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EFFector - Volume 17, Issue 20 - Action Alert: Don't Let Congress Take Away Your Rights


EFFector - Volume 17, Issue 20 - Action Alert: Don't Let Congress Take Away Your Rights

EFFector       Vol. 17, No. 20       June 4, 2004

A Publication of the Electronic Frontier Foundation     ISSN 1062-9424

In the 292nd Issue of EFFector:

Action Alert: Don't Let Congress Take Away Your Rights - Demand PATRIOT Review!

The USA PATRIOT Act gave the FBI unprecedented surveillance powers, so Congress built in an automatic safety valve to protect your privacy and civil liberties: the requirement that some the most controversial provisions "sunset," or expire, at the end of 2005. The public was promised that these provisions would be renewed only if they were proven to be absolutely necessary for fighting terrorism and sufficiently protective of our civil liberties. Now, however, Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) has introduced a bill (S. 2476) to preemptively make them permanent - despite the fact that the Department of Justice has failed to demonstrate, and Congress to investigate, whether the use of these PATRIOT sections has proven necessary, effective, and respectful of our rights. The bill would even set in stone a provision now being challenged as unconstitutional in a federal court.

Don't let election-year politics short-circuit your most fundamental rights as an American citizen. Urge the Senate Judiciary Committee to reject S.2476 and instead support sensible PATRIOT reform.

Make your voice heard:

Join EFF today:

EFF analysis of the provisions scheduled for sunset:

Activism Update: National, State Victories Abound

EFF employs a lot of lawyers and techies, but citizen activists are also working hard on the electronic frontier. In the last three months, thousands of EFF supporters - regular people like you - sent nearly 80,000 letters to policymakers. And you've made a big difference. Here are some activism highlights from the spring of '04:

National Activism: DMCA Reform Gains Momentum

If you're concerned about copyright, technical innovation, free speech online or many of your other digital rights, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is Public Enemy Number One. The good news is that there is finally some legislation that might offer some relief, and over 23,000 EFF supporters like you wrote letters to endorse a DMCA reform bill called the Digital Media Consumers' Rights Act of 2003 (H.R. 107, DMCRA). The DMCRA (the name's a little confusing, we know) would enable a host of fair uses that are currently blocked by the DMCA, and it would require clear labeling for use-restricted CDs and other media.

After EFF supporters in every U.S. congressional district wrote to their representatives, the House subcommittee on Trade, Commerce and Consumer Protection decided to hold a hearing on the DMCRA. This is a crucial step in the legislative process - and it went better than anyone expected. Throughout the proceedings, representatives kept returning to the issue of how the DMCA prevents citizens from backing up their digital media or editing it to their tastes. These consumer-empowerment themes were voiced by EFF supporters throughout the last year, and Congress seems to be listening. DMCA reform is further along than ever before, and with your help it will continue to move.

State Activism: Locals Making a Difference

Citizen activists are also winning big victories in local fights. In Ohio, a policy that would have forced 31 counties to purchase inauditable voting machines wasn't just abandoned; it was trounced. More than 1,000 EFF supporters asked for and won state legislation that will require all electronic voting terminals to produce voter-verifiable paper ballots by 2006. As if that wasn't enough of an achievement, they also succeeded in persuading dozens of undecided counties to put off upgrading voting equipment until truly auditable machines become available. This reversal is a remarkable victory in a state where things looked grim until citizens started voicing their concerns.

EFF supporters in Calfornia also made huge advances in the fight for verifiable elections. During a recent hearing to investigate problems with electronic voting machines, an attorney from Secretary of State Kevin Shelley's office said that more than 13,000 people had sent EFF's action letters to push for accountable elections. Responding to the public outcry, Secretary Shelley later guaranteed every California voter the option to use a paper ballot in the next election. He also decertified some notorious Diebold voting machines while requiring all other vendors to take additional security measures before their machines could be used in another election.

Local activists also continue to stomp on the Hollywood-backed "Super-DMCAs." Just last month, citizen activists in Massachusetts and Georgia succeeded in stopping S-DMCA legislation. These laws were quietly pushed for several years, but EFF found out about them in late 2002. Since then, EFF supporters have mounted numerous local campaigns to defeat these bills, and nine out of eleven states considering S-DMCAs have postponed or dropped their consideration. That's a .818 batting average - not too shabby!

The Takeaway

We're telling you this because there's something you need to know: your involvement makes a difference. Whether you send a fax, start a volunteer group, or make a financial contribution to EFF, your support helps make the digital world a little safer for civil liberties, innovation, and democracy. So tell your friends and family about EFF, and if you're not already a member, please consider becoming one. We thank you, and we look forward to continuing to fight the good fight with you in our corner.

Become an EFF Member today!

Subscribe to the EFF Action Center (and EFFector, if this was forwarded to you):

EFF's Verify the Vote! Campaign:

Support the DMCRA:

Maryland Election Officials Under Fire From Voters

EFF Files Brief in Case Challenging the Use of Insecure Diebold E-Voting Machines

Maryland - EFF has filed a friend-of-the-court brief in a Maryland case that challenges the integrity of the state's electronic voting machines, which are manufactured by the troubled electronic voting machine company, Diebold Election Systems. EFF presented evidence of problems with electronic voting machines from more than 18 elections nationwide in the past few years, including the 2002 gubernatorial election and March 2004 primaries in Maryland. The evidence includes reports of lost votes, votes registering for the wrong candidate, and voters turned away from the polls using both Diebold and other electronic voting systems.

In Schade v. the Maryland State Board of Elections, the plaintiffs are a group of concerned Maryland voters who ask that the state of Maryland to address widely publicized security and reliability concerns with the Diebold machines and implement a voter verified paper ballot as required by state and federal law. In the short term, the voters are seeking an injunction that would require the state to either take steps to address these concerns before the November 2004 elections or follow California's lead in decertifying the machines altogether. The interim steps the lawsuit asks the state to take include implementing the same 23 basic security standards that California is now implementing, and offering Maryland voters the alternative of a paper ballot if they do not wish to have their vote counted by the Diebold machines.

EFF is joined by several other groups that support the plaintiffs in this case. Other signatories to the brief are Verified Voting and VotersUnite!, two grassroots voter organizations. Christopher M. Loveland of the firm of Schmeltzer, Aptaker & Shepard, PC, is local counsel in the case.

For the full press release:

Amicus brief in Schade v. Maryland State Board of Elections:

Additional exhibits:


miniLinks features noteworthy news items from around the Internet.

Why Google Should Be Good on Privacy
Miguel Helft puts it nicely: Google's "we're not evil" ethos led to its gutsy stand against IPO madness, so why shouldn't it apply the same kind of principles to its handling of privacy?:
(Registration unfortunately required.)

China Bans Video Game for "Distorting" History
The Swedish-made "Hearts of Iron" depicts several parts of China as independent nations and treats Taiwan as part of Japan:

Babs Ordered to Pay Legal Fees in Bogus Privacy Suit
Ms. Streisand will pay $177,000 in legal fees after suing a retired software engineer for snapping aerial photos of the section of California coastline where her house happens to be located:

Ireland Considers Emergency Copyright Bill
The "emergency"? The country's desire to fend off the litigious grandson of James Joyce. Even more frustrating, the fight is over work that was snatched from the public domain by retroactive copyright-term extension:
(Registration unfortunately required.)

Counties Decide to Wait Out E-Voting Storm
Questions continue to erupt about the reliability and security of electronic voting, so some counties are wisely keeping their wallets shut until the situation improves.
(Registration unfortunately required.)

Thinking Through the National ID
Pressure for a U.S. national ID is increasing, but so are questions about the efficacy of the systems that are supposed to enable the card to provide enhanced security:
(Registration unfortunately required.)

Who Tests E-Voting Machines?
The New York Times has the disturbing answer:
(Registration unfortunately required.)

Florida Secretary of State Claims E-voting Machines Aren't
Computers She went on to explain that they are magical boxes with microprocessors and hard drives...that run Windows!:
(Registration unfortunately required.)

Pushing the Definition of "Aid and Comfort" in Idaho
A Muslim graduate student at the University of Idaho is on trial after being prosecuted under PATRIOT for serving as webmaster for several Islamic fundamentalist sites:

Sony Signs Audible Magic for Anti-Piracy Post
The Japanese giant will use Audible Magic in a range of enforcement efforts:
(Yahoo! News)

P2P Traffic Shifts Lanes
A new study claims that filesharers are fleeing KaZaA for programs like eDonkey, but the overall level of file sharing remains steady:

Print Fiction: When Biometrics and Bureaucracy Go Wrong
The New York Times with a cautionary tale about a man whose fingerprint records were mistakenly switched with someone else's, and how it took six years and two months in jail to clear it up:
(Registration unfortunately required.)

Staff Calendar

For a complete listing of EFF speaking engagements (with locations and times), please visit the full calendar.


EFFector is published by:

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Donna Wentworth, Web Writer/Activist

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