Right now, representatives from nine countries including the United States are secretly meeting in a luxury hotel in Beverly Hills to negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, a trade agreement with the potential to contain intellectual property provisions that go beyond ACTA. These secret meetings could create over-reaching new rules and standards that will choke off the online speech of individuals, websites, and platforms accused of copyright infringement.
But because the meetings are held behind closed doors and the text has not been released to the public, the citizens who will be affected do not know the details and don’t have a voice.
You don’t need us to tell you that your position on anti-"piracy" laws has been unpopular recently. Last month’s historic protests, with millions of Americans registering their opposition, have made that point pretty clear. Instead, we’re writing today to tell you that the Internet can be great for creators and their community, but your own leadership refuses to recognize and take advantage of its promise. It seems they’d rather spend your membership dues on lawyers, lobbyists and astroturf than innovation. We suspect many of you are realizing this, especially when you see how successful new business models can be.
Paulus Le Son, a blogger detained in Vietnam since August 2011
Arrests of Dissident Bloggers Continue in Vietnam
As we have previously covered, the Vietnamese government continues to crack down on bloggers and writers who have spoken out against the Communist regime. Alternative news site, Vietnam Redemptorist News, has been targeted by the state and several of their active contributors have been arrested. Paulus Le Son, 26, is one of the most active bloggers who was arrested without a warrant.
Every three years, the Copyright Office reviews requests for exemptions to the "anti-circumvention" rules in the DMCA. EFF has successfully lobbied for a number of exemptions in the past, and we're working to renew and expand those exemptions now. You can get behind our efforts by signing on today to letters of support: the filmmaker Kirby Ferguson is telling the Copyright Office why video ripping is so important to filmmakers and video artists, and the game system hacker bunnie Huang is addressing why we need to keep jailbreaking legal for all devices.
Omani Blogger Arrested
The Sultanate of Oman has received little attention throughout the so-called Arab Spring, despite unprecedented protests last February. Although there is no reported online political censorship, reports that the government monitors private communications, as well as the country's recently amended penal code (which suggests punishment for those charged with weakening the "prestige of the state"), suggest that the Omani blogosphere likely engages in self-censorship. Despite that, no blogger has ever been reported arrested in the Gulf country...until now.
On Wednesday, EFF will give recommendations to the European Parliament for how to combat one of the most troubling problems facing democracy activists around the world: the fact that European and American companies are providing key surveillance technology to authoritarian governments that is then being used to aid repression.
EFF has asked the U.S. Copyright Office to declare that jailbreaking smartphones, tablets, and game consoles does not violate the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and there are only two days left to submit comments to the Copyright Office, or to sign on to letters supporting our exemption requests from video game system hacker bunnie Huang and “Everything is a Remix” filmmaker Kirby Ferguson. We’ve already heard from many device users who have spoken up to explain why installing the software they choose on the devices they own should stay legal.
We really have to wonder when the message is going to sink in. On January 18, millions of Internet users spoke out together in one of the most profound and effective uses of technology to organize political opposition in U.S. history, sending a clear message to Congress that voters will not tolerate crippling of the Internet. But big content remains tone deaf to this chorus of Internet users.
How India is losing its footing on free expression.
The world’s biggest democracy is a formidable power in the IT sector. With software exports comprising approximately ten percent of India’s total GDP and a technology sector that employs more than 2.5 million people, India is poised to become a global industry leader. Over the past ten years, India has also experienced a rapid increase in Internet penetration, growing from 5.5 million users in 2000 to 61.3 million in 2009, and government initiatives have brought the Internet to rural areas by way of setting up cybercafés, in the hopes of closing the country’s digital divide.
Earlier this week, a Singapore-based iOS software developer made a startling discovery while working with the popular social-networking app Path: in the course of every new account creation, Path uploads the new user’s entire iPhone address book to their servers. To its credit, Path responded quickly, with its CEO and co-founder Dave Morin explaining that they use the address book data for “friend-finding” and “nothing more.” He also asserted that this technique was an industry standard for social iOS apps.
Millions of people are using online dating sites to search for love or connection, but users should beware: many online dating sites are taking short cuts in safeguarding the privacy and security of users. Whether it’s due to counter-intuitive privacy settings or serious security flaws, users of online dating profiles risk their privacy and security every day. Here are six sobering facts about online dating services and a few suggestions for routing around the privacy pitfalls.
For the hundreds of thousands of users searching for that special someone through one of the largest free online dating sites, the love fest may be coming to an end. OkCupid is putting users’ privacy in danger by failing to support secure access to its entire website through HTTPS. Every OkCupid email, chat session, search, clicked link, page viewed, and username is transmitted over the Internet in unencrypted plaintext, where it can be intercepted and read by anyone on the network.
In countries across the world, content copyright industries have been lobbying for laws that would break the Internet in the name of copyright enforcement. Such regulations could terminate user access to the Internet on an allegation of copyright infringement, enact website blocking powers that would make parts of the global Internet disappear from view, and impose digital locks laws that stifle online innovation and restrict the ability to use lawfully acquired digital content. Canada is the latest target. With Canada’s Copyright Modernization Act (Bill C-11) returning to committee in the Canadian Parliament, now is the time for Canadian netizens to take action to protect the free and open Internet by signing the petition jointly supported by OpenMedia.ca and the Samuelson-Glushko Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC).
While copyright owners claim that they need anti-circumvention laws to address copyright infringement, twelve years’ experience with the U.S. DMCA provisions demonstrates that overbroad digital locks laws can wreak havoc on lawful, non copyright-infringing activities, stifle free speech and scientific research, and harm innovation and competition. The issue is that overbroad anti-circumvention bans can override exceptions and limitations in national copyright laws, restricting or eliminating perfectly lawful non-copyright infringing uses of copyrighted works.
EFF is pleased to announce that our legal director and general counsel, Cindy Cohn, will be honored as a champion of the First Amendment by the Society of Professional Journalists, Northern California Chapter.
Cindy is one of a dozen recipients of this year’s James Madison Award honoring local journalists, organizations, and others who fight for access to government information and promote the public’s right to know. SPJ singled out Cindy’s litigation and oversight of First Amendment and open government cases, like the NSA spying on Americans’ communications.
Cindy and the other award winners will be honored March 15 at the City Club of San Francisco. Congratulations Cindy!
Hamza Kashgari is under threat. The blogger and journalist fled to Malaysia from Saudi Arabia on February 8 after tweets he wrote about the Prophet Mohammed provoked clerics to demand he be tried for apostasy and members of the public to call for his murder. After arriving in Malaysia on his way to a third country, however, he was arrested by security officials at Kuala Lumpur airport, according to a report from Human Rights Watch. Kashgari is currently under threat of extradition to Saudi Arabia. The Guardian has reported Malaysian sources as stating that the request for extradition came from Interpol, a charge that Interpol denies.
This week has seen a marked increase in the blocking and filtering of certain kinds of Internet traffic in Iran. The Iranian government has not openly acknowledged these new measures, but they are widely thought to be preliminary steps towards a nation-wide Halal Internet that would cut off a majority of citizens from the global web and replace it with one that would effectively block all foreign sites and only allow state-controlled content to e accessed within Iran.
2011 was by many accounts ‘the year of the protester.’ From Tunisia to Oakland, activists took to the streets—and to social networks—to express themselves and their grievances. But while many were successful in using online tools in their activism, others faced grave consequences.
Update: The hearing has concluded and the verdict will be read out on April 30th.
On February 15, a verdict will be handed down that determines whether or not the Tunisian Internet Agency (ATI) will need to censor pornography on the Internet. Last May, after receiving--and unsuccessfully attempting to block--an order to censor such websites, the ATI appealed the decision citing, among other things, a lack of financial resources. As a result, the case was sent to the Court of Cassation, Tunisia’s highest court
All Tunisians have a reason to be concerned: Under the rule of Ben Ali, it wasn’t just obscene content that was unavailable to citizens, but political opposition websites, information on human rights, even YouTube.
Update (2012-02-17): After some investigation and facts that came to light as a result of a parallel experiment by researcher Nadia Heninger at UC San Diego and collaborators at the University of Michigan, it seems the scope of the problem with respect to keys associated with X.509 certificates is limited primarily to certificates that exist for embedded devices such as routers, firewalls, and VPN devices. The small number of vulnerable, valid CA-signed certificates have already been identified and the relevant parties have been notified. Nadia's excellent blog post provides a good overview of the situation right now. We are working with her on disclosure and to provide people with tools to audit against these types of vulnerabilities via the Decentralized SSL Observatory.
Everyone, take a deep breath: it seems we’ve had a moment of sanity in the patent wars. Last week, a jury invalidated the dangerous Eolas patents, which their owner claimed covered, well, essentially the whole Internet. The patents were originally granted for an invention that helped doctors to view images of embryos over the early Web. A few years later, smelling quick cash, their owner insisted that they had a veto right on any mechanism used to embed an object in a web document. Really? The patents were obvious—now in 2012, and back in 1994, when the first one was filed. Thankfully, a jury realized that and did what should have happened years ago: it invalidated these dangerous patents.
News emerged from Morocco last week that 18-year-old Walid Bahomane was sent to a juvenile facility to await trial on charges of “defaming Morocco's sacred values” for a Facebook post about the country's monarch. There is now news that yet another young Moroccan is in trouble for online comments about the king.
As the Washington Post reports, a Moroccan court sentenced 25-year-old Abdelsamad Haydour in the city of Taza for “violating the sacred values” of the North African monarchy after posting a YouTube video in which he accused King Mohammed VI of oppressing the Moroccan people, calling the monarch "a dog, a dictator and a murderer."
In a report published last week, members of the United Kingdom Parliament concluded that the Internet plays a major role in the radicalization of terrorists and called on the government to pressure Internet Service Providers in Britain and abroad to censor online speech. The Roots of Violent Radicalisation places the Internet ahead of prisons, universities, and religious establishments in propagating radical beliefs and ultimately recommends that the government “develop a code of practice for the removal of material which promotes violent extremism” binding ISPs.
Last week, EFF gave its recommendations to EU parliament on what steps to take to combat a growing and dangerous civil liberties concern: Western companies marketing and selling mass surveillance technology to authoritarian regimes. This technology has been linked to harassment, arrests, and even torture of journalists, human rights advocates, and democratic activists in many Middle East countries over the past year.
Ten years ago this week, the Budapest Open Access Initiative (BOAI) was released to the public. This seminal document explained how technology could revolutionize academic publishing, and defined "open access" as the free and unrestricted availability of peer-reviewed journal literature online. Perhaps most importantly, the BOAI laid out a strategy for making open access a reality. In the decade since its publication, the 13 original signatories behind the initiative have been joined by a still-growing collection of over 5500 individuals and 600 organizations.
Razan Ghazzawi and eleven of her colleagues at the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression were arrested today during a raid on their office. The Syrian Air Force's Intelligence Division in civilian dress and vehicles took the arrestees to an undisclosed location. This is the second time Ghazzawi has been arrested in the past few months; she was freed 15 days after the previous arrest. She is a U.S.-born Syrian who contributes to Global Voices Online and Global Voices Advocacy and has been an outspoken about her opposition to the Syrian regime.
Earlier today, the Wall Street Journal published evidence that Google has been circumventing the privacy settings of Safari and iPhone users, tracking them on non-Google sites despite Apple's default settings, which were intended to prevent such tracking.
This tracking, discovered by Stanford researcher Jonathan Mayer, was a technical side-effect—probably an unintended side-effect—of a system that Google built to pass social personalization information (like, “your friend Suzy +1'ed this ad about candy”) from the google.com domain to the doubleclick.net domain. Further technical explanation can be found below.
News broke Tuesday that a British police agency called the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA), had taken control of the popular music blog RnBXclusive and arrested one of the site’s creators for fraud. The normal content from the site was completely unavailable, replaced with a new splash page: a notice from SOCA stating that it had taken control of the domain. Initial reports claimed that that the RnBXclusive.com domain had been seized by the UK government agency -- bringing to mind images of a post-SOPA fractured Internet -- but it turned out that the website takeover was done with the cooperation of the UK-based hosting company, Rackspace’s UK arm. For its part, Rackspace claimed that the music site was taken down for breaching its Terms and Conditions.
In another important victory for Internet users’ fundamental rights and the open Internet, the highest court in Europe ruled yesterday that social networks cannot be required to monitor and filter their users’ communications to prevent copyright infringement of music and movies. The European Court of Justice (ECJ) found that imposing a broad filtering obligation on social networks would require active monitoring of users’ files in violation of EU law and could undermine citizens’ freedom of expression.
Yesterday, the Northern District Court of Florida halted 27 copyright troll lawsuits targeting more than 3,500 Doe defendants while it examines whether the copyright trolls' lawyer, Tarik Hashmi of the Transnational Law Group, is properly allowed to practice law in Florida. The cases include copyright troll lawsuits Hashmi filed on behalf of, among others, Third Degree Films, Inc.; Patrick Collins, Inc.; and SBO Pictures, Inc.; (a full list can be found in the attached order). The cases were moving along rapidly until three Doe defendants called the court's attention to a Cease and Desist Affidavit that Hashmi submitted to the Florida State Bar in 2010. The affidavit stated Hashmi was not licensed to practice law in Florida and would not conduct legal actions until he was licensed by the state.
Mr. Hashmi has until March 9 to respond to the allegations. Any person who has been contacted about these suits should know that they have been stopped.
This is the second part in an EFF series. Part I, on UK-based FinFisher and France-based Amesys, can be read here.
[UPDATE 2/22/2012] It is important to note that disabling Web History in your Google account will not prevent Google from gathering and storing this information and using it for internal purposes. More information at the end of this post.
Iranian netizen under immedate threat of execution
According to a report from Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Saeed Malekpour, the 36-year-old web and circumvention tool developer who in January was sentenced to death, is now under threat of immedate execution. In the report, RSF writes: "The family of Saeed Malekpour [has reported] that his sentence order has been sent to the office responsible for carrying out sentences, which means that he could [be] executed at any time during the coming hours or days." Malekpour is currently in solitary confinement in Tehran's notorious Evin Prison.
On October 1, 2011, over 700 Occupy Wall Street protesters were arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge. Most of the protesters, including Malcolm Harris, were charged with the mundane crime of disorderly conduct, a "violation" under New York law that has a maximum punishment of 15 days in jail or a $250 fine.
In a potentially troublesome decision, a federal district court has found that a start-up violated anti-spam and computer crime laws by creating and marketing a browser to let users view their social networking accounts in one place. The case demonstrates the difficulties facing those who seek to empower users to interact with closed services like Facebook in new and innovative ways.
We're happy to announce the arrival of the new EFF Issues T-shirt! The back displays the full constellation of EFF's work areas: Privacy, Free Speech, Transparency, Fair Use, International, and Innovation.
In our ongoing search for a women's T-shirt with the perfect fit, we printed the women's style on Hanes ComfortSoft. These tees feature flattering sleeves and a more comfortable fit for greater ease whether you're navigating a server room, a court room, or the local coffee shop. See our T-shirt size chart for more information.
Today the White House proposed a framework for protecting privacy in the digital age. The plan, laid out in detail in a white paper (pdf), includes a Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights based on well-established fair information practice principles. EFF, which has previously proposed a Bill of Privacy Rights for Social Network Users, believes this user-centered approach to privacy protection is a solid one.
The Administration's bill of rights guarantees:
EFF is deeply disturbed to hear of the stabbing of Jordanian blogger Enass Musallam on Monday in a suburb of the capital, Amman. Musallam is currently recovering in hospital and is in stable condition.
The 19-year-old university student and blogger's attack may have been in response to a blog post (in Arabic) she wrote on February 19 addressed to Jordan's Prince Hassan. In the post, Musallam criticized the Prince for comments he made about protesters in Amman's Palm Tree Square (rough translation: "If I came down to Palm Tree Square, I would sift the lot of you"). Musallam retorted:
When Stanford researcher Jonathan Mayer uncovered a Google workaround to circumvent the default privacy settings on Safari, EFF called on Google to change their tune on privacy by respecting the Do Not Track flag and building it into the Chrome browser. We specifically praised the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) multi-stakeholder process, which for a year has been convening consumer advocates, Internet companies, and technologists to craft how companies that receive the Do Not Track signal should respond.
Online commentators are pointing to the Internet backlash against H.R. 1981 as the new anti-SOPA movement. While this bill is strikingly different from the Stop Online Piracy Act, it does have one thing in common: it’s a poorly-considered legislative attempt to regulate the Internet in a way experts in the field know will have serious civil liberties consequences. This bill specifically targets companies that provide commercial Internet access – like your ISP – and would force them to collect and maintain data on all of their customers, even if those customers have never been suspected of committing a crime.
California State Attorney General Kamala Harris announced an agreement yesterday with six mobile app platform providers aimed at encouraging app developers to provide more accessible privacy policies. The announcement comes at an auspicious moment -- consumer outrage at the recently-discovered address book practices that Path and other app developers claim are "industry standard" shows that there's a serious disconnect when it comes to industry practices and user privacy expectations. But we should be wary about solutions that depend on walled gardens.
Ahead of the Academy Awards this weekend, Chris Dodd, head of the Motion Picture Association of America, would like to assure you that "Hollywood is pro-technology and pro-Internet." But what does that mean? The comments filed at the Copyright Office this month by MPAA and RIAA, together with the Business Software Alliance, the Entertainment Software Association, and other copyright owners' groups, paint a clear picture of these groups' vision for the future of the Internet and digital technologies.
The Pakistani government is looking for new ways to censor the Internet.
As the European Parliament considers passing a directive that would target hacking, EFF has submitted comments urging the legislators not to create legal woes for researchers who expose security flaws.
The world’s attention has recently turned to the question of how to hold companies accountable for knowingly marketing, selling and adapting the tools of surveillance to repressive regimes. U.S. and E.U. companies’ equipment has been linked to torture and other human rights violations in many Middle East and North African countries, along with longstanding cases involving similar allegations in China. Most recently, evidence suggests prominent American journalist Marie Colvin may have been tracked via her satellite phone before being killed by government forces in Syria.