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EFFector - Volume 18, Issue 12 - Action Alert: Stop the REAL ID Act!


EFFector - Volume 18, Issue 12 - Action Alert: Stop the REAL ID Act!

EFFector       Vol. 18, No. 12       April 8, 2005

A Publication of the Electronic Frontier Foundation     ISSN 1062-9424

In the 328th Issue of EFFector:

Action Alert: Stop the REAL ID Act!

Earlier this year, the US House of Representatives passed the REAL ID Act, bringing us a giant step closer to a "national ID." The REAL ID Act would establish a vast national database of ID holders, where even a small percentage of errors would cause major social disruption. The ID would essentially be an internal passport that would be shown before accessing planes, trains, national parks, and court houses - an irresistible target for forgers and identity thieves. It would also divert resources from security measures that could actually work. And in calling for the use of "common machine-readable technology," the REAL ID Act paves the way for the federal government to force every state to put radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips into their ID cards.

The Senate needs to be reminded that such proposals have always been rejected for good reason: our privacy and civil liberties are at the core of what it means to be an American citzen, and they shouldn't be traded for what amounts to security theater. Tell your senators to reject the REAL ID Act.

Make your voice heard with the EFF Action Center:

EFF Announces Pioneer Award Winners

Seattle, WA - EFF will hold its 14th Annual Pioneer Awards presentation at 7:00 p.m. on April 13th at the Science Fiction Museum in Seattle, Washington, in conjunction with the 2005 Computers, Freedom & Privacy (CFP) conference. This year's winners, nominated by the public and selected by a panel of independent judges, are entrepreneur and EFF co-founder Mitch Kapor, Princeton University computer science professor Edward Felten, and human rights activist Patrick Ball.

Since 1991, the EFF Pioneer Awards have recognized individuals who have made significant and influential contributions to the development of computer-mediated communications or to the empowerment of individuals in using computers and the Internet.

Dr. Patrick Ball is a leading innovator in applying scientific measurement to human rights. He directs the Human Rights Data Analysis Group (HRDAG) at Benetech (, a nonprofit organization that combines the impact of technological solutions with the social entrepreneurship business model to help disadvantaged communities. He served as the catalyst behind two open- source software tools for the human rights community, "Martus" and "Analyzer," which aid in the secure storage and analysis of data on human rights violations. He will be accepting his award from East Timor.

Edward Felten is a professor of Computer Science at Princeton University whose research interests include computer security and technology law and policy. He brings these scholarly interests to his work as an activist. In 2001, Felten and EFF sued the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and the Secure Digital Music Initiative (SDMI) in a case challenging the constitutionality of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Felten is also author of "Freedom to Tinker" (, a highly regarded weblog exploring the ways government and industry attempt to limit technological innovation and what activists can do about it.

Mitch Kapor is President and Chair of the Open Source Applications Foundation (, a nonprofit organization he founded in 2001 to promote the development and acceptance of high-quality application software developed and distributed using open-source methods and licenses. He is widely known as founder of Lotus Development Corporation and the designer of Lotus 1-2-3, the "killer app" that made the personal computer ubiquitous in the business world in the 1980's. In 1990 he co-founded EFF and served as its chairman until 1994.

"I am thrilled to be able to honor Mitch, Ed, and Patrick for their incredible work," said EFF Executive Director Shari Steele. "Each of them has made a significant, unique contribution to protecting civil liberties in this digital age, and they are all deserving of our respect and admiration."

The EFF Pioneer Awards are open to anyone who is not a current EFF staff or board member, and the independent panel of judges determines each year's award winners.

For the full release:

More about the EFF Pioneer Awards:

CFP 2005:

News Publishers and Internet Industry Urge Reversal in Apple Case

Groups File Friend-of-the-Court Briefs Supporting Online Journalists

Santa Clara County, CA - A coalition of news publishers and two Internet industry trade associations filed friend-of-the-court briefs today in Apple v. Does, urging the California Court of Appeal to protect the confidential sources of journalists and defend email privacy. On behalf of three online journalists, EFF is appealing the California Superior Court's earlier decision in the case, which allows Apple to subpoena a journalist's email in order to discover the source of information he published about a forthcoming Apple product code-named "Asteroid."

The news publishers argued that the trial court incorrectly allowed trade secret law to trump First Amendment rights, and that Apple has failed to exhaust all other alternative sources for the information it seeks before going after journalists' sources. The brief was prepared by Grant Penrod of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, and signers include the Associated Press, the California First Amendment Coalition, the California Newspaper Publishers Association, Copley Press, Freedom Communications, Inc., Hearst Corp., Los Angeles Times, McClatchy Company, San Jose Mercury News, Society of Professional Journalists, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, and the Student Press Law Center.

The US Internet Industry Association and NetCoalition, which represent Internet companies including Internet service providers (ISPs), search engines, portals, and hosting services, also filed a friend-of-the-court brief. These trade associations argued that the journalist's email messages are protected under the federal Stored Communications Act. They further contend that if the trial court decision is not reversed, it will place an undue burden on service providers and will severely compromise email users' privacy. Elizabeth Rader of the law firm Akin Gump served as pro bono counsel to the Internet trade groups.

"The coalition of newspapers and media organizations recognized that the trial court's disregard for the First Amendment would broadly chill reporting by all journalists, regardless of medium," said EFF Staff Attorney Kurt Opsahl.

"The Internet industry's support illustrates the widely accepted rule that email service providers are prohibited by federal law from disclosing users private email in civil disputes," added EFF Staff Attorney and Equal Justice Works/Bruce J. Ennis Fellow Kevin Bankston.

Apple is suing several unnamed individuals called "Does," who allegedly leaked information about "Asteroid." Apple has subpoenaed Nfox, the ISP for publisher Jason O'Grady, demanding that it turn over the communications and unpublished materials O'Grady obtained while he was gathering information for his articles about "Asteroid." Apple has also been granted permission to issue subpoenas directly to EFF's clients.

For this release:

News publishers brief: (PDF)

Internet industry brief: (PDF)

More about Apple v. Does:

* Blog Without Getting Burned

EFF Releases How-To Guide for People Who Want to Blog Safely and Anonymously

San Francisco, CA - With the privacy of bloggers and their news sources coming under fire in the court system (see, e.g., Apple v. Does), it's crucial that web writers know how to express themselves without risking their jobs or social lives. This week EFF released "How to Blog Safely (About Work or Anything Else)," a how-to guide for bloggers worried about protecting their privacy and free speech.

The guide covers basic measures people can take to keep their blogs anonymous and explores what the law says about discussing work-related issues online. Some advice is common sense; for example, don't post a picture of yourself if you want to stay anonymous. But for bloggers who want strong guarantees of privacy, EFF suggests using technologies like Tor or Anonymizer to prevent your blog-hosting company from logging your computer's unique Internet Protocol (IP) address. Bloggers who fear they could be fired for blogging are also given an introduction to laws that prevent an employer from punishing them for speaking out online.

"There is a lot of misinformation out there about the ways people could get into trouble for blogging," said EFF Policy Analyst Annalee Newitz. "We hope advice about online anonymity and the law will help more people engage in free expression without living in fear of reprisals, legal or otherwise."

EFF white paper: "How to Blog Safely (About Work or Anything Else)":

Apple v. Does case archive:

* EFF Urges State Department to Drop RFID Passport Plan

As we reported last week, the US State Department is pushing for what may be the most misguided and dangerous travel "security" plan ever proposed: putting insecure radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips in all new US passports. These chips would broadcast your name, date of birth, nationality, unique passport number, and any other personal information contained in the passport to anyone with a compatible RFID reader. That's right - anyone, not just passport control.

Security experts have pointed out that because the new passports would indiscriminately expose your personal information to strangers, they could be used as "terrorist beacons," providing a terrorist, kidnapper, or thief with a means of covertly scanning a crowd at an airport - or any other public place - for American targets. But there are numerous other ways that RFID passports threaten your safety, privacy, and basic civil liberties.

This week, EFF, joined by EPIC, PrivacyActivism, Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, the World Privacy Forum, and privacy activist Bill Scannell, filed comments with the State Department, providing a detailed critique of the RFID passport proposal and urging the Department to abandon it.

"RFID in passports is a terrible idea, period. But on top of that, the State Department is acting without the appropriate authority and without conducting any form of credible cost-benefit analysis," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Lee Tien. "It's asking Americans to sacrifice their safety and privacy 'up front' for a dangerous experiment that it hasn't even bothered to justify."

As we point out in our comments, under the State Department's plan there would be millions of RFID passports (and passport holders) and thousands upon thousands of authorized passport readers around the world. Each authorized passport reader would itself represent a threat to the privacy of passport holders and would have to be secured. Because the technology would be so widespread and persistent over time, the likelihood of reverse engineering and thus security compromise would be high. At the same time, because so many people would be carrying RFID passports, the magnitude of harm associated with security compromise would be large, and it is unclear how well the system would recover once it is compromised.

EFF will soon provide an easy way for you to speak out against RFID passports - stay tuned to EFFector and the EFF Action Center for details.

EFF's comments on RFID passports: (PDF)

Background on the passport plan:

More about RFIDs:


miniLinks features noteworthy news items from around the Internet.

œ Kaleidescape Coverage at LA Times
This piece looks at the high-end DVD jukebox maker's ongoing battle with the content cabal: (Registration unfortunately required.)

Stanford "Cyberlaw in the Supreme Court" Conference
If you'll be in northern California on April 30, you may want to check out Stanford's conference on cyberlaw at the Supreme Court. Registration closes soon, so get on it!

Aussies Join Brits in BitTorrent-ing TV
It appears that impatient Australian TV fans are increasingly turning to filesharing when publishers stagger release dates for popular shows:

US Blogger Scuttles Canadian Gag Order
The Canadian government has ordered news outlets to keep quiet about details in a high-profile political scandal, but a Minneapolis blogger is ignoring the publication ban:

Victory for Consumers in DMCA Case
The Supreme Court has refused to hear Chamberlain v. Skylink, letting stand the appellate court decision that barred Chamberlain from using the DMCA to short-circuit competition: (FindLaw)

German Publisher Fined for Linking
Heise Zeitschriften Verlag has been fined 500,000 Euros for publishing a story with links to a site that provided DVD-ripping software:

Renter Got a Fast Car
A Connecticut court has ruled that GPS tracking devices in rental cars cannot be used to track and fine speeding renters: (Hartford Courant)

Congress Blasts Apple for Failing to Keep it Real
Legislators recently held hearings on whether digital music formats need more regulation in light of the incompatibility wars between Apple and Real Networks:

Data-Mining Booster to Head Privacy Board
Paul Rosenzweig, a vocal proponent of the maligned & abandoned Total Information Awareness project, has been appointed to head the Department of Homeland Security's privacy board:

PATRIOT Act: 108 Sneek-N-Peeks
In hearings on the USA PATRIOT Act's sunset provisions, the Bush Administration disclosed that the Act's controversial "sneek-n-peek" searches - done without ever notifying the subject - have been conducted 108 times:

USA Today on Apple v. Free Press
Nice editorial for those just getting acquainted with the case:

Touring Tor
NewsForge has a nice overview of the Tor anonymizing system:

Usury 101: $500 Coursepacks at Harvard
The cost of copyright clearances is forcing the price of some Harvard coursepacks - non-textbook material for a single course - to nearly $500:

Take this Job and Blog It on blogging from the workplace:

Paging Wisconsin: E-voting Star in Your Area
Rep. Rush Holt, author of the the best darn e-voting bill in the United States Congress, will be in Madison on Saturday, April 16th from 10:30 a.m.-12:00 noon at the Madison Senior Center, 2nd Floor, 330 West Mifflin Street.


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