From July 16 to July 25, 2012, roughly 185 states are meeting in Geneva at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) to discuss three international treaties on copyright exceptions and limitations, as well as to negotiate alleged content rights of broadcasting organizations. Specifically, it is the meeting of the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR), a subcommittee of WIPO that leads discussions on the means to protect copyright.
Saudi Arabia: Expanding anti-blasphemy laws to social media content
Saudi Arabia is considering updated regulations that criminalize insulting Islam. Saudi news outlet Al-Watan reported that the appointed Shura Council will study the potential for new laws to “combat the criticism of the basic tenets of Islamic sharia” over the next two months, given recent “violations over social networks on the Internet” of existing anti-blasphemy laws.
As Congress and the President rush to re-authorize the dangerous FISA Amendments Act (FAA)—the law shamefully passed after pressure to legalize certain portions of the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping program—EFF has been sounding the alarm that Americans’ communications are still being unconstitutionally collected by the government without a warrant. On Friday, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, (DNI) begrudgingly agreed, acknowledging that, “on at least one occasion” the secret FISA court “held that some collection…used by the government was unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment.”
The Russian Duma overwhelmingly approved the controversial Internet regulation Bill № 89417-6. 441. A total of 441 out of 450 deputies representing all four party factions within the Duma, voted to support the bill. The regulations set forth within the bill, including the creation of a national blacklist and legal partnership with a content-monitoring bureau, are expected to go into effect in January after President Putin signs the bill into law.
A new international treaty will add another layer of legal restrictions on audiovisual performances by giving the performers—actors, musicians, dancers and others—a new copyright-like right that will exist alongside copyright.
On June 24, 2012, the World Intellectual Property Organization Diplomatic Conference adopted the Beijing Treaty on Audiovisual Performances. As this treaty may be implemented into national laws, it provides an opportunity for the powerful copyright lobby to expand its already excessive rights while restricting some of our routine activities in the digital environment. The effects on digital rights and consumer rights are yet to be measured.
YouTube recently unveiled a new face blurring tool that lets users choose to conceal every face in a video they have uploaded. This is a commendable step towards fostering anonymous speech on the Internet. Activists around the world rely on being able to speak freely through online media, including video, while hiding their own identities for fear of persecution. Such a tool would allow for crucial footage to be seen and dialogue to be heard—all without risking visual recognition. Though the tool is not perfect, YouTube has noted that they hope to improve the technology to allow more targeted, accurate blurs. For an-indepth analysis of the tool, see this detailed post from WITNESS.
This article has been co-authored with Gabriela Manuli, EFF International Privacy Intern
The Mexican government shelled out $4.6 billion pesos ($355 million USD) to expand Mexican domestic surveillance equipment over the past year, a set of newly leaked documents has revealed. According to a July 16 press report, the Secretariat of National Defense (Sedena) -- the body that oversees Mexico’s Army and Air Force -- awarded five surveillance contracts from March 2011 - 2012, without opening them up to bid. The contracts were for the procurement of devices capable of intercepting mobile phone and online communications. The classified contracts were allegedly leaked to Aristegui Noticias, a Mexican newspaper, by military sources.
The FinFisher spyware, produced by the UK-based Gamma Group, has been for years as elusive as it was notorious. Since protesters found FinFisher company records in an abandoned Egyptian state security building last year, security researchers and activists around the world have been eager to get their hands on a copy of the tools in the FinFisher suite, especially the component called FinSpy. FinSpy has been the subject of particular interest because of its ability to wiretap calls made over the Skype network, which is widely used among activists all over the world, often in the belief that it is more secure than other forms of communication.
Senator Franken's New Amendment Would Strike Section 701 of the Cybersecurity Act of 2012, Removing Provisions that Permit Monitoring of Private Communications and Countermeasures
The US classification system is “dysfunctional” and “clearly lacks the ability to differentiate between trivial information and that which can truly damage our nation’s well-being.” Those are not the words of EFF, nor any other government transparency advocate, but instead came from the former classification czar himself.
J. William Leonard, who was in charge of the secrecy system under President George W. Bush, has recently become its most virulent critic. Buoyed by a massive bureaucracy that stamps virtually everything secret, he says it’s so bad the government actions are hurting democracy. And the government, in recent days, has only proven him correct.
Humble Bundle is back with another great pay-what-you-want, DRM-free bundle — and this time it’s for music.
As with previous bundles, the Humble Music Bundle offers fans the chance to get great deals while supporting artists directly and demonstrating that innovative distribution models can work. Plus, you can choose to send a percentage of your purchase to Child’s Play Charity, an organization providing technology and games to children in hospitals, and to us here at EFF to protect your online rights.
From now until Thursday, August 9th, you can pay whatever you’d like to receive the following albums, described by Humble Bundle as:
EFF has been among several groups following the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the threatening ramifications it would have for the future of the open Internet, access to knowledge, and innovation. Based on what we know from the leaked intellectual property chapter (IP chapter) proposed by the US, it carries many of the restrictive copyright provisions that already exist in US law. From what we have seen, however, this agreement is even more extreme, going beyond ACTA and DMCA rules: it does not export the many balances and exceptions that favor the public interest and act as safety valves in limiting rightsholders’ protection.
Earlier this month, the 47 member states of the United Nations Human Rights Council passed a landmark Resolution (A/HRC/20/L.13) to include the “promotion, protection, and enjoyment of human rights on the Internet.” The Resolution, which was presented by Sweden, was backed by more than 70 countries in all, both members and non-members of the HRC.
In the New York Times, Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt called the Resolution a “victory for the Internet”, while US Secretary of State Clinton praised it as a “ welcome addition in the fight for the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms online, in particular the freedom of expression.”
It's always heartening to see Congressmen make efforts to stand up for privacy rights. Yesterday, Rep. Hank Johnson launched AppRights.us, a website dedicated to promoting privacy, security, and transparency around mobile apps. Operating under the motto that "our apps should serve us—not spy on us," Johnson's website asks for feedback about issues surrounding mobile devices.
At the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas this week, Javier Galbally revealed that it’s possible to spoof a biometric iris scanning system using synthetic images derived from real irises. The Madrid-based security researcher’s talk is timely, coming on the heels of a July 23 Israeli Supreme Court hearing where the potential vulnerabilities of a proposed governmental biometric database drove the debate. Consider the week’s events a reminder that if the adoption of biometric identification systems continues apace without serious contemplation of the pitfalls, we’re headed for trouble.
In Israel, a heated debate is underway about whether Israel’s Interior Ministry will move ahead with the creation of a governmental biometric database containing digital fingerprints and facial photographs, which would be linked to “smart” national ID cards containing microchips. At the heart of the issue is a major concern about privacy: Aggregated personal information invites security breaches, and large databases of biometric information can be honeypots of sensitive data vulnerable to exploitation.
Press freedom in Sri Lanka has come under further attack over the course of the past month. On June 29, the Criminal Investigation Department’s Colombo Crime Division raided the office shared by news websites Sri Lanka Mirror and Sri Lanka X News. The latter website is widely known as the official journalistic outlet of the United National Party (UNP), which is the main opposition party against the ruling coalition, United People’s Freedom Alliance. Authorities arrested nine journalists and confiscated much of both websites’ computer equipment for “propagating false and unethical news on Sri Lanka.”
This week, the Senate will be voting on a slew of amendments to the newest version of the Senate’s cybersecurity bill. Senators John McCain and Kay Bailey Hutchison have proposed several amendments that would hand the reins of our nation’s cybersecurity systems to the National Security Agency (NSA). All of the cybersecurity bills that have been proposed would provide avenues for companies to collect sensitive information on users and pass that data to the government. Trying to strike the balance between individual privacy and facilitating communication about threats is a challenge, but one thing is certain: the NSA has proven it can’t be trusted with that responsibility. The NSA's dark history of repeated privacy violations, flouting of domestic law, and resistance to transparency makes it clear that the nation's cybersecurity should not be in its hands.
UPDATE: Twitter has issued an apology to Guy Adams and clarified that they did "mess up" by notifying NBC about the tweet. They do, however, continue to claim that the tweet in question violated their Rules despite a sentence that states: "If information was previously posted or displayed elsewhere on the Internet prior to being put on Twitter, it is not a violation of this policy." The NBC executive's email was published online more than a year ago here.
The Peruvian National Anthem proudly proclaims: “We are free! May we always be so!” Yet the Peruvian Congress is considering a sweeping new computer crime bill that threatens the privacy and online free expression of law-abiding Peruvians. Peruvians should stand against this ill-conceived bill that will place limits on what they are allowed to do with their own computers. Peruvians should take a cue from Canadians, who mobilized resistance against its online surveillance bill earlier this year.
When the European Parliament rejected the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement after hundreds of thousands of Europeans took to the streets in protest, it signaled disappointment in some of the extreme IP policies encouraged by ACTA that threatened the functioning of the Internet. But at the same time, the protests reflected a sweeping rejection of the secretive, government-directed process that spawned the agreement in the first place. The world’s Internet users showed that they are no longer willing to accept outdated and counterproductive policies born out of closeted discussions that fail to take into account the interests of ordinary people.
Co-authored by EFF Fellow Jon Eisenberg, who also authored EFF's amicus letter.
When a judge forces you to "consent" to a disclosure of your private electronic communications, have you really consented? No.
EFF today asked the California Supreme Court to review a decision of a lower court that forced a juror to "consent" to allow the content of his Facebook postings to be turned over to the parties to the case, after it was discovered that he had been improperly posting about the case on his Facebook wall during a trial. The case is called Juror Number One v. Superior Court