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EFFector - Volume 18, Issue 13 - Action Alert: Protect Public Weather Data!


EFFector - Volume 18, Issue 13 - Action Alert: Protect Public Weather Data!

EFFector       Vol. 18, No. 13       April 28, 2005

A Publication of the Electronic Frontier Foundation     ISSN 1062-9424

In the 329th Issue of EFFector:

Action Alert: Protect Public Weather Data!

The National Weather Service (NWS), a taxpayer-funded agency, monitors thousands of weather stations around America in order to predict hurricanes, sunshine, and every meteorological event in between. In addition to the raw data that it assembles, NWS has recently started offering more user-friendly info to the public via the Internet. So why has Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) introduced a bill that would restrict the kind of information that NWS can freely share?

The National Weather Services Duties Act (S.786) would ban NWS from "competing" with private entities by making it unlawful for the agency to publish user-friendly weather data and barring NWS experts from speaking one-on-one to news agencies. Why? Because Senator Santorum believes that companies like AccuWeather would make more money if they didn't have to compete with "free." That's right - he believes you should pay twice for your weather information in order to line the pockets of the private weather industry, which *already* benefits from repackaging the data that tax-funded agencies like NWS give away.

That's not only unfair, it's a bad precedent for our national information resources. Help stop S.786 by sending a letter to your senators today!

Make your voice heard with the EFF Action Center:

More info:
Text of National Weather Services Duties Act of 2005:

Palm Beach Post: "Feds' Weather Information Could Go Dark":

Alert Update: National ID and Trademark Bills Still Moving

EFF recently issued action alerts on two important pieces of legislation that unfortunately remain on the move in Congress. Earlier this month, the House passed its version of the Trademark Dilution Act, legislation that would harm freedom of expression in the US. The battle has now moved over to the Senate, which is also considering imminent action on the REAL ID Act - legislation that would create a de facto "national ID," complete with massive linked databases and an undefined "machine-readable technology" requirement that opens the door to embedded radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags.

Thousands of people have already sent letters to Congress on these issues, and it's critical that we keep the momentum going. Visit the pages below to learn more and take action today. You can also craft your own letter or pass this note to family and friends who care about safeguarding free speech and privacy. Thank you for your support!

Stop the REAL ID Act:

Stop the Trademark Act from Diluting Free Speech:

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:

California Anti-RFID Bill Gains Momentum

A new California bill that would bar the use of radio frequency identification (RFID) tags in state-issued ID cards this week cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee - the first major hurdle on the way to becoming law.

The good news comes in the wake of a public admission by a US State Department official that the Department is rethinking parts of its dangerous, profoundly misguided plan to put insecure RFID chips in all US passports. (See Of course, "rethinking" isn't nearly enough. There is no good reason to use RFIDs in ID documents to begin with, and no amount of rethinking will make that any more or less true.

"All this talk about shields, crypto, and authentication is only a means of avoiding the real question: why do we need to use RFIDs in the first place?" said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Lee Tien, who testified Tuesday before the California Senate Judiciary Committee. "Contact cards and optical readers are the far better solution. They can perform all the important functions of RFIDs without sacrificing our privacy and safety."

The bill, called the Identity Information Protection Act of 2005 (SB 682), was authored by California Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) and is co-sponsored by EFF, the ACLU, and the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. It has drawn support from AARP California, California Alliance Against Domestic Violence, California Alliance for Consumer Protection, California National Organization for Women, Capitol Resource Institute, Consumer Action, Statewide California Coalition for Battered Women, and the State of California Commission on the Status of Women.

"This isn't a partisan issue," added Tien. "Putting RFID tags in state-issued credentials that most people can't live without - like driver's licenses and health or medical benefits cards - would expose us to unacceptable privacy risks in the course of everyday life, and that's a problem for everyone."

For the original version of this piece online:

Text of SB 682: (California State Senate)

EFF's testimony before the California Senate Judiciary Committee: (PDF)

San Jose Mercury News: "An Orwellian Invasion of Privacy":

Wired: "Feds Rethinking RFID Passport":,1848,67333,00.html

EFF Responds to Apple's Arguments in Online Journalism Appeal

Santa Clara County, CA - EFF, along with co-counsel Thomas Moore III and Richard Wiebe, has filed a reply brief on behalf of three online journalists in Apple v. Does, a case in which Apple Computer is seeking to unmask the identities of the journalists' confidential sources. The brief is in response to Apple's brief opposing EFF's appeal to the California Appellate Court in Santa Clara for intervention in the case.

Apple is suing several unnamed individuals who allegedly leaked information about an upcoming product code-named "Asteroid." Apple has subpoenaed Nfox, the Internet service provider (ISP) for publisher Jason O'Grady, demanding that the ISP 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 clients PowerPage and AppleInsider for similar information.

EFF appealed the trial court decision holding that if a journalist publishes information a business deems to be a trade secret, the journalist is stripped of constitutional protection for confidential sources and unpublished materials.

For this release:

For EFF's reply brief: (PDF)

More about Apple v. Does:

Law Firm Shows Ignorance of the Law in Anonymous Email Case

EFF Sends Letter of Protest to Shearman & Sterling Over Subpoena to Craigslist

San Francisco, CA - When an employee of San Francisco law firm Shearman & Sterling received an email from an anonymous person who seemed to be a disgruntled subordinate, he didn't hit the delete button. Instead, his firm subpoenaed craigslist, a community bulletin board where the email first appeared as a posting, in order to discover the identity of the "Jane Doe."

The firm justified its actions by arguing that the alleged employee's email was a form of "trespass" on Shearman's computer systems. The implication of this claim is far-reaching. Contradicting binding precedent, Shearman proposes a rule that would mean anyone who sends an email faces legal liability. It would allow email recipients to track down anonymous correspondents simply to punish them for being annoying or offensive.

EFF has written an open letter to Shearman urging it to drop the subpoena. "The Constitution does not permit subpoenas for identity just because someone was upset," said EFF Staff Attorney Kurt Opsahl. "While it is unfortunate that a Shearman employee received an offensive email message, Shearman cannot manufacture a cause of action out of thin air just so it can unmask an anonymous speaker."

In its letter, EFF reminds Shearman of the long tradition of US courts protecting anonymous speech, and argues that the law firm has demonstrated no legal cause of action because it did not show how receiving a single email message caused harm. Indeed, the California Supreme Court ruled two years ago in Intel v. Hamidi that sending an email is not a form of trespass.

For this release:

For the open letter: (PDF)

BayFF Event: Explore the World of Anonymous Online Communication, May 10

Join EFF at 111 Minna Gallery to Hear Stories From the Trenches About the Creation of Tor, an Anonymous Internet Communication System

Tuesday, May 10, 2005, 7:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Tor - A Brief History of the Most Important Privacy Software Since PGP

Tor is a free/open source software project to create an anonymous communication system on the Internet. Tor runs on all major platforms (Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux/UNIX).

Roger Dingledine - Tor Project - Roger Dingledine is the chief researcher and developer of Tor and has worked on anonymity and security software at MIT, Reputation Technologies, and his own Freehaven Project. Roger will share his personal experiences about the creation of Tor.

Chris Palmer - EFF - Chris Palmer is EFF's Technology Manager. He will discuss EFF's goals and reasons for supporting the Tor Project.

111 Minna Gallery

111 Minna Street San Francisco, CA 94105 Tel: (415) 974-1719

This event is free and open to the general public. You must be 21+. Refreshments will be served. Free t-shirts for people currently running Tor nodes. (Bring your IP address.) To learn how to set up a Tor node, see

RSVP to (415) 436-9333 x129 or

111 Minna Gallery is accessible via BART. Get off at the Montgomery station and exit at 2nd and Market. Walk south on 2nd Street for a block and a half, and take a right down the Minna Street Alley. 111 Minna Street is located between Mission and Howard.


miniLinks features noteworthy news items from around the Internet.

Breaking the Stupidity Pact
James Boyle with a splendidly clear column on the evidence-free zone in which we create intellectual property policy:
(Financial Times)

More Apple Dissection
This time it's the LA Times' Michael Hitzik with a clear, trenchant examination of Apple's unfortunate fight against free speech:

When the Crypto Walls Fall
The Jericho Forum, a European security consortium, is pushing for the repeal of remaining laws forbidding the use of encryption. Its members include Shell, Boeing, and Cable & Wireless:

The Anniversary of the Commons
The Free Culture movement, the international student movement that "defends the digital commons," turned a year old this month. Here's where you can join a local chapter or start your own:

Dmitry Karma?
Nikon encrypts part of its cameras' lossless raw output format. The encryption is pretty simple
(it was cracked within a few days by Linux developer Dave Coffin), but it has Adobe developers breaking a sweat about violating the DMCA if they reverse-engineer it for Photoshop:

And While We're on the Subject of Karma
Verizon stood up for its customers' privacy rights, but rival Comcast turned over a customer's name to the RIAA without court authorization. Now the customer is suing:

What's Broadcast in the Las Vegas Metro Area, Stays in the Las Vegas Metro Area
IBM and Fox are cooperating on a "local" broadcast flag that would make it so gizmos that read or receive TV content will use digital broadcasts to self-identify as part of a specific home broadcast market area:

Is That a Cell Phone In Your Pocket, Or...
The cell phone industry is gearing up to introduce its own content ratings, apparently to head off FCC rumblings that it may extend its indecency jihad to your phone:

Head of Patent Office Pushes for Reform
More examiners, first-to-file grants, and post-grant review of patents were some of the reforms listed by Jon Dudas during recent Senate testimony:

Border Security, Light on the Chips
Congress is revisiting whether many other countries should be required to use RFID chips in their passports or get visas before entering the US:

Celera Gives it Away
The human genome, that is. The private company has abandoned its attempts to sell subscriptions to human DNA data and will instead place the info in the public domain:
(Registration unfortunately required.)

Bahrain - Washing the Internet
The country has issued a policy that appears to require any website dealing with Bahrain to register with the Ministry of Information. Students and reporters are launching protests:

Company Settles GPL Suit by Opening Code
Fortinet, a security company, has settled a suit brought by the founder of by agreeing to open much of its code. This is the latest in a string of victories for the GPL watchdog website:

President Signs Family Entertainment and Copyright Act
The law allows companies like ClearPlay to make user-empowering DVD player/editors while increasing criminal copyright penalties:

EFF's own Fred von Lohmann breaks it down here:


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)

Donna Wentworth, Web Writer/Activist

Membership & donation queries:

General EFF, legal, policy, or online resources queries:

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 & articles may be reproduced individually at will.

Current and back issues of EFFector are available via the Web at:

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