The new preview version of AOL Instant Messenger raised privacy concerns for us when it was first introduced, first because it started storing more logs of communications and second, because it apparently scanned all private IMs for URLs and pre-fetched any URLs found in them. We met with AOL to discuss how these features work and why the company should take greater care with your data, and we’re happy to say that AOL is promising to make some important changes as a result, especially in response to our second concern.
However, we still recommend that AIM users do not switch to the new version, as it introduces important privacy-unfriendly features. Unfortunately, AOL's moves are in keeping with a general trend toward more pervasive cloud-based services in which your personal chat data is centrally stored in plain text and an easy target for law enforcement and criminals. This shift toward central logging is troubling in many situations, including in chat.
Businesses have long known that offering better service and cheaper prices can lure customers, but many of today’s Internet companies are now learning that a commitment to free expression can also be a distinct market advantage. Namecheap saw clear evidence of this last week with their anti-SOPA campaign, in which discounted rates on domain transfers coupled with a $2 donation to support EFF’s efforts to fight the Internet blacklist legislation garnered Namecheap 32,000 new domains in under 2 days. That’s a lot of new customers drawn by a company’s stance on free speech.
In the EFF Action Center, we provide you tools to defend online civil liberties. But if you really want to make a difference, one of the best things you can do is have an in-person meeting with your Congressional representatives. When it happens at your Congresspersons' home office, as compared to in DC, this is known as an in-district meeting.
Congress is on recess this week and next. That means now is the optimal time to contact your elected official for an in-district meeting to emphasize the importance of stopping the blacklist bills. You can do this two ways: just stop by the Congressperson's office and drop off our one-page guide to opposing the blacklist legislation. Or you can use the instructions below to schedule a formal meeting with your congressional representatives.
Slowed Connections in Iran Spark Fears of Intranet Implementation
Late last week, the Iranian government descended deeper into authoritarianism, ordering the takedown of former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani's website. Rafsanjani, who heads an advisory body to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, had previously refused to remove content critical of the government.
If you’re a student passionate about what we do here at EFF, what better way to spend your summer than to work with us on Internet and tech policy? 2012 is the 5th year we’ve offered the Google Policy Fellowship, an opportunity for undergraduate, graduate, and law students to work alongside the international Policy team on projects advancing debate on key public policy issues.
EFF is looking for someone who shares our passion for the free and open Internet, digital civil liberties, privacy, and consumer rights. Applicants must have strong research skills, the ability to produce thoughtful original policy analysis, and a talent for communicating with many different types of audiences.
EFF is pleased to announce the newest member of our legal team, Staff Attorney Mitch Stoltz. At EFF, Mitch will focus on copyright, trademark, trade secrets, and patent issues and policy, including the DMCA exemptions we’ve requested from the Copyright Office, the anti-circumvention provisions of the DMCA, and the ongoing fights around secondary copyright liability.
Previously, Mitch worked on copyright and antitrust litigation for high-tech clients at Constantine Cannon LLP in Washington, D.C. Before his career as an attorney, Mitch was Chief Security Engineer at Netscape and Mozilla.org and interned at the Computer and Communications Industry Association. Mitch has a JD from Boston University and a BA in Public Policy and Computer Science from Pomona College.
In Thailand, details of the most recent victim of lèse majesté laws emerged this week, adding to a long year of crackdowns on free speech in the country. Alongside the news coverage, Freedom Against Censorship Thailand (FACT) published new analyses demonstrating the magnitude of measures the Southeast Asian state has taken to block websites it deems politically offensive.
“[T]he ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas....That at any rate is the theory of our Constitution.”
— Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, dissent in Abrams v. United States, 1919
In the face of mountains of evidence that the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the PROTECT-IP Act (PIPA) will censor online speech, hurt Internet security and infrastructure, and criminalize tools used by human rights activists in oppressive regimes, supporters of the blacklist bills say one subject trumps all others: jobs.
Yet for unknown reasons, Congress is ignoring that SOPA/PIPA would depress the growing tech sector, all while citing the MPAA's misleading and debunked numbers on how piracy is “decimating” their industry.
The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, a nonprofit consumer advocacy and education center based in San Diego, recently launched a new tool to give users a way to speak out about privacy concerns. Privacy Rights Clearinghouse is inviting individuals who have questions about consumer privacy issues, or who are upset about privacy-invasive practices, to use this online form to submit complaints. They promise to provide individual responses to the questions and complaints they receive within a couple days.
While U.S. officials are scrambling to pass domestic Internet censorship legislation in the name of curbing copyright infringement, they’ve been much more effective in their efforts to export these laws abroad. Previously, we’ve examined US attempts to pressure the prior Spanish presidential administration to enact harsh copyright laws. A new letter reported by the Spanish newspaper, El Pais, reveals that the U.S.
When Congress comes back into session at the end of January, both the House and the Senate are expected to make passing the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and PROTECT-IP (PIPA) a top priority. But representatives may want to think twice before voting yes; voters are taking notice. Members of both parties are seeing election opponents explaining how SOPA will censor free speech and stifle innovation, and the presidential candidates are being asked pointed questions about whether they support the bill that will almost certainly kill jobs.
CDT Releases White Paper on Data Retention
Two years ago, the UK dismantled their national ID scheme and shredded their National Identity Registry in response to great public outcry over the privacy-invasive program. Unfortunately privacy protections have been less rosy elsewhere. In Argentina, the national ID fight was lost some time ago. A law enacted during the military dictatorship forced all individuals to obtain a government-mandated ID. Now, they are in the process of enhancing its mandatory National Registry of Persons (RENAPER) with biometric data such as fingerprints and digitized faces. The government plans to repurpose this database in order to facilitate “easy access” to law enforcement by merging this data into a new, security-focused integrated system. This raises the specter of mass surveillance, as Argentinean law enforcement will have access to mass repositories of citizen information and be able to leverage existing facial recognition and fingerprint matching technologies in order to identify any citizen anywhere.
Today, EFF filed suit against the Federal Aviation Administration seeking information on drone flights in the United States. The FAA is the sole entity within the federal government capable of authorizing domestic drone flights, and for too long now, it has failed to release specific and detailed information on who is authorized to fly drones within US borders.
Chinese netizen slapped with ten year sentence
China's repression of online dissent is no secret. The country leads the way in both sophistication and extent of its online censorship, and tops the list of countries that jail bloggers by a landslide. In 2012, it would seem things are only getting worse.
The Iranian regime is doing everything they can to scare their citizens into silence. Ranked among the worst in the world in terms of online censorship, Iran has taken harsher, increasingly sophisticated steps to stifle free expression online and condemn the act of information sharing in light of increasing political and economic tensions. While a recent initiative to create a national “halal” Internet would essentially block Iranians from the outside world, last week the country’s Ministry of Information Communication Technology (MICT) also issued regulations that force Internet cafés to install security cameras, document users’ browsing history and usage data, as well as collect personal information for each session of use. Worse still, bloggers continue to be arrested, detained, and now, even sentenced to death.
If there were ever a lawsuit that invited sanctions against the people who filed it, this one is it: a case against two database developers by a company that claims a copyright on the time of day.
Security Experts and Tech Investors Scheduled to Testify; Worldwide Internet Protest Gathering
There’s some good news in the efforts to stop the Internet blacklist bills (SOPA/PIPA): Representative Darrell Issa, an outspoken SOPA critic and the author of alternative legislation called the OPEN Act, has announced that the Oversight and Government Reform Committee will hold a hearing on January 18 to hear from actual technical experts, technology job creators, Internet investors and legal scholars.
Looks like proponents of the Internet Blacklist Bills are finally beginning to realize that they won't be able to ram through massive, job-killing legislation without a fight. First, Sen. Patrick Leahy, sponsor of the PROTECT-IP Act (PIPA), announced on Thursday that he would recommend that the Senate further study the dangerous DNS blocking provisions in that bill before implementation. Then, a group of six influential senators wrote to Sen. Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader, urging that the Senate slow down and postpone the upcoming vote on PIPA. Sen.
Over the weekend, the Obama administration issued a potentially game-changing statement on the blacklist bills, saying it would oppose PIPA and SOPA as written, and drew an important line in the sand by emphasizing that it “will not support” any bill “that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet."
For more than a year, Icelandic Member of Parliament and EFF client Birgitta Jonsdottir—along with security researchers Jacob Appelbaum and Rop Gonggrijp—has fought the efforts of the Department of Justice to force Twitter to give up information about their online activities. In December of 2010, the government obtained a court order requiring, among other things, Twitter to hand over their IP addresses at login (which can be used to trace their locations) along with a long list of other information. EFF, with the ACLU and a host of private attorneys, fought back, but the U.S. courts rebuffed our efforts.
Join EFF and websites across the world in protesting the dangerous censorship legislation currently pending in Congress.
Today, we watch in awe as the Internet rallies to fight dangerous blacklist legislation, the PROTECT-IP Act in the Senate and the Stop Online Piracy Act in the House. The originality, creativity, and magnitude of action we’re seeing represents exactly what these bills would harm most: the value of a vibrant and open Internet that fosters these activities.
As the day goes on, we will continue to update you on Twitter (@EFF) and in this space. In the meantime, here are some of today’s #SOPAblackout highlights. Thank these organizations for their participation and go here to make your voice heard!
As protests against the U.S. bills SOPA and PIPA sweep the world, Singaporeans are under threat of censorship from their own government. According to Channel News Asia, Singapore Minister for Law K Shanmugam recently revealed that his ministry is in discussion with the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) over piracy issues. At an event organized by the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS), Shanmugam reportedly stated: "We will have to work with the ISPs. And the government will have to work with the ISPs and whether it should be a voluntary regime vis-a-vis the ISPs, or whether it should be legislated."
January 28th is Data Privacy Day, also known as International Privacy Day. To celebrate, EFF is calling on users to protect online privacy by in three ways: download HTTPS Everywhere to ensure you use HTTPS when possible; help us catalog sites that are using HTTPS by contributing to HTTPS Now; and, if you administer a site, commit to enabling HTTPS support in 2012.
HTTPS is a protocol that provides secure Internet transactions between web browsers and web sites. You can check to see if the web page you are visiting uses HTTPS by making sure that the URL at the top of your browser begins with HTTPS rather than HTTP. The "S" stands for secure. Some browsers also indicate that you are using a secure connection by displaying a closed lock in the corner of the browser.
Today was a truly inspiring day in Internet history. Working together, we sent a powerful message to Big Media and the misguided proponents of the Internet blacklist legislation: we will not stand idly by and let you hamper innovation, kill jobs, wreak havoc on Internet security, and undermine free speech. Supporters of SOPA and PIPA say the Internet Blackout day was a "publicity stunt." We say it was a wake-up call.
Yesterday was a defining moment for the global Internet community. The effects of the massive online blackout in protest of U.S. Internet blacklist legislation, SOPA and PIPA, were felt around the world as countless numbers of websites, including Google, Wikipedia, Mozilla, Reddit, BoingBoing, Flickr, Wired, and many others decided to partake in the global action against over-broad and poorly drafted copyright laws that would break the fundamental architecture of the Internet. As last year’s landmark Report of the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Opinion stated, “...Censorship measures should never be delegated to a private entity, and [..] no one should be held liable for content on the Internet of which they are not the author...” The massive opposition from both companies and individuals around the world demonstrates how much these and similar laws would hurt business and innovation and most importantly, restrict online free expression.
Yesterday, in the largest online protest in Internet history, more than 115,000 websites altered millions of web pages to stand in opposition to SOPA and PIPA, the Internet blacklist bills. Some sites — Wikipedia, Reddit, Boing Boing, Craigslist and others — completely shut down for the day, replacing their sites with material to educate the public about the bill’s dangers. Others, like Google and Mozilla, sent users to a petition or action center to express their concerns to Congress.
1/20/12 UPDATE: The Senate cloture vote on PIPA has been postponed.
Yesterday's anti-blacklist legislation protests were fantastically successful - in the past 24 hours, key lawmakers have withdrawn their support for the proposed legislation or come out against it - but we still have a long way to go in the fight to stop SOPA and PIPA from becoming law. On Monday the 23rd, the Senate is back in session and scheduled to vote on PIPA the next day. Now, more than ever, it's important to keep the pressure on, so call your Senator and tell him or her that it's time to stand with the Internet and against the Internet blacklist bills!
The misguided proponents of the disastrous Internet blacklist bills have blinked. Today, Senator Harry Reid announced he would postpone a cloture vote on PIPA scheduled for next Tuesday, which means, as a practical matter, that the bill is dead for now. Shortly after that announcement, Representative Lamar Smith issued a statement conceding PIPA's evil House stepsister, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), also wasn't ready for prime time.
MPAA Chairman Chris Dodd gave an interview to the New York Times yesterday, in which "Mr. Dodd said he would welcome a summit meeting between Internet companies and content companies, perhaps convened by the White House, that could lead to a compromise." While framed by the Times as his acceptance of defeat (the MPAA had rejected a prior meeting), the article shows that Dodd still doesn't get it.
Are you an undergraduate or graduate student who is interested in protecting civil liberties online and fighting for a free and open Internet? Do you have strong writing and research skills? Do you love delving into the latest issues in technology, privacy, intellectual property, and transparency? Apply for EFF’s Summer Activism Internship!
The Activism Intern will work closely with EFF’s activism team to create new campaigns, action alerts, and issue pages, research new issues in digital civil liberties, and update existing web pages on EFF’s sprawling website.
EFF is seeking candidates with the following qualifications:
Last week was a pretty good one for copyright law, what with a massive protest against disastrous legislation, that, hooray, got Congress to pay attention and put the legislation on hold. Unfortunately, last week we also saw the results of another bad law that Congress did manage to push through, back before the Internet existed in anything like its present form. Ignoring the pleas of musicians, composers, libraries, archives and public interest groups, the Supreme Court declared that Congress did not violate the Constitution when it yanked millions of foreign works out of the publ
A federal district court in Colorado has handed down an unfortunate early ruling (pdf) in a case in which the government is attempting to force a criminal defendant to decrypt the contents of a laptop.
After the Washington Post wrote about the Texas Department of Public Safety’s (DPS) and other domestic law enforcement agencies’ use of drones last January, EFF filed a Public Information Act request with the agency for more information. The Texas DPS was very forthcoming and not only sent us unredacted records of their program but also agreed to provide more information over the phone. The records they sent us are linked at the bottom of this post, and I was able to speak with Mr.
EFF is thrilled by the news that Egyptian blogger Maikel Nabil (Sanad), detained since March 2011, was released today, just one day prior to the anniversary of Egypt's January 25 uprising. Though earlier reports suggested Nabil would not be released until the 26th, Al Masry Al Youm reported his release late Tuesday evening.
Nearly four months after first announcing it would support pseudonyms, Google rolled out changes to the account creation process for Google+ yesterday. The changes will allow users the option of choosing a nickname/alternate name to display in his or her Google+ profile, or choosing a pseudonym which is not linked a real name.
Nicknames address the needs of users who want to display the alternate name they may be known by, or a maiden name, as well as foreign-language users who want to use an alternate name. Users who select a nickname should note, however, that Google plans to roll out nicknames to other services, so that funny college nickname you use on Google+ might appear on your professional Picasa account one day.
In the latest turn in our Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit for records related to the government’s use of social networking websites, the Department of Justice finally agreed to release almost 100 pages of new records. These include draft search warrants and affidavits for Facebook and MySpace and several PowerPoint presentations and articles on how to use social networking sites for investigations.
Does using cloud computing services based in the United States create a risk of US law enforcement access to people's data? The US Department of Justice (DOJ) seems to be trying to placate international concern by saying one thing in international fora; but it says something quite different in the US courts.
It has been six years since the highly controversial Data Retention Directive (DRD) was adopted in the European Union. Conceived in the EU and steamrolled by powerful U.S. and U.K. government lobbies, this mass-surveillance law compels EU-based Internet service providers to collect and retain traffic data revealing who communicates with whom by email, phone, and SMS, including the duration of the communication and the locations of the users. This data is often made available to law enforcement. Europeans have widely criticized the DRD, and year after year, it has inspired some of the largest-ever street protests against excessive surveillance.
Last week’s historic protests made clear just what the tech community and Internet users are capable of accomplishing when they act together – not only have the Protect IP Act (PIPA) and its House counterpart, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), been tabled for now, but in a welcome change, the public debate has increasingly considered the interests of Internet users and the opinions of those who actually understand how the technology works. Despite this, we keep hearing people ask: what’s next? And where do we go from here? Our answers: We don’t need legislation. And let’s keep moving innovation forward.
Last week, at the urging of the Dutch anti-piracy group BREIN, the Court of The Hague ordered two ISPs to block subscriber access to The Pirate Bay. This is the second major attempt by BREIN to cut off users' access to The Pirate Bay in the Netherlands. The first, a 2010 court ruling directly against the popular torrent site, was all but ignored by its founders.
The two ISPs — Ziggo, the largest cable operator in the Netherlands, and XS4ALL, known for its vocal free-speech advocacy — have until February 1 to block access to a list of URLs and IP addresses specified in the court order.
We have interviewed Malte Spitz, a German politician and privacy advocate. Malte is well-known for using German privacy law—which, like the law of many European countries, gives individuals a right to see what private companies know about them—to force his cell phone carrier to reveal what it knew about him.
This January 28 marks International Privacy Day. Different countries around the world are celebrating this day with their own events. This year, we are honoring the day by calling attention to recent international privacy threats and interviewing data protection authorities, government officials, and activists to gain insight into various aspects of privacy rights and related legislation in their own respective countries.
UPDATE: The bill has been tabled after being greeted by "vehement opposition."
Three years ago this past weekend, on his first full day in office, President Barack Obama issued his now infamous memo on transparency and open government, which was supposed to fulfill his campaign promise to lead the “most transparent administration in history.” Instead, his administration has been just as secretive—if not more so—than his predecessors, and the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) has become the prime example of his administration’s lack of progress.
If there’s one thing that encapsulates what’s wrong with the way government functions today, ACTA is it. You wouldn’t know it from the name, but the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement is a plurilateral agreement designed to broaden and extend existing intellectual property (IP) enforcement laws to the Internet. While it was only negotiated between a few countries,1 it has global consequences. First because it will create new rules for the Internet, and second, because its standards will be applied to other countries through the U.S.’s annual Special 301 process.
Yesterday, Twitter announced in a blog post that it was launching a system that would allow the company to take down content on a country-by-country basis, as opposed to taking it down across the Twitter system. The Internet immediately exploded with allegations of censorship, conspiracy theories about Twitter’s Saudi investors and automated content filtering, and calls for a January 28 protest. One thing is clear: there is widespread confusion over Twitter's new policy and what its implications are for freedom of expression all over the world.