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January 1, 2017 - 8:59am 94181

While the presidential election has thrown the federal government into a cloud of uncertainty, one thing is clear: EFF has never been in a better position to protect our rights on the state level in California. In 2016, we built off our previous victories around surveillance transparency, passed new laws reforming criminal justice, defeated other bills that would’ve weakened our liberties, and laid the groundwork for the hard fight ahead in 2017.

Here’s a round-up of some of our efforts in Sacramento over the last year.

January 1, 2017 - 11:31am 94253

A decade ago, DRM seemed like it was on the ropes: it had disappeared from music, most video was being served DRM-free by YouTube and its competitors, and gamers were united in their hatred of the technology. But by 2016, DRM had come roaring back, finding its way into voting machines, insulin pumps, and car engines.

Like all invasive species, DRM is hardy, and in the years since the mid-2000s, it has gone on to colonize nearly every category of software-enabled device, from thermostats to voting machines to cars and tractors to insulin pumps. Companies have worked out that since section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act provides penalties for breaking DRM, they can simply design their products so that using them in ways that the manufacturer dislikes requires breaking DRM first, and then they can claim that using your property in ways that displease the company that made it is a literal felony.

January 2, 2017 - 7:47am 94219

Throughout 2016, EFF and our civil society partners have been closely following digital rights developments throughout Latin America. You can see some of the results in Unblinking Eyes, our exhaustive survey of surveillance law and practice across the Americas, as well as multiple countries’ localized versions of Who Has Your Back (Mexico, Colombia, and Brazil), our guide to how companies respond to government data requests.

January 2, 2017 - 6:01pm 94235

This year was one of the busiest in recent memory when it comes to cryptography law in the United States and around the world. But for all the Sturm und Drang, surprisingly little actually changed in the U.S. In this post, we’ll run down the list of things that happened, how they could have gone wrong (but didn’t), how they could yet go wrong (especially in the U.K.), and what we might see in 2017.

January 5, 2017 - 9:51am 94450

An Updated Transparency Law Means New Language For Your Records Requests

As the sun sets on the Obama presidency, let’s make sure the light shines brightly anew on the incoming administration.

In 2016, Congress passed the biggest update to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the nation’s transparency law, in more than a decade. But until people start using those changes to push back on government secrecy, they are just words on a page.

So in the spirit of New Year’s resolutions, EFF hopes that you will join us in filing more FOIA requests to increase government transparency and put the new FOIA provisions to work.

January 9, 2017 - 10:26am 94463

Third Annual “Awards” Recognize the Worst in Government Transparency

Government transparency shouldn’t be a battle, but too often when the public wants to see what their officials are up to they’re met with resistance, hostility, obfuscation, and even retaliation.

For the third year in a row, the Electronic Frontier Foundation is soliciting submissions for “The Foilies,” our tongue-in-cheek awards for government officials who stand in the way of your right to review what they’re up to.

EFF will announce the awards during Sunshine Week, March 12-18, 2017.  In the meantime, we need your nominations.

January 9, 2017 - 11:26am 94455

Law enforcement agencies around the country have been expanding their surveillance capabilities by recruiting private citizens and businesses to share their security camera footage and live feeds. The trend is alarming, since it allows government to spy on communities without the oversight, approval, or legal processes that are typically required for police. 

January 9, 2017 - 2:23pm 94472

It’s time for Congress to put an end to a glaring loophole in privacy law. Thanks to the wording in a more than 30-year-old law, the papers in your desk are better protected than the emails in your inbox. Congress can fix that by finally passing the Email Privacy Act, reintroduced in the House by Reps. Kevin Yoder and Jared Polis and others today.

The bill would require law enforcement to get a warrant before searching through electronic communications—including things like emails, Facebook messages, and Dropbox files—regardless of how long they have been stored.

January 10, 2017 - 1:56pm 94489

Imagine if every depiction of a real person on social media could support a lawsuit. That’s the strange and dangerous logic of a recent lower court decision from California. In that case, Cross v. Facebook, a superior court judge ruled that any “use” of a person’s identity on a site that also included advertising could support a right of publicity claim. If allowed to stand, this ruling could destroy long-settled immunity for hosts of user-generated content.

January 10, 2017 - 3:25pm 94479

EFF Fights National Security Letter on Behalf of CloudflareWe’re happy to be able to announce that Cloudflare is the second courageous client in EFF’s long-running lawsuit challenging the government’s unconstitutional national security letter (NSL) authority. Cloudflare, a provider of web performance and security services, just published its new transparency report announcing it has been fighting the NSL statute since 2013.

January 11, 2017 - 6:42am 94481

Attorney General nominee Sen. Jeff Sessions is testifying in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee today as part of his confirmation process. EFF has voiced concerns about President-elect Donald Trump’s nomination of Sessions to lead the Justice Department, citing past statements he has made and votes he has cast on a number of critical digital rights issues, including surveillance, encryption, net neutrality, and protections for the press.

January 11, 2017 - 12:15pm 94518

On January 18, 2012, the Internet went dark. Hundreds of websites went black in protest of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA). The bills would have created a “blacklist” of censored websites based on accusations of copyright infringement. SOPA was en route to quietly passing. But when millions of Americans complained to their members of Congress, support for the bill quickly vanished. We called it the Internet at its best.

As we approach the fifth anniversary of the blackout, we also note a much sadder anniversary. A year after we beat SOPA, we lost one of the most active organizers behind the opposition. While being unfairly prosecuted under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, Aaron Swartz took his own life on January 11, 2013.

January 11, 2017 - 5:37pm 94530

Techdirt, a prominent and critical source for incisive tech reporting and analysis, is defending itself against a $15 million lawsuit that could become a fight for its very existence. That suit was brought by Shiva Ayyadurai, who claims he invented email, and is based on a series of detailed articles Techdirt published disputing Ayyadurai’s claims.

Important note: Techdirt is represented in this suit by Rob Bertsche and Jeff Pyle at Prince Lobel Tye, LLP.

January 12, 2017 - 9:29am 94526

Encrypting the web is a more important challenge than ever. Now, EFF has teamed up with Sandwich Video and Baratunde Thurston to explain and promote this mission via video. Sandwich is the production company behind some of the best product launch videos in tech, and you may know Baratunde from his work on The Daily Show, The Onion, and New York Times bestseller How To Be Black. We brought these creative forces together to show you why we need to continue moving from non-secure HTTP to more secure HTTPS, and how you, with EFF tech tools HTTPS Everywhere and Certbot, can help us get there.

January 12, 2017 - 1:27pm 94542

Succumbing to years of government pressure, the online classified ads website has shut down its adult services section. Just like Craigslist before it, Backpage faced the difficult choice of censoring an entire forum for online speech rather than continue to endure the costly onslaught of state and federal government efforts seeking to hold it responsible for the illegal activity of some of its users.

January 12, 2017 - 4:33pm 94543

With mere days left before President-elect Donald Trump takes the White House, President Barack Obama’s administration just finalized rules to make it easier for the nation’s intelligence agencies to share unfiltered information about innocent people.

New rules issued by the Obama administration under Executive Order 12333 will let the NSA—which collects information under that authority with little oversight, transparency, or concern for privacy—share the raw streams of communications it intercepts directly with agencies including the FBI, the DEA, and the Department of Homeland Security, according to a report today by the New York Times.

January 13, 2017 - 2:48pm 94556

California is trying to gag websites from sharing true, publicly available information about actors in the name of age discrimination. But one online service, IMDb, is fighting back. EFF and four other public interest organizations have filed in a friend of the court brief in the case, urging the court not to allow celebrities to wipe truthful information about them from the Internet.

January 13, 2017 - 4:17pm 94476

As this year begins with a new president and new Congress taking power, more people than ever want to know how to make their voices heard in Congress. As the Legislative Counsel at EFF, my job is to help the organization and our supporters reach out to Congress more effectively. We've put together this guide in order to share some of our findings about how best to impact decisions in government. This represents years of trial and error at EFF as well as my own experience working in Congress and Washington, D.C. for a number of years before joining the organization.

What Is the Best Way to Communicate with Congress?

At EFF, we have had success asking our supporters to call their lawmakers, email them, and contact them over social media. Each tactic has its advantages and disadvantages, depending on the situation.

January 14, 2017 - 7:17pm 94552

The Guardian ran a sensational story on Friday claiming a backdoor was discovered in WhatsApp, enabling intelligence agencies to snoop on encrypted messages. Gizmodo followed up saying it's no backdoor at all, but reasonable, intended behavior. So what's really going on here?

The lost phone, lost message dilemma

The issue at question is WhatsApp's answer to the question of what applications should do when someone's phone number changes (or they reinstall their app, or switch phones).

January 16, 2017 - 6:15am 94561

Annual celebrations of the life and work of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. often lionize the civil rights era, rightfully focusing on its achievements. 

For 40 years, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover presided over a reign of intimidation and terror across Washington.

But celebrations often overlook the federal government’s attempts to “neutralize” the movement. While we remember Dr. King’s many achievements today, we also must remember the documented and unfounded vilification by U.S. intelligence agencies that he, and others in the civil rights movement, endured.

January 16, 2017 - 4:32pm 94570

We're taking part in Copyright Week, a series of actions and discussions supporting key principles that should guide copyright policy. Every day this week, various groups are taking on different elements of the law, and addressing what's at stake, and what we need to do to make sure that copyright promotes creativity and innovation.

Copyright law touches everyone. But despite its constitutional mandate to serve the public, policymakers have often treated it as the private preserve of major media and entertainment industries. Those industries built entire empires on copyrighted works, and they’ve shaped the law to reflect their interests and desires. But with copyrighted software and digital technologies now integral to our daily lives, copyright affects everyone – and the law should serve all of us.

January 17, 2017 - 10:37am 94562

The Trump presidency starts Friday. Here is the Electronic Frontier Foundation's agenda. 

In a matter of days, the United States will enter a new era.

On Friday, President Elect Donald J. Trump will swear the oath of office, pledging to uphold the Constitution. But as EFF has learned in the course of defending our fundamental rights over four American presidencies, our civil liberties need an independent defense force. Free speech and the rights to privacy, transparency, and innovation won’t survive on their own—we’re here to ensure that government is held accountable and in check.

January 17, 2017 - 11:16am 94583

We're taking part in Copyright Week, a series of actions and discussions supporting key principles that should guide copyright policy. Every day this week, various groups are taking on different elements of the law, and addressing what's at stake, and what we need to do to make sure that copyright promotes creativity and innovation.

Congress has been spinning its wheels on comprehensive copyright reform, but it could do a lot of good with one simple fix: forbid manufacturers from using EULAs to force consumers to waive their fair use rights.

January 17, 2017 - 4:34pm 94593

Chelsea ManningAs one of his very last acts in office, President Obama has commuted the sentence of whistleblower Chelsea Manning by 28 years. EFF applauds Obama for using his last days as president to bring justice to Manning’s case. And we congratulate all those who supported, defended, and spoke out on behalf of Manning over the years and supported her clemency petition. Your efforts secured her freedom.  

January 17, 2017 - 4:46pm 94595

EFF urged the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) Board to adopt a new law that would ensure community control of whether to adopt new surveillance technologies.

All too often, police executives unilaterally decide to adopt powerful new spying tools that invade our privacy, chill our free speech, and unfairly burden communities of color. These intrusive and proliferating tools of street-level surveillance include drones, cell site simulators, surveillance cameras, and automatic license plate readers.

January 18, 2017 - 1:43pm 94488

We're taking part in Copyright Week, a series of actions and discussions supporting key principles that should guide copyright policy. Every day this week, various groups are taking on different elements of the law, and addressing what's at stake, and what we need to do to make sure that copyright promotes creativity and innovation.

When a big corporation seeks special-interest laws to boost its profits at the expense of the broader public interest, it naturally gravitates towards the most secretive lawmaking venue possible. This is why Hollywood's copyright maximalists have invested so much in international trade agreements, where negotiations over copyright rules take place behind closed doors, and negotiators take the advice of secretive, industry-dominated advisory panels.

January 18, 2017 - 1:52pm 94617

It would have happened slowly at first. A broken hyperlink here and there. A few Google searches with links leading to nowhere. In the beginning, global users of the web would have barely noticed pieces of the Internet going dark.

Then there may have been a few investigative journalists piecing things together, and then more coverage as mainstream media picked it up. Adversaries of the open web would have grown bolder, attacking larger and larger websites. Services and companies that we enjoyed would have been shut down or drastically changed. Some sites would never have existed at all, but Internet users would never really know what they were missing. 

The increasingly rigid control of the Internet would have turned surfing the web into an experience more like surfing television stations—moving from one controlled, expensive online platform to the next—than the strange maze of eccentric, eclectic information flows that we have today.

January 18, 2017 - 3:36pm 94621

EFF filed a brief in federal court arguing that a lower court’s ruling jeopardizes the online platforms that make the Internet a robust platform for users’ free speech.

The brief, filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, argues that 47 U.S.C. § 230, enacted as part of the Communications Decency Act (known simply as “Section 230”) broadly protects online platforms, including review websites, when they aggregate or otherwise edit users’ posts.

Generally, Section 230 provides legal immunity for online intermediaries that host or republish speech by protecting them against a range of laws that might otherwise be used to hold them legally responsible for what others say and do.

January 19, 2017 - 12:41pm 94635

The Republic of Kazakhstan’s harassing U.S. court case that it used to target the independent newspaper Respublika, and other fierce critics of the ruling regime, has finally come to an end. Kazakhstan employed the deeply flawed U.S. hacking statute called the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) to mount a two-year campaign of harassment, censorship, and retaliation against the publication in courts around the world. The clock ran out on Kazakhstan’s lawsuit and the government finally dismissed it, but not before real damage was done to the free speech rights of the newspaper, which was forced to shut down, and other parties.

January 19, 2017 - 1:22pm 94637

We're taking part in Copyright Week, a series of actions and discussions supporting key principles that should guide copyright policy. Every day this week, various groups are taking on different elements of the law, and addressing what's at stake, and what we need to do to make sure that copyright promotes creativity and innovation.

January 19, 2017 - 2:23pm 94638

We're taking part in Copyright Week, a series of actions and discussions supporting key principles that should guide copyright policy. Every day this week, various groups are taking on different elements of the law, and addressing what's at stake, and what we need to do to make sure that copyright promotes creativity and innovation.

January 19, 2017 - 3:08pm 94647

In order to make remix videos, do computer research, or make e-books accessible, people often need to bypass access controls on the media they own. This week, EFF explained to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit that the government cannot prohibit such speech without running afoul of the First Amendment, in a friend-of-the-court brief filed in the case of VidAngel v. Disney

VidAngel provides a service that allows customers to view movies minus the parts it identifies as offensive. Disney and other entertainment companies, including Fox and Warner Brothers, argued that providing this service violates copyright law and the related law against bypassing access controls in Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

January 19, 2017 - 10:28pm 94668

We're taking part in Copyright Week, a series of actions and discussions supporting key principles that should guide copyright policy. Every day this week, various groups are taking on different elements of the law, and addressing what's at stake, and what we need to do to make sure that copyright promotes creativity and innovation.

January 23, 2017 - 10:18am 94698

It’s no secret online service providers hold tons of sensitive data about their customers, which is why EFF calls on companies to stand up to abusive or overbroad government demands for this data. It’s especially important for providers to play this role when the government forces them to stay silent and not notify their users about the government’s demands. In those cases, the service provider is simply the only party able to challenge the government. Unfortunately, companies are too often met with hurdles to vindicating their users’ rights. Two recent cases illustrate some of the problems they face.

January 23, 2017 - 11:38am 94701

If there's anything more remarkable than the fact that five states are debating "Right to Repair" bills that make it legal for you to fix your own property, it's that these bills are needed in the first place. Can it really be true that you aren't allowed choose how to configure, repair, and service the things you own?

January 23, 2017 - 11:42am 94702

A planet Earth in chainsToday, President Trump signed an executive order fulfilling his campaign promise to withdraw the signature of the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP). Although EFF was a strong opponent of the TPP, President Trump's reasons for withdrawal from the agreement are not EFF's reasons for opposition to it. Whereas the President contended in his inauguration address that previous U.S.

January 23, 2017 - 4:42pm 94717

As the presidential campaign was in full swing early last year, now-President Trump made his feelings on encryption clear. Commenting on the Apple-FBI fight in San Bernardino, Trump threatened to boycott Apple if they didn’t cooperate: “to think that Apple won't allow us to get into [the] cell phone,” Trump said in an interview. “Who do they think they are? No, we have to open it up.”

For that reason, we were curious what Trump’s nominee for Attorney General, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) would say about the role of encryption.

January 24, 2017 - 10:21am 94726

EFF sent a letter to the Santa Clara County Board suggesting ways to improve the proposed policy of that county’s Sheriff for use of body-worn cameras (BWCs). We did so with our allies the ACLU of California and the Bay Area chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

BWCs may help protect civil liberties, but only if they are adopted with robust community input and are subject to strong policies that ensure they promote police transparency and accountability. Without appropriate policies, BWCs may instead become another police tool of street-level surveillance.

January 24, 2017 - 10:44am 94727

The U.S. Senate confirmed Kansas Republican Rep. Mike Pompeo to be the Director of the CIA late on Monday over concerns from several congressional Democrats, who warned that putting Pompeo at the head of the intelligence agency would threaten civil liberties.

In an impassioned floor speech, Sen. Bernie Sanders called it “vital to have a head of the CIA who will stand up for our constitution, stand up for privacy rights.” He continued, “Unfortunately, in my view, Mr. Pompeo is not that individual.”

As we said late last year, we have concerns that many of President Donald Trump’s nominees, including Pompeo, will undermine digital rights and civil liberties, and those concerns persist.

January 24, 2017 - 10:54am 94728

Along with several other advocacy groups, EFF signed on to an amicus brief this week in the case of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. James Keown, in support of requiring courts to set pre-search limits on the method of digital searches by law enforcement pursuant to judicially authorized warrants.

Keown was charged with murdering his wife after she died of an apparent poisoning. The evidence against him included a forensic search of his laptop, which revealed web searches for homemade poison. Although the police got a warrant to do this forensic examination, it allowed them to conduct a nearly unfettered search of the computer.

January 24, 2017 - 11:45am 94729

After a postponed hearing in October, final arguments in Diego Gomez’s case are scheduled for Wednesday, January 25. This marks the potential conclusion of a court case that has gone on for more than two and a half years. Regardless of the verdict, Diego’s case is an urgent, global reminder to advocates of open research: open access must become the default in academic publishing, and we need global reforms to get there.

January 24, 2017 - 3:02pm 94734

EFF has submitted comments to the Patent Office urging it not to support efforts to undermine the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Alice v. CLS Bank. The Patent Office had called for public submissions regarding whether “legislative changes are desirable” in response to recent court decisions, including Alice. We explain that, far from harming the software industry, Alice has helped it thrive.

January 25, 2017 - 10:22am 94730

EFF is happy to welcome our newest Staff Technologist Erica Portnoy. Erica is joining EFF's technology projects team, a group of technologists and computer scientists engineering responses to the problems of third-party tracking, inconsistent encryption, and other threats to users' privacy and security online. Erica earned her BSE in computer science at Princeton, and comes to EFF with experience in messaging privacy, searchable encryption, and tech policy and civil rights.

I asked Erica a few questions about her background and what she'll be working on at EFF.

What are you most excited about working on this year?

January 25, 2017 - 1:24pm 94742

A Look at Copyright Enforcement Agreements

January 25, 2017 - 4:38pm 94721

EFF is one of the three non-profits featured in CREDO's giving pool this month. If you're a CREDO customer or member of its action network, vote for EFF before the end of the month to help direct as much as $150,000 to support the defense of digital civil liberties!

January 25, 2017 - 8:42pm 94746

A customs officer inspects a smart phone.The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) recently filed complaints against U.S Customs and Border Protection (CBP) for, in part, demanding social media information from Muslim American citizens returning home from traveling abroad. According to CAIR, CBP accessed public posts by demanding social media handles, and potentially accessed private posts by demanding cell phone passcodes and perusing social media apps.

January 26, 2017 - 3:45pm 94747

Update [Sept. 13, 2017]: EFF has moved to a neutral position on S.B. 54 (the California Values Act) and deactivated our email action tool. For more information, please read our new blog post explaining how the most recent amendments dropped key digital privacy measures. 

January 27, 2017 - 4:39pm 94753

Keys across a field.Protecting digital privacy is a job no one can do alone. While there are many steps you can take to protect your own privacy, the real protection comes when we recognize that privacy is a team sport. So as we celebrate Data Privacy Day on January 28, don’t just change your tools and behavior to protect your own privacy—encourage your friends, family, and colleagues to take action, too.

January 31, 2017 - 3:03pm 94786

Song lyrics are some of the most searched-for topics on the Internet. This has lead to fierce competition among lyrics sites. If you scroll to the bottom of one of these websites, you’ll see the claim: “Song discussions is protected by U.S. Patent No. 9,401,941.” We are honoring this “song discussions” patent as January’s Stupid Patent of the Month.

January 31, 2017 - 4:03pm 94598

A new leak of the Electronic Commerce chapter [PDF] of the Trade in Services Agreement from the November 2016 negotiating round has exposed a brand new U.S. government proposal on Internet intermediary safe harbors. The proposal, which the European Union is shown as opposing, is a rough analog to 47 U.S.C.§ 230, enacted as part of the Communications Decency Act (known simply as "Section 230", or sometimes as CDA 230).

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