As the year draws to a close, EFF is looking back at the major trends influencing digital rights in 2012 and discussing where we are in the fight for free expression, innovation, fair use, and privacy. Click here to read other blog posts in this series.
Given the alarming expansion of state-sponsored surveillance, it can be hard to find reasons to be optimistic about individuals' ability to avoid being watched on the web. Yet the continued rise of HTTPS is a beacon of hope for thwarting many types of surveillance, and we are pleased that the positive trend of HTTPS adoption continues apace with some big steps forward in 2012.
As the year draws to a close, EFF looks back at the major trends influencing digital rights in 2012 and discussing where we are in the fight for free expression, innovation, fair use, and privacy. Click here to read other blog posts in this series.
Coming into 2012, the Internet community was looking down the barrel of very dangerous legislation that would have created legal structures to silence legitimate speech in the name of curbing online "piracy." A House bill called the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and its Senate counterpart, the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA), had been debated, amended, and looked to be on the fast track for legislative approval.
Last month the San Francisco District Attorney’s office went on a fishing expedition. After EFF and ACLU got involved, the DA wisely cut bait.
The fishing expedition cut short by the DA last week consisted of a pair of subpoenas issued to Twitter, seeking tweets, photos, and a trove of other information related to the accounts of two activists, Robert Donohoe and Lauren Smith, whom the SF DA has charged with a number of offenses stemming from a Columbus Day anti-capitalist protest. After Twitter notified the users, attorneys for Donohoe and Smith opposed the subpoenas, and ACLU and EFF supported their efforts.
As the year draws to a close, EFF looks back at the major trends influencing digital rights in 2012 and discussing where we are in the fight for free expression, innovation, fair use, and privacy. Click here to read other blog posts in this series.
Just as in the United States, where a multi-pronged campaign against SOPA and PIPA killed the freedom-restricting bills, activism for digital rights saw great successes—and innovations—in 2012. While not every campaign was as successful in quashing efforts to restrict rights, it was nonetheless a great year worldwide for digital activism. Here are a few highlights:
Pakistanis against filtering
Earlier this week, Ars Technica profiled a particularly atrocious group of patent trolls who are demanding payments from small businesses for committing the egregious, shameful act of... scanning documents to email? Yes, the latest in a string of absurd patent-related stories involves the everyday act of using a networked scanner.
Facebook Messages has a feature that tells you when a chat recipient has seen a message. This "read receipt" is, in true Facebook fashion, both nifty and unsettling. And it brings with it tons of potential for abuse. Unfortunately, there's no built-in method to opt out.
In the amount of time it takes to get lunch, the government can now collect your DNA and extract a profile that identifies you and your family members.
Rapid DNA Analyzers—machines with the ability to process DNA in 90 minutes or less—are an operational reality and are being marketed to the federal government and state and local law enforcement agencies around the country. These machines, each about the size of a laser printer, are designed to be used in the field by non-scientists, and—if you believe the hype from manufacturers like IntegenX and NetBio—will soon “revolutionize the use of DNA by making it a routine identification and investigational tool.”
We're really happy that Yahoo! is starting 2013 right by letting Yahoo! Mail users use HTTPS to access their e-mail accounts securely. (That means that, just a few days into 2013, we got one of the items on our holiday wishlist!)
UPDATE 1/10/13: After a two-day trial, a court in the city of Vinh convicted all 14 of the defendants that appeared in court. Thirteen of the activists and bloggers were sentenced to serve prison terms ranging individually from 3 to 13 years. One [Nguyen Dang Vinh Phuc] was given a three-year conditionally suspended sentence, making him easily vulnerable to re-arrest. EFF condemns these harsh sentences and calls for the immediate release of the imprisoned activists.
On December 28, 2012, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) spoke out eloquently against the warrantless wiretapping program instituted by the Bush Administration and continued by the Obama Administration. In his testimony before the Senate, Wyden explained how the original FISA Act worked - and how, after September 11th, the Bush Administration exceeded its legal authority and instituted a warrantless surveillance program.
In the clip below, Wyden explains that he was never briefed on the warrantless wiretapping program when it was created- even though he was a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence:
Like you, I have been on the Intelligence Committee and I have been a member for 12 years. But the first time I heard about the warrantless wiretapping program - the first time I heard about it - was when I read about it in the newspaper. It was in the New York Times before I - as a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence - knew about it.
In the last two days, Kuwaiti courts have issued back-to-back 2-year jail sentences to Twitter users for allegedly insulting Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al Sabah. The first verdict was issued on Sunday against 26-year old Rashid Saleh al-Anzi over a Tweet he made to his 5,700 followers in October, that the court said, “stabbed the rights and powers” of the Emir. Al-Anzi has been sentenced to two years in prison and is expected to appeal.
Free speech has very strong protections in the United States. Not only do we have laws like CDA 230 that allow review sites like Yelp to exist, but we also have very strong defenses ingrained both in our Constitution and in our statutes. Unfortunately, there are aspects of the legal system that are easily abused; people too often use lawsuits to intimidate others and stifle their speech.
The 113th Congress was sworn into office last week and will start regular business later this month. They’ll have a huge, and perhaps unprecedented, slate of Internet related legislation in the next year, including potentially taking up a dangerous new Internet surveillance bill—which we will detail in the coming days and weeks.
But before they do, they should take a lesson from the 112th Congress on how not to conduct business. In their final official week of existence—and the cover of holidays—the 112th Congress used underhanded and undemocratic tactics to pass two bills that have terrible effects on your online privacy.
As 2012 came to a close, Congress reauthorized the FISA Amendments Act (FAA) for another 5 years. Yes, the same FAA under which the government conducted unconstitutional surveillance; the same FAA for which the government refuses to estimate the number of Americans who have been spied on; and yes, the same FAA that has been interpreted in substantial ways within secret court opinions.
Update: On January 10, YouTube informed Jonathan McIntosh that his video had been reinstated. The copyright "strike" appears to be removed from his account. YouTube did not wait for the DMCA's 10 to 14 day waiting period to expire, choosing to stand up for its user and putting a stake in this disappointing abuse of the takedown process.
Today the California Attorney General released "Privacy on the Go," [pdf] a report of privacy recommendations for players in the smartphone ecosystem focused on mobile app developers. These guidelines continue a push from the Attorney General to extend privacy protections from the online world onto the smaller screens of our mobile devices, kicked off by an agreement last year to incorporate app privacy policies into the six largest mobile "app stores."
Expanding copyright to allow rent seeking for linking would break the fabric of the Internet. Links and citations to articles do not infringe copyright, as links do not copy, distribute, or perform any copyrighted work. Despite some desperate assertions of the contrary, copyright protection of links is not enshrined in law. Newspapers, however, are pushing for legislation to support this dangerous claim, regardless of the implications it would have for free speech.
Late Friday, a federal judge granted a preliminary injunction in the lawsuit EFF filed with the ACLU of Northern California (ACLU-NC) that challenges the unconstitutional provisions in Proposition 35, a ballot measure passed by California voters in November that restricts the legal and constitutionally protected speech of all registered sex offenders in California.
Yesterday Aaron Swartz, a close friend and collaborator of ours, committed suicide. This is a tragic end to a brief and extraordinary life.
Aaron did more than almost anyone to make the Internet a thriving ecosystem for open knowledge, and to keep it that way. His contributions were numerous, and some of them were indispensable. When we asked him in late 2010 for help in stopping COICA, the predecessor to the SOPA and PIPA Internet blacklist bills, he founded an organization called Demand Progress, which mobilized over a million online activists and proved to be an invaluable ally in winning that campaign.
Outpourings of grief and calls for change continue to flood the Internet after the suicide of Aaron Swartz, only 26 years old.
Aaron was one of our community's best and brightest, and he acheived great things in his short life. He was a coder, a political activist, an entrepreneur, a contributor to major technological developments (like RSS), and an all-around Internet freedom rock star. As Wired noted, the world will miss out on decades of magnificent things Aaron would have accomplished had his time not been cut short.
This is the first in a series of posts mapping state surveillance challenges in Latin America and lessons learned at EFF’s State Surveillance Camp in Rio de Janeiro, Brasil.
The death of our friend Aaron Swartz has resulted in an unprecedented outpouring of grief, along with a strong commitment to use this tragedy to make some of the change Aaron wanted to see in the world.
At EFF, Aaron's death created two imperatives on issues that are close to our hearts. The first is to continue his work to open up closed and entrenched systems that prevent ordinary people from having access to the world’s knowledge, especially the knowledge created with our tax dollars. More on that soon.
The FBI had to rewrite the book on its domestic surveillance activities in the wake of last January’s landmark Supreme Court decision in United States v. Jones. In Jones, a unanimous court held that federal agents must get a warrant to attach a GPS device to a car to track a suspect for long periods of time. But if you want to see the two memos describing how the FBI has reacted to Jones — and the new surveillance techniques the FBI is using beyond GPS trackers — you’re out of luck. The FBI says that information is “private and confidential.”
January 18, 2012 ranks among the most momentous days in the recent history of the copyright reform movement. Who can forget the blackout protests against SOPA and its Senate counterpart PIPA? That day's actions boasted unprecedented scale, which included dozens of companies, thousands of websites, and millions of users acting together to defeat dangerous legislation. But the date also marks another, less cheerful event: exactly one year ago today, the Supreme Court released its decision in Golan v. Holder, a ruling that remains a disaster for the public domain.
One year ago today, Internet users of all ages, races, and political stripes participated in the largest protest in Internet history, flooding Congress with millions of emails and phone calls to demand they drop the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA)—a dangerous bill that would have allowed corporations and the govenrment to censor larger parts of the Web.
But the price of freedom is eternal vigilance, and the fight for Internet freedom continues. Here’s a look at the top five issues SOPA activists should focus on next:
The famed technology writer Steven Levy starts his long-form history of Facebook's newest product—Graph Search—by describing it as a feature that "promises to transform its user experience, threaten its competitors, and torment privacy activists." Though it takes quite a lot to torment us these days, Graph Search does raise a few eyebrows.
Facebook has launched a new feature—Graph Search—that has raised some privacy concerns with us. Graph Search allows users to make structured searches to filter through friends, friends of friends, and strangers. This feature relies on your profile information being made widely or publicly available, yet there are some Likes, photos, or other pieces of information that you might not want out there.
Since Facebook removed the ability to remove yourself from search results altogether, we've put together a quick how-to guide to help you take control over what is featured on your Facebook profile and on Graph Search results. (Facebook also has a new video explaining how to control what shows up in Graph Search.)
We created some digital shwag to celebrate Internet Freedom Day — the one year anniversary of the Internet-wide blackout protests that killed the censorship bills SOPA and PIPA. Below are two images designed to be used as Twitter headers. Download the images and try them on your Twitter profile today. Everyone who sees your profile will instantly recognize you as a proud member of the larger EFF community and the movement that helped defeat SOPA.
Make sure to click each image to get the full-size version for download. We'll have more Twitter header options available in the future, so keep an eye here on the EFF blog for updates.
We asked leading digital rights activists who have been involved in Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations to discuss copyright law and their advocacy work in the countries where they are based.
This week, Jeremy Malcolm of Consumers International explains recent changes to Malaysia’s copyright law, and his current work in pushing for positive global standards that would protect the rights of users against abusive copyright policies. Jeremy is the Project Coordinator for Intellectual Property and Communications. He is based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
In our first post, we presented some initial thinking about how to fix the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) and wire fraud law in light of the tragic prosecution of Aaron Swartz.
Now we present part two: suggestions to address the CFAA's penalty structure. The CFAA, which is the primary federal computer crime law, allows for harsh punishments and makes too many offenses felonies. The statute is also structured so that the same behavior can violate multiple provisions of the law, which prosecutors often combine to beef up the potential penalties.
Two Out of Every Three US Demands to Google Come Without A Warrant
This morning, Google released their semi-annual transparency report, and once again, it revealed a troubling trend: Internet surveillance around the world continues to rise, with the United States leading the way in demands for user data.
EFF, TOS;DR and Campus Party Brazil are Teaming Up for a Liberty-Enhancing Hackathon
UPDATE (2/1/13): For the last three days, hackers and activists in Sao Paulo attending Campus Party have been working with EFF and TOS;DR to improve the free software tool TOSBack. TOSBack is a software project spearheaded by EFF to track the changes to Terms of Service over time. It was in dire need of a revamp, and we're happy to say that hackers at Campus Party rose to the effort.
While there's still a lot to be done, we began the process of relaunching TOSBack over the 3 day hackathon. Here's what we've done so far:
Good news hails from Colombia today, where the Constitutional Court has struck down a sweeping copyright enforcement law because Congress had fast tracked the bill and overstepped various legislative procedures. The Court also ruled on the constitutionality of the law itself, over provisions on the retransmission of TV content and signals over the Internet as well as its language on technological protection measures (TPMs, also known as DRM). The law, nicknamed Ley Lleras 2, was passed to implement copyright enforcement obligations from the Colombia-US free trade agreement. Colombians and civil society groups, however, have been arguing that this law violates the right of education and culture because it would dramatically restrict access to knowledge online.
This is a re-posting of a guide by TOSBack developer Jimm Stout
TOSBack is an open-source project that aims to assist users around the world by tracking the changes to Terms of Service (TOS) and other policies on the web, but we need some help to bring it back to life! We are hosting a hackathon at Campus Party Brazil later this week to give the project a healthy revamp. The project uses Rails and we'd love people to contribute code. But if you aren't a Rails developer, you can still contribute by submitting rules and letting us know which policies are important to you. This is a developers' guide for submitting new policies for TOSBack to crawl. If you want to get started as quickly as possible, you can scroll down to the "Putting it all together" section below.
This is the second in a series of posts mapping global surveillance challenges discussed at EFF’s Surveillance Camp in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
In December 2012, EFF organized a Surveillance and Human Rights Camp in Brazil that brought together the expertise of a diverse group of people concerned about state electronic surveillance in Latin American and other countries. Among other concerns, participants spotlighted the many ways in which the private sector is increasingly playing a role in state surveillance. Here are a few examples:
After years of litigation, it appears Stephanie Lenz may have a chance to tell her story to a jury. Back in 2007, you’ll remember, she posted a video to YouTube of her children dancing and running around in her kitchen with Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy” playing in the background. A few months later, Universal Music Corp. used the Digital Millennium Copyright Act's rapid-fire takedown process to get the video removed from YouTube, claiming that it infringed copyright law. With help from EFF and Keker & Van Nest, Lenz fought back. She filed a lawsuit asking a federal court to hold Universal accountable for misrepresenting that her fair use video violated copyright law. Late last week, Judge Jeremy Fogel issued a ruling in the case that sent contradictory signals on the future of fair use under the DMCA.
Continuing our series of posts about the importance of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA 230), we spoke with John Swapceinski, co-founder of the Ratingz Network, which runs over a dozen review sites. Swapceinski got his start in the rating business when he founded RateMyProfessors.com in 1999, a site for college students to review their teachers (which he sold in 2005). In 2004, he started RateMDs to let people review doctors, and in 2005 he co-founded LawyerRatingz, RealEstateRatingz, VetRatingz, and more as part of the Ratingz Network.
Legal protection for people who unlock their mobile phones to use them on other networks expired last weekend. According to the claims of major U.S. wireless carriers, unlocking a phone bought after January 26 without your carrier's permission violates the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”) whether the phone is under contract or not. In a way, this is not as bad as it sounds. In other ways, it's even worse.
In the wake of social justice activist Aaron Swartz's tragic death, Internet users around the country are taking a hard look at the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), the federal anti-hacking law. In addition to the below overview, we have a three part series explaining these problems in detail and why they need to be fixed. For more details about our proposal for CFAA reform, see part 1, part 2, and part 3.
January 28 marks International Privacy Day. Different countries are celebrating this day calling attention to their own events and campaigns. This year, EFF is honoring the day by sharing some advocacy strategies utilized by human rights advocates and activists from Argentina, the UK, Canada, and the United States, that have helped to defeat overreaching surveillance proposals that threaten civil liberties.
An article in this week’s Economist describes a scenario in which—following the destruction of a mall’s kiddie dinosaur display by the country’s morality police—Saudi Arabia’s Twitter users quick make a hashtag go viral, building off one another’s jokes and mocking some of the country’s most archaic laws. As the article notes, many of the jokes mocked the morality police themselves, such as one in which a Twitter user quipped: “They worried that people would find the dinosaurs more highly evolved than themselves.”
Facebook's Graph Search has certainly caused quite a stir since it was first announced two weeks ago. We wrote earlier about how Graph Search, still in beta, presents new privacy problems by making shared information discoverable when previously it was hard—if not impossible—to find at a large scale. We also put out a call to action—and even created a handy how-to guide—urging people to reassess their privacy settings.
Yesterday, Twitter released its second semi-annual transparency report, which details the numbers behind every user data demand, censorship order and copyright takedown request that the micro-blogging site received in the second half of 2012.
As with Google’s transparency report last week, there was a clear increase in government demands for user data, with the United States leading the way by far. Censorship requests from around the world also increased. In addition, the report shed valuable light on the copyright takedown procedure that also often results in undue censorship.
When you use the Internet, you entrust your thoughts, experiences, photos, and location data to intermediaries — companies like AT&T, Google, and Facebook. But when the government requests that data, users are usually left in the dark. In the United States, companies are not required by law to alert their users when they receive a government request for their data. In some circumstances, they are explicitly prohibited from doing so. As part of our ongoing Who Has Your Back campaign, EFF has called on companies to be transparent by publishing their law enforcement guidelines and statistics on government requests for user data.
This is the third in a series of posts mapping global surveillance challenges discussed at EFF’s Surveillance Camp in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Recentemente, EFF está trabalhando com TOS;DR para hospedar uma hackathon na Campus Party Brasil, no Centro de Convenções do Parque Anhembi em São Paulo, Brasil. Novidades sobre o conteúdo, inscrição e agenda estão disponíveis no site oficial do evento. Abaixo algumas fotos do evento.
Você está na Campus Party Brasil? Então mande um e-mail para o Pedro Markun firstname.lastname@example.org para participar de nossa hackathon.
Last year, we saw more battles in Congress over Internet freedom than we have in many years as user protests stopped two dangerous bills, the censorship-oriented SOPA, and the privacy-invasive Cybersecurity Act of 2012. But Congress ended the year by ramming through a domestic spying bill and weakening the Video Privacy Protection Act.
In 2013, Congress will tackle several bills—both good and bad—that could shape Internet privacy for the next decade. Some were introduced last year, and some will be completely new. For now, here's what's ahead in the upcoming Congress:
Reforming Draconian Computer Crime Law
- Fair Use and Intellectual Property: Defending the Balance
- Free Speech
- Know Your Rights
- Trade Agreements and Digital Rights
- State-Sponsored Malware
- Abortion Reporting
- Analog Hole
- Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement
- Bloggers' Rights
- Broadcast Flag
- Broadcasting Treaty
- Cell Tracking
- Coders' Rights Project
- Computer Fraud And Abuse Act Reform
- Content Blocking
- Copyright Trolls
- Council of Europe
- Cyber Security Legislation
- Defend Your Right to Repair!
- Development Agenda
- Digital Books
- Digital Radio
- Digital Video
- DMCA Rulemaking
- Do Not Track
- E-Voting Rights
- EFF Europe
- Encrypting the Web
- Export Controls
- FAQs for Lodsys Targets
- File Sharing
- Fixing Copyright? The 2013-2016 Copyright Review Process
- Genetic Information Privacy
- Hollywood v. DVD
- How Patents Hinder Innovation (Graphic)
- International Privacy Standards
- Internet Governance Forum
- Law Enforcement Access
- Legislative Solutions for Patent Reform
- Locational Privacy
- Mandatory Data Retention
- Mandatory National IDs and Biometric Databases
- Mass Surveillance Technologies
- Medical Privacy
- National Security and Medical Information
- National Security Letters
- Net Neutrality
- No Downtime for Free Speech
- NSA Spying
- Offline : Imprisoned Bloggers and Technologists
- Online Behavioral Tracking
- Open Access
- Open Wireless
- Patent Busting Project
- Patent Trolls
- PATRIOT Act
- Pen Trap
- Policy Analysis
- Public Health Reporting and Hospital Discharge Data
- Reading Accessibility
- Real ID
- Search Engines
- Search Incident to Arrest
- Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act
- Social Networks
- SOPA/PIPA: Internet Blacklist Legislation
- Student and Community Organizing
- Student Privacy
- Stupid Patent of the Month
- Surveillance and Human Rights
- Surveillance Drones
- Terms Of (Ab)Use
- Test Your ISP
- The "Six Strikes" Copyright Surveillance Machine
- The Global Network Initiative
- The Law and Medical Privacy
- TPP's Copyright Trap
- Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement
- Travel Screening
- Trusted Computing
- Video Games