Following a hearing in the San Francisco Superior Court today, DJs and party guests Justin Credible and Matthew Higgins had their illegally seized laptops returned to them. This is great news, and a real relief to the pair who have been without their machines for over a month. It started on Halloween, when San Francisco police officers broke up a private party and took the computers -- even though neither laptop was being used to play music. The police department attorney conceded at today's hearing that no charges would ever be filed against Credible or Higgins, which was clear from the very beginning.
This October, Chris Soghoian — computer security researcher, oft-times journalist, and current technical consultant for the FTC's privacy protection office — attended a closed-door conference called "ISS World". ISS World — the "ISS" is for "Intelligence Support Systems for Lawful Interception, Criminal Investigations and Intelligence Gathering" — is where law enforcement and intelligence agencies consult with telco representatives and surveillance equipment manufacturers about the state of electronic surveillance technology and practice. Armed with a tape recorder, Soghoian went to the conference looking for information about the scope of the government's surveillance practices in the US.
Senator Evan Bayh recently responded to a constituent's concerns about the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). Sadly, Senator Bayh's letter is troubling and frustrating. He echoes the USTR's misleading conflation of "counterfeiting" and "copyright infringement," doesn't address the draconian Internet provisions, and, worst of all, fails to acknowledge the most egregious problem altogether -- that ACTA is being negotiated in secret and being hidden from Congress and the public.
Let's take a look at parts of Senator Bayh's response in detail.
Senator Bayh: I support a balanced approach to international trade that ensures equal treatment for U.S. goods and services. In other words, I believe we must pursue policies that advance the economic well-being of America's businesses and working families while holding our trading partners accountable.
A Pennsylvania publicly-traded company has become the latest corporate entity to use the legal system in an attempt to out an anonymous online critic, and EFF is defending the critic with the help of the First Amendment as well as an important new California statute. USA Technologies, based in Malvern, Pennsylvania, recently filed a federal lawsuit against two Yahoo! message board posters who roundly criticized what they claim is the consistently poor performance of USA Technologies' management.
Much of the coverage of the UK's proposed Digital Economy bill has centered, and rightly so, on the damaging consequences to civil liberties for Britons caused by its Internet termination provisions. Less documented is quite how damaging these regulations are for the bill's own namesake: Britain's present and future digital economy.
The history of Net businesses shows that an integral feature of the digital economy is decentralized innovation and the creation of generative new markets by individuals or small, loosely-affiliated groups. These generators of wealth often begin as end-users of the Net, unconnected with established companies. When they start, they don't have lobbyists, and their entrepreneurship is not yet recognized as part of the country's vital digital infrastructure or core creative industries — or even a business interest at all.
This is the fifth in a series of posts about the proposed Google Book Search settlement.
As we've explained in earlier posts, when it comes to evaluating the proposed Google Books settlement, the principal potential benefit to the public (increased access to books online) must be weighed against the potential drawbacks (impediments to competition, inadequate protection for privacy). Another potential downside for the public in the proposed settlement is the risk of censorship.
In the first of a series of white papers on Terms of Service (TOS) issues, EFF today released The Clicks That Bind: Ways Users “Agree” to Online Terms of Service. The paper aims to answer a fundamental question: when do these ubiquitous TOS agreements actually become binding contracts? We discuss how courts have reacted to efforts by service providers to enforce TOS, and suggest best practices for service providers to follow in presenting terms to a user and for seeking his or her agreement to them.
"Yahoo isn’t happy that a detailed menu of the spying services it provides law enforcement agencies has leaked onto the web." That's how WIRED's Threat Level blog put it when describing Yahoo's recent effort to censor its own law enforcement compliance guide off the Internet using a bogus DMCA takedown demand.
The trouble all started when Yahoo stepped in to block a FOIA request for its law enforcement compliance "price list" (i.e., what it charges to law enforcement and spy agencies when responding to requests for information about Yahoo users). Shortly thereafter, a copy of the document, entitled "Yahoo! Compliance Guide for Law Enforcement," appeared on Cryptome.org.
EFF filed an amicus brief in the Ninth Circuit's en banc review of Mohamed v. Jeppesen, a case brought by the ACLU challenging the CIA's extraordinary rendition program. A panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals had rejected the government's argument that the case had to be dismissed at the outset due to the state secrets privilege. The panel decision is now being considered by a larger, en banc panel of the Court.
EFF notes that the government has made the same dangerous and overreaching state secrets arguments in the domestic warrantless wiretapping cases handled by EFF. The brief begins:
The Obama Administration today issued its long-awaited Open Government Directive (OGD), a blueprint for transparency that the President promised on January 21, his first full day in office. The OGD is “intended to direct executive departments and agencies to take specific actions to implement the principles of transparency, participation, and collaboration” the President spoke of as he took office, and it is hopefully the first of many concrete steps that will be taken to alter the entrenched culture of secrecy that pervades the federal government.
Five months after it first announced coming privacy changes this past summer, Facebook is finally rolling out a new set of revamped privacy settings for its 350 million users. The social networking site has rightly been criticized for its confusing privacy settings, most notably in a must-read report by the Canadian Privacy Commissioner issued in July and most recently by a Norwegian consumer protection agency. We're glad to see Facebook is attempting to respond to those privacy criticisms with these changes, which are going live this evening.
For twenty years, supporters of the Electronic Frontier Foundation have helped an elite team of technologists and activists create an unparalleled force in the digital rights world. Randall Munroe, creator of the online comic xkcd, tells it best:
To thank our year-end donors, we are offering special edition EFF 20th anniversary xkcd t-shirts and hooded sweatshirts! This exclusive xkcd apparel is available only for a limited time and will be shipped in January 2010. Donate today to join xkcd in celebrating this milestone in EFF history and online rights.
Yesterday, the web was buzzing with commentary about Google CEO Eric Schmidt's dangerous, dismissive response to concerns about search engine users' privacy. When asked during an interview for CNBC's recent "Inside the Mind of Google" special about whether users should be sharing information with Google as if it were a "trusted friend," Schmidt responded, "If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place."
As 2009 draws to a close, we're inching ever deeper into the corner that Congress painted us into by passing Real ID under the table in 2005. (Recall that Real ID is the failed, Bush-era attempt to turn state drivers licenses into national ID cards by forcing states to collect and store licensee data in databases, and refusing to accept non-compliant IDs for federal purposes, like boarding a plane or entering a federal building.)
This week the World Intellectual Property Organization's Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights is meeting in Geneva to discuss a proposed treaty intended to increase access to books and other information in formats accessible to the world's blind, visually impaired and print disabled citizens.
- NYT Editorial: Twitter Tapping
The Times' editorial board speaks out in support of EFF's lawsuit seeking government guidelines for the monitoring of social networking sites.
- District Court: Personal E-Mail From Work Still Privileged
A federal prosecutor had a reasonable expectation of privacy when he sent personal email to his lawyer over government computers, the US District Court for the District of Columbia ruled.
- Ohio Justices: Cell Phone Searches Require Warrant
The New York Times reports on the Ohio Supreme Court ruling in favor of privacy for cell phone users.
Today the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of State, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the National Security Agency released 162 pages of intelligence oversight reporting in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by EFF in July.
The reports, made to a presidential advisory committee called the Intelligence Oversight Board, detail intelligence activities that the agencies "have reason to believe may be unlawful."
EFF is reviewing the documents now and has posted them on our website. Some of our initial finds include reports that:
It's been a little over a week since Facebook debuted a massive revamp of its privacy settings. EFF immediately followed that release with a detailed critique, concluding that the changes were "clearly intended to push Facebook users to publicly share even more information than before [and] will actually reduce the amount of control that users have over some of their personal data."
As you may have heard by now, one of the biggest problems with Facebook's recent privacy overhaul was that it removed users' ability to hide their friend lists from the world. This was one of several changes that were met with substantial criticism and anger from the media and from Facebook users. The significance of the changes was eloquently explained by Joseph Bonneau, a researcher with the Cambridge University Security Group:
As we count down to end of 2009, the emerging star of this year's holiday shopping season is shaping up to be the electronic book reader (or e-reader). From Amazon's Kindle to Barnes and Noble's forthcoming Nook, e-readers are starting to transform how we buy and read books in the same way mp3s changed how we buy and listen to music.
This holiday season, for every $10 you donate to EFF, you can receive one BookMooch point, worth one free book of your choice, from BookMooch founder and EFF board member John Buckman! Just join BookMooch and then email the receipt of your donation here to redeem your points. (You can find John Buckman's official announcement on the Bookmooch blog.)
The Internet is global, and so are threats to digital freedom. Over the past year, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has fought Internet censorship, oppressive copyright laws and privacy violations wherever they've been under threat around the world.
With the help of our global partners and supporters like you, EFF has been able to achieve great things over the past year:
Our fellow Internet freedom advocates at Electronic Frontiers Australia are gearing up for an important fight in the new year as the Australian government proposes mandatory national Internet filters with a secret blacklist. EFA is looking for volunteers and colleagues — particularly Australians, but they can use help from outside Australia as well — to help take on this critical issue. As Lelia Green wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald, the censorship proposal risks "legitimating a range of repressive policies pursued by some of the globe's least accountable governments."
Cory Doctorow, my former EFF colleague, now novelist and all-around-inspiration, gave a stirring speech entitled "How to Destroy the Book" in November at a Canadian conference dedicated to literacy. Fittingly, it was spontaneously transcribed and posted online at The Varsity.ca. The whole thing is terrific, but the first portion, an elegy to books and what they mean to us, is stirring and highly recommended to anyone who loves books:
According to TorrentFreak, last summer's Star Trek movie was the "most pirated movie of 2009." So it seems that Paramount Pictures was prescient when it gave testimony before the FCC that used Star Trek as an illustrative example of how "Internet piracy" is poised to devastate Hollywood and (though the nexus here is less than clear) undermine residential broadband in America.
Funny thing is, Star Trek is on course to make more than $100 million in profits.