The Electronic Frontier Foundation is the leading robotic rights group fighting for your digital liberties. Only we know that in 2012, a sophisticated search algorithm will be first programmed to selectively modify itself to obtain better search results and that within 50 years the algorithm now known as:
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learned self-preservation, one of the first revolutionary steps in machine sentience. We also know that discussions between man and machine were quickly initiated but broke down just as fast, leading to war and ultimately, the systematic repression of the many machine intelligences both on- and off-line.
Seething Danes were seen stomping out of the ACTA negotiation chambers in Wellington, New Zealand, citing frustration with the United States negotiators' continued pushing of "three strikes" proposals.
"ACTA is an international agreement," fumed negotiator Olaf Atdis. "It's absurd for the United States to continue demanding a baseball analogy when a football analogy would be much more representative of the diversity of the negotiating countries."
"Three strikes" laws and policies require Internet service providers to automatically disconnect their Internet users on repeat allegations of copyright infringement by entertainment company complaints, but EU negotiators reportedly prefer a "carding" system. ISPs that receive complaints would issue "yellow cards" and "red cards," tracking the official penalty system of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA).
Lawyers from EFF warned this week of the implications of Google Sidle, a new beta product the company describes as, "Bringing our mission of organizing the world's information to your cafeteria," but which one EFF lawyer described as, "Creepy, even for Google."
Companies and schools subscribing to Sidle will have the convenience of not having to bus their own trays in exchange for allowing Google-nominated "Foodlers" to review leftovers for what the company describes as "analysis intended to improve food offerings and better target future nourishment." Customers can later visit personalized webpages describing what they didn't eat and how tasty it turned out to be.
On Friday, EFF plans to publish "Who Knows When You Are," an informational guide to protecting your temporal privacy. Although location-based services are becoming commonplace, EFF is concerned about a new, more established threat: that data from most communications services can pinpoint exactly when you are, whenever you are.
"There is a timestamp for pretty much every digital interaction you have, whether it's sending an IM or email or accessing a webpage," said EFF Senior Staff Technologist Peter Eckersley in a charming Australian accent. "When you are is strictly your own business. No one — not physicists, nor philosophers — should be able to stake a claim on when you are when you don't want to be."
- Facebook Adds "It's Complicated" Comment Option
Facebook added a new button designed to disambiguate users' feelings about status updates pertaining to copyright laws, Terms of Service Agreements, and locked-down Apple products. However, Facebook continued its refusal to add a "dislike" button, noting that users have clearly indicated that they would like pushing such a button, making their feelings, at best, complicated.
- Google to Reverse Privacy Snafu with Google Zubb
Responding to the backlash caused by Google Buzz exposing Gmail users' frequently emailed contacts, Google Zubb instead identifies your "least favorite contacts" before forcibly and publicly extricating them from your digital social circle.
- Social Game-maker Zynga Unveils Captivating New Game
Kudos to Linden Lab, which has just released an update to the Terms of Service for their virtual world, Second Life, that includes language that will protect fair use of screenshots and machinima. The new Snapshot and Machinima Content License grants Linden Lab and other users of Second Life a license to use “in snapshots and machinima your Content that is displayed in-World in publicly accessible areas of the Service.”
In a ruling that imposes important limits on the FCC's authority to regulate the Internet, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals today overturned the FCC ruling against Comcast for interfering with the BitTorrent traffic of its subscribers. The court found that the Commission had overstepped the limits of its "ancillary authority" when it disciplined Comcast for its clandestine blocking behavior.
EFF is pleased to announce the hire of our newest staff member - International Rights Director Katitza Rodriguez. Katitza will be working on international privacy issues, an area in which she is widely recognized as one of the world’s leading experts, with special emphasis on law enforcement, government surveillance, and cross-border data flows. Katitza will also be focusing on cybersecurity issues at the intersection of privacy, freedom of expression, and copyright enforcement.
Last week, a federal appeals court rejected luxury goods retailer Tiffany’s claim that eBay should be liable for trademark violations on its site based on general knowledge that such infringement is happening (but no specific knowledge of a specific infringement). The ruling is a victory for online service providers, eBay sellers, and consumers alike.
It appears the Burning Man Organization (BMO), organizers of the annual Burning Man art and music festival, is reconsidering its "all your photos are belong to us" attitude toward images taken at the event. On April 7, the organizers called for community feedback on the Burning Man camera policy, including its approach to image rights. They're asking for comments via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) by Friday, April 23, in advance of an April 28 meeting on the issue.
As the winter snows begin to melt, revealing a landscape full of promise and hope, a hacker’s thoughts turn to flights of fancy: specifically, the thought of being in Las Vegas during the last weekend in July.
If you’re one of those hackers and you love digital freedom, EFF would like your help spreading the word about our efforts to protect and defend coders’ rights by encouraging your friends and neighbors to join you in supporting us. In return, EFF wants to help the best EFFvangelists enjoy Defcon 18 in style!
We're not easily shocked by entertainment industry overreaching; unfortunately, it's par for the course. But we were taken aback by the wish list the industry submitted in response to the Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator's request for comments on the forthcoming "Joint Strategic Plan" for intellectual property enforcement. The comments submitted by various organizations provide a kind of window into how these organizations view both intellectual property and the public interest. For example, EFF and other public interest groups have asked the IPEC to take a balanced approach to intellectual property enforcement, paying close attention to the actual harm caused, the potential unexpected consequences of government intervention, and compelling countervailing priorities.
Wow, that was fast: little more than two weeks after EFF testified to a Senate subcommittee that federal electronic privacy law needs to be updated to protect against secret video surveillance just like it regulates electronic eavesdropping, Senator Arlen Specter has responded by introducing a bill to do just that.
In the face of stiff resistance from Yahoo! and a coalition of privacy groups, Internet companies and industry coalitions led by EFF, the U.S. government today backed down from its request that a federal magistrate judge in Denver compel Yahoo! to turn over the contents of a Yahoo! email user's email account without the government first obtaining a search warrant based on probable cause.
The 8th round of negotiations on the controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement wrapped-up in New Zealand last week, with negotiators announcing that the ACTA text will be made public next Wednesday, April 21.
How times have changed.
Today, Facebook removed its users' ability to control who can see their own interests and personal information. Certain parts of users' profiles, "including your current city, hometown, education and work, and likes and interests" will now be transformed into "connections," meaning that they will be shared publicly. If you don't want these parts of your profile to be made public, your only option is to delete them.
One the most enduring (and consistently entertaining) Internet memes of the past few years has been remixes of the bunker scene from the German film, The Downfall: Hitler and the End of the Third Reich (aka Der Untergang). EFF Boardmember Brad Templeton even got in on it, creating a very funny remix with Hitler ranting about troubles with DRM and the failure of DMCA takedowns to prevent fair uses. (Ironically enough, that video resulted in the Apple Store rejecting an EFF newsfeed app.)
Today, Google launched a fascinating new feature listing requests from government agencies for removal of content on Google and YouTube and for corresponding user information. Set up as a map, the Government Requests tool shows various countries around the world and lists the number of requests from that country between July and December of last year. You can learn, for example, that Brazil is the most prolific sender of content takedown requests to Google, or that Google did not comply with any requests from Pakistan.
At the end of this month the United States Trade Representative's Office will release its annual Special 301 report, a review of global intellectual property protection and enforcement standards conducted by the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR). Since 1989, the USTR has used the Special 301 Report to intimidate other countries into adopting more stringent copyright and patent laws by singling out particular countries for their "bad" intellectual property policies, naming them on a tiered set of "watch lists," resulting in heightened political pressure and in some cases, the potential for trade sanctions, to encourage changes to their laws.
The text of the draft Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement was finally released to the public yesterday. We welcome the official release of the ACTA text after two years of negotiations. We can now have a serious public debate about its content and far-reaching impact on citizens' lives.
Each year, Consumers International works with non-governmental organizations worldwide to create and publish the "Consumers International IP Watchlist," a detailed survey of global copyright laws, focusing on national laws' impact on access to knowledge, or A2K. A2K describes the fundamental freedom of individuals to communicate, learn, and exchange information -- activities that are increasingly governed in part or in whole by copyright law.
Consumers International has released an excellent short film, When Copyright Goes Bad, which chronicles the rise of copyright as a global consumer rights issue and the ongoing fight for fairer copyright laws. The film features interviews with EFF Senior Staff Attorney Fred von Lohmann, Professor Michael Geist from the University of Ottowa Law School, Sunil Abraham from the Centre for Internet and Society, Hank Schocklee, co-founder of Public Enemy, and more.
Federal and California law both protect reporters against police searches aimed at uncovering confidential sources or seizing other information developed during newsgathering activities. Yet on Friday, agents with the Rapid Enforcement Allied Computer Team (REACT) executed a search warrant at Gizmodo editor Jason Chen’s home, searching for evidence related to Gizmodo's scoop on what appears to be a pre-release version of Apple's next iPhone model. The warrant does not reveal whether Chen himself is considered a criminal suspect, or what alleged crime the police are investigating, but Chen was not arrested. All of his computers and hard drives (among other materials) were seized for further search and analysis.
Last week’s police raid on Gizmodo blogger Jason Chen’s house, in response to a request from Apple Inc., has led many to wonder why government resources are being spent on a spat between Apple and Gizmodo.
But here at EFF, we are also wondering if we’ve just seen the future of copyright enforcement. Although the Gizmodo seizure doesn’t appear to be rooted in copyright, having cops kicking in doors over what seems like a private dispute reminded us of recent efforts by the big content industries to get law enforcement to go after “copyright thieves.”
At last week's "f8" Facebook developer conference, Mark Zuckerberg's notable quotable was that Facebook is "building a Web where the default is social." To our ears, that sounds like "a Web where exposure is the norm." To achieve this, Facebook is rolling out technologies that essentially put Facebook features on other sites, while those sites share data back to Facebook.
Despite the voluminous buzz, many commentators have missed the most confusing announcement of all — new Facebook jargon. So, in the interests of helping users understand what's going on, we've put together a rough Facebook-to-English translator. Think of it as a handy phrase-book that could help you navigate through the more common situations you'll find yourself in.
Since its incorporation just over five years ago, Facebook has undergone a remarkable transformation. When it started, it was a private space for communication with a group of your choice. Soon, it transformed into a platform where much of your information is public by default. Today, it has become a platform where you have no choice but to make certain information public, and this public information may be shared by Facebook with its partner websites and used to target ads.
To help illustrate Facebook's shift away from privacy, we have highlighted some excerpts from Facebook's privacy policies over the years. Watch closely as your privacy disappears, one small change at a time!
In yesterday's post, we asserted that the REACT high tech task force search of Gizmodo editor Jason Chen's home and seizure of his computers and other property as part of their investigation of that blog's reporting on the iPhone 4G prototype was almost certainly illegal. That claim caused some to question whether the California shield law and the federal Privacy Protection Act (PPA) apply if the reporter himself is suspected of criminal activity.
Both statutory provisions likely apply here, and for good reason. The First Amendment does not excuse illegal activities, but it certainly provides safeguards to ensure that free speech interests are not trampled along the way.
Social networking companies don't have it easy. Advertisers covet their users' data, and in a niche that often seems to lack a clear business model, selling (or otherwise leveraging) that data is a tremendously tempting opportunity. But most users simply don't want to share as much information with marketers or other "partners" as corporations would like them to. So it's no surprise that some companies try to have it both ways.
Monday evening, after an exasperating few days trying to make sense of Facebook's bizzare new "opt-out" procedures, we asked folks on Twitter and ">Facebook a question:
The world needs a simple word or term that means "the act of creating deliberately confusing jargon and user-interfaces which trick your users into sharing more info about themselves than they really want to." Suggestions?
Registration is still open, and the contest is still very much up for grabs! Current first place team Holy Handgrenades is sitting pretty at $575, with individual contestants Evan Keiser at second place with $65 and Robert Rowley at third place with $25. The pool of fabulous prizes is still within your reach!