The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
- Fourth Amendment, US Constitution
UPDATE: We've created an embeddable modal you can use to show your commitment to the Fourth Amendment. Get it here.
Good news out of New Jersey—a judge has issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) blocking a dangerous a provision of a recently-passed New Jersey statute (A3352) that would have left online service providers legally on the hook for user-generated content. The TRO issued Monday blocks enforcement of the new law until the court hears additional arguments in support of a permanent injunction in early August.
The first round of negotiations over a new trade agreement between the U.S. and the European Union are scheduled to start next week, but it may be doomed before it even begins. EU officials are demanding answers and threatening to call off the negotiations in light of the latest NSA revelations released this week showing how the US has been involved in extensive spying on EU diplomats. The diminishing trust between the two allies could have a knock-on effect on global copyright regulation, and stiffen Europe's resolve to better protect its own citizens' online privacy.
Recently released daily flight logs from Customs & Border Protection (CBP) show the agency has sharply increased the number of missions its 10 Predator drones have flown on behalf of state, local and non-CBP federal agencies. Yet, despite this increase—eight-fold between 2010 and 2012—CBP has failed to explain how it’s protecting our privacy from unwarranted drone surveillance.
Twitter today announced a new way of targeting advertisements for its users, including a partnership with three online tracking firms: media6degrees (m6d), Chango, and Adara. This new system will display ads based on your behavior and reading habits, which show up as "Promoted Tweets" or "Promoted Accounts." This is typical of the direction that major online companies are moving. But Twitter has made some praiseworthy design decisions:
1. Twitter will honor your browser's Do Not Track setting by treating it as a "do not collect" signal. In other words, when Do Not Track is enabled, Twitter will not collect your browsing information in order to show targeted ads on Twitter.
Earlier, we posted about Twitter's new tailored advertising announcement. We applauded Twitter's commitment to privacy by allowing two opt-out mechanisms—both an internal setting and your browser's Do Not Track capability. To make things easier for you, here's a guide to opt out of Twitter's tailored advertisements and how best to protect yourself from online tracking.
Opting out of Twitter's tailored advertisements
Twitter has a simple, built-in setting for opting out of tailored advertisements. Opting out will not remove Twitter's ads altogether—which show up as Promoted Tweets and Promoted Accounts—but they will prevent Twitter from collecting external data to modify which ads you receive.
California's landmark open access bill, the California Taxpayer Access to Publicly Funded Research Act (AB 609), has stalled in the State Senate. But take heart—it is far from dead.
Due to some procedural glitches, the Senate Governmental Organization (G.O.) Committee hasn't been able to officially sign off on the bill. At last week's hearing, the bill barely missed out on a quorum, getting five yes votes and zero no votes. (The other members abstained.) However, the bill was granted reconsideration by the Chair of the G.O. That means the Committee will pick up the bill in January 2014, exactly where it left off.
That also means our work is far form over. This kind of delay can often be the vehicle for a slow, quiet death. But we, and the bill many other supporters, won't let that happen to open access.
When it comes to making progress around privacy, it's sometimes best to look at what individual states are doing. Unfortunately, faster legislative changes on the state level can be a double-edged sword. Massachusetts is the latest example: while they are considering a bill implementing strong warrant requirements around electronic communications, they are also looking to unnecessarily expand wiretap laws.
The past couple of years have seen a growing interest in Internet regulation developed in a multistakeholder environment. From Brazil to Jordan, such participatory processes have yielded mixed results, but around the world, many activists, policymakers, and other stakeholders remain optimistic that multistakeholder-developed regulation is possible.
Cut to the Philippines, where the Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom (MCPIF)—a crowdsourced document—was recently filed as House Bill No. 1086 by Rep. Kimi Cojuangco and as Senate Bill No. 53 by Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago.
The first round of talks in what the U.S. and EU trade representatives intend to be the largest bilateral trade agreement ever have begun. The governments call it TTIP, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). Everyone else calls it TAFTA, the Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement. Whatever the name, it will regulate all U.S. and EU trade, or around 30 percent of world trade in goods. And according to the first leaks of negotiation documents, it threatens to be yet another trojan horse for copyright and internet issues.
Two of the world's largest Internet companies are currently engaged in a legal battle to reveal the scope of their involvement in the controversial NSA spying programs exposed by a former intelligence contractor through a series of high-profile leaks. EFF has now joined a coalition to file a brief in support of Google and Microsoft as the companies seek permission from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court to reveal aggregate data about the federal government's access to user information.
The following is a guest post by Will Creeley and Nico Perrino of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). Creeley is FIRE's Director of Legal and Public Advocacy and Perrino is the Communications & Media Relations Coordinator.
Attention, high school and college students: Your online speech is not nearly as private as you think. And no, we're not talking about the National Security Agency. The threat to student speech comes from a far more local and immediate source: the prying eyes of school administrators apparently unaware of their students' rights. All too often, students face unwarranted punishment for online communications.
Since the Guardian and Washington Post started publishing secret NSA documents a month ago, the press has finally started digging into the operations of ultra-secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court, which is partly responsible for the veneer of legality painted onto the NSA’s domestic surveillance programs. The new reports are quite disturbing to anyone who cares about the Fourth Amendment, and they only underscore the need for major reform.
This is the 8th article in our Spies Without Borders series. The series looks at how the information disclosed in the NSA leaks affect internet users around the world.
By Greg Epstein, EFF and Global Voices Advocacy Intern
Demonstrators in Turkey have occupied Istanbul’s Taksim Square since last May, in a movement that began as an effort to protect a city park, but has evolved into a larger mobilization against the ruling party’s increasingly autocratic stance.
Prime Minister Erdogan and the ruling AKP party have used many tools to silence voices of the opposition. On June 15, police began using tear gas and water cannons to clear out the large encampment in the park. But this effort also has stretched beyond episodes of physical violence and police brutality into the digital world, where information control and media intimidation are on the rise.
Over July 4th, thousands of people in cities across the United States rallied in defense of the Fourth Amendment.
Tomorrow, Restore the Fourth – the grassroots, nonpartisan movement supporting the Fourth Amendment and opposing NSA spying – is taking the battle to the phones. A number of Restore the Fourth chapters will be hosting a “Restore the Phone” event. They will be encouraging concerned citizens to call their members of Congress and demand transparency and reform of America’s domestic spying practices.
A growing number of independent game developers have received demand letters from Treehouse Avatar Technologies for allegedly violating patent 8,180,858, a "Method and system for presenting data over a network based on network user choices and collecting real-time data related to said choices." Essentially, this patent covers creating a character online, and having the game log how many times a particular character trait was chosen.
In other words, an unbelievably basic data analytics method was somehow approved to become a patent.
Each year, EFF’s Who Has Your Back campaign assesses the policies and practices of major Internet companies as a way to encourage and incentivize those companies to take a stand for their users in the face of government demands for data.
Hundreds of protesters gathered in San Francisco and thousands more in cities around the United States earlier this month in support of "Restore the Fourth," a grassroots and non-partisan campaign dedicated to defending the Fourth Amendment. The protests took aim in particular at the National Security Agency's unconstitutional dragnet surveillance programs, details of which have emerged in leaked documents over the past month.
"Restore the Fourth" isn't officially affiliated with any formal organizations, but given our shared goal of ending illegal spying on Americans, EFF had the opportunity to speak to the crowd. Below, you'll find a short video of some highlights from that speech, and the full text as prepared.
In the past two weeks Congress has introduced a slew of bills responding to the Guardian's publication of a top secret court order using Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act to demand that Verizon Business Network Services give the National Security Agency (NSA) a record of every customer's call history for three months. The order was confirmed by officials like President Obama and Senator Feinstein, who said it was a "routine" 90 day reauthorization of a program started in 2007.
With the arrival of summer at EFF, you can hear the excitement in the stuffing of luggage and locking of office doors as our team prepares for some of the most important conventions in the world. Black Hat starts on July 27, with DEF CON immediately after. But before those two kick off, there's San Diego Comic-Con, the largest celebration of the popular arts. For the first time, an EFF staffer will be pounding the plush conference carpet (and maneuvering around cosplayers) to take the pulse of the entertainment industry and catch up with some of our friends and fans.
This weekend, the New York Times published a fascinating portrait of Erich Spangenberg of IPNav, who has been called one of "one of the most notorious patent trolls in America." In the past five years, IPNav has sued 1,638 companies.
While the Times' profile includes many colorful details (such as the time Spangenberg purchased so much wine at a Christie's auction that it had to be delivered by an 18 wheel truck), this is not the important part of the story. What is far more important is the evidence that IPNav's business, and patent trolling more generally, is a huge tax on innovation.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation and SHARE Defense are organizing a three day workshop on state surveillance and human rights (SSHR) in Rijeka, Croatia on 18 - 20 July. It’s part of an amazing array of festivals taking place simultaneously in the city, including the Share Cyberpunk Academy and Republika Festival. EFF’s Katitza Rodriguez and Jillian York will be joining Djordje Krivokapic from SHARE Defense to explore the new technologies of surveillance, how to protect your privacy against the growing powers of the surveillance state -- and most importantly, how to fight back with better laws and greater oversight.
EFF fought back against a particularly nasty copyright troll tactic this week. Lawyers representing the adult film producer Malibu Media, LLC file long lists of movie titles on the public record, accusing an Internet subscriber of copying those movies illegally. Among the titles on that list are many adult films with very embarrassing titles. The lawyers then send a copy of the court filing to the subscriber along with a demand for money. The threat is obvious - either pay up, point a finger at a friend or family member, or be named in a public lawsuit as a habitual user of hard-core porn. Faced with these threats, many people pay thousands to the lawyers to make the threat go away - whether they were responsible for illegal downloading or not. But more and more judges are catching on to copyright trolls' abuses of the justice system.
In yet another step down what could be a slippery slope toward an elaborate extralegal IP enforcement regime, several major Internet advertising networks announced an agreement this week on how they will treat "pirate sites." The good news: the "best practices" could be much much worse. The bad news: once again, Internet users weren't given a seat at the negotiating table.
Today EFF joins a coalition of 50 organizations to send a letter to Congress urging the legislature to focus on finding—and passing—effective solutions to patent abuse. This letter brings together a strikingly diverse group of companies—including retailers, application developers, and financial services institutions—as well as public interest organizations like Public Knowledge and EFF. Together, we call on Congress to take immediate action to curb destructive patent troll litigation.
In the past several weeks, EFF has received many requests for advice about privacy tools that provide technological shields against mass surveillance. We've been interested for many years in software tools that help people protect their own privacy; we've defended your right to develop and use cryptographic software, we've supported the development of the Tor software, and written privacy software of our own.
This article is part one of a two-part series. In this part, we'll take a brief look at some of the available tools to blunt the effects of mass surveillance. In the second part, we'll discuss the big picture, reasons Internet users have been slow to adopt cryptographic software, and some limitations of existing technology's ability to defend us against government snooping.
After years of unnecessary expansion, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) may soon get some much-needed reform. Senator Wyden, along with Representatives Lofgren and Sensenbrenner, recently introduced Aaron's Law, which offers modest, common-sense changes to the draconian anti-hacking law and brings the statute in-line with recent court rulings limiting its scope.
Skype has long claimed to be "end-to-end encrypted", an architectural category that suggests conversations over the service would be difficult or impossible to eavesdrop upon, even given control of users' Internet connections. But Skype's 2005 independent security review admits a caveat to this protection: "defeat of the security mechanisms at the Skype Central Server" could facilitate a "man-in-the-middle attack" (see section 3.4.1). Essentially, the Skype service plays the role of a certificate authority for its users and, like other certificate authorities, could facilitate eavesdropping by giving out the wrong keys.
The House Judiciary Committee's hearing on the government's unconstitutional spying provided the Obama Administration with a marvelous opportunity to answer Congress’s questions about abuses of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act, the laws being used by the government to order phone companies provide the calling information from every American's calling information. Representatives from both parties grilled the government’s witnesses about the spying, the lack of transparency, the violation of the law, and the violation of the Fourth Amendment. Sadly, the witnesses were caught off guard, unable to answer questions, and hid behind secrecy.
EFF has joined a broad coalition of technology companies and other civil liberties groups in demanding that online services be allowed to report for the first time complete information about the government’s requests for user data. In a letter addressed to President Barack Obama, Congressional leaders, and top intelligence officials, over 50 organizations laid out the need for more transparency around national security requests.
This letter comes after last month's revelations about previously classified National Security Agency datamining programs have shed new light on when the government can issue requests for user data that companies are not allowed to disclose.
The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement threatens the rights of Internet users in all its potential signatories, from Peru to Canada to the United States. This week as part of the 18th round of meetings in Kota Kinabulu, Malaysia, a new country, Japan, officially joins the negotiations. Japan is arriving late to the TPP table, but its participation already risks making Japanese law harsher while demolishing the hard-won victories of copyright reformers in the country.
We've all heard a lot in the last month about the government's flimsy excuse for the NSA's massive collection of telephone and Internet metadata: that this sensitive information is somehow just "business records" that don't require a warrant for government access. That same argument has been used by the government to also justify the warrantless collection of cell site data -- the mobile company's record of which tower your phone connects to -- despite the fact that these records can reveal enormous amounts of information about where you go and with whom.
Thankfully, we're seeing some significant strides to put this dangerous idea to rest.
Twitter was abuzz yesterday when an unknown person published what was alleged to be a group of passwords for the email accounts of Congressional staffers. Multiple journalists, including reporters from the Daily Beast and Buzzfeed, commented on the list while linking to it.
While one would assume linking to the list is a First Amendment-protected activity—given the journalists had nothing to do with stealing the passwords—Barrett Brown is currently under indictment, in part, for remarkably similar behavior. And if he is convicted, it could have dire consequences for press freedom.
Nominations are now open for EFF’s 22nd Annual Pioneer Awards, to be presented on September 19th in San Francisco. EFF established the Pioneer Awards in 1992 to recognize leaders on the electronic frontier who are extending freedom and innovation in the realm of information technology. Nominations will be open until Thursday, August 1st. Nominate the next Pioneer Award winner today!
Traditionally, D.C. slows down over the summer months. This year, that is not the case with patent reform. Two new bills have already been introduced since Congress returned from its July 4th recess.
The first, a comprehensive bill called the Patent Litigation and Innovation Act, was introduced by Reps. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas) and Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.). It includes many of the types of reforms we've been talking about, such as:
Lawmakers in Washington are again weighing in on who should and should not qualify as a journalist—and the outcome looks pretty grim for bloggers, freelancers, and other non-salaried journalists.
David Cameron, the British Prime Minister, could have buried almost any bad news on the same day as a royal birth. Instead, the main grievous news he had to offer — his plan for pervasive censorship of the British Internet — was entirely his own making.
Governments enact new digital policies in the name of national security and intellectual property, but they often have the effects of chilling free speech and violating privacy. A conference in Bogotá, Colombia, this week called Human Rights in the Digital Age will bring together activists, advocates, and policymakers to examine human rights within the context of these international digital policies and experiences.
You shouldn't have to surrender your constitutional rights in order to safeguard your electronic privacy. In a new amicus brief we filed today, we told a federal court in Wisconsin that ordering a man to decrypt the contents of computers seized from his apartment would violate the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination.
The case involves the FBI's attempts to decrypt the contents of more than ten storage devices and hard drives found in the apartment of Jeffrey Feldman in the course of a child pornography investigation. After spending months trying to decrypt the drives, the government applied for a court order forcing Feldman to provide the government with the decrypted contents of the drives.
There’s a fight brewing in Washington around NSA surveillance, and pro-privacy Representatives from both parties are taking the battle to the budget. The House is gearing up for a vote on the Defense Appropriations Bill (basically, the budget for the Department of Defense) and a bipartisan coalition of Representatives will be introducing a novel amendment that attempts to strike at funding for one type of particularly egregious surveillance power of the NSA.
Open-government advocates have much to celebrate this summer, particularly in California where three EFF-involved efforts have resulted in conclusive victories for the public’s right to know what their government is up to.
In two lawsuits—one before the California Supreme Court and another before a federal judge in San Francisco—the courts rejected outlandish government secrecy claims. Last month, transparency activists and media outlets in California also successfully defeated legislation that would have gutted the state’s transparency laws.
Upheld: Public’s Right to Access Information, Regardless of its Electronic Format
In early July, the California Supreme Court unanimously upheld (pdf) the public’s right to access public records maintained by the government, regardless of the electronic format in which they are stored.
In a crucial ruling today, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed that a major TV network can't use copyright to limit consumer choice.
The US House of Representatives came within a few votes of passing a novel amendment that attempted to strike out funding for the highly contentious NSA calling records surveillance program. Under this program, the NSA acquires the records of who you called, when you called, and how long you spoke—for all calls made within the United States, including international, long distance, and even local.
Negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP) have excluded public participation from the entire process, while allowing Big Content interests to see and direct the terms of this trade agreement. That is why the Fair Deal Coalition, of which EFF is a member, is launching an open platform to crowdsource alternative copyright proposals that reflect the broad interests of Internet users and businesses that are shut out from the talks. Your Digital Future asks citizens and businesses around the world to consider what kind of rules we need to encourage creativity, participation, and innovation. We’ll take this wide-ranging feedback and bring it directly to policymakers to make sure they listen to the Internet community’s demands.