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Podcast Episode: Antitrust/Pro-Internet

EFFector - Volume 19, Issue 6 - Help EFF Sue AT&T and Stop the NSA's Illegal Domestic Spying Program


EFFector - Volume 19, Issue 6 - Help EFF Sue AT&T and Stop the NSA's Illegal Domestic Spying Program

EFFector       Vol. 19, No. 6       February 10, 2006

A Publication of the Electronic Frontier Foundation     ISSN 1062-9424

In the 367th Issue of EFFector:

Help EFF Sue AT&T and Stop the NSA's Illegal Domestic Spying Program

We hope you noticed that EFF filed a class-action lawsuit last week to stop AT&T from continuing to violate the law and the privacy of its customers by collaborating with the National Security Agency (NSA) in its massive program to wiretap and data-mine Americans' communications. To help us develop the lawsuit, we would like to speak with members and supporters who are current AT&T WorldNet subscribers.

Specifically, we would like to hear from you if you would like to assist us with the lawsuit and you are a current subscriber to any of the following services:

  • AT&T Worldnet dial-up Internet service
  • AT&T Worldnet DSL service (*NOT* AT&T Broadband cable
  • service)
  • Any enterprise-level Internet access services, e.g.,
  • Business-Class DSL or Managed Internet Service (T1)

If you're interested in helping out, please email us at

For more on EFF's suit against AT&T:

Google Copies Your Hard Drive - Government Smiles in Anticipation

Consumers Should Not Use New Google Desktop

San Francisco Google announced a new "feature" of its Google Desktop software that greatly increases the risk to consumer privacy. If a consumer chooses to use it, the new "Search Across Computers" feature will store copies of the user's Word documents, PDFs, spreadsheets and other text- based documents on Google's own servers, to enable searching from any one of the user's computers. EFF urges consumers not to use this feature, because it will make their personal data more vulnerable to subpoenas from the government and possibly private litigants, while providing a convenient one-stop-shop for hackers who've obtained a user's Google password.

"Coming on the heels of serious consumer concern about government snooping into Google's search logs, it's shocking that Google expects its users to now trust it with the contents of their personal computers," said EFF Staff Attorney Kevin Bankston. "Unless you configure Google Desktop very carefully, and few people will, Google will have copies of your tax returns, love letters, business records, financial and medical files, and whatever other text-based documents the Desktop software can index. The government could then demand these personal files with only a subpoena rather than the search warrant it would need to seize the same things from your home or business, and in many cases you wouldn't even be notified in time to challenge it. Other litigants--your spouse, your business partners or rivals, whomever--could also try to cut out the middleman (you) and subpoena Google for your files."

The privacy problem arises because the Electronic Communication Privacy Act of 1986, or ECPA, gives only limited privacy protection to emails and other files that are stored with online service providers--much less privacy than the legal protections for the same information when it's on your computer at home. And even that lower level of legal protection could disappear if Google uses your data for marketing purposes. Google says it is not yet scanning the files it copies from your hard drive in order to serve targeted advertising, but it hasn't ruled out the possibility, and Google's current privacy policy appears to allow it.

"This Google product highlights a key privacy problem in the digital age," said Cindy Cohn, EFF's Legal Director. "Many Internet innovations involve storing personal files on a service provider's computer, but under outdated laws, consumers who want to use these new technologies have to surrender their privacy rights. If Google wants consumers to trust it to store copies of personal computer files, emails, search histories and chat logs, and still 'not be evil,' it should stand with EFF and demand that Congress update the privacy laws to better reflect life in the wired world."

Google can and should design its technologies to avoid these problems in the first place. For example, searching across computers can be accomplished without Google having to keep copies of those computers' contents. Alternatively, Google could encrypt the stored data such that only the user has access.

"Google constantly touts its creative brainpower. More privacy-protective technologies are surely not beyond its reach, so long as its engineers make that a design priority," added Bankston.

For more on the new version of Google Desktop:

For more on Google's data collection:

For this release:

AOL, Yahoo, and Goodmail: Taxing Your Email for Fun and Profit

Remember the famous email rumor that made the rounds in the 1990s: "Congress is trying to tax your Internet connection, write in now!"

Well what wasn't true in the 1990s is apparently coming true in 2006, only the beneficiaries won't be Uncle Sam -- they will be Yahoo, AOL, and a company ironically called Goodmail. Yahoo and AOL have announced that they will guarantee access to your email inbox for email senders who pay $.0025 per message. They will override their own spam filters and webbug-strippers, and deliver the mail directly with a "certified" notice. In the process, it is likely that they will treat more of your email as spam, and email you're expecting won't be delivered.

This isn't really an anti-spam measure as much as a "pay to speak" measure. In fact, it probably won't diminish spam or phishing at all. Yahoo and AOL are ransoming your email boxes so that they can shake down ordinary people and organizations, whether individuals mailing their local bowling league or political groups communicating with their national memberships.

Email being basically free isn't a bug. It's a feature that has driven the digital revolution, allowing groups to scale up from a dozen friends to a hundred people who love knitting to half-a-million concerned citizens without a major bankroll. Spam is a real problem demanding real solutions, but taxing the Internet isn't one of them.

EFF urges AOL and Yahoo subscribers and those who communicate with them to tell them that taxing email is not the right way to go.

For more on the threat Goodmail poses:

For EFF's white paper on best practices for fighting spam:

Nominate a Pioneer for EFF's 2006 Pioneer Awards!

EFF established the Pioneer Awards to recognize leaders on the electronic frontier who are extending freedom and innovation in the realm of information technology. This is your opportunity to nominate a deserving individual or group to receive a Pioneer Award for 2006.

The International Pioneer Awards nominations are open both to individuals and organizations from any country. Nominations are reviewed by a panel of judges chosen for their knowledge of the technical, legal, and social issues associated with information technology.

This year's award ceremony will be held in Washington, DC, in conjunction with the Computers, Freedom and Privacy conference (CFP), which takes place in early May.

How to Nominate Someone for a 2006 Pioneer Award:

You may send as many nominations as you wish, but please use one email per nomination. Please submit your entries via email to We will accept nominations until February 1, 2006.

Simply tell us:
1. The name of the nominee; 2. The phone number or email address or website by which the nominee can be reached, and, most importantly; and 3. Why you feel the nominee deserves the award.

Nominee Criteria:

There are no specific categories for the EFF Pioneer Awards, but the following guidelines apply:

  1. The nominees must have contributed substantially to the health, growth, accessibility, or freedom of computer-based communications.
  2. To be valid, all nominations must contain your reason, however brief, for nominating the individual or organization and a means of contacting the nominee. In addition, while anonymous nominations will be accepted, ideally we'd like to contact the nominating parties in case we need further information.
  3. The contribution may be technical, social, economic, or cultural.
  4. Nominations may be of individuals, systems, or organizations in the private or public sectors.
  5. Nominations are open to all (other than current members of EFF's staff and executive board or this year's award judges), and you may nominate more than one recipient. You may also nominate yourself or your organization.
  6. Persons or representatives of organizations receiving an EFF Pioneer Award will be invited to attend the ceremony at EFF's expense.

More on the EFF Pioneer Awards:


miniLinks features noteworthy news items from around the Internet.

CAFTA (and Anti-Circumvention for Central America) in Trouble
Close Costa Rica elections are putting a wobble into the Central American Free Trade Agreement - one of many FTAs that export the anti-circumvention provisions of the DMCA abroad.

Australia's IP Calendar
Kim Weatherall lists the reforms to copyright and trademark law lined up for Australia in the next few weeks. No Aussie DMCA -- although that's to come, unfortunately.

Good Fences Make Bad Broadband
Public Knowledge takes a look at the issue of network neutrality in this white paper.

The Right Kind of Policy Laundering
Michael Geist notes that governments all over the world are rebelling against copyright expansionists.

"This is Great! We Must Ban it at Once!"
Slingbox's place-shifting technology gets rave review from broadcaster, before he declares that it should be stopped.

Senate Hearings Into NSA Wiretap Program - the Transcripts
That's the public transcripts, rather than monitored transcripts of the phone calls the senators made beforehand....

When Librarians Protect Terrorists
A disturbingly misdirected attack on a librarian defending his clients' communications, from the Boston Globe.

Stallman shares his opinions on file-sharing.

Lambda Legal Warns Blizzard Over Gay Rules
Gay legal group sends letter noting that World of Warcraft's bizarre anti-harassment rules against openly gay clans could be illegal.

Anti-Spammers Say No to Goodmail Paymail
"An e-mail charge will destroy the spirit of the Internet," says Richard Cox of Spamhaus.

Pow! Smash! Fair use as Affirmative Defense!
Duke professor James Boyle and Jennifer Jenkins write a comic book for filmmakers explaining copyright issues.

Eavesdropping 101: What Can the NSA Do?
The ACLU watches the watchers.

PATRIOT Postponed
The PATRIOT Act gets another five week extension. It appears the urgent expansion of police powers can wait after all.

Human Rights, the Internet, and Congress
Harvard's John Palfrey, among others, briefs the Human Rights Caucus.

Somebody Thinking of the Orphans
The Copyright Office releases its report on how to deal with copyrighted works when the rightsholder is unknown. Executive summary: if you try hard enough to find them, you won't get sued too badly.

RFID Passport Data Intercepted and Cracked
No need to check the secret key encoded in print; perfectly cloneable too.

Judge, Jury, and Self-Publicist
WIPO boasts about how many cybersquatting cases it decides in favor of big business.

Privatizing Transport Security
The Preferred Traveler program, allowing people to bypass standard air flight security checks, will be privately run. Should do a good job of maximizing the number of unknown, but paying customers past federal security.

FCC says AT&T, Alltel Apparently Violated Privacy Requirement
Not a great week for AT&T's privacy record.


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)

Derek Slater, Activist

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