Support for a browser-header-based "Do Not Track" proposal is building in both the federal government and the private sector, which is good news for Internet users who are concerned about privacy. Friday, EFF submitted comments to the Department of Commerce Internet Policy Task Force, urging the department to embrace the system and support legislation that would authorize the Federal Trade Commission to act on Do Not Track.
EFF yesterday filed comments in response to the Copyright Office’s recent Notice of Inquiry regarding the “desirability and means of bringing sound recordings fixed before February 15, 1972, under Federal jurisdiction.”
"Effective data protection is vital for our democracies and underpins other fundamental rights and freedoms." - Viviane Reding, Vice-President of the European Commission and Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship.
Today EFF filed a reply brief in its FOIA lawsuit seeking records from the FBI, DOJ and DEA that would justify the Administration’s need to expand federal surveillance laws like the Communications Assistance to Law Enforcement Act (CALEA). The proposed expansion would require communications providers like Skype, Facebook, Blackberry and Twitter to build wiretapping capabilities right into their systems, and although we know Congress intends to turn to this issue early this year, FBI, DEA and DOJ have argued they can’t give us all the documents we asked for until the summer of 2012.
The FCC published its long-awaited final Report and Order on net neutrality at the end of December (more on that in part 2 of this post), but the debate is far from over. Republican members of Congress have loudly voiced their displeasure with the attempt to regulate internet activity; they’ve already filed a bill putting internet regulatory authority solely in the hands of Congress.
Tell your Congressperson to vote NO on the USA PATRIOT Act in tomorrow's vote! The PATRIOT reauthorization bill being fast-tracked to the House floor contains NO reforms to the law, and will be voted upon with NO debate and NO opportunity for amendments to add oversight and accountability. Help stop this sneak attack on your civil liberties: there are only hours left to visit our Action Center and tell your Representative to vote "NO" on H.R. 514, the PATRIOT extension bill.
One of the major problems with the mass copyright lawsuits we seen over the last year is that the judges hearing the cases often aren’t aware of the full legal and practical context of the litigation. That’s because they are asked to make important decisions (e.g., whether to allow the plaintiffs to send out subpoenas for the Does’ identities) before any of the defendants have had a chance to point out the fundamental flaws in the plaintiff’s case.
UPDATE (2/9/11): In another move to fast-track PATRIOT Act renewal before three of its most controversial provisions expire at the end of the month, the House is expected to call another vote on a PATRIOT reauthorization bill any day now. Unlike the two-thirds majority that would have been needed to pass the measure on Tuesday, the next vote will only require a majority to pass. Your voice is needed now more than ever. Act now - contact your Representatives and tell them not to rubber-stamp the PATRIOT Act extension!
In response to ongoing protests, Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak ordered a shutdown of all Internet access for five whole days, from January 28 to February 2, but social media and news continued to flow in and out of the country thanks to a group of protagonists dedicated to supporting the flow of information.
EFF board member and co-founder John Gilmore once described the technical robustness of the Internet against censorship by saying: "The Internet interprets censorship as damage and routes around it." Egypt's Internet blackout demonstrated an additional dimension to this adage: that the Internet's anti-censorship features are enhanced by, and to some extent may depend upon, the willingness of individuals and companies to stand up for free expression.
One of the less-heralded issues in a series of prominent cases (here, here, and here, for example) testing the limits of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act ("DMCA") safe harbor provisions is the question of when and how service providers must terminate the accounts of "repeat infringers." As a condition of safe harbor eligibility, the DMCA requires that service providers "adopt and reasonably implement" a repeat infringer policy that provides for termination of users' accounts "in appropriate circumstances." But what does this requirement mean? How does one “adopt and reasonably implement”? Who are "repeat infringers"?
The US government is deliberating about how to approach the “cyber” security problem. But the solution the government needs to network security isn’t sweeping authority over the Internet — it’s common-sense security practices they’ve heretofore failed to implement.
As we previously said, it is unfortunate that the government tends toward the dramatic and seeks to broadly expand its powers in the name of security, while continuing to overlook more prosaic issues. Bruce Schneier explains,
Privacy advocates have observed for years that countries hosting the Olympic Games introduce increasingly heightened security and surveillance measures for the event, but rarely cut back on public surveillance after the games are finished. Because these expanded surveillance measures are often made permanent, we noted with interest a report released by the whistle-blower website Wikileaks that detailed how the United States lobbied Brazil about security and information-sharing strategies after the latter was chosen to host the 2016 Olympic Games.
Despite the valiant efforts of liberty-defending congresspersons from both political parties, the House of Representatives has just this evening passed an extension of the three USA PATRIOT Act surveillance powers that were set to "sunset" at the end of February, by a vote of 275 to 144. Now, the Senate is our last hope to stop PATRIOT renewal and obtain meaningful PATRIOT reform. The Senate is expected to vote on a PATRIOT renewal bill this week, so contact your Senators today and urge them to vote NO on the PATRIOT Act!
Of the 144 votes against the House bill, 26 came from Republicans, who argued that the law's broad surveillance powers constitute a big government intrusion into the lives of private citizens. For example, California Republican Dana Rohrabacher said:
Looks like the Texas courts are no place to file suit if you want to bypass due process. A few weeks ago, we reported that Mick Haig Productions had dismissed its copyright infringement lawsuit against 670 "John Does," complaining that the court's appointment of attorneys from EFF and Public Citizen had impeded its ability to prosecute its case. In a brief filed on behalf of the Does, EFF and Public Citizen had argued that Mick Haig should not be allowed to send subpoenas for the Does' identifying information, because it had sued hundreds of people in one case, in the wrong jurisdiction and without meeting the constitutional standard for obtaining identifying information. We have also raised questions about the plaintiff's conduct, as it appears it sent out subpoenas without the court's permission.
“COICA”, Senator Leahy’s Combating Online Infringements and Counterfeits Act, is back. The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on "Targeting Websites Dedicated To Stealing American Intellectual Property" tomorrow morning.
As a reminder, COICA would give the government dramatic new copyright enforcement powers, most notably the ability to meddle with the Internet’s domain name system (DNS) and make entire websites effectively disappear, along with noninfringing content and lawful speech.
Earlier today, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton delivered a speech about Internet freedom titled, "Internet Rights and Wrongs: Choices and Challenges In A Networked World." In her remarks, Clinton built on prior statements about the U.S. Government's commitment to a free and open Internet, responding in part to the uprisings in the Middle East and Cablegate — major, ongoing international developments adding to the swell of debate about the parameters of Internet freedom.
EFF, the ACLU, and others were in court Tuesday to try to block government attempts to obtain Twitter account records about three individuals in connection to its WikiLeaks investigation. We also asked the judge to reveal whether any other companies had received similar orders from the government.
As EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn told Bloomberg today:
There are First Amendment implications because information being sought pertains to speech...We also think there are Fourth Amendment implications because some of the information reveals location.
As legislators in DC contemplate expanding government copyright enforcement powers, there's new reason to worry that government agents are misusing the Internet policing powers they already have -- with disastrous consequences for thousands of innocent bystanders. Torrentfreak is reporting that the Department of Homeland Security's ICE agents temporarily shut down 84,000 websites, possibly by accident, in the name of shutting down just ten websites that allegedly contained child pornography.
Two hearings tomorrow—one in court and one in Congress—will highlight the brewing debate over whether Congress should expand federal surveillance laws to force Internet communications service providers like Facebook, Google and Skype to build technical backdoors into their systems to enable government wiretapping.
• First, at 10:00 AM EST on Capitol Hill, the House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing entitled ”Going Dark: Lawful Electronic Surveillance in the Face of New Technologies”, where law enforcement representatives are expected to make their case for expanded Internet wiretapping capabilities.
We and many other Internet freedom advocates have been closely watching the prosecution of Chiranuch Premchaiporn, the director of a popular alternative Thai news portal. Chiranuch, also known by her online handle Jiew, is being charged for defamation of the Thai royal family, or lèse majesté, under a particularly disquieting set of conditions.
EFF is extremely pleased to announce a new addition to our Board of Directors: Harvard Law and Computer Science Professor Jonathan Zittrain.
For many of you, Jonathan does not need an introduction, as he is one of the true luminaries of Internet scholarship. His work encompasses the critical issues at the heart of EFF's work, including privacy, speech, digital property, and the role played by private intermediaries in Internet architecture.
Since it began publishing a trove of classified United States Embassy cables on November 28, 2010, Wikileaks has faced an onslaught of censorship that demonstrated how online speech is vulnerable when intermediaries refuse to host contentious or unpopular speech. When payment providers, service providers and even visualization software services cut off services, Wikileaks struggled to keep their site online, going down for periods of time and reducing the content they carry. But while the availability of Wikileaks content was restricted, the demand from readers and media organizations to access that information stayed strong.
When we said that Texas was no place to file suit if you want to bypass due process, we weren't kidding. Senior federal judge Royal Furgeson has "severed" thousands of Does in these and several other cases. (see below for sample order). Judge Furgeson is the same judge that ordered the plaintiffs in five cases to explain why the court should not appoint attorneys to represent the Does' interests.
In essence, these rulings mean that the plaintiff in each case must re-file against each Doe defendant individually, rather than attempting to sue hundreds (or thousands) of Does at once, something that may make these cases less lucrative for the lawyers hoping to turn copyright trolling into a business model.
EFF just received documents in response to a 2-year old FOIA request for information on the FBI’s "Going Dark" program, an initiative to increase the FBI's authority in response to problems the FBI says it's having implementing wiretap and pen register/trap and trace orders on new communications technologies. The documents detail a fully-formed and well-coordinated plan to expand existing surveillance laws and develop new ones. And although they represent only a small fraction of the documents we expect to receive in response to this and a more recent FOIA request, they were released just in time to provide important background information for the House Judiciary Committee’s hearing tomorrow on the Going Dark program.
There is a lot of discussion about Do Not Track at the moment. The FTC has announced support for the idea; Mozilla has added a Do Not Track header option into Firefox betas, and Congresswoman Jackie Speier has introduced a Do Not Track bill. Other proposed privacy legislation, such as Rep. Bobby Rush's bill, could also achieve similar objectives. And yesterday, EFF submitted comments urging the Federal Trade Commission to defend online privacy by supporting the header-based Do Not Track feature.
A leading candidate has emerged for the next EFF Takedown Hall of Shame induction: the Dervaes Institute, which is claiming broad ownership rights over the term “urban homesteading” — a term commonly used to describe a social movement dedicated to achieving more self-sufficient, sustainable living in cities. Last year, the Institute managed to register the term as a trademark (in connection with “educational services” such as blogging) and it is now sending takedown requests and warning letters targeting individuals and organizations that have been using the term for years.
The Dervaes campaign raises two related issues.
These have been some eventful weeks in the world of copyright trolling. Thousands of unnamed “John Does” in P2P file sharing lawsuits filed in California, Washington DC, Texas, and West Virginia have been severed, effectively dismissing over 40,000 defendants. The plaintiffs in these cases must now re-file against almost all of the Does individually rather than suing them en mass. These rulings may have a significant impact on the copyright trolls’ business model, which relies on being able to sue thousands of Does at once with a minimum of administrative expense. The cost of filing suit against each Doe may prove prohibitively expensive to plaintiffs’ attorneys who are primarily interested in extracting quick, low-hassle settlements.