September 4, 2012 - 9:15am 71750

The Congressional Research Service (CRS), the research division of Congress known for its objective studies, recently released a report on the effects of patent trolls on innovation and the economy. The study (PDF) presents a pretty thorough analysis of the patent troll problem, but what's striking is its existence at all: Could it be that Congress is really starting to pay attention when it comes to fixing the broken patent system?

September 4, 2012 - 3:15pm 71679

With more people constantly connected to the Internet, technology companies are becoming massive repositories of sensitive and personal information. Our communications with family and friends now sit stored on servers belonging to Google or Facebook. Cell phone companies keep track of our location by recording every time we connect to a cell phone tower for up to two years. Unfortunately, the Fourth Amendment has not kept up with this technological reality. And a recent case decided by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, United States v. Golden Valley Electric Association (PDF), highlights the increasing way constitutional rights are adjudicated when it comes to data stored by other companies: through the service agreement a user enters into with a company.

September 5, 2012 - 8:57am 71774

US Congressional Representatives Ron Wyden and Darrell Issa insist that the American people have a right to know what the US is seeking in the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) with respect to intellectual property rights (IPR). They have co-authored a letter to Ron Kirk [PDF], the head of the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) that is leading the US delegation in the TPP negotiations, asking him to reveal what the USTR is seeking in the intellectual property chapter.

Specifically, they call attention to its provisions that will impact digital freedoms:

September 6, 2012 - 10:14am 71783

Today is the first day of the 14th round of negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP), a secretive, multi-national trade agreement that threatens to extend restrictive intellectual property (IP) laws across the globe and rewrite international rules on their enforcement. EFF will be at the negotiations this week in Leesburg, Virginia, to speak to delegates and provide them with materials with our analysis of the TPP’s IP provisions and their impact on digital freedom.

September 6, 2012 - 2:08pm 71784

Judges on both coasts of the U.S. have now rejected one of the copyright trolls' favorite tactics - suing an Internet subscriber for "negligence" when someone else allegedly downloaded a movie illegally. Judge Phyllis Hamilton of the Northern California federal court threw out a negligence suit by a Caribbean holding company against a Californian, Joshua Hatfield. The company, AF Holdings, had alleged that Mr. Hatfield allowed unnamed third parties to use his Internet connection to download a pornographic movie using BitTorrent, infringing copyright. Judge Hamilton ruled that Hatfield was not responsible for the actions of strangers.

September 6, 2012 - 2:53pm 71786

Germany Squares Off Against Facebook on Privacy

Facebook should destroy the database of face images it’s collected from German users’ uploaded photos and refrain from creating digital files using biometric data unless registered users explicitly grant permission, German Data Protection Commissioner Jonannes Caspar has demanded.

September 6, 2012 - 2:54pm 71787

A joint committee of the UK’s House of Lords and the House of Commons is preparing to debate a draft bill known as the Snoopers’ Charter, a disastrous data retention bill which, as Techdirt explained, "would require ISPs to record key information about every email sent and Web site visited by UK citizens, and mobile phone companies to log all their calls." But before they begin, MPs are doing their homework. In addition to having a public consultation, they are taking oral testimony from a range of stakeholders, including Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales.

September 7, 2012 - 11:33am 71776

Location privacy generally, and cell site tracking specifically, have been two hot issues this year, particularly since the Supreme Court's January ruling in United States v. Jones that installing a GPS device on a car without a search warrant violated the Fourth Amendment. After Jones, we were optimistic that both courts and legislatures would begin to take location privacy seriously and demand warrants before granting law enforcement access to a map of our every movements over an extended period of time. But it hasn't turned out that way.

September 7, 2012 - 12:29pm 71785

On September 5th, the Congressional Research Service (CRS), a non-partisan governmental body that provides policy and legal analysis for all members and committees of US Congress, published a 55-page analysis of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement [PDF]. While the CRS does not clarify if it had access to the complete current TPP text, they examine the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP) within the broader context of multilateral and bilateral trade relations and international market access.

September 7, 2012 - 3:05pm 71791

Copyright's robot wars have burst onto the scene of streaming video sites, silencing live feeds with bogus infringement accusations and no human oversight. Two examples from just the past week show the danger that lies ahead if copyright enforcement is left to bots alone, and sit alongside last month's Mars lander takedown as embarrassing results of the unchecked and lopsided “algorithmic copyright cops" that are becoming increasingly common online.

September 8, 2012 - 11:05am 71788

“So long as we have enough people in this country willing to fight for their rights, we'll be called a democracy.” - ACLU Founder Roger Baldwin

September 11, 2012 - 4:18pm 71805

NOTE: On Sept. 14 – 17, activists with the Freedom not Fear movement will stage an international week of action to oppose various forms of surveillance. EFF is spending this week examining surveillance trends and spotlighting movements that have sprung up in opposition. You can follow our series here.

September 11, 2012 - 4:32pm 71813

NOTE: On Sept. 14 – 17, activists with the Freedom Not Fear movement will stage an international week of action to oppose various forms of surveillance. EFF is spending this week examining surveillance trends and spotlighting movements that have sprung up in opposition. You can follow our series here.

Far from being confined to London or Brussels, surveillance is an international trend. As CCTV cameras proliferate, legislative proposals for expanded online spying powers crop up, and mandatory data retention continues steamrolling ahead while jeopardizing individuals’ private information, the chorus against such trends is getting louder – and originating from all over the world.

September 11, 2012 - 7:03pm 71814

On September 19, the Ninth Circuit is set to hear new arguments in Haskell v. Harris, a case challenging California’s warrantless DNA collection program.

September 12, 2012 - 9:57am 71824

NOTE: On Sept. 14 – 17, activists with the Freedom not Fear movement will stage an international week of action to oppose surveillance measures from Europe to Australia. To support this effort, EFF is examining surveillance trends and spotlighting international grassroots activism launched in response.

David Lyon is a prominent sociologist, author, and director of the Surveillance Studies Center at Queen’s University in Ontario, Canada. His most recent book, co-authored with Zygmunt Bauman, is titled Liquid Surveillance. Lyon spent an hour talking with EFF about contemporary surveillance trends such as biometrics, CCTV cameras and legislative proposals for broadened online spying powers for law enforcement.

September 12, 2012 - 2:55pm 71825

In an unusual move, YouTube announced today that it was blocking access to a video showing clips from "The Innocence of Muslims"—an anti-Islamic film that depicts Prophet Mohammed as a philanderer who approves of child abuse—after the film sparked violent protests in Egypt and Libya.

In a public statement issued by the company, Google-owned YouTube said:

We work hard to create a community everyone can enjoy and which also enables people to express different opinions. This can be a challenge because what's OK in one country can be offensive elsewhere. This video—which is widely available on the web—is clearly within our guidelines and so will stay on YouTube. However, given the very difficult situation in Libya and Egypt we have temporarily restricted access in both countries.

September 13, 2012 - 11:30am 71829

NOTE: On Sept. 14 – 17, activists with the Freedom not Fear movement will stage an international week of action to oppose various forms of surveillance. EFF is spending this week examining surveillance trends and spotlighting movements that have sprung up in opposition.

During the first-ever Freedom not Fear event in 2008, anti-surveillance activists in Berlin staged an action that AK Vorrat, The German Working Group on Data Retention, later described as “the greatest protest march against surveillance in Germany's history.” Peaceful protesters joined a two-kilometer long march supported by more than 100 civil liberties groups and other organizations, carrying signs with messages like, "You are Germany, you are a suspect,” and chanting, "We are here and we are loud because they are stealing our data!"

September 13, 2012 - 11:33am 71830

The damages provisions of copyright law - up to $150,000 per infringed work without any proof of harm - are crazy. And according to the federal appeals court in Minnesota, the Constitution does not restore sanity. This week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit upheld the original jury verdict against Jammie Thomas-Rasset: a $222,000 penalty for sharing 24 songs on a peer-to-peer network. That's $9,250 per song (for songs that sell for about a dollar at retail). Frighteningly, the court suggested that statutory damages awarded by a judge or jury don't need to have ANY connection to the harm actually suffered by a copyright owner.

September 13, 2012 - 2:08pm 71831

According to news reports published earlier today, the French anti-piracy law has claimed its first victim. The individual, described by TorrentFreak as a “craftsman from a small village in eastern France,” was convicted of allowing his WiFi connection to be used to download songs without obtaining prior permission from the copyright owners. Under the three-strikes law in France, known as Hadopi1 this could leave the man liable for up to a 1,500 euro fine.

September 13, 2012 - 3:05pm 71832

Yesterday, the House of Representatives voted to renew the dangerous FISA Amendment Act—which hands the NSA broad, warrantless surveillance powers over Americans’ international communications—for another five years. Sadly, the House refused to add any new oversight powers or privacy protections, despite ample evidence the NSA has used it to unconstitutionally spy on Americans. In fact, Rep. Lamar Smith, the bill’s co-sponsor, would not even allow any amendments to come up for a vote.

September 14, 2012 - 8:58am 71835

Secret negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP) continued this week in a golf resort outside Washington DC, and the process continues to be as secret and undemocratic as ever. TPP is yet another example of how the US entertainment and pharma industry are pressuring lawmakers to push forward overprotective intellectual property laws that will also put the Internet and its users at risk.

September 14, 2012 - 9:52am 71836

NOTE: On Sept. 14 – 17, activists with the Freedom Not Fear movement will stage an international week of action to oppose various forms of surveillance. EFF is spending this week examining surveillance trends and spotlighting movements that have sprung up in opposition. You can follow our series here.

September 14, 2012 - 12:03pm 71802

Privacy rights face a crisis. Governments around the world have been taking overreaching, fear-based surveillance measures against essential online freedoms. Organizing an international resistance demands a complex understanding of both the latest online surveillance trends and of long-standing threats to privacy. Every year, Freedom Not Fear continues to organize a broad international protest against these threats to our civil liberties, and challenge the hyperbolic rhetoric of fear that permeates the security and privacy debate. This September 14th-17th, concerned European Internet users will descend on Brussels to participate in an international week of action against invasive surveillance initiatives. Events will also be staged in Luxembourg and Sydney.

September 14, 2012 - 1:56pm 71826

UPDATE: This morning, rather than face contempt charges, Twitter handed over the data requested by the government, under seal, to the New York Criminal Court.  Twitter was faced with a terrible choice between giving ground on its fight for user privacy, or risk a potentially expensive contempt of court citation.

September 14, 2012 - 3:48pm 71846

Canada had been lobbying to enter the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, and its efforts were seemingly paid off with an exclusive invite to the secretive nine-country trade agreement in June. There is no doubt that the TPP will affect many areas of the Canadian economy from agriculture to manufacturing, but the agreement would also regulate intellectual property rights and that could have big consequences for Internet users’ freedoms.

September 17, 2012 - 3:00pm 71847

The United Kingdom’s draft Communications Data Bill, more commonly known as the Snoopers’ Charter, has drawn a sharp critique from the Global Network Initiative (GNI). In a submission to the UK Parliament’s Communications Data Bill Joint Scrutiny Committee, the organization outlined serious concerns with the proposed legislation, which would expand governmental powers to access the online communications of all UK citizens.

GNI is a coalition of companies, civil society organizations (including EFF), investors and academics working collaboratively to advance freedom of expression and privacy in the Information Communications and Technology (ICT) sector.

September 18, 2012 - 12:50pm 71855

In the Philippines, where the Internet is free from censorship, President Benigno Aquino III recently signed into law the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, a troubling development for free expression.

The Act, available online in English, covers a range of "offenses,” from the “access of … any part of a computer system without right” to data interference (including the transmission of viruses) and cybersex, but it is primarily the provisions on libel that trouble rights activists in the country.  As the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines wrote today:

September 18, 2012 - 4:53pm 71859

While US Trade Representative Ron Kirk, who oversees the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP), continues to declare that the trade negotiations are “the most open, transparent process ever,” we are confounded as to what he defines to be "open" or "transparent." They have yet to even provide the public — civil society organizations and policy makers — with any official documents relating to the text of the agreement. We are fighting for real transparency, which means access to the current draft documents or country proposals for provisions to into the agreement.

September 18, 2012 - 8:11pm 71861

Wednesday at 10 am, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals is set to hear oral argument in Haskell v. Harris, examining crucial questions of DNA privacy.  If you are in the San Francisco Bay Area, this is a unique opportunity to hear debate over how your genetic information can be collected, stored, and shared by law enforcement.

September 19, 2012 - 11:38am 71864

Last week, Senator Leahy proposed detailed language to update the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), the primary law governing privacy rights for stored email. ECPA is woefully outdated—it was passed in 1986 before ubiquitous cloud computing and archived email even existed—so this is great news. The language will be discussed by the Judiciary committee this week and then hopefully advance to the whole Senate for consideration.  If you haven't done so already, you should take our action alert urging Congress to protect our privacy by updating ECPA.

September 19, 2012 - 8:02pm 71879

Internet Censorship watchdog OpenNetInitiative has released an updated report on the state of online freedom of expression in Vietnam and the verdict is grim. The Communist republic has placed heavy restrictions on the dissemination of information for decades, but in 2012 the government has introduced regulations that would provide new powers to censor and criminalize online speech.

September 20, 2012 - 8:00am 71878

The reactions over the past week to a video, 'The Innocence of Muslims'—made by an Egyptian-American Christian and later shown by Egyptian television, sparking riots—have varied wildly. While some governments have banned YouTube (where a trailer of the video remains available) altogether, YouTube chose on its own volition to block access to the video in Egypt and Libya. Other countries have submitted legal requests for YouTube to block the video, to which the company has complied.

September 20, 2012 - 10:00am 71848

What's a trademark for, anyway? Given recent trends, you might be surprised to learn that trademarks are supposed to protect consumers from confusion about the source of goods or services. You might also be surprised to know that common, descriptive words and phrases usually cannot be registered as trademarks, not least because we don't want trademark owners claiming property rights in our common language. That's why an apple farmer can't claim a trademark in the term "apple." 

Unfortunately, folks can't seem to help making overreaching claims, and the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) isn't vigilant about what passes muster. The result: generic terms are registered as trademarks—and then used to threaten free speech.

Case in point: the ongoing threat to Reddit's /r/gaymers community.

September 20, 2012 - 3:00pm 71882

This is part one of a two part series on current updates in Do Not Track. Part two will explore issues around default settings in more depth.

As summer wanes, EFF and other digital rights advocates are continuing to fight for Do Not Track, a one-click browser-based signal users can turn on to tell websites not to track their online browsing habits. In this article, we’ll be reviewing recent Congressional hearings about online tracking and discussing a Do Not Track proposal being promoted by EFF, Stanford, and Mozilla.

September 21, 2012 - 1:23pm 71886

A new study from Australia presents the latest evidence that loosening copyright restrictions not only enables free speech, but can improve an economy as well. The study, published by the Australian Digital Alliance, indicated that if Australia expanded copyright exceptions like fair use, along with strengthening safe harbor provisions, the country could potentially add an extra $600 million to their economy.

September 21, 2012 - 3:53pm 71895

Open access to scientific literature plays a crucial role in the development of a digital knowledge commons, benefiting scholars, patients, researchers, and therefore, the public at large. We owe many thanks to the global open access movement that has been working hard to improve access to knowledge for over a decade. EFF welcomes the new recommendations launched last week in celebration of its 10 year anniversary. Translations of the recommendations have already been made in several languages, with more to follow. 

September 24, 2012 - 11:39am 71896

Throughout Latin America, new surveillance practices threaten to erode individuals' privacy, yet there is limited public awareness about the civil liberties implications of these rapid changes. Some countries are pursuing cybercrime policies that seek to increase law enforcement power. In other nations, government-run biometric identification systems are on the rise, while certain governments are even turning to drones to aid in their surveillance activities. A culture of secrecy surrounds these surveillance practices, and citizens remain largely unaware of what type of information is being collected and how it is being used against them.

September 25, 2012 - 12:00am 71899

This November, voters across the United States have an important chance to improve how elected officials approach legislating the Internet. Starting today, a coalition of Internet rights groups are starting a voter registration drive all over the country with the hope of making the voice of the Internet—heard so loudly during the SOPA debate—a permanent stakeholder in the halls of Congress.

September 25, 2012 - 8:44am 71900

The news that Iran might be seeking to create a 'halal Internet' isn't new. But while speculation about Iran's withdrawal from the online world abounds, the country's recent move to block Gmail and—though inconsistently—Google Search, is one of the first concrete measures to indicate just how serious the plans may be.

September 25, 2012 - 2:50pm 71903

We’ve been seeing a range of reports about Facebook partnering up with marketing company Datalogix to assess whether users go to stores in the physical world and buy the products they saw in Facebook advertisements. A lot of the reports aren’t getting into the nitty gritty of what data is actually shared between Facebook and Datalogix, so the goal of this blog post is to dive into the details.

September 26, 2012 - 4:17am 71905

Update: Fabio José Silva Coelho, President of Google Brazil, has now been arrested by federal police in São Paulo. The federal police say that he will be released on his own recognizance if he agrees in writing to appear in court for face the charges.

"Judge orders arrest of president of Google's operation in Brazil"

September 26, 2012 - 3:15pm 71914

A new project aimed at “countering illegal use of the Internet” is making headlines this week.  The project, dubbed CleanIT, is funded by the European Commission (EC) to the tune of more than $400,000 and, it would appear, aims to eradicate the Internet of terrorism.

European Digital Rights, a Brussels-based organization consisting of 32 NGOs throughout Europe (and of which EFF is a member), has recently published a leaked draft document from CleanIT.

September 27, 2012 - 12:34pm 71918

The Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP) threatens to regulate and restrict the Internet in the name of enforcing intellectual property (IP) rights around the world, yet the public and civil society continue to be denied meaningful access to the official text and are even kept in the dark about what proposals countries are pushing in this powerful multilateral trade agreement. With users having sent over 80,000 messages to Congress asking them to demand transparency in the TPP using EFF's Action Center, Congress members have been urged into action to uncover the secrecy.

September 27, 2012 - 3:45pm 71898

The government of India has amassed a database of 200 million Indian residents' digital fingerprints, iris scans, facial photographs, names, addresses and birthdates. Yet this vast collection of private information is only a drop in the bucket compared to the volume of data it ultimately intends to gather. The Unique Identity Authority of India (UIDAI), the agency that administers Aadhaar -- India's Unique Identity (UID) program -- has a goal of capturing and storing this personal and biometric information for each and every one of India's 1.2 billion residents. Everyone who enrolls is issued a 12-digit unique ID number and an ID card linked to the data.

September 28, 2012 - 9:07am 71924

Co-authored with Carolina Botero

After years of being one of the most progressive regions in the world in terms of balanced copyright policy, Latin America is unfortunately sliding into copyright maximalism, enacting increasingly restrictive copyright enforcement measures into their federal laws.

While Chile spent years drafting their broad reform to the copyright system along with civil society groups, and Brazil excitedly discussed the reform of copyright law with unprecedented civil society participation to draft a balanced bill, Colombia and Panama have rushed to write and approve new copyright frameworks with drastic consequences for the digital generation. Why is this occurring? It is the result of top-down, harsh implementation of bilateral free trade agreements (FTAs) with the US, that require nations to enact far more restrictive language than what is found in the US itself.

September 28, 2012 - 12:02pm 71927

Former New York Times reporter Kurt Eichenwald’s new book, published last week, provides yet more details about how the the NSA’s unconstitutional warrantless wiretapping program came about, and confirms that even top Bush Administration lawyers felt there was a “strong argument” that the program violated the law. “Officials might be slammed for violating the Fourth Amendment as a result of having listened in on calls to people inside the country and collecting so much personal data," Eichenwald wrote, and “in the future, others may question the legality” of their actions. 

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