The FBI plans to roll out the face recognition component of its massive Next Generation Identification (NGI) biometrics database this summer—but the Bureau has six years of catching up to do in explaining to Americans exactly how it plans to collect, use and protect this data. Today we called on Attorney General Eric Holder to do just that.
As we explained in the letter:
The murky copyright situation surrounding phone unlocking could get a little bit clearer, thanks to the new and somewhat improved Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act, a bipartisan bill in the Senate.
As a refresher: the notion that phone unlocking might violate copyright law comes from an ill-conceived section of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) that prevents the circumvention of technical measures around copyrighted works. If such measures are understood to include restrictions on phone software, then unlocking may violate the DMCA—an outcome Congress never intended.
It’s no secret that EFF is strongly opposed to the United States’ piecemeal approach to updating sanction provisions for the five U.S.-embargoed countries of Sudan, Syria, Cuba, North Korea, and Iran. We’ve noted that the fundamental problem with the United States’ reform method is that it’s “largely reactionary and ultimately prioritizes certain countries over others for reasons that are, to put it charitably, hard to discern.” For example, according to an article published by the Open Technology Institute, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued Iran a new General License D-1—which replaces the old General License D—making it acceptable for U.S.
Unfortunately, it appears that the lure of bulk surveillance is not just a temptation for the federal government. Last summer, about a month after new leaks exposed the NSA’s bulk content PRISM program, Cyrus Vance, Jr., the District Attorney for Manhattan, decided to go secretly fishing through 381 Facebook accounts, and wanted to ensure no one was allowed to stop him.
The DA was looking for evidence of disability fraud, and saw Facebook as a treasure trove. Many people put their lives online, sharing their daily ups and downs with a steady stream of photos, comments, and wall posts to friends and family. Perhaps some of them, after claiming a disability, would post a windsurfing selfie or write about their marathon training, and evidence their fraud.
Democracy makes the job of our trade negotiators much harder. The light of democratic oversight makes it difficult for them to pander to the incessant demands of industry lobbyists, while ignoring the broader public interest. And the transparency that is central to democratic systems of governments impedes their efforts to hide what they are doing behind closed doors.
EFF has long been critical of the Federal Communications Commission’s efforts to regulate digital technologies and services. We’ve warned against FCC rules and strategies that threatened to (or actually did) give the agency too much power over innovation and user choice. And with good reason: the FCC has a sad history of being captured by the very industries it’s supposed to regulate. It also has a history of ignoring grassroots public opinion. In the early 2000s, for example, the commission essentially ignored the comments of hundreds of thousands of Americans who opposed media consolidation.