In a few weeks, EFF staffers will be attending the third Freedom Online Coalition conference, held this time in Tunis. In 2012, Tunisia joined the coalition of 17 states dedicated to promoting Internet freedom, thus committing itself to online free expression.
We knew it would happen. After months of anticipation, Jordanian authorities have initiated a ban on news sites that have not yet registered and been licensed by the Press and Publications Department, effectively blocking more than 300 news websites. According to local media organization 7iber (which means “ink” in Arabic):
In Taiwan, province of China*, the intellectual property office proposed a new Internet blacklist law that would have targeted websites for their alleged use in copyright infringement. The initiative would have forced Internet Service Providers to block a list of domains or IP addresses connected to websites and services found to enable “illegal” file sharing. In the face of massive online opposition and a planned Internet blackout, the IP office has now backed down and abandoned support for the law.
State legislatures had a busy week passing electronic privacy laws. Will Congress follow?
It's been a bad month for Singaporean netizens. First came the news that the Media Development Authority (MDA), the country's press oversight agency, now requires that websites that have more than 50,000 viewers and that post one "Singapore news programme" (a loosely defined term that basically includes any news about Singapore) per month will have to pay a reported fee of 50,000 SGD to be licensed.
All but seven states have proposed or adopted legislation relating to the domestic use of drones, or unmanned aerial systems, in domestic airspace, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Now, at the invitation of the Aerospace States Association, EFF has rung in with the three crucial elements that all drone legislation must contain to balance privacy rights with free-speech concerns.
Frustration with patent trolls, and momentum for reform, has been building for some time now. Today, the stakes got even higher when the White House announced that it was actively taking on the troll problem. This is big news, and not just because of the seven legislative proposals the White House recommends (more on those below). Even more important are the five executive actions the President intends to take with or without congressional help.
In the months since Aaron Swartz’s death, it’s become clear to the American public that the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (“CFAA”) has become one of the most dangerous and abused criminal laws available to prosecutors. One of its biggest problems—its draconian sentencing scheme—is on full display in the case of Jeremy Hammond.
A federal appeals court struck a blow against free speech in a May 21 ruling against a video-game creator and EFF won’t let it stand unchallenged.
Working with a coalition of groups representing filmmakers, vidders, and fair-use advocates, EFF today filed a friend-of-the-court (in Latin, amicus curiae) brief with the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, urging the court to revisit its ruling in Ryan Hart v. Electronic Arts. If the court agrees, the full court (as opposed to just three judges) will have a chance to consider the case.
Congress looks poised to create a new legal shield for mobile phone unlocking, making it clear that people who switch wireless carriers won't face civil suits or criminal penalties under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. That legal protection was taken away by a ruling from the Librarian of Congress last October. In a hearing tomorrow morning, a subcommittee of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee will hear from witnesses about a bill to bring it back - at least temporarily. It's a no-brainer that people should be able to use the phones they own on the networks of their choice, as everyone from the wireless carriers to consumer advocates to the White House agrees.
Today, the Guardian newspaper confirmed what EFF (and many others) have long claimed: the NSA is conducting widespread, untargeted, domestic surveillance on millions of Americans. This revelation should end, once and for all, the government's long-discredited secrecy claims about its dragnet domestic surveillance programs. It should spur Congress and the American people to make the President finally tell the truth about the government's spying on innocent Americans.
In his landmark report to the 23rd session of the Human Rights Council, Frank La Rue, the U.N's free speech watchdog, makes clear that anonymous expression and secure communication are critical for an open society. We gave you a quick look at that report yesterday. Now we want to take a deep dive into his support for your rights to anonymity and encryption, and what countries need to do to reflect his conclusions.
Australian Internet users have been cursed for over a decade by governments who appear to neither understand nor care about the consequences of Internet censorship. The current Communications minister, Stephen Conroy, has been particular notorious on this matter: after failing to get parliamentary approval for his Internet blacklist plans, he announced that government departments, including his own, had powers to block websites anyway under the ambiguously-written powers of Section 313 of the fifteen-year old Telecommunications Act.
As we reported yesterday, there was a hearing this morning on Capitol Hill to talk about restoring legal protection for mobile phone unlocking that the Librarian of Congress took away last fall. The representatives and witnesses all agreed that consumers should be able to switch wireless carriers without facing civil lawsuits and criminal prosecution. The committee seems poised to move forward with Representative Goodlatte's (R-Va) bill, which brings back the legal shelter for unlocking until the next Library of Congress hearings in 2015.
“[The National Security Agency's] capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn’t matter. There would be no place to hide.” —Senator Frank Church, 1975
In a landmark decision in Commonwealth v. Rousseau, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled this week that people "may reasonably expect not to be subjected to extended GPS electronic surveillance by the government" without a search warrant -- whether they are driving the vehicle in question or not.
The New York State Senate and Assembly are considering the Taxpayer Access to Publicly Funded Research Act (S4050 / A180). This bill—which would give the public access to the results of tens from millions of dollars of taxpayer-funded research—is a crucial step in the fight for open access. As we've noted before, the lack of access to state-of-the-art research affects students, researchers, and regular citizens—whether a curious mind or a patient in need. The latest research also translates directly into downstream innovations and important businesses, boosting the economy and creating jobs.
In response to the recent news reports about the National Security Agency's surveillance program, President Barack Obama said today, "When it comes to telephone calls, nobody is listening to your telephone calls." Instead, the government was just "sifting through this so-called metadata." The Director of National Intelligence James Clapper made a similar comment last night: "The program does not allow the Government to listen in on anyone’s phone calls. The information acquired does not include the content of any communications or the identity of any subscriber."
In light of the confirmation of NSA surveillance of millions of Americans' communications records, and especially the decision by the government to declassify and publicly release descriptions of the program, the government today asked the courts handling two EFF surveillance cases for some additional time to consider their options.
In a rare public filing in the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), the Justice Department today urged continued secrecy for a 2011 FISC opinion that found the National Security Agency's surveillance under the FISA Amendments Act to be unconstitutional. Significantly, the surveillance at issue was carried out under the same controversial legal authority that underlies the NSA’s recently-revealed PRISM program.
Much of the U.S. media coverage of the NSA revelations has concentrated on its impact on the constitutional rights of U.S. Internet users. But what about the billions of Internet users around the world whose private information is stored in U.S. servers, or whose data travels across U.S. networks?
This is a joint international campaign between EFF and Access Now.
The Guardian and the Washington Post recently published slides that indicate that the US government’s National Security Agency (NSA) is engaged in mass surveillance of users around the world through a program called PRISM. The NSA is extracting audio, video, photographs, emails, documents, and connection logs from nine leading Internet companies: Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, and Apple. Furthermore, the US is reportedly sharing this data with the UK government.
UPDATE (1/15/14): Computing Using Educators, Inc, has added its name to the list. This brings the total to 87.
Today, a bipartisan coalition of 86 civil liberties organizations and Internet companies – including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, reddit, Mozilla, FreedomWorks, and the American Civil Liberties Union – are demanding swift action from Congress in light of the recent revelations about unchecked domestic surveillance.
In an open letter to lawmakers sent today, the groups call for a congressional investigatory committee, similar to the Church Committee of the 1970s. The letter also demands legal reforms to rein in domestic spying and demands that public officials responsible for this illegal surveillance are held accountable for their actions.
ANDREA MITCHELL: “Why do you need every telephone number? Why is it such a broad vacuum cleaner approach?”
JAMES CLAPPER: “Well, you have to start someplace.”—NBC Meet the Press, this past Sunday
Concerned about the surveillance of millions of ordinary Americans, last year Senator Ron Wyden asked Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, Jr. a simple question: "Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?"
Yesterday, Comcast announced a "neighborhood hotspot iniative," a new plan to turn its millions of Xfinity Internet customers into Wi-Fi hotspots. Essentially, Comcast is setting up guest networks named "xfinitywifi" for all their customers, allowing for other Xfinity subscribers—and only subscribers—to access wireless networks if they are traveling. This plan is similar to that unveiled by the company Fon in Spain in 2007—share some Wi-Fi yourself and get access to others' networks when you roam around.
In the first publicly known victory by a non-government party before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), the secret court today granted a motion filed by EFF related to an ongoing Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.
The FISC gave its OK to the public disclosure of an earlier opinion of the FISC—an opinion that declared aspects of the NSA's surveillance under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act to be unconstitutional.
A lot remains uncertain about the number of users affected by the NSA PRISM surveillance program that is taking place, the extent to which companies are involved, and how the NSA handles this sensitive data. Does the NSA regularly collect and examine a huge swath of the cloud communications of American and foreign Internet users? Does the agency present evidence and seek careful judicial review to obtain limited amounts of user data related to individual investigations? Or is the answer somewhere in the middle, with queries being constructed such that algorithms scan most or all of the accounts, identifying a smaller set of "interesting" accounts whose contents are sent to the NSA?
The United States Chamber of Commerce has come to its senses at last and withdrawn its lawsuit against political activists the Yes Men. In the lawsuit, the Chamber had claimed that a 2009 press conference—in which a Yes Man posing as a Chamber of Commerce spokesperson announced the Chamber was reversing its long held position and endorsing climate change legislation—infringed the Chamber's trademark rights. Before the press conference was even completed, a Chamber of Commerce representative rushed into the room and announced that the Chamber's position on climate change legislation had not in fact changed. The result: widespread media coverage of the event and the Chamber's humorless response. The Yes Men tell the story best.
Did the Chamber of Commerce finally get a sense of humor? Or did it just realize the lawsuit was doomed?
The world was provided confirmation last week of widespread, unconstitutional domestic surveillance of innocent Americans' call records and online activity. But, starting this week, congressional staffers will be briefed in private, newspapers will be forced to report second-hand on what occurred in those briefings, and the public will, once again, be left out of discussions vital to our representative democracy. These discussions should be occurring in public, in an open forum, and for all to hear. Secret briefings, identical to those going on now, were carried out in 2006, after the first disclosure of the NSA's domestic spying program occurred. Seven years later, the program has only grown bigger and more dangerous.
UPDATE: Just hours after the Supreme Court ruled today, at least one company announced it would be offering genetic testing on the BRCA genes for $995—barely one quarter of the approximately $4000 Myriad charges for the same tests.
For the second time in just over a year, the Supreme Court has unanimously weighed in on what is and isn't patentable. And in this case—Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad—the high court got it right again.
On Tuesday night, over 100 attorneys and friends participated in the Sixth Annual EFF Cyberlaw Pub Trivia Night, testing their knowledge of the trivial details that arise where the law meets technology. Teams included representatives from a host of major technology law firms and and Internet companies, representing the best and the brightest luminaries of cyberlaw. The seven rounds of questions were written by EFF's attorneys, technologists and activists, pulling trivial details from the rich canon of privacy, free speech, and intellectual property law.
Please join us in congratulating the winners:
Spies Without Borders I
The long-running patent battle between Versata and SAP saw a lot of action this week. Back in 2007, Versata filed a lawsuit claiming SAP infringed a patent on a method “for pricing products in multi-level product and organizational groups.” This dispute – which raises important issues about patents and software – is proceeding both in the courts and at the Patent Office. Yesterday, EFF joined an amicus brief supporting SAP at the Federal Circuit, where SAP is arguing that it does not infringe. Meanwhile, at the Patent Office, SAP won a landmark ruling finding that the invention was not patentable because it merely covers an abstract idea.
The action at the Federal Circuit
"It's time to end the delay, not extend it."
After a leaked FISA court document revealed that the National Security Agency (NSA) is vacuuming up private data on millions of innocent Americans by collecting all the phone records of Verizon customers, President Obama responded by saying "let's have a debate" about the scope of US surveillance powers.
Update 2: AB 76 was passed by the legislature Friday evening, unbeknownst to many journalists and open-government advocates attempting to follow the vote. This explains why EFF's post predicted a vote on Saturday.
The California legislature is close to suspending important provisions of the state’s public records act, giving local agencies the authority to unilaterally ignore procedures designed to ensure government transparency.
Spies Without Borders II
Spies Without Borders III
The Open Wireless Movement has come to Tunisia!
When former Tunisian dictator Ben Ali was ousted, the Tunisian Internet Agency (ATI) was quickly transformed from an institution of control to one of openness, reversing the oppressive censorship policies of the Ben Ali era. Similarly, the ATI's building—once a private home of Ben Ali—is now being transformed into a space for citizens to innovate.
With a White House directive supporting it and legislation pending at the federal and state levels, the fight to expand open access to taxpayer-funded research is rapidly gaining momentum. But it's not over yet. Major journal publishers are working hard to stop—or at least dilute—open access. That's because it's a threat to the traditional publishing business model, which depends on taking the results of research (i.e., articles) and then selling it back to the scientists and their institutions at a massive profit.
It's time to rethink copyright law, say the U.S. Register of Copyrights and the chairman of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee. Hearings, speeches, and lots of quiet maneuvering have begun to shape "the next great copyright act." Last week, Motion Picture Association of America president, former senator Chris Dodd, laid out his vision for copyright in a speech to the L.A. Copyright Society and an op-ed in the Huffington Post. Invoking the U.S.
As news websites around the globe are publishing story after story about dragnet surveillance, these news sites all have one thing in common: when you visit these websites, your personal information is broadcast to dozens of companies, many of which have the ability to track your surfing habits, and many of which are subject to government data requests.
How Does This Happen?
In a letter sent today to the United States Congress, an international coalition of non-profit organizations called upon the U.S. government to protect the privacy and freedoms of not only its citizens, but of people everywhere. As news of the alarmingly broad reach and scope of America’s surveillance program reverberates around the globe, now is the time for the United States to pass formal privacy safeguards to protect the billions of foreign Internet users whose communications are stored in U.S. servers or whose data travels across U.S. networks.
In the week since we launched, the stopwatching.us campaign has gathered over 215,000 signatures from individuals opposed to NSA surveillance. And we’ve made huge waves in the media with a coalition of companies and organization that the Atlantic called "perhaps the most diverse collection of groups in the modern history of American politics."
But we’re not done yet. Today, we’re launching a campaign to call members of Congress. We're asking everyone concerned about their privacy to call Congress today and throughout the rest of the week.
On Charlie Rose last night, President Obama gave his most detailed defense of the NSA surveillance programs since a FISA court order demanding that Verizon hand over phone records information on all its US customers leaked to the Guardian two weeks ago. In a key portion of the interview, he talked about the secret FISA court that, under the auspices of the PATRIOT Act and FISA Amendments Act, has been approving the NSA’s sweeping surveillance requests. Curiously, President Obama referred to these secret courts as “transparent”:
Charlie Rose: But has FISA court turned down any request?