to recognize leaders on the electronic frontier who are extending freedom and innovation in the realm of information technology. Each year we field nominations from the EFF community — now is your opportunity to nominate a deserving individual or group to receive a Pioneer Award for 2009!
How to Nominate Someone for a 2009 Pioneer Award:
You may send as many nominations as you wish, but please use one email per nomination. Please submit your entries via email to firstname.lastname@example.org by August 17th.
Simply tell us:
- The name of the nominee,
- The phone number, email address or website by which the nominee can be reached,
- Why you feel the nominee deserves the award.
and, most importantly,
There are no specific categories for the EFF Pioneer Awards, but the following guidelines apply:
On Wednesday, EFF argued in federal court against the government's motion to dismiss Jewel v. NSA, EFF's case seeking to end the dragnet government surveillance of millions of ordinary Americans. EFF lawyers told federal judge Vaughn Walker that the lawsuit cannot be dismissed based on the government's blanket secrecy assertion, as made clear in previous court decisions concerning NSA spying and the CIA's special rendition program, and that the government is not immune against suit for violating federal wiretapping statutes.
The San Francisco Chronicle's coverage of the hearing made note of the Obama administration's defense of the Bush program:
- NSA Cyber Overkill
An LA Times op-ed piece questions the Obama administration's plan to use the National Security Agency to screen government computer traffic on private-sector networks.
- Court: IP Addresses Are Not 'Personally Identifiable' Information
A federal judge in Seattle has ruled that Microsoft did not violate it's user agreement not to collect personally identifiable information when it collected IP addresses.
- Apple Blocking Push on Jailbroken Phones
Is Apple intentionally blocking users with hacked or unlocked iPhones from receiving Push Notification messages?
In George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, the protagonist Winston Smith labors in obscurity to make information appear and disappear at the whims of the Ministry of Truth:
This process of continuous alteration was applied not only to newspapers, but to books, periodicals, pamphlets, posters, leaflets, films, sound-tracks, cartoons, photographs — to every kind of literature or documentation which might conceivably hold any political or ideological significance. Day by day and almost minute by minute the past was brought up to date.
The Ministry of Truth would have truly appreciated DRM and tethered devices. As many owners of Kindle e-books discovered this morning, electronic books that come rigged with DRM "copy protection," stored on e-book readers subject to Amazon remote control, can be made to disappear at the whims of their publishers, as if they never existed in the first place.
Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Da Silva, popularly known as Lula, announced during the recent Fórum Internacional de Software Livre (FISL) that "No one is more creative than we are. What we need is an opportunity. This law here... it doesn't aim to fix the abuse of the Internet. It really tries to impose censorship". He was talking about the controversial Azeredo bill (English translation available here), which aims to establish new criminal offenses that are "performed by the use of an electronic, digital or similar system, networked computers, or that are applied against devices or communication systems and the like".
Apple has retracted its legal threats against public wiki hosting site Bluwiki, and, in response, EFF is dismissing its lawsuit against Apple over those threats.
The skirmish involved a set of anonymously authored wiki pages in which hobbyists were discussing how to enable recent-vintage iPods and iPhones to "sync" media with software other than Apple's own iTunes (e.g., Songbird or Winamp). We're not talking about any "piracy" here; we're talking about syncing the media you legitimately own on the iPod or iPhone you own, using software of your choice.
Calling the Obama administration's position on warrantless wiretapping "mind-boggling," the San Francisco Chronicle ran an editorial Monday calling for a federal court not to dismiss EFF's Jewel v. NSA, which seeks to bring an end the illegal spying program.
The editorial reminds us that Obama himself has reversed position on this crucial issue, and says that the administration's stance "is looking more than ever like willful ignorance of history in the name of political calm."
The editorial also points out the heavy burden in the hands of Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker:
Update: Members of the reading public can find detailed information on EFF's page on Google Book Search and Privacy. But EFF is also gathering a group of authors (or their heirs or assigns) and publishers who are concerned about the Google Book Search settlement and its effect on the privacy and anonymity of readers -- for more, visit EFF's page on Google Book Search for Authors and Publishers.
If you suspect you may have a serious disease, you can go into a bookstore and browse for books about your illness, find one that's useful, and buy it with cash. And you can rest assured that even if you get into a lawsuit with your insurance company or anyone else, they cannot find out about your choice of reading material.
Iranians protesting the results of the recent election found an outlet and a means of organizing with the Internet, and showed that new digital media can help free speech and fight repression globally. But what happens now the headlines and the Twitter trends have died down?
If you're in the California Bay Area, join us in San Francisco's PariSoMa on Monday, August 3, from 7pm - 9pm as we discuss the lessons of Iran and other global protests, what's happening now, and how to make the digital media we create serve netizens in authoritarian regimes.
Farhad Manjoo over at Slate has written the best summation to date on Amazon's 1984 scandal, in which digital versions of the Orwell classic were surreptitiously removed from users' Kindles without their permission.
Amazon has apologized and promised never to delete books in this fashion in the future. But Manjoo points out that the real lesson here is that the power to delete digital books remotely exists in the first place: