President Obama has nominated former SOPA lobbyist Robert Holleyman to join the team of U.S. negotiators leading the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) talks. If confirmed by the Senate, the former chief executive officer of the Business Software Alliance (BSA) would serve as a Deputy to the U.S. Trade Representative. Coincidentally, the current head of the BSA is former White House IP Czar Victoria Espinel.
The Mexican website 1dmx.org (mirror here), was set up in the wake of a set of controversial December 1st 2012 protests against the inauguration of the new President of Mexico, Enrique Peña Nieto. For a year, the site served as a source of information, news, discussion and commentary from the point of view of the protestors. As the anniversary of the protests approached, the site grew to include organized campaign against proposed laws to criminalize protest in the country, as well as preparations to document the results of a memorial protest, planned for December 1, 2013.
UPDATE- March 5, 2014:
Remember when Rep. Mike Rogers likened opponents of pernicious cybersecurity legislation to 14-year-olds? It turns out that middle-school-age students are also well-prepared to debate him on the NSA's programs as well.
EFF congratulates students from two middle schools who took home top prizes in the C-SPAN StudentCam 2014 competition for young filmmakers with their documentaries on mass surveillance. Students were tasked with answering the question: “What’s the most important issue the U.S. Congress should consider in 2014?”
According to the C-SPAN press release:
The U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas today filed a motion to dismiss 11 charges against Barrett Brown in a criminal prosecution that would have had massive implications for journalism and the right of ordinary people to share links. EFF has written extensively about the case and had planned to file an amicus brief on Monday on behalf of several reporters groups arguing for the dismissal of the indictment.
Within a week, over 5,000 individuals have urged the Senate to pass meaningful patent reform. These individuals represent over 900 inventors, 700 investors, and well over 1300 entrepreneurs who drive the innovation economy—yet are suffering billions of dollars in losses at the hands of patent trolls and rampant litigation.
What is meaningful reform? There must be immediate changes to remove incentives from the patent troll business model: fee shifting to raise trolls' financial stakes, for example; strong end user protections to stop trolls from targeting users of off-the-shelf technologies; transparency provisions preventing bad actors from hiding behind shell companies, striking with misleading demand letters, then stepping back into the shadows.
Today, the Human Rights Committee, a body of independent experts that monitors the implementation of States human rights obligations, is holding its one hundredth and tenth session in Geneva from 10th to 28th March. During this meeting, the Committee will review the reports of the United States (among other countries) on how they are implementing the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. In particular, the Committee will be scrutinizing the United States' mass surveillance practices and its compliance with Article 17 on the the right to privacy.
The campaign for open access to publicly funded research was going in the right direction: the White House issued a strong mandate last year, federal agencies have taken up the mantle to create public access policies, and the solid open access bill FASTR was introduced in both the House and the Senate.
As Facebook turned ten years old last month, a legal case it brought against Power Ventures almost six years ago demonstrates the continued hurdles facing developers who seek to empower users to interact with closed services like Facebook in new and creative ways. In a new amicus brief, we caution the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals not to extend crippling civil and criminal liability on services that provide competing or follow-on innovation.
One of the two cases against satellite TV company DISH Network settled last week, with Disney ending its quest to have DISH's automatic commercial-skipping feature, AutoHop, made illegal. In addition to calling off its lawyers, Disney agreed to stream some shows from its popular networks like ABC, Disney Channel, and ESPN over the Internet to DISH subscribers. In exchange, DISH agreed to disable the commercial-skipping functionality for three days after a show is aired - corresponding to the period that the Neilsen Company includes in its audience measurements.
This past Monday, the Human Rights Committee commenced its one hundredth and tenth session in Geneva from March 10-28. During this session, the Committee will review the reports of several countries on how they are implementing the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), an international human rights treaty and one of the bedrocks of human rights protections.
Last week, the federal government finally dismissed 11 controversial counts from its overzealous prosecution of journalist Barrett Brown. These counts charged Brown with identity theft for sharing a link to records documenting improper and potentially illegal activities by the U.S. intelligence contractor, Stratfor Global Intelligence.
The fact that Brown has been in jail for 18 months, based in large part on these charges, has threatened and continues to threaten press freedom in the United States.
Getty Images—among the world's largest providers of stock and editorial photos—has announced a major change to the way it is offering its pictures for sites to use. Beginning this week, in addition to the traditional licensing options, people can embed images in their sites at no cost and with no watermarks, so long as they use the provided embed code and iframe.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) released its annual “Enemies of the Internet” index this week—a ranking first launched in 2006 intended to track countries that repress online speech, intimidate and arrest bloggers, and conduct surveillance of their citizens. Some countries have been mainstays on the annual index, while others have been able to work their way off the list. Two countries particularly deserving of praise in this area are Tunisia and Myanmar (Burma), both of which have stopped censoring the Internet in recent years and are headed in the right direction toward Internet freedom.
UPDATE: This page has been moved, and this copy is no longer being updated. For more recent developments, see the latest version of our Encrypt the Web report.
We’ve asked the companies in our Who Has Your Back Program what they are doing to bolster encryption in light of the NSA’s unlawful surveillance of your communications. We’re pleased to see that
four five six seven eight companies—Dropbox, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Sonic.net, SpiderOak, Twitter, and Yahoo—are implementing five out of five of our best practices for encryption. See the infographic.
Russia's government has escalated its use of its Internet censorship law to target news sites, bloggers, and politicians under the slimmest excuse of preventing unauthorized protests and enforcing house arrest regulations. Today, the country's ISPs have received orders to block a list of major news sites and system administrators have been instructed to take the servers providing the content offline.
The NSA has seen the future of mass surveillance, and it appears they believe that the future lies in malware. Earlier this week, The Intercept reported on a series of slides and memos leaked by Edward Snowden describing the NSA's "more aggressive" approach to signals intelligence, which circumvents encryption such as web browsing via HTTPS and email using PGP, by installing spyware directly onto targets' computers.
Senator Dianne Feinstein—who traditionally is a stalwart defender of the intelligence community—came out swinging against them this week. While on the floor of the Senate, she laid bare a two year long struggle concerning CIA spying on Senate Intelligence Committee staffers investigating CIA's early 2000s torture and enhanced interrogation techniques.
Sunshine Week starts today. What better way to kick it off than sharing this astute quote from phone phreak Phil Lapsley and attorney Michael Ravnitzky, who turned the Freedom of Information Act into a hacking tool?
Imagine a database.
A database of documents.
Every document the U.S. Government has ever created.
That database exists. It even has a name.
It’s called …
“Every document the U.S. Government has ever created and hasn’t gotten around to throwing out yet.”
You can query this database by using an obscure search engine called FOIA.
Monday marks the second day of “Sunshine Week”—a week to focus on the importance of open government and how to ensure accountability of our leaders at the federal, state, and local levels.
When US intelligence agencies were caught spying on Americans 40 years ago, Congress answered the public outcry by creating an investigative task force to bring these covert, and potentially illegal, practices into the light. The Church Committee, as it was commonly known because of its chairman, Sen. Frank Church, interviewed 800 people, held 271 hearings and published volumes upon volumes of reports—all of which paved the way for reform.
If you're as much a transparency geek as we are, then you want the whole world to feel the radiation of Sunshine Week. To help blast out the message, EFF Senior Designer Hugh D'Andrade has created a series of banners and backgrounds to brighten up your Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ profiles.
The House Judiciary Committee heard testimony Thursday on a law that underpins the Internet as we know it today: the copyright notice-and-takedown system and the safe harbor for service providers that comes with it, set up in Section 512 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. This is the committee's eighth hearing in a series reviewing various aspects of copyright law in anticipation of a possible revision that's been dubbed "The Next Great Copyright Act."
Sunshine Week is often a time for transparency advocates to collectively lament about government secrecy and institutional resistance to accountability. But the week of advocacy is also an opportunity to highlight how, through patience and a lot of court motions, organizations such as EFF can pry important documents from agencies that would rather operate in the shadows.
EFF recently won favorable rulings in two hard-fought Freedom of Information Act cases involving reports of intelligence agency misconduct and agency attempts to mandate backdoors into our internet communications. In light of recent revelations about illegal NSA and FBI surveillance, the records produced in these cases could not be more timely.
EFF v. CIA—Reports of Intelligence Agency Misconduct
Are you a student who's passionate about Internet and technology policy? Come work with EFF this summer as a Google Policy Fellow!
The Google Policy Fellowship program offers students interested in Internet and technology policy the opportunity to spend the summer working on these issues at public interest organizations—including EFF!—in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and North America. Students will work for 10 weeks over the summer of 2014. This is the seventh year we've offered the Fellowship, an opportunity for undergraduate, graduate, and law students to work alongside EFF's international team on projects advancing debate on key public policy issues.
California State Sen. Monning (D-Carmel) has introduced legislation intended to protect Californians' privacy rights behind the wheel. We have not yet completed our analysis of the bill, sponsored by the Automobile Association of America, but apparently a thorough analysis wasn't required for the automotive industry to come out slinging FUD against it.
In a hyperbolic statement, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, an industry group representing 12 of the largest car makers in the world, immediately condemned the bill as an "unacceptable threat to motorist safety, privacy" and a "data grab" by the AAA.
The bill is no such thing.
Do you drive a car in the greater Los Angeles Metropolitan area? According to the L.A. Police Department and L.A. Sheriff’s Department, your car is part of a vast criminal investigation.
The agencies took a novel approach in the briefs they filed in EFF and the ACLU of Southern California’s California Public Records Act lawsuit seeking a week’s worth of Automatic License Plate Reader (ALPR) data. They have argued that “All [license plate] data is investigatory.” The fact that it may never be associated with a specific crime doesn’t matter.
Over 25 leading technology companies have joined a public letter urging Senator Ron Wyden, the newly appointed Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, to firmly oppose any form of "fast track" authority for trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Fast Track, also known as Trade Promotion Authority, is a mechanism that in practice limits Congressional oversight over U.S. trade policy, and gives the White House sweeping power to negotiate and finalize trade agreements.
Sunshine Week may be just seven days in March, but fighting for government transparency is a year-round mission for the Electronic Frontier Foundation. In fact, it's not unusual for litigation over public records to drag on for years upon years. To help make sense of it all, here's a handy infographic illustrating EFF's current Freedom of Information Act caseload.
For more information on EFF's FOIA lawsuits:
This week, EFF joined over 5,600 individuals in a letter (PDF) pressing the Senate for meaningful patent reform—reform that goes beyond the current Senate proposals and provides strong fixes to the patent troll problem.
As we wrote:
We need to increase transparency in the litigation process, starting with demand letters and patent ownership; we need to control the costs of litigation by, when appropriate, shifting fees and limiting expensive discovery; we need better programs for challenging bad patents; and we need to protect end-users and consumers.
EFF has delivered a letter to Washington Governor Jay Inslee today, urging him to sign into law EHB 2789 to establish a reasonable set of rules under which drones may be operated in the state. The bill, which has already passed through the state House and Senate, creates a requirement for law enforcement agencies to obtain warrants in most cases, and additionaly sets up a data minimization framework and short retention limit. From our letter to the governor:
UPDATE: As of March 22, the Turkish government has blocked Google DNS and other DNS servers, which were being used by thousands to circumvent the ban on Twitter. We recommend that Turkish users download the Tor Browser Bundle, which will continue to allow them to bypass censorship (here are instructions for using the Tor Browser Bundle in Turkish).
“Twitter and so on, we will root them out. The international community can say this or that – I don’t care. They will see the power of the Turkish Republic.”
In a single year, the public learned more information about the NSA and its global surveillance dragnet than we learned during the previous 30 years combined. Much of that knowledge can be attributed to whistleblower Edward Snowden and the journalists tirelessly working to inform the public about the NSA’s surveillance programs. But another force, one that has received far less attention, has been hard at work, too: the Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA.
FOIA can get a bad rap. It can be slow, it can be tedious, and it can be frustrating—but when FOIA works, it can recalibrate the balance of power in our democracy.
Today, President Obama is meeting with prominent American tech companies to discuss the ongoing NSA spying controversy.
It's another troubling example in a frustrating trend: despite repeated and pointed calls for answers, the NSA is still relying on word games and equivocation to avoid answering recent questions surrounding potential surveillance of privileged attorney-client communications. The New York Times reported in late February that an American law firm's privileged attorney-client communications were monitored by the Australian Signals Directorate and potentially shared with the NSA.
If you do any kind of shopping online, then you’re probably already familiar with the concept of a metasearch engine—a search engine that searches other search engines. When you’re looking for airline tickets or a used copy of The King in Yellow, you might use a metasearch engine to find out which online retailer is offering the best price.
There is also a metasearch for public records: Scout. Created and lovingly maintained by the Sunlight Foundation, Scout will take a search query and run it through six different continually updated databases of documents. The site also allows you to create email and RSS alerts and track search terms and legislation through a user account.
Update (March 28, 2014): Microsoft has announced a new policy which is described in a new post.
EFF has long argued that law enforcement agencies must get a warrant when they ask Internet companies for the content of their users’ communications. In 2013, as part of our annual Who Has Your Back report, we started awarding stars to companies that require warrants for content. It is now unclear whether Microsoft, one of our inaugural “gold star” companies in that category, is willing to live by its own maxim.
When it comes to trade policy, we've learned over and over that leaks are no substitute for transparency. Leaks can reveal inconvenient facts about what negotiators are advancing in the public's name; they can help inform and mobilize activists to push back against egregious provisions that haven't yet been finalized; they can expose lies and half-truths in public statements by officials; but they can't provide the kind of real accountability that true transparency-by-design can.
After months of hearing about their own vulnerability at the hands of intelligence agencies like the NSA and GCHQ, next Wednesday, European Parliamentarians and their staff will have an opportunity to learn about defending Internet communications using strong encryption and trusted hardware and software. Unfortunately, unless the Parliament's own IT department shifts ground, it will be a theoretical discussion, rather than the practical first steps to a secure European Parliament that its organizers had hoped.
If you're looking for proof that new cultural works speak to and are embedded within a vast array of pre-existing works and ideas, you can't do much better than "The Office Time Machine," a new art project by video remix artist Joe Sabia. Over the course of the last 18 months, Sabia has isolated every pop culture and real world reference from the US television show "The Office," and arranged them by the date of the events, people, and media they reference. It's much more fun to look at than to read about, so feel free to check it out before reading on.
Most of the problems with the patent system stem from the flood of low quality patents granted by the Patent Office. Once a bad patent issues, it is expensive and challenging to fight. The much better solution is for overbroad patents not to issue in the first place. And one way to help that happen is to submit prior art (the pre-existing publications and technology that could invalidate a patent by showing that the invention wasn't new) while a patent application is still pending.
Today we learned that the Obama administration and the House Intelligence Committee are both proposing welcome and seemingly significant changes to the mass telephone records collection program. Both the Obama administration and the Intelligence Committee suggest that mass collection end with no new data retention requirements for telephone companies. This is good news, but we have not seen the details of either and details, as we have learned, are very important in assessing suggested changes to the NSA’s mass spying.
But comparing what we know, it appears that the Obama administration's proposal requires significantly more judicial review—not just reviewing procedures but reviewing actual search requests—so it's preferable to the Intelligence Committee’s approach.
There was a moralistic, unnecessary, and wholly unscientific new restriction enacted on funding for the National Institute of Health as part of the appropriations bill passed in January. The new legislative mandate forces researchers who rely on government funding to place anti-pornography filters on their computer networks. There are serious potential consequences, such as filters overblocking sites that are anatomical rather than pornographic in nature as well as lost funding for scientific research that may legitimately need to access pornographic sites. The end result? Members of Congress, rather than the scientific community, imposing restrictions on what researchers should be investigating.
Following his pledge to “wipe out” Twitter last week, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan ordered ISPs to block the site, which they did by tweaking DNS settings and redirecting traffic from the page to a government blockpage.
Join EFF on April 4th for 404 Day, a nation-wide day of action to call attention to the long-standing problem of Internet censorship in public libraries and public schools. In collaboration with the MIT Center for Civic Media and the National Coalition Against Censorship, we are hosting a digital teach-in with some of the top researchers and librarians working to analyze and push back against the use of Internet filters on library computers.
For over a decade public libraries and public schools have been censoring the Internet by blocking and blacklisting websites to be in compliance with the Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA). The law was passed to encourage public libraries and schools to filter child pornography and obscene or “harmful to minors” images from the library’s Internet connection in exchange for federal funding.
Rumors of the extent of Ethiopia’s digital surveillance and censorship state have echoed around the information security community for years. Journalists such as Eskinder Nega have spoken of being shown text messages, printouts of emails, and recordings of their own telephone conversations by the Ethiopian security services. From within the country, commentators connected growing telecommunications surveillance to the increasing presence of Chinese telecommunications company ZTE. Externally, analysis of the targeted surveillance of exiled Ethiopians have turned up surveillance software built and sold by Western companies, such as FinFisher and Hacking Team.
As Turkey prepares for elections on Sunday, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan continues to double down on Internet censorship. A week after Turkish ISPs blocked Twitter Turkey's telecommunications authority has blocked YouTube. The block began to be rolled out hours after a leaked recording published anonymously on YouTube purported to show a conversation in which Turkey's foreign minister, spy chief, and a top general appear to discuss scenarios that could lead to a Turkish attack against militants in Syria.
Geneva—The Electronic Frontier Foundation is pleased with the UN Human Rights Committee’s concluding observations from the United States’ review on its compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The Human Rights Committee is a human rights body that monitors state implementation of the obligations relevant to privacy as outlined in the ICCPR. On March 27 the Committee released their review of the US, flagging several inadequacies with the United States’ compliance.
Last week we wrote about initial news reports that Microsoft had searched and disclosed the contents of a blogger’s Hotmail account as part of an internal investigation into the alleged theft of Microsoft source code and other trade secrets. Since then, EFF has been in touch with Microsoft to discuss our objections to the company’s policy regarding its access to user content. Today Microsoft announced a change to that policy: