Among the compromised accounts are Facebook pages administered by a reporter with Al-Tariq ad-Jadid, Sofiene Chourabi, video journalist Haythem El Mekki, and activist Lina Ben Khenni. Unsatisfied with merely quelling online freedom of expression, the Tunisian government has used the information it obtained to locate bloggers and their networks of contacts. By late last week, the Tunisian government had started arresting and detaining bloggers, including blogger Hamadi Kaloutcha, and cyberactivist Slim Ammamou, who alerted the world to his whereabouts at the Tunisian Ministry of the Interior using Google Latitude. This weekend, Tunisian citizens began to report on Twitter and in blogs that troops were using live ammunition on unarmed citizens and started communicating with one another to establish the numbers of dead and injured.
Most notably, Tunisians have been posting videos of the protests, including the dead and wounded on Facebook, the only video-sharing site which is not currently being blocked by the Tunisian government, which makes access to Facebook especially important for the protest movement.
Because of the Tunisian government’s attacks on citizens’ login credentials, Tunisians should take the following steps to protect themselves:
If HTTPS is available, use HTTPS to login to Facebook, Google, and Yahoo. If you are using Firefox, EFF’s HTTPS Everywhere plug-in will do this for you automatically.
If you have logged in to Facebook, Google, or Yahoo recently over HTTP, login using HTTPS and change your password.
Additionally, EFF calls on Google, Yahoo, and Facebook to take action to protect the privacy of its users by alerting them of the potential compromise of their accounts and encouraging them to take the above steps.
Finally, Facebook has reported that is in the process of taking technical steps to protect the privacy of their users. We hope that they include the following:
Make Facebook logins default to HTTPS, if only in Tunisia, where accounts are especially vulnerable at this time. Google and Yahoo logins already default to HTTPS.
Consider allowing pseudononymous accounts for users in authoritarian regimes, where political speech under your real name is dangerous and potentially deadly. Many Tunisian activists are unable to reinstate Facebook accounts that have been erased by the Tunisian government because they were not using their real names.
Websites providing services to Tunisian citizens cannot afford to sit on the sidelines while the Tunisian government launches malicious attacks on the privacy of users and censors free expression. Facebook, Google, and Yahoo should take these concrete steps as quickly as possible to inform and better protect their users.
Thank you to all of the Electronic Frontier Foundation supporters who were able to make a contribution this past year. Truly your donations, advocacy, and steadfast moral support have helped make EFF the formidable organization that it is today. We have come a long way from our first victory in Steve Jackson Games v. Secret Service to our most recent major win over bogus copyright infringement claims in Universal Music Group v. Augusto, and our work continues. In case you missed it, take a look at EFF's year-end video for an 8-bit recap of just a few major accomplishments in 2010.
This week we will begin sending tax receipts to all recent donors as well as EFF Member Cards to donors of $65 or more! EFF is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization and your gift is tax deductible to the full extent provided by law.
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Since late November, the whistleblower website Wikileaks has been in the process of releasing in waves over 250,000 leaked United States diplomatic cables. Known as "Cablegate," this is the largest publication of confidential documents by any organization. (Catch up on Wikileaks developments by reviewing EFF’s page on this issue).
Wikileaks’ disclosures have caused tremendous controversy, with critics of Wikileaks claiming the leaks of classified information could endanger lives and harm international diplomacy. Others have commended Wikileaks, pointing to a long history of over-classification and a lack of transparency by the United States government.
Regardless of the heated debate over the propriety of Wikileaks’ actions, some of the cables have contributed significantly to public and political conversations all around the world. In this article, we highlight a small selection of cables that been critical to understanding and evaluating controversial events.
“Dancing Boy” Scandal Alleges Child Prostitution, Possible Drug Use among U.S. Private Contractors
The Guardianreported on a cable describing an incident in which employees of DynCorp, a U.S. military contractor, hired a “dancing boy” for a party. The term “dancing boy,” also known as bacha bazi, is a euphemism for a custom in Afghanistan in which underaged boys are dressed as women, dance for gatherings of men and are then prostituted. Read more. The incident allegedly involved soliciting local Afghan police for a bacha bazi as well as usage of illegal drugs. The cable detailed that Hanif Armar, minister of the Interior of Afghanistan, urged the United States to help contain the scandal by warning journalists that reporting on the incident would endanger lives.
The incident contributed important information to the debate over the use of private military contractors in Afghanistan. The articles published in the wake of Wikileaks’ publication of the cable are far more critical than the original reporting on the issue. For example, back in July of 2009, the Washington Post described the incident as “questionable management oversight,” in which “DynCorp employees in Afghanistan hired a teenage boy to perform a tribal dance.” This cable helped the Post and the public understand there was more to this story than a tribal dance.
Pfizer Allegedly Sought to Blackmail Nigerian Regulator to Stop Lawsuit Against Drug Trials on Children
A cable released by Wikileaks says that Pfizer “had hired investigators to uncover corruption links to [Nigerian] Attorney General Michael Aondoakaa to expose him and put pressure on him to drop the federal cases.” The Guardianreported that the drug giant was trying to convince the Nigerian attorney general to settle lawsuits arising from medical testing of the oral antibiotic Trovan that it administered to children living in Kano during a meningitis epidemic in 1996. The cable also noted that Pfizer Nigeria Country Director Enrico Liggeri felt the lawsuits “has had a ‘chilling effect’ on international pharmaceutical companies because companies are no longer willing to conduct clinical testing in Nigeria.” This episode helped the public understand more about the controversies surrounding drug testing in underdeveloped countries, as well as the politics behind Nigeria's settlement of the multi-billion dollar lawsuit for $75 million.
U.S. Failed to Bully Spain Into Adopting Untested Anti-P2P bill
A diplomatic cable released by Wikileaks to the Spanish paper El Pais shows that the United States used bullying tactics to attempt to push Spain into adopting copyright laws even more stringent than those in the U.S. As EFF reported, a U.S. official apparently pressured the government of Spain to adopt novel and untested legislative measures that have never been proposed in the United States. The Wikileaks revelations came just in time, providing critical information in a December legislative session, and saving Spain from the kind of misguided copyright laws that could cripple innovation and facilitate online censorship.
U.S. to Uganda: Let Us Know If You Want to Use Our Intelligence for War Crimes
The United States has long supported the efforts of the Ugandan government to defeat the Lord's Resistance Army, as part of a conflict known for its brutality and the use of child soldiers. One cable released by Wikileaks indicated the United States was considering selling arms to Uganda. The Guardianreported that the U.S. ambassador accepted verbal promises from the Ugandan defense minister that they would “consult with the US in advance if the [Ugandan army] intends to use US-supplied intelligence to engage in operations not government [sic] by the law of armed conflict.” That same article noted that the United States has been concerned that the Ugandan government is engaged in actions which might violate the laws of war.
Learning that U.S. intelligence might be used outside the laws of law, and that the U.S. government merely wanted a consultation, helped the public understand more about the American-Ugandan cooperation against the LRA, and informed the debate over the methods used to combat rebellions in Africa. This is not an idle concern- the very next day a cable detailed the use of extrajudicial execution of a Ugandan prisoner.
U.S. Haggling over Guantánamo Detainees
President Obama promised to close the Guantánamo Bay detention camp since his campaign for the office, and reiterated the promise once he took office. Yet the controversial detention facility remains open. An article by the New York Times analyzed cables released by Wikileaks which indicated the United States is having difficulties in fulfilling this promise and is now considering some unique solutions. The cables show that U.S. diplomats have been searching for countries that would take detainees, often bargaining with foreign countries over the placement of prisoners. In return for accepting detainees, the receiving country might get a one-on-one meeting with Obama, assistance obtaining International Monetary Fund assistance, or some other helping hand from the United States. In one cable, Saudi Arabian King Abdullah recommended that the U.S. implant an electronic chip in each detainee for location tracking, using technology developed for livestock.
The debate over Wikileaks will continue for some time. But these examples make clear that Wikileaks has brought much-needed light to government operations and private actions which, while veiled in secrecy, profoundly affect the lives of people around the world and can play an important role in a democracy that chooses its leaders. As founding father James Madison explained, "a popular government without popular information or the means of acquiring it is but a prologue to a farce or tragedy or perhaps both." Regardless of whether you agree with WikiLeaks, Cablegate has served an important role in bettering public understanding on matters of public concern.
In another example of using patents to stiflerather than promoteinnovation, a company called FlightPrep has come out fighting, threatening online flight planning sites with its newly obtained patent, and going so far as to sue at least one of those sites. That patent, originally filed in 2001, allegedly covers a system for generating flight plans online, hardly a novel concept. And FlightPrep is now using its patent to attempt to extract royalty payments from small companies that have been providing such a service for yearsor put them out of business.
A FlightPrep lawsuit has already caused a well-established site, RunwayFinder, to go dark possibly permanently. Started in 2005, RunwayFinder allowed users to check out runway layouts and gather other information about airports, such as current weather, to help them make flight plans. The site’s developer ran RunwayFinder out of his home and relied on ad revenue and paypal donations to keep the site up.
For now, RunwayFinder continues to fight the FlightPrep patent, but patent lawsuits can be long and incredibly expensive. Like many that have come before itsuch as the infamous entertaining-a-cat-with-a-laser patentthis dispute is emblematic of a patent system that has lost sight of its purpose. Instead of spurring innovation by encouraging folks to invent new and better ways to do things, the system is often used to impede the development and use of interesting and valuable new tools and services.
Part of EFF's work to fight the chilling effects of bad patents on the public and consumer interests is our ongoing Patent Busting Project. So far nine patents targeted by EFF have been busted, invalidated, narrowed, or had a reexamination granted by the Patent Office.
At the beginning of this year EFF identified a dozen important trends in law, technology and business that we thought would play a significant role in shaping digital rights in 2010, with a promise to revisit our predictions at the end of the year. Now, as 2010 comes to a close, we're going through each of our predictions one by one to see how accurate we were in our trend-spotting. Today, we're looking back on Trend #7, On-line Video, where we predicted:
Like the print business, the television business is being radically disrupted by the Internet. The disparate and powerful industries affected — telco, cable, satellite, ISP, software, and production — are engaged in a battle for dominance. But as big business dukes it out, consumer rights risk being left behind. [...]
In 2010, expect industry to advance those initiatives, as well as to introduce new and similarly problematic schemes along the same lines. EFF, as usual, will be there to try to stop them.
DRM restrictions remained ubiquitous in on-line video this year, as well as in new Internet-connected high-tech TV appliances and the DVRs and other appliances that compete with them. When criticized over DRM, TV devicemakers and video providers consistently passed the buck, saying that they were only doing what was necessary to get access to copyrighted video (i.e., doing the bidding of Hollywood studios). In this two-sided market, Hollywood is extraordinarily well-positioned to demand DRM and consumers are poorly positioned to resist it.
This year the FCC took comments on its AllVid initiative, a next-generation attempt to create a single standard for devices that can receive pay TV services from any provider (instead of needing a set-top box specific to that provider). AllVid is positioned as a successor to the existing CableCARD regime, which has seen limited adoption; among other things, AllVid could apply to a wider range of pay TV providers, where CableCARD works only with cable TV. We've consistently criticized the FCC, which is responsible for overseeing CableCARD, for letting the industry get away with putting DRM into the CableCARD standard and thereby undermine the ostensible goal of promoting interoperability between devices. Naturally, the industry participants in AllVid want and expect to continue inserting DRM into future standards.
This year also saw more attempts to make on-line video services ISP-specific or device-specific for business rather than technical reasons. For example, video streaming websites like Hulu deliberately blocked video from flowing to particular devices, like Boxee or Google TV.
At the beginning of this year EFF identified a dozen important trends in law, technology and business that we thought would play a significant role in shaping digital rights in 2010, with a promise to revisit our predictions at the end of the year. Now, as 2010 comes to a close, we're going through each of our predictions one by one to see how accurate we were in our trend-spotting. Today, we're looking back on Trend #12, Web Browser Privacy, where we predicted the following:
And that's how it remained for some time. Or so most web users thought.
As it turns out, corporations seeking to track individuals' use of the web were hard at work developing new and unexpected methods of profiling. For a long time, many of these methods either remained unexamined or were simply performed covertly and hidden from the public. But as we enter 2010, awareness and scrutiny of them is on the rise.
Try browsing the web while using a tool like the Firefox add-on RequestPolicy, and you'll see that many major sites share your web activity with dozens of advertisers and advertising networks. With few technical or legal restrictions on the ability to track you around the web, companies you may never have heard of may have profiles of you which include things about your web use that you don't even remember.
This year the Federal Trade Commission is taking a fresh look at privacy and the use of profiles to target ads based on individuals' behavior on the web. We'll be participating in the process by providing testimony to the FTC, as well as launching our own study of just how easy individual browsers are to track, and how they can be made more privacy-protective.
During 2010, a clearer picture emerged of just how sophisticated and hard-to-defend-against modern browser tracking technologies have become. There are many dimensions to this problem.
One is the sheer number of supercookie technologies that persist even if users limit or delete their regular cookies. This was a previously known problem, and some companies were already receiving scrutiny for using supercookies to record people's online reading habits. But the Evercookie project underscored just how many types of supercookie there are, how easy they are to deploy, and how hard they are to delete.
We will continue to promote the development of privacy technologies to defend against these tracking methods, and encourage browser developers to include them in their mainline releases. But as things stand, we do not believe there are any options that offer web users the option to read in private without the use of tools that are impractically slow and inconvenient for continual use. As a result, we are interested in the emerging proposal for a browser header-based Do Not Track convention, and are encouraged by the FTC's interest in the proposal. Perhaps 2011 can finally be a year when Web users get more, rather than less, privacy.
At the beginning of this year EFF identified a dozen important trends in law, technology and business that we thought would play a significant role in shaping digital rights in 2010, with a promise to revisit our predictions at the end of the year. Now, as 2010 comes to a close, we're going through each of our predictions one by one to see how accurate we were in our trend-spotting. Today, we're looking back on Trend #3, Global Internet Censorship, where we predicted the following:
For years, the obvious benefits of an uncensored Internet have kept advocates of Net blocking on the defensive. But new filtering initiatives in Australia and Europe combined with growing rhetoric around child protection, cybersecurity and IP enforcement means that blocking websites isn't just for authoritarian regimes any more.
That's not to say tyrants aren't paying close attention to the West's new censors. When democratic governments complain about Iran and China's net policing in 2010, expect defenses of "we're only doing what everyone else does".
2010 will see the publication of Access Controlled, a new book from the OpenNet Initiative chronicling the globalization of Internet censorship; we're excited to see it but concerned about the ways restrictions in different countries reinforce each other.
Shortly after this prediction, there was some encouraging news: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton staked out clear a position for the American Government in favor of global online freedom and against Internet censorship. But subsequent developments have been much less encouraging. In fact, as 2010 draws to an end, the United States has veered dangerously towards becoming a significant Internet censor itself.
One push for censorship has come from big media businesses, who are trying to have the government create blacklists to censor the domain name system for copyright enforcement purposes. Officials from the Department of Homeland Security have announced that they believe they don't even need new laws before they begin censoring websites, and they have begun seizing domain names. For defenders of a free and uncensored global network, this is a calamitous development, and we are already seeing reports that DHS is shutting down websites that are helping, not hurting, artists. As is often the case, censorship is hurting those it was intended to protect.
The other push for Internet censorship is a response to Wikileaks. Wikileaks has been subject to an astonishing amount of informal government pressure, which convinced a string of Internet hosting companies to drop the site. These are troubling developments.
As 2010 draws to a close, the United States faces two paths forward. There is the low road, continuing and expanding this new American brand of Internet censorship. And there is a high road: to remember that the First Amendment protects everyone's right to speak, even if the government disapproves of the things they say or the data they publish. If the United States takes the high road, there will still be a difficult and protracted battle to persuade the world's governments that Internet censorship is bad policy. If the United States takes the low road, the battle is already lost.
At the beginning of this year EFF identified a dozen important trends in law, technology and business that we thought would play a significant role in shaping digital rights in 2010, with a promise to revisit our predictions at the end of the year. Now, as 2010 comes to a close, we're going through each of our predictions one by one to see how accurate we were in our trend-spotting. Today, we're looking back on Trend #11, fair use of trademarks, where we predicted the following:
Parody and mockery have long been favorite tools for online political expression and activism. But the powerful entities being mocked sometimes lack a sense of humor about the situation. Increasingly, they're turning to trademark law to badger would-be jokers into silence.
Of course, abuse of copyright law, which governs ownership of content, is nothing new. But until recently, we haven't seen as much abuse of trademark law, which governs ownership of names and logos. Fair Use principles, which allow creative re-use of intellectual property, apply to trademarks just as they apply to copyrights. In either case, IP bullies are just as happy to ignore those principles and make bogus legal threats.
Recently, trademark threats have been levied against activists like The Yes Men, who mocked the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. They've targeted NYTimes.se, which mocked The New York Times and corporations like DeBeers. They've targeted The South Butt, a clothing line which mocks The North Face. And, only a few days ago, they targeted environmental activist Brian DeSmet for mocking Peabody Energy.
In 2010, expect to see plenty of similar bogus threats. Some of them will lead to litigation, and those battles could in turn lead to important new legal precedents with serious implications for free expression online.
Our success rate was mixed on this one: Improper trademark threats continued apace but, happily, not at the level we had feared. One particularly egregious threat involved legal threats from Facebook against a parody site, Lamebook. Lamebook filed a lawsuit asking a court to declare that the site is protected by fair use and the First Amendment.
We're watching this one closely, as it may set important precedent for political fair use. And the Chamber of Commerce continue to pursue their trumped-up trademark claims against the Yes Men, in retaliation for a Fall 2009 press conference in which the activists put out a press release and held a spoof news conference on Monday, claiming that the Chamber of Commerce had reversed its position and would stop lobbying against a climate bill currently in the Senate. We're looking forward to a court decision affirming the legality of the Yes Men's actions in early 2011.
Activists and parodists have refused to be silenced, however. In amasterful bit of "identity correction," for example, a group of activists posed as French government officials to announce that France would pay Haiti over $22 billion as reparations for extorting an equivalent sum from the former colony in exchange for its independence in the nineteenth century. The French government was not amused, though its response took the form of a threat of criminal prosecution rather than a trademark claim.
We also continue to monitor companies who attempt to get trademarks for common English words and then use those trademarks to silence others. For example, Facebook is currently trying to trademark the term "face," and is very close to having that mark granted. Happily, it looks like the mark will be opposed.
Finally, in a classic David and Goliath battle, a lawyer in Austin who founded a website called EntrepreneurOlogy has sued the publisher of Entrepreneur Magazine after the magazine demanded that the Austin attorney cease all use of the word Entrepreneur.