Skip to main content

EFFector - Volume 17, Issue 9 - California Bills Backed by Hollywood Attack Internet Privacy

EFFector       Vol. 17, No. 9       March 17, 2004

A Publication of the Electronic Frontier Foundation     ISSN 1062-9424

In the 281st Issue of EFFector:


California Bills Backed by Hollywood Attack Internet Privacy

EFF Opposes Ineffective, Damaging Legislation

San Francisco, CA - EFF today asked Californians to contact their legislative representatives in opposition to a pair of misguided anti-piracy bills that dramatically impact Internet users' rights to privacy and anonymity. California Assembly Bill 2735 and Senate Bill 1506 would require anyone who knowingly disseminates commercial recorded or audiovisual material over the Internet to mark it with his or her name and address or face a possible one-year prison sentence.

"These California anti-anonymity bills would force everyone - including children - to put their real names and addresses on all the files they trade, regardless of whether the files actually infringe copyrights," said EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn. "Because the bills require Internet users to post personally identifying information, they fly directly in the face of policy goals and laws that prevent identity theft and spam as well as protect children and domestic violence victims."

For example, the federal Children's Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 (COPPA) forbids collection of personally identifiable information from children online without parental consent.

"This bill creates criminal liability for sharing a single song, or even a portion of a song or movie, but leaves no space for fair uses such as commentary, criticism, parody or educational uses of works," said EFF Activist Ren Bucholz. "This bill is supposed to stop piracy, but it may be the most ineffective and harmful method yet proposed."

Links:


EFF Releases "Monsters of Privacy" Animation Feature

Applauds First Public Hearing on CAPPS II Passenger-Profiling System

San Francisco, CA - EFF today released a flash animation feature entitled "Monsters of Privacy" to mark the first Congressional hearings on the status of a controversial airline passenger-profiling system and to help educate the public about a broad range of threats to personal privacy.

Developed to identify passengers who may be a security threat, the Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System (CAPPS II) would force U.S. citizens to surrender more private information than ever before in order to travel by air, yet the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has failed to put necessary privacy safeguards in place. Even worse, CAPPS II is only one of several federal and state programs that lack these essential safeguards.

"The growing trend toward unchecked government and corporate 'data-veillance' must be stopped," said EFF Activist Ren Bucholz. "By shedding light on the privacy threats that we all face, EFF hopes to galvanize the public to join us in the battle to protect the rights and freedoms we hold dear."

The "Monsters of Privacy" flash animation short, which provides a brief overview of privacy "monsters" including CAPPS II, the MATRIX program, CALEA for VoIP and others, is available for viewing or download on the EFF website.

EFF previously led a diverse coalition of public interest groups and helped citizens send more than 25,000 letters calling for Congressional hearings on CAPPS II. The hearing of the Aviation Subcommittee, chaired by U.S. Representative John L. Mica (R-FL), is scheduled for 10:00 a.m., on Wednesday, March 17, in Room 2167 of the Rayburn Office Building in Washington, D.C.

Links:


FCC Getting Fuzzy on Digital Television

Consumers Should Get Full Benefits of Hi-Res Devices

Washington, D.C. - EFF asked the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) this week to prevent satellite and cable television providers from intentionally reducing the quality of digital television signals on analog outputs, a practice known as "down-rezzing." Endorsed by the motion picture industry as a content-protection measure, the practice would force people who have invested in high-definition digital television equipment to accept inferior-quality content.

Over five million American consumers have purchased high- definition displays (such as flat panel plasma screens) that have only analog inputs, and therefore depend on analog outputs from cable and satellite set-top boxes for high- definition programming. The FCC has already prohibited the use of down-rezzing for any high-definition broadcast television signals retransmitted on cable or satellite, so these consumers can rest easy that their favorite network TV shows will remain available in high quality for their existing equipment. The question remains, however, whether programming on "premium" channels like HBO and ESPN will be subject to signal degradation over analog outputs.

By downgrading the quality of programs on analog outputs, Hollywood hopes to push TV viewers to use content-protected digital outputs, regardless of the impact on the millions of Americans who have equipment that relies upon analog outputs.

"If I have paid for high-definition ESPN or HBO, there is no reason that I should be forced to use a lower-quality analog signal just because the motion picture industry wants to impose more content protection restrictions on me," said EFF Senior Intellectual Property Attorney Fred von Lohmann. "Until the FCC acts to prohibit 'down-rezzing,' consumers won't know whether their DirecTV and cable set-top boxes will continue to provide them with the high-definition content they paid for."

EFF joins other organizations such as the Consumer Electronics Association, Home Recording Rights Coalition, Public Knowledge, Consumers Union and the Consumer Federation of America in urging the FCC to prevent down-rezzing of digital television signals.

Links:


Let the Sun Set on PATRIOT - Section 220:

"Nationwide Service of Search Warrants for Electronic Evidence"

Welcome to part five of "Let the Sun Set on PATRIOT," an EFFector series on the battle to let some of the most troubling provisions in the USA PATRIOT Act expire, or "sunset." Each week, we profile one of the 13 provisions set to expire in December of 2005 and explain in plain language what's wrong with the provision and why Congress should allow it to sunset.

This week we look at Section 220, which allows the FBI to get search warrants for electronic evidence that apply nationwide. This threatens your Constitutional rights by enabling the FBI to "shop" for judges most sympathetic to law enforcement, by reducing local judicial oversight and by lowering the chances that your ISP or phone company will challenge the warrant to protect your privacy.

How Section 220 Changed the Law

Before PATRIOT, the FBI could execute a search warrant for electronic evidence only within the geographic jurisdiction of the court that issued the warrant - for example, the FBI couldn't get a New York court to issue a warrant for email messages stored by your ISP in California.

After PATRIOT, courts can issue warrants for electronic evidence - your email messages, your voice mail messages and the electronic records detailing your web-surfing - anywhere in the country. Notably, Section 220 isn't reserved for terrorism-related investigations, despite the fact that PATRIOT was sold to the American public as a necessary anti-terrorism measure. Instead, it applies in any kind of criminal investigation whatsoever.

Why Section 220 Should Sunset

Section 220 significantly increases the chances that search warrants that fail to meet Constitutional standards will be used to search and seize your electronic communications:

  • Section 220 allows the FBI to pick and choose which courts it can ask for a search warrant. This means it can "shop" for judges that have demonstrated a strong bias toward law enforcement with regard to search warrants, using only those judges least likely to say no - even if the warrant doesn't satisfy the strict requirements of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution.
  • By allowing courts to issue warrants to be served on communications providers in far-away states, Section 220 reduces the likelihood that your ISP or phone company will try to protect your privacy by challenging the warrant in court, even if the warrant is clearly unconstitutional. A small San Francisco ISP served with such a warrant is unlikely to have the resources to appear before the New York court that issued it. Yet because you won't be notified if a search warrant is used to get your electronic communications, your ISP is the only entity in a position to fight for your rights.

The FBI argues that having to secure search warrants from more than one court during an investigation is a waste of time. But local judicial oversight is a key check against unreasonable searches. Further, the FBI already has the ability to conduct emergency searches without a warrant when it doesn't have time to go to a local judge.

Even worse, Section 220 isn't necessary to help combat terrorism - PATRIOT section 219 already allows nationwide search warrants in terrorism-related investigations. The only practical result of Section 220 is less paperwork for the FBI - at the expense of your Constitutional rights.

Conclusion

Section 220 threatens your Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches and seizures. EFF strongly opposes its renewal, and we urge you to oppose it, too. We also support the Security and Freedom Ensured Act (SAFE Act, S 1709/HR 3352) and encourage you to visit EFF's Action Center today to let your representatives know you support the bill.

Next Week

We'll look at Section 212, which allows your ISP or phone company to share your communications with the government even if it isn't served with a search warrant.

Links:


EFF Seeks Webmaster Who Wants to Make a Difference

EFF is seeking a full-time webmaster to start immediately. Environment is fast-paced, work is cutting edge, staff is very cool. This person will be responsible for keeping our "face to the world" up-to-date, fun and exciting. Must work well with very busy staff. The ideal candidate will have expertise in HTML, XHTML, XML, Unix, Apache, PHP, JavaScript, Photoshop, Illustrator and at least one scripting language (e.g., Perl, Python, sh). Applicants should also be familiar with optimizing the site for multiple browsers and with stylesheets. Someone with work experience in graphic design and an appreciation for clean presentation especially welcome. Familiarity with Internet civil liberties issues required. Salary at nonprofit scale (i.e., low) and includes benefits package.

To apply, send a cover letter and your resume with links to some samples of your work to webjob@eff.org. We request that you send these materials in non-proprietary format, such as an ASCII text file. No phone calls please!


Deep Links

Deep Links features noteworthy news items from around the Internet.


Staff Calendar

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


Administrivia

EFFector is published by:

The Electronic Frontier Foundation
454 Shotwell Street
San Francisco CA 94110-1914 USA
+1 415 436 9333 (voice)
+1 415 436 9993 (fax)
 http://www.eff.org/

Editor:
Donna Wentworth, Web Writer/Activist
  donna@eff.org

To Join EFF online, or make an additional donation, go to:
  https://secure.eff.org/

Membership and donation queries: membership@eff.org
General EFF, legal, policy or online resources queries: ask@eff.org

Reproduction of this publication in electronic media is encouraged. Signed articles do not necessarily represent the views of EFF. To reproduce signed articles individually, please contact the authors for their express permission. Press releases and EFF announcements and articles may be reproduced individually at will.

To change your address or other information, please visit: http://action.eff.org/subscribe/

If you have already subscribed to the EFF Action Center, please visit: http://action.eff.org/login.asp/

To unsubscribe from the EFFector mailing list, send an email to alerts@action.eff.org with the word "Remove" in the subject.

(Please ask donna@eff.org to manually remove you from the list if this does not work for you for some reason.)

Back issues are available at:
  http://www.eff.org/effector/

You can also get the latest issue of EFFector via the Web at:
  http://www.eff.org/effector/

Back to table of contents

Return to EFFector Newsletters Index


Please send any questions or comments to webmaster@eff.org

JavaScript license information