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Podcast Episode: Antitrust/Pro-Internet

EFFector - Volume 19, Issue 25 - EFF Backs Court in Protecting Phone Call Privacy


EFFector - Volume 19, Issue 25 - EFF Backs Court in Protecting Phone Call Privacy

EFFector Vol. 19, No. 25 July, 2006

A Publication of the Electronic Frontier Foundation ISSN 1062-9424

In the 386th Issue of EFFector:

effector: n, Computer Sci. A device for producing a desired change.

EFF Backs Court in Protecting Phone Call Privacy

Investigators Need a Warrant to Get Call Content

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) filed an amicus brief last Friday arguing that the government needs a warrant to collect the content of a telephone call, even if that content came from digits dialed on a phone keypad.

A federal magistrate judge in Texas asked EFF to file the brief in response to requests from government investigators to use a pen register or trap and trace device to collect all information entered using the buttons on a telephone (including, for example, bank account numbers or prescription refill requests). A "pen/trap" order must meet a lower standard of judicial review than a typical phone- tapping warrant, because only telephone numbers dialed from a certain phone -- not the content of the phone call itself -- are normally collected.

In their brief, EFF and CDT ask the judge to continue denying the orders and argue that the government's request cannot be granted without violating federal wiretap law and the Fourth Amendment.

"After the phone call has been connected, the pen/trap device's job is over," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Lee Tien. "The numbers that you enter through the keypad to fill a prescription or join a meeting are just like the words or passcodes you say when there's no keypad option. They cannot be retrieved without meeting stringent probable cause requirements."

Until Magistrate Judge Smith asked for the brief, these pen/trap requests were unknown to the public. The judge previously asked EFF to respond to the government's secret requests to track cell phone locations without a warrant based on probable cause. Judge Smith and several other magistrates around the country have now held that the government cannot track cell phone locations unless it can show probable cause and a judge finds good reason to believe that criminal activity is afoot.

"Just as in the cell tracking cases, the government has tried to hide its baseless arguments from public scrutiny," said EFF Staff Attorney Kevin Bankston. "We commend Judge Smith for taking these issues seriously and allowing EFF to offer a response to the government's contrived reasoning."

For the amicus brief:

For this release:

Online Message Board Fights for Anonymity in Oklahoma

EFF Defends Web Host and 'John Doe' Critic of School Superintendent

Tulsa, Oklahoma - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) last week filed to block an Oklahoma school superintendent's attempt to unmask the identities of a local website's operator and all registered users.

The superintendent has sued Internet users who criticized him on the website's message board. In its motion to quash, EFF argues that the plaintiff's overbroad subpoena seeking to identify the site's operator and users violates First Amendment protections for anonymous speech and association.

"Anonymity is critical to public discourse and is fundamental to a free society, allowing speakers to offer diverse views without fear of undue reprisal," said EFF Staff Attorney Corynne McSherry. "There is now clear judicial consensus that subpoenas to identify anonymous speakers must be carefully scrutinized."

In recent months, EFF lawyers have represented or provided amicus support in anonymity cases in California, Colorado, and Delaware. In the latter case, Doe v. Cahill, EFF helped successfully defend a Delaware blogger who had criticized a member of the town council. The case resulted in the first state supreme court decision confirming the First Amendment right to remain anonymous until a litigant can demonstrate a legitimate claim.

"Litigants must not be permitted to abuse the judicial process to identity anonymous individuals who have simply created a forum for critical comments or made statements a plaintiff dislikes," said EFF Staff Attorney Matt Zimmerman. "Speech critical of public officials -- made anonymously or not -- enjoys an extremely high level of legal protection."

Oral argument on EFF's motion to quash is scheduled for July 20th.

For EFF's motion to quash:

For this release:

Another Endangered Gizmo: Neuros MPEG4 Recorder 2 and the Analog Hole

Recently, Congress held yet another hearing about "plugging the analog hole." Why is Hollywood so bent on making all analog-to-digital technologies obey copyright holders' commands? Because in an age of DRM on digital media, the analog hole is often the last refuge for fair use and for innovators trying to build new gadgets to take your rights into the digital age.

Take the Neuros MPEG4 Recorder 2 (the "R2"), an endangered gizmo that digitizes analog video output and records it to a CF card or a memory stick in MPEG4 format. The video can then be copied to your computer's hard drive, burned to DVD, moved to your video iPod, or slotted right into your Sony PSP. You can also output video to a display device from the R2.

In turn, the R2 helps you make legitimate use of your media and lawfully escape DRM restrictions. For example, you can:

* Free your recorded TV content: TiVo and other PVRs restrict moving recorded video to other devices. The DMCA limits removing these DRM locks, and, if the broadcast flag proposal passes, these restrictions will get even worse. Regardless, you can lawfully use the R2 to create a DRM-free copy, recording straight from your TV or TiVo.

* Free your DVDs: DVD ripping software is widely available, but using it to rip a film to your computer and video iPod may violate the DMCA. The R2 gives you a legal (albeit more cumbersome) alternative. Similarly, though region-free DVD players are available, you can use the R2 to help create a region-free copy of the movie itself.

* Free your VHS tapes: You've probably faced the unhappy choice between rebuying your VHS collection on DRM- restricted DVDs or lugging around a legacy player. The R2 helps you liberate your movies from their VHS chains.

The good folks at Neuros Technology were kind enough to give us a device to test out. This clever gadget is light, fitting neatly in your hand. Setup is simple, and you can customize the recording resolution to suit your needs.

But you might not get to use the R2 or other innovations that rely on the analog hole if Hollywood gets its way. In fact, you shouldn't even expect that such devices will stay on the market for use with DRM-free media (e.g., digitizing your own home movies) -- after all, the manufacturers will suffer great expense to install these bogus analog hole plugs and will be forced to get permission from Hollywood and regulators before innovating.

Take a stand now and save these endangered gizmos:

To learn more about the "analog hole":

To learn more about the R2:

To learn more about other endangered gizmos:

For this post:


miniLinks features noteworthy news items from around the Internet.

EFF Legal Director in Law Journal's Most Influential Lawyers in America
Cindy Cohn is "rushing to the barricades wherever freedom and civil liberties are at stake online."

Will Bono Sign Against DRM?
FSF's Defective by Design campaign aims a petition at Bono's conscience.

A Year After Grokster, File Sharing More Popular Than Ever
Shutting down peer-to-peer networks was like taking a half- course of antibiotics every six months.

Guns Don't Kill People -- At Least Not Without A Valid EULA
Bruce Schneier describes a patent covering access control for bullets.

The Rio Declaration on DRM
Attendees of the iCommons summit call for exceptions to anti-circumvention laws.

Government Accountability Office Leaks Personal Info

Did AT&T's Assistance With Domestic Wiretaps Precede 9/11?
Bloomberg reports on claims the NSA asked AT&T Inc. to set up a domestic call monitoring site in June 2000.

Bypassing the Great Firewall By Pretending It's not There
Richard Clayton shows how Chinese censorship systems can be simply ignored.

The Associated Press reviews our last 0x10 years.

Recording Industry Goes International
Sues Yahoo China, seeks out in, of all places, the British courts.

Google Lists "Privacy Concerns" as Threat to Future Profitability
Its 10-Q statement includes the worry between proprietary document formats, spammers, and clickfraud.

Bruce Perens on Software Patents: Told You So
We've warned you for a decade. Now the monster has finally arrived: attacks against Open Source developers by patent holders, big and small.

ISPs to Scan all Mail, Match Attachments With Hash Database
It all starts with child pornography.

Extended Range RFID Skimmer for Less Than $100
Snoop on RFIDs from 25cm, over double the official distance.

Seeking Volunteers to Investigate Congress
Investigate the 539 representatives whose disclosure forms have not been scrutinized.


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The Electronic Frontier Foundation
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Derek Slater, Activist

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