EFF today released an Interim Report on the Automated Targeting System (ATS) through which the Department of Homeland Security monitors and assigns risk assessment scores to Americans and others who cross into or out of the United States. The data reviewed under the ATS system includes seven large government databases, plus the Passenger Name Record data from the airlines (which includes data like whether you've ordered a Muslim or Hindu or Jewish special meal). Effectively, if you travel internationally, ATS creates an instant, personal and detailed dossier on you that CBP officers use to decide whether you get to enter the country, or will be subject to an enhanced (and potentially invasive) search. EFF's report details what we've learned about the ATS program from the over 2,000 pages released by the government so far.
The FCC has sent a trio of letters to Apple, AT&T, and Google seeking information about Apple's recent decision to block Google Voice apps from Apple's iPhone App Store. We're pleased that Chairman Genachowski's FCC is taking wireless competition seriously, and hope that it also looks into similar discriminatory treatment that has affected iPhone apps from others, such as Skype, Mozilla, and Sling Media.
As has been widely reported, the National Portrait Gallery of London (NPG) recently sent a legal threat to an American Wikipedian, Derrick Coetzee, over his posting approximately 3,000 photos of public domain paintings to Wikipedia. Because of the importance of this issue for the public domain and the Internet generally, EFF has taken Mr. Coetzee as a client.
Here's the issue at the heart of this dispute: does something have to be in the public domain in every country on the planet before it can be posted to the Internet anywhere?
There's an entertaining clip from Glenn Beck's Fox News program making the rounds on the Internet lately, featuring this language from the Terms of Service for the "Cash for Clunkers" program:
This application provides access to the [Department of Transportation] DoT CARS system. When logged on to the CARS system, your computer is considered a Federal computer system and is the property of the U.S. Government. Any or all uses of this system and all files on this system may be intercepted, monitored, recorded, copied, audited, inspected, and disclosed... to authorized CARS, DoT, and law enforcement personnel, as well as authorized officials of other agencies, both domestic and foreign.
Not surprisingly, Amazon’s recent deletion of George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm from its customers' Kindle e-book readers has sparked a class action lawsuit by Kindle users. After all, not only was the remote deletion “stupid,” as CEO Jim Bezos admitted, it also appears to have been a violation of the terms of service for Kindle that Amazon itself drafted.
EFF and Public Knowledge this week urged Congress to give American technology users more input in international trade agreements that have broad ramifications for digital freedom. In written testimony submitted to the House Ways and Means Committee, the groups told lawmakers that the U.S. Trade Representative's influential industry trade advisory committee on intellectual property should represent the interests of all stakeholders, and not just IP owners. PK and EFF also called on Congress to amend the Trade Act to change the default rules that allow the USTR to close ITAC meetings and prevent disclosure of ITAC documents to the public.
There's good news today for privacy advocates — the Onion reports that Google has developed an exciting new "opt out" program for those who don't want the search giant compiling vast amounts of their personal data:
This week, the United Kingdom's Interception of Communications commissioner, Sir Paul Kennedy, announced his latest statistics for Britain's phone and email surveillance systems, to generally shocked responses by the British Public. In 2008, law enforcement, local authorities and the secret services in that country demanded "communication data" — the "who, how, when and where", but not the actual content of messages — 504,073 times. That's 1,381 times a day; or one inquiry every year for every 78 people in the UK.
UPDATE: Just one day after Judge Patel's ruling against RealDVD, a California appeals court has ruled against Kaleidescape, reversing the lower court and sending that case back for a fresh determination of whether Kaleidescape violated the terms of the DVD-CCA license. More bad news for innovators who want to bring legitimate consumers DVD jukebox products.
Judge Patel (who also handled Napster and Bernstein cases) has granted a preliminary injunction in favor of the major motion picture studios and DVD-CCA in their legal battle with Real Networks over its RealDVD products.
In a few weeks, tens of thousands of creative people will make their yearly pilgrimage to Nevada’s Black Rock desert for Burning Man, an annual art event and temporary community celebrating radical self expression, self-reliance, creativity and freedom. Most have the entirely reasonable expectation that they will own and control what is likely the largest number of creative works generated on the Playa: the photos they take to document their creations and experiences.
That’s because they haven’t read the Burning Man Terms and Conditions.
NPR had a radio story yesterday on the Google Books settlement and the privacy concerns raised by EFF and many authors and publishers. It's short but does a great job of covering the basic points, and includes excellent commentary from author Jonathan Lethem, who has joined EFF in calling on Google to do more to commit to privacy protections for readers:
Novelist Jonathan Lethem says Google should be "congratulated" for its effort. Lethem adds, "This is the moment to take a look and say, 'Why isn't it as private as the world we're being asked to leave behind, the world of physical books?' "
Concerns about Google Book Search and its potential effects on reader privacy are spreading widely in the wake of the joint action alert issued by EFF and the ACLU of Northern California.
Copyright scholar Pam Samuelson recently investigated the scope of the settlement in an editorial titled "The Audacity of the Google Book Search Settlement," noting that "...Google has negotiated a settlement agreement designed to give it a compulsory license to all books in copyright throughout the world forever."
The central question in the privacy debate that EFF and our partners at the ACLU of Northern California and the Samuelson Law, Technology & Public Policy Clinic at UC Berkeley have been having with Google about Google Book Search is whether this exciting new digital library/bookstore is going to maintain the strong protections for reader privacy that traditional libraries and bookstores have fought for and largely won.
That's it. All we want is for Google to promise to fight for the protections you already have when you walk into a bookstore or library.
In February, the opponents of REAL ID were given a bit of hope when Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said that she wanted to repeal the REAL ID Act, the federal government's failed plan to impose a national identification card through state driver's licenses. But what has taken place since is no return to sanity, as political machinations have produced a cosmetic makeover called "PASS ID" that has revived the push for a national identification card.
Earlier this month, we received an exciting letter in the mail from the Vevay, Indiana Tourism Board.
During our 38th Swiss Wine Festival (one of Indiana's Top 10 Festivals) held this August 27-30, we will be debuting a new event. Our First Annual "Media Celebrity Grape Stomp for Charity" will feature on-air celebrities from television and radio, newspaper columnists, professional bloggers and freelance writers. Celebrities from Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky will go toe-to-toe in a wooden barrel of grapes competing to "out-stomp" their competition in hopes of winning a check to their favorite charity! First prize is $1000, Second is $500 with Third at $250.
The event will take place at noon at Paul Ogle Riverfront Park in Vevay, Ind., at the official grape stomping stage.
EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn has penned an opinion piece currently on the blog of the American Constitution Society. The piece points out that the Obama Administration has embraced two of the most radical positions taken by the Bush Administration — that the Executive Branch need not follow the law and that the courts should not be allowed to review the core constitutional questions that the Executive Branch wants hidden:
Today's New York Times includes their editorial board's take on revising government web tracking policy. Their recommendations align closely with those we made in coordination with The Center for Democracy and Technology earlier this month:
Officials say they recognize that people must be told that their use of Web sites is being tracked — and be given a chance to opt out. More is needed. The government should commit to displaying such notices prominently on all Web pages — and to making it easy for users to choose not to be tracked.
In the past few years, interesting conversations about new media and innovation have taken place at the South by Southwest (SXSW) conference and festival. Voting for the panels to be featured in 2010 is taking place until September 4 -- here are a few proposals that we think will yield interesting discussions: