In the latest twist in a bizarre lawsuit targeting The Oatmeal creator Matthew Inman and his “BearLove Good, Cancer Bad” fundraising campaign in support of the American Cancer Society and the National Wildlife Federation, attorney Charles Carreon has run to court to try to stop the distribution of the fund. Today, with the help of EFF and co-counsel Venkat Balasubramani, Inman fought back with an opposition to Carreon's demand for a temporary restraining order.
Today, EFF joins a broad, international coalition of civil society groups calling on elected officials to sign the new Declaration of Internet Freedom and uphold basic rights in the digital world. The Declaration is simple; it offers five core principles that should guide any policy relating to the Internet: stand up for online free expression, openness, access, innovation and privacy. Sign it here.
For too long in the US, Congress has attempted to legislate the Internet in favor of big corporations and heavy-handed law enforcement at the expense of its users’ basic Constitutional rights. Netizens’ strong desire to keep the Internet open and free has been brushed aside as naïve and inconsequential, in favor of lobbyists and special interest groups. Well, no longer.
Secret, undemocratic trade agreements could put shackles on our free open Internet and they need to be stopped before they do. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement is being negotiated behind closed doors in a process that not only excludes civil society and public, but also elected representatives that already have proper security clearance are denied the ability to view and participate in the negotiations. Meanwhile, corporate representatives have full access to the text online. This process is not only lacks any transparency, it’s completely incompatible with our democratic notion of society.
Today EFF has joined a coalition of over 50 organizations from across Europe and around the world in a call for the European Parliament to reject ACTA, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement. The European Parliament vote on the plurilateral agreement is set for this Wednesday, July 4, and follows deliberations from five different parliamentary committees that each urged rejection.
HOPE Number Nine is fast approaching, and EFF staff members are excited to give a slew of talks on everything from drones to location privacy to privacy tricks for web developers. We'll also have attorneys on site to provide information about reverse engineering, vulnerability reporting, copyright, free speech, and more.
If you're planning to attend HOPE Number 9 and you'd like to set up an appointment to speak with us there, please contact us by Monday, July 9. If you'd like to discuss any concerns about talks you plan to give at HOPE, let us know by Friday, July 6. If we can't assist you, we'll make every effort to put you in touch with an attorney who can.
EFF is proud to announce that MuckRock, an open government organization dedicated to helping people send requests for public records, is joining our campaign to find out what local police agencies are doing with drones — and how we can stop their use for surveillance. We are sending out public records requests to every local law enforcement agency with a drone authorization from the FAA. In addition, MuckRock is offering their tools and inviting users to help write their own public records requests to police agencies in their town.
Online Spying Accusations Lobbed at Australia’s Telstra
Telstra, an Australian telco, has been accused of tracking its Next G mobile phone users’ Internet use without their consent, and then sending the data to a United States office of Netsweeper Inc., a Canadian company. A Telstra representative confirmed the practice in comments given to the press, saying the data was being collected “for a new tool to help parents and kids when they're surfing the net."
The practice came to light after a user noticed that a server in the U.S. accessed a given webpage at the exact instant that he visited the page on his mobile device. The systematic tracking and sharing of user data has sparked outrage, and Internet users are now calling for the Australian Privacy Commissioner to investigate.
EFF is extraordinarily pleased to announce that Jon B. Eisenberg will be joining our legal team as a Fellow. Jon is a renowned appellate law expert with more than three decades of experience, and has argued a dozen cases in the California Supreme Court and dozens more in the California Courts of Appeal and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. He is the principal author of “California Practice Guide: Civil Appeals and Writs,” which is widely considered the definitive guide to California appellate practice.
The below is a joint statement from EFF, Knowledge Ecology International, Public Knowledge, Public Citizen, and others. See below for the full list of signatories.
The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative announced a new copyright proposal today for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations. One part of the proposal is a "3-step test" that may restrict copyright exceptions like fair use.
The USTR says that its proposal - the text of which is still secret - will include provisions that may mimic Article 13 of the WTO TRIPS accord, which says:
Members shall confine limitations or exceptions to exclusive rights to certain special cases which do not conflict with a normal exploitation of the work and do not unreasonably prejudice the legitimate interests of the right holder.
This weekend, EFF learned that Bassel Khartabil, a longtime member of the open source software community and Creative Commons volunteer, has been detained in Syria since March 12, 2012, as part of a wave of arrests made in the Mazzeh district of Damascus. For months, Bassel’s family has had no knowledge of his whereabouts or the reason for his arrest. Only recently have they heard from previous detainees at Kafar Sousa that he is being held at this location. This news is especially alarming in light of a recent Human Rights Watch report documenting the use of torture in 27 detention facilities run by Syrian intelligence agencies.
Thank you to all of this year's D(EFF)CONtestants and to the individuals who donated in support of digital civil liberties! We topped last year's fundraising total bringing in $8,572 — well done! Every penny helps fund the legal briefs, research, educational resources, and activism campaigns necessary to protect freedom online, so in that sense we are all winners here. In a more immediate sense, here are the winners who will walk away with some super-1337 prizes:
When Google released its new Copyright Transparency Report on takedown requests of its Search results, we got new insights into the massive number of complaints the search giant receives. We also saw that there are many requests that don't seem to meet the standard of a "good faith belief" of infringement. Google said in the report that it refuses to comply with requests that are obviously inaccurate or intentionally abusive, which accounts for about 3% of the total. While Google deserves to be commended for that example of good citizenship, they can't catch everything.
Despite Twitter's (and our) best efforts, it has been ordered to disclose to the government all of the information it has on an Occupy Wall Street protester.
It’s a very good day for Internet freedom – a controversial, anti-privacy data retention mandate is notably absent from the child protection bill recently introduced by Rep. Lamar Smith. SOPA-author Lamar Smith had previously introduced H.R. 1981, which would have mandated that ISPs collect and maintain data on Internet users not suspected of any crime. Under the bill, ISPs would be required to keep historical records on IP address assignments, which raised serious civil liberties concerns. We’re heartened to see these troubling provisions are not present in the replacement bill, Child Protection Act of 2012 (H.R. 6063).
Today, two representatives of Public Citizen delivered the Stop the Trap petition—which has received over 90,000 signatures—to United States Trade Representative (USTR) officer Barbara Weisel. The petition is aimed at key government leaders and trade representatives of countries involved in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations, and it calls on them to drop all provisions in the agreement that would place heavy restrictions on the Internet and digital freedoms. We have endorsed this petition along with OpenMedia.Ca, Public Citizen, Public Knowledge, ONG Derechos Digitales, Free Press, Internet NZ, and others.
Yesterday, Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) revealed that federal, state and local law enforcement agencies have made an astounding 1.3 million demands for user cell phone data in the last year, “seeking text messages, caller locations and other information.” The New York Times called the new findings proof of “an explosion in cellphone surveillance” in the United States—much of it done without a warrant. Worse, the eye-popping figure is actually a significant underestimate; the actual number is “almost certainly much higher" than reported, according to the Times:
The current patent system is flawed and makes it easy for corporations (like Apple and Microsoft) to abuse the system. Patents are being used as an anti-competitive weapon. This must stop if we are to create a dynamic economy.
– Marius Caldas, Senior Software Engineer, Atlanta, GA
EFF—together with Public Knowledge, two national library associations, and U.S. PIRG—submitted a brief yesterday urging the United States Supreme Court to begin the process of rescuing first sale rights, which have been under assault for decades.
The brief was filed in the case of Wiley v. Kirtsaeng, which turns on the re-sale of textbooks in the U.S. This fall, hundreds of thousands of students will head off to college, ready to fill their heads with knowledge. What they may not realize yet is that they will also be filling the coffers of U.S. textbook publishers, which sell required college texts at exorbitant prices knowing students have little choice but to cough up the cash.
Thousands of security researchers, information security professionals and hackers descend on Las Vegas each summer for a trio of conferences: Black Hat USA, DEF CON, and BSides Las Vegas. We launched our Coders' Rights Project at Black Hat four years ago to help programmers and developers navigate the murky laws surrounding security research. Every year since then, our attorneys have been on hand in Las Vegas to provide legal information on reverse engineering, vulnerability reporting, copyright law, free speech, and more, and we're thrilled to return again this summer.
For weeks, thousands of Sudanese have taken to the streets, protesting austerity policies enacted by President Omar al-Bashir and his regime, which has been in power since 1989. Journalists covering the story have faced challenges, including detention and—for foreign correspondents—deportation. In June, Sudanese security services arrested Bloomberg reporter Salma El Wardany along with Prominent Sudanese blogger Maha El Sanousi, who was briefly detained. El Wardany found herself deported back to Egypt. Sudanese authorities also arrested Agence France-Presse reporter Simon Martelli, holding him for more than 12 hours without charges.
Today, Russian-language Wikipedia, Livejournal, and other prominent RuNet websites have gone dark to protest Bill № 89417-6, which is currently being considered in the Duma. The bill is comprised of amendments that create an Internet blacklist which opponents say poses a serious threat to freedom of expression in Russia. The blackout follows in the footsteps of other similar high-profile protests against Internet censorship bills, including SOPA/PIPA in the United States, and DDL Intercettazioni in Italy.
Last week, at the latest round of Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations in San Diego, California, the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) announced that it has proposed a new provision on limitations and exceptions to copyright. It's nice to hear about a proposal that seems to expand limitations like fair use, and it is also nice to see that – finally - the USTR is listening to the technology industries. However, the draft treaty itself is still secret so the implications of this new provision are in fact ambiguous. We can’t know what their proposal means for copyright without knowing what’s in the rest of the chapter.
When Customer Service Gets Creepy
With commercial use of biometrics and online tracking on the rise, emerging customer service products threaten to sacrifice consumer privacy for the sake of convenience and security.
Take, for example, the mobile “solution” a home-delivery services company called Blackbay dreamed up to solve the problem of missed package deliveries in the UK. The company has developed a smartphone app that can utilize social media networks to track recipients’ locations, enabling delivery drivers to zip packages straight to the customer – wherever they happen to be. Upon arrival, mobile face recognition technology could be used to ensure the parcel is delivered to the right person, according to this article.
Copyright trolls lost one of their knobby clubs this week. Judge Lewis Kaplan of the U.S. district court in Manhattan ruled that the owner of an Internet connection cannot be found liable for "negligence" simply because another person uses his wifi connection to commit copyright infringement -- even if he knows about it. After this decision, copyright trolls should find it harder to coerce settlement payments from innocent people for the commonplace act of sharing an Internet connection.
In this case, Liberty Media Holdings v. Tabora, a well-known copyright troll (also known as Patrick Collins) sued a Comcast Internet subscriber for negligence based on his housemate's alleged BitTorrent downloads. The owner of the Internet connection allegedly confessed to the troll that he knew his housemate was doing some infringing downloads.
Even after millions rallied against the passage of SOPA/PIPA, the House is still quietly trying to pass a related bill that would give the entertainment industry more permanent, government-funded spokespeople. The Intellectual Property, Competition, and the Internet Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee recently held a hearing on Lamar Smith's IP Attaché Act (PDF), a bill that increases intellectual property policing around the world. The Act would create an Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property, as well as broaden the use of IP attachés in particular U.S. embassies. (The attachés were notably present in Sec. 205 of SOPA—which was also introduced by Smith.)
Law Enforcement Demands User Cell Phone Data 1.3 Million Times
EFF is proud to announce that we've joined the International Freedom of Expression eXchange (IFEX) as a 2012 interim member. IFEX is a network of more than 90 independent organizations in more than 50 countries worldwide that works to expose free expression violations around the world.
By joining IFEX, EFF will have streamlined access to information from grassroots organizations around the globe fighting for free expression and will be able to contribute our expertise and our voice in working toward our shared goals. IFEX counts as members esteemed organizations as the Committee to Protect Journalists, Privacy International, and Reporters Without Borders, among many others.
The people spoke, and politicians finally listened. Last week, the European Parliament rejected the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) in a rare sweeping majority vote. After years of secretive negotiations over this international agreement that would crudely protect intellectual property at the expense of Internet freedom, it has been defeated in Europe. Opposition elsewhere in the world continues to flourish, as suspicion grows that the remaining signatory countries may still be obligated to uphold the agreement and ratify it into their laws.
Photo by lrumiha (BY)
Since March of this year, EFF has reported extensively on the ongoing campaign to use social engineering to install surveillance software that spies on Syrian activists. Syrian opposition activists have been targeted using several Trojans, including one disguised as a Skype encryption tool and others disguised as revolutionary documents.
As a headline from Reporters Without Borders stated today, the number of citizen journalists killed or arrested in Syria rises daily. While some, such as Razan Ghazzawi—who won Frontline Defenders' award for Human Rights Defenders at Risk—have received ample international attention for their plight, many others have gone largely ignored by the media.
Today, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a district court order imposing sanctions on Evan Stone, attorney for adult film producer Mick Haig Productions, who improperly issued subpoenas without leave of court to ISPs seeking the identities of anonymous subscribers in a mass end-user copyright infringement case.
This week, comments from Democratic Senators, a panel of witnessses, and the director of the National Security Agency (NSA) called on the Senate to enact cybersecurity legislation. But a new poll shows that Americans don't want to sacrifice civil liberties by allowing unfettered data exchanges between corporations and the government. Discussions this week were part of an effort to break the partisan stalemate over the Cybersecurity Act, a bill that would allow Internet companies to monitor the sensitive communications of users and pass that data to the government without any judicial oversight.
We just received new information today about drone flights in the United States, including extensive details about the specific drone models some entities are flying, where they fly, how frequently they fly, and how long they stay in the air. The 125 drone certificates and accompanying documents the FAA released today total thousands of pages and were released in response to EFF’s Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, which has already uncovered the list of all entities licensed to fly domestic drones.
Bloggers Under Fire in the Gulf
In Wake of Carrier IQ Scandal, Berkeley Study Shows Americans Have Serious Qualms About Mobile Industry Practices
Good news, TV fans! Aereo, a startup that lets viewers watch broadcast TV over the Internet from tiny, personal antennas, can stay up and running - at least for now. Several television networks are trying to sue it out of existence, beginning with a motion asking a federal court to shut it down until a legal decision is reached. It's a typical move, and one that forces many innovative startups into bankruptcy long before any court has ruled on whether their business is legal. Last week, however, Judge Alison Nathan of the federal court in Manhattan denied the motion and made Aereo the first Internet TV business of its kind to live long enough to defend its business model.
EFF Joins Mozilla, Fight for the Future, Public Knowledge and Others in Launching the Internet Defense League
Australia is the latest democratic nation to introduce new national security measures that would vastly expand governmental surveillance powers, following an alarming legislative pattern that’s also unfolded in the United Kingdom and Canada in recent months.
Just as EFF sounded the alarm about the UK’s attempt to move forward with a mass surveillance bill and kept the pressure on before Canada’s online surveillance bill was temporarily shelved in the face of an outcry from privacy advocates, we’re ready to join Australians in pushing back against this latest bid for greater online spying powers Down Under.
Since the first national security letter statute was passed in 1986, the FBI has issued hundreds of thousands of such letters seeking private telecommunications and financial records of Americans without any prior approval from courts. Indeed, for the period between 2003 and 2006 alone, almost 200,000 requests for private customer information were sought pursuant to various NSL statutes. Prior to 2011, the constitutionality of this legal authority to investigate the records of Americans without court oversight had been challenged in court -- as far as we know -- exactly one time.
As has been widely reported, an official Romney campaign ad that showed President Obama singing a line from the Al Green song "Let's Stay Together" has been hit with a takedown from BMG Rights Management — the group that controls the publishing rights of the original song — and pulled from YouTube. The takedown is an obvious abuse of the DMCA process: the ad was a clear fair use and therefore noninfringing.
Today, EFF Staff Attorney Jennifer Lynch urged Congress to limit the collection of biometrics and protect privacy with respect to the use of face recognition technology. Jennifer’s testimony [PDF] in a Senate hearing on “What Facial Recognition Technology Means for Privacy and Civil Liberties” outlined the privacy and security concerns that are inherent to automatic face recognition.
With the opening ceremony of the London Olympics 2012 drawing near, the colossal security apparatus surrounding the Summer Games has come into focus.
For starters, things got messy in London last week when G4S, the private firm that won the contract to provide security for the games, admitted it wouldn’t be able to deliver the promised number of security guards. To make up for the shortfall, the UK government plans to deploy an additional 3,500 soldiers.
The ability to speak openly is a hallmark of the Internet. Bloggers are able to create, commend, and criticize at will, as our Constitutionally protected right to free speech carries through both online and off. Sometimes, however, legitimate speech can be censored by strategic defamation lawsuits known as Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP). These frivilous lawsuits are often filed by plaintiffs with deep pockets and have little to no chance of winning, yet are aimed at pressuring the target into settling for fear of expensive litigation.
EFF has joined a diverse collection groups signing on to a brief prepared by the Competitive Enterprise Institute to support the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) in its call for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to conduct a legally required notice-and-comment rulemaking for its "advanced imaging" scanners. The TSA is currently operating 700 such scanners in nearly 190 U.S. airports.
For months, we’ve been raising the alarm about the serious civil liberties implications of the cybersecurity bills making their way through the Senate. Hours ago, we received some good news. A new bill called the Cybersecurity Act of 2012 (S 3414) is replacing the prior Lieberman-Collins Cybersecurity Act (S 2150). This new bill drastically improves upon the previous bill by addressing the most glaring privacy concerns. This is huge, and it’s thanks to the outcry of Internet users like you worried about their online privacy. Check out the new bill (PDF).
The January 18th blackout protesting the Stop Online Piracy Act (“SOPA”) was an unprecedented event in Internet history. Within 24 hours, dangerous and draconian copyright legislation went from being a forgone conclusion in Congress to completely rejected by its members. Still, many observers have remarked that, despite the protest’s effectiveness, the result was a fluke. It was a perfect storm of companies and people coming together that could not be replicated, they've said, and nothing has really changed.
Last week, EFF was dismayed to learn that Ethiopian journalist and blogger Eskinder Nega had been sentenced to eighteen years in prison under a sweeping and overbroad Anti-Terrorism Proclamation. More than one hundred other Ethiopians, including nine journalists, have been sentenced under the vague law. In December 2011, two Swedish journalists were convicted on charges of supporting terrorism.
Canada’s online surveillance bill may be on hold for now, but a recent news article confirms that a rather formidable figure has been angling for its return: Richard Fadden, head of the Canadian equivalent of the FBI. Fadden, director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), wrote in a letter that the highly contentious Bill C-30 was “vital” to protecting national security. The letter was sent to Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, the driver behind Bill C-30, in late February. It was released to the Canadian Press in response to a request filed under the Access to Information Act.
FAA Releases Thousands of Pages of Drone Records to EFF
In response to EFF’s , which has already uncovered the, last week, the FAA released the certificates of authorization and other records related to those authorizations for 18 state and federal agencies flying drones, totaling thousands of pages of newly uncovered records.
The newest batch of FAA documents mainly address safety issues with drone flights, but spur many unanswered questions about the privacy implications of drones. EFF continues to look through the documents and will report on them shortly.
For more than a year now, EFF has encouraged mainstream press publications like the New York Times to aggressively defend WikiLeaks’ First Amendment right to publish classified information in the public interest and denounce the ongoing grand jury investigating WikiLeaks as a threat to press freedom.