As part of our Open Wireless Movement, we set out to create router software that would make it easier for people to safely and smartly share part of their wireless network. Protecting hosts, so their security is not compromised because they offer open networks, is one of the goals of the router software we released. However, as research published by Independent Security Evaluators (ISE) and others has shown, almost every popular home router has serious security flaws.
In developing the router software, we realized that we also needed to tackle the more fundamental problem of home router security. Instead of just creating an open-wireless friendly router, why not work to improve router security while we're at it?
German newspapers recently reported that the NSA targets people who research privacy and anonymity tools online—for instance by searching for information about Tor and Tails—for deeper surveillance. But today, researching something online is the near equivalent to thinking out loud. By ramping up surveillance on people simply for reading about security, freedom of expression easily collapses into self-censorship; speech is chilled; people may become afraid to research and learn.
In part one of this blogpost, we discuss why it makes good sense to contribute to the Tor project on university campuses, and we offer some examples of students who have been able to set up relays or exit nodes in recent years.
EFF realizes that many students may be interested in contributing to the Tor Project, but are unsure of how to get the conversation with their university started. In this post, we offer some tips that we've pulled from successful efforts to establish an exit or a relay node on campus. We also provide some suggestions for addressing concerns students are likely to encounter from their campus administration.
Scientific progress relies upon the exchange of ideas and research. The Internet is the most powerful network the world has ever seen, with the capability to enable this exchange at an unprecedented speed and scale. But outmoded policies and practices continue to present massive barriers that collectively stifle that potential. Many major online research databases are kept under lock and key by publishers, making them extremely expensive to access. Given the subscription model for these repositories, most people cannot afford to pay the fees to read or cite to existing research, let alone know what research and studies have already been published.
Last week, the UK's House of Lords Select Committee on Communications released a report on "social media and criminal offences." Britain has faced a number of high-profile cases of online harassment this year, which has prompted demands for new laws, and better enforcement of existing laws.
"Our starting point," the peers begin, "is that what is not an offence off-line should not be an offence online". The report is cautious in its recommendations for modifying existing regulation, and reasonable in spelling out how current criminal law can deal with patterns of harassment and bullying, whether they intersect with modern social media or not.
A few weeks ago we fought a battle for transparency in our flagship NSA spying case, Jewel v. NSA. But, ironically, we weren't able to tell you anything about it until now.
We have often written about how software patents feed trolls and tax innovation. We’ve pushed for patent reform in Congress, in the courts, and at the Patent Office. While new legislation has stalled (for now), reformers have won significant victories in the courts. Of these, the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank may be the most important.
The NSA pulls no punches when it comes to the surveillance of innocent people in every corner of the world in its attempt to “collect it all.” Those in the U.S. prepared to vigorously oppose mass government spying need to fight back and hold our representatives to account for the routine human rights violations perpetrated by the National Security Agency. And this activism needs to occur on all levels, from lobbying local and state officials to setting up meetings with Congress members.
Ever since the Snowden revelations, honest (and some dishonest) efforts have been made in Congress to try to scale back at least some of the NSA’s spying. It’s a complex problem, since the NSA has overstepped reasonable bounds in so many different directions and there is intense secrecy surrounding the NSA’s activities and legal analysis.
The bill with the best chance to make some positive change currently is the Senate version of USA FREEDOM Act, a new piece of legislation with an older name.
After extensive analysis and internal discussion, EFF has decided to support this bill. But given the complexities involved, we wanted to lay out our thinking in more detail for our friends and allies.
Earlier this week, AB 609, a California bill promoting better public access to taxpayer-funded research, passed through the Senate Appropriations Committee. The bill, which flew out of the Assembly last year, heads next to the Senate floor. It's great that California is just two steps away from passing the first meaningful state-level public access legislation in the US. We are disappointed, however that the current version of the bill has been watered down significantly.
In its initial stages, the bill required all publicly funded research in California to be made freely available six months after publication. But then politics stepped in. Before long, the embargo period changed from six months to a year. And most recently, with pressure mounting from publishers, the bill greatly narrowed its scope to only cover research funded by the State Department of Public Health.
The FCC is slated to close the written comment window for the net neutrality proceeding on September 10th, but that doesn’t mean that the FCC is going to make up its mind anytime soon. In fact, it doesn’t even mean that the FCC will be done hearing from the public. Technically, the public can continue to comment, and the FCC, if it decides to do so, can continue to listen to Americans who speak out against proposed rules that would allow Internet providers to discriminate against how we access parts of the Net.
The Australian government announced new anti-terrorism measures this week, in response to the alleged involvement of Australian citizens with extremist groups in countries including Syria and Iraq.
In a bold and welcome move to protect users, Google announced on Wednesday that they have started prioritizing sites offering HTTPS (HTTP over TLS) in their page ranking algorithm. Google's Online Security Blog explains that domains with transport layer encryption have a slight advantage in search results, and the preference may grow stronger in the coming months:
For now it's only a very lightweight signal—affecting fewer than 1% of global queries, and carrying less weight than other signals such as high-quality content—while we give webmasters time to switch to HTTPS. But over time, we may decide to strengthen it, because we’d like to encourage all website owners to switch from HTTP to HTTPS to keep everyone safe on the web.
Today, Mexico’s newest data retention law entered into force. The Mexican telecom law compels telecom providers to retain, for two years, the details of who communicates with whom, for how long, and from where. It also allows the authorities access to these details without a court order, exposing geolocation information that reveals the physical whereabouts of Mexicans.
As the negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP) continue to trudge along, little new information has leaked because the negotiations are being conducted under conditions of strict secrecy.
But this week, the launch of the TPP: No Certification website has shed new light on one issue that has been often overlooked before now. The United States, exclusively amongst the dozen negotiating partners, is reserving the right to vet other countries' implementation of the agreement before its own obligations come into effect. This has worrying implications for other countries planning to take advantage of whatever flexibilities remain in the TPP text after the negotiations are finished.
Should interpretation of the laws and Constitution of the United States take place in one-sided secretive courts, away from the public eye?
For years, it has. But even Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) judges don’t agree on how exactly the FISC should work. Since the Snowden disclosures, hundreds of lawmakers have made it clear that they want to see more transparency in the court by supporting various NSA reforms. Most recently, 18 Senators co-sponsored the new USA FREEDOM Act, S. 2685, which offers a few important changes to the FISC.
So who’s right? A look at the history and procedures of the FISC make it clear: real reform is needed now.
How We Think Courts Work, and How that Measures Up to the FISA Court
This summer we proudly unveiled EFF's fifth limited edition member t-shirt to DEF CON 22 attendees at the annual hacker conference in Las Vegas. Secretive organizations scheming global domination and watching everything you do may not be very far fetched, but we've turned that concept on its head with a digital freedom society-themed motif created by EFF Senior Designer Hugh D'Andrade. Together we are growing our own conspiracy to defend privacy and free expression for all. Hidden within the rich mystic symbolism of the crossing keypair, ethernet cable crest, lockpicks, and anti-surveillance eye is a secret puzzle for you to decipher, the likes of which would make even Voynich jealous! Warning: spoilers are ahead, and you already know too much!
The events depicted in the superhero movie The Dark Knight Rises are not real. For example, when Cat Woman pursues software called “Clean Slate” to erase all traces of her criminal past, you are watching a fictional character seek fictional software. If that point strikes you as obvious, then you may have trouble comprehending the trademark claim in Fortres Grand v. Warner Brothers. In that case, software company Fortres Grand claimed that the movie’s use of the words ‘clean slate’ infringed its trademark on a real piece of software with that name.
Big news from Texas: Adam Carolla has settled with the podcasting patent troll Personal Audio. Although the settlement is confidential, we can guess the terms. This is because Personal Audio sent out a press release last month saying it was willing to walk away from its suit with Carolla. So we can assume that Carolla did not pay Personal Audio a penny. We can also assume that, in exchange, Carolla has given up the opportunity to challenge the patent and the chance to get his attorney’s fees.
Earlier this week, EFF told the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia that Ethiopia must be held accountable for its illegal wiretapping of an American citizen. Foreign governments simply do not have a get-out-of-court-free card when they commit serious felonies in America against Americans. This case is the centerpiece of our U.S. legal efforts to combat state sponsored malware.
We have joined more than a hundred organizations and tens of thousands of individuals across the US to oppose secret, undemocratic trade agreements that affect users' rights. Together, we defeated a bill that would have put agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) on the fast track to approval without any proper Congressional oversight. Now the White House, the United States Trade Representative (USTR), and other policymakers that are beholden to corporate interests are putting massive pressure on Congress to pass something like it again.
Update: On August 18, after being released briefly to visit his ailing father in the hospital, Alaa Abd El Fattah wrote this open letter explaining the reasons for his hunger strike. On August 27, his father, renowned human rights lawyer Ahmed Seif, passed away. We will continue to campaign for Alaa's swift release.
Alaa Abd El Fattah is currently serving a fifteen-year prison sentence for spurious accusations made in connection with his longstanding and influential activism. The Egyptian blogger and activist, who was sentenced in June, has faced years of harassment and arrests from each successive Egyptian government for his work.
We at EFF are always excited to unveil new ways for our technically skilled community to help expand and defend our rights online. And time and again our members demonstrate an unbelievable drive and ability to take action in truly game-changing ways. Look at what happened when we asked coders earlier this year to help EFF build our new open-source tool to contact members of Congress. We thought the project would take weeks, but we finished it in two days. That’s because 142 volunteer coders joined forces to help. We were in awe.
Now, in that similar spirit, we are excited to announce yet another way digital rights defenders can help out: Coding with EFF. Join us.
The longer my information is out there, the worse the issue gets, yet still no action. I have paid for unpublishing my information for years as I testified in a murder trial. Now, my wife, children, and I are [a]ll in danger; and I have nowhere to turn.
Four years ago, users of Comcast's phone service who had paid for their personal information to be unlisted noticed that something was amiss. Complaints started appearing from these individuals who found their names, addresses, and telephone numbers in phone directories both online and off.
Hollywood and big publishers already have a stranglehold over the U.S. Trade Representative's objectives in trade agreements, leading to extreme copyright enforcement and privacy-invading policies in trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement. But now, the White House is doing away with the remaining limits it has on lobbyists influencing federal policies.
When Sarah Palin placed crosshairs over political districts her political action committee was targeting in the 2010 midterm election, there was an outcry but she wasn’t arrested. Although some claimed the imagery was violent, no one believed Palin was actually intending to shoot anyone. But when Anthony Elonis posted some ugly speech on his Facebook account, fantasizing about killing his ex-wife and law enforcement agents, he was arrested, indicted for making Internet threats and sentenced to more than three and a half years in prison. Elonis claimed he was venting and that he didn’t mean what he said. The prosecutor explained to the jury that it didn’t matter what Elonis thought, and the Third Circuit Court of Appeals agreed, ruling the government only had to show a reasonable person felt threatened by the posts.
Last week was a bad day for freedom of expression in Brazil. Judge Paulo César de Carvalho, in the state court of Espírito Santo, issued a preliminary injunction ordering the removal of Secret—an anonymous sharing application that lets people share messages with friends, friends of friends, or publicly—from the Apple App store and Google Play store, as well as Cryptic (Secret’s application for the Windows Phone) from Microsoft's store. The injunction also ordered the three companies to remove the applications from phones belonging to their Brazilian users.
What’s the problem? The prosecutor alleges:
It’s been more than a year since Aaron Swartz’s tragic death, and now Aaron’s life is the subject of a new documentary, The Internet’s Own Boy, directed by Brian Knappenberger. The documentary has received much acclaim and deservedly so. It tells the story of a political activist and innovator who put theory into practice, always experimenting and building new tools and methodologies to animate his theory of change.
EFF was amongst a handful of user representatives invited to attend the initial scoping meeting of a new global convening called the NETmundial Initiative, which was held today in Geneva. In introducing the event, Virgílio Almeida of Brazil's Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation gave his prediction that the new Initiative could eventually come to take its place amongst other high-profile Internet governance institutions such as the IGF, ITU and ICANN.
If this is so, then we certainly hope that today's meeting doesn't set a standard for the nascent initiative to follow, because it wasn't a promising start. But before explaining why, a little more background information is in order.
Good news everyone! The Patent Office has granted a patent on a cure for cancer.
Last December, the Patent Office issued Patent No. 8,609,158 on a “potent drug” that “rebukes cancer, cancer cells, and kills cancer.” According to the patent, this drug cures a litany of other maladies. What is this wonderful invention, you ask? It is a combination of “evening primrose oil, rice, sesame seeds, green beans, coffee, meat, cheese, milk, green tea extract, evening primrose seeds, and wine.” As the patent’s abstract says, “it works.”
Join the Electronic Frontier Foundation, io9, and a coalition of fan groups over Labor Day weekend for Project Secret Identity, a cosplay photo campaign to raise awareness of how online anonymity and privacy are key to free expression. Visit ProjectSecretIdentity.org during Dragon Con (Aug. 29 – Sept. 1) to participate online or visit us on the second floor of the Hilton Atlanta or the Southeastern Browncoats booth, #1000 at AmericasMart.
For the first time in my life, I’m donning a costume at a convention.
The Texas Supreme Court today ruled that orders preventing people who have been found liable for defamation from publishing further statements about the plaintiff are “prior restraints,” a remedy that the First Amendment rarely permits. Adopting a position advocated by EFF in an amicus brief, the court also delightfully quoted The Big Lebowski's Walter Sobchak: "For your information, the Supreme Court has roundly rejected prior restraint." It further rejected the argument that the ability of Internet publication to reach millions of readers almost instantaneously somehow required a change in First Amendment law.