Skip to main content
Podcast Episode: Fighting Enshittification

EFFector - Volume 21, Issue 10 - Action Alert: Talk Back to the House About Telecom Immunity!


EFFector - Volume 21, Issue 10 - Action Alert: Talk Back to the House About Telecom Immunity!

EFFector Vol. 21, No. 10  March 20, 2008

A Publication of the Electronic Frontier Foundation
ISSN 1062-9424

In the 463rd Issue of EFFector:
* Action Alert: Talk Back to the House About Telecom
* EFF Celebrates Sunshine Week
* EFF Urges Court to Rule National Security Letters
* FISA News and Updates
* Three Strikes, Three Countries: France, Japan and Sweden
* Wanted: Prior Art to Bust Firepond/Polaris Patent
* Thanks for Making the EFF Pioneer Awards a Success!
* miniLinks (9): FISA Attacks Fail to Sway CT
* Administrivia

For more information on EFF activities & alerts:

Make a donation and become an EFF member today!

Tell a friend about EFF:

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

: . : . : . : . : . : . : . : . : . : . : . : . : . : . :

* Action Alert: Talk Back to the House About Telecom

Last week, House Democrats succeeded in passing a bill that
rejects telecom immunity! Take action and remind them where
you stand:

Lawmakers opposed to immunity stood strong against blatant
fear-mongering, tricky procedural jujitsu, and veto threats
to pass a bill that allows existing court cases like EFF's
case against AT&T to continue. We told them not to let the
telecoms off the hook and many of them listened. But some
offices continued to press for a bill that grants amnesty
to lawbreaking telecoms.

Find out where your Representative stands, and take action.

* Support them for their courage if they stood up for your

* Scold them if they voted to let the phone companies off
the hook.

: . : . : . : . : . : . : . : . : . : . : . : . : . : . :

* EFF Celebrates Sunshine Week

The principles of open government are promoted and
celebrated each year during Sunshine Week -- observed this
year March 16-22. The weeklong initiative is built around
National Freedom of Information Day, which is celebrated on
James Madison's birthday. Madison is regarded as "the
father of freedom of information" based upon his
observation that "a people who mean to be their own
Governors must arm themselves with the power knowledge

EFF is proud to be a part of the open government community
and, through our aggressive use of the Freedom of
Information Act (FOIA), we strive to promote the disclosure
of government information concerning technology policies.
Through our FOIA Litigation for Accountable Government
(FLAG) Project, we have initiated numerous FOIA requests
and lawsuits on topics ranging from FBI surveillance
technology to Pentagon efforts to censor military bloggers.

EFF aims to make important information available to members
of Congress, to the news media and -- by posting all the
material we obtain on our website -- to the public
at-large. Consider celebrating Sunshine Week by taking a
look at some of our FOIA efforts and the interesting facts
they have uncovered!

For more on EFF's FLAG Project:

For more on EFF and Sunshine Week:

For this complete post by EFF Senior Counsel David Sobel:

: . : . : . : . : . : . : . : . : . : . : . : . : . : . :

* EFF Urges Court to Rule National Security Letters

Secrecy Surrounding Demands for Private Records Enables
Widespread Misuse

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)
along with the National Security Archive urged a federal
appeals court to strike down the National Security Letter
(NSL) provision of the Electronic Communications Privacy

The federal surveillance law, as expanded by the PATRIOT
Act, allows the FBI to use NSLs to get private records
about people's communications without any court approval,
as long as it claims the information could be relevant to a
terrorism or espionage investigation. The FBI also has
broad discretion to place recipients of NSLs under
indefinite gag orders, barring them from saying anything
about the demands.

A federal judge has already found that the NSL statute is
unconstitutional, but the government appealed the ruling.
In an amicus brief filed Wednesday, EFF and the National
Security Archive argue that the excessive secrecy
surrounding the use of NSLs undermines government
accountability and enables widespread misuse of authority.

"The Justice Department's internal watchdog has documented
the FBI's systematic, Bureau-wide misuse of NSLs," said EFF
Staff Attorney Marcia Hofmann. "NSL gag orders aren't just
an unconstitutional restriction on free speech -- they also
allow problems like these to fester and grow."

This week is national Sunshine Week, a non-partisan
initiative to celebrate the principles of open government.
Both EFF and the National Security Archive work to uncover
information on government matters of public interest, as
openness proves to be a check against government abuses.

"The FBI's ability to issue gag orders without meaningful
judicial oversight means there is no check on overreaching
by the FBI," said National Security Archive Staff Counsel
Kristin Adair. "This kind of secrecy does not make us
safer. It simply allows the government to cover up abuses
and mistakes."

For the full amicus brief:

For more on Sunshine Week:

For more on EFF's work on NSL misuse:

For this release:

: . : . : . : . : . : . : . : . : . : . : . : . : . : . :

* FISA News and Updates

Last week, the House stood up for the rule of law by
passing a FISA update bill without telecom immunity! There
were quite a few moments of eloquence on the House floor:

Political writer Julian Sanchez gives a short, but thorough
history of politically motivated abuse of domestic spying,
demonstrating the close relationship between maintaining
rigorous laws against widespread surveillance and retaining
freedom of speech:

Representative Michele Bachmann's op-ed in the Minneapolis
Star-Tribune echoed a number of faulty examples used to
shore up support for broadening spying and granting telecom
immunity -- EFF Senior Staff Attorney Kurt Opsahl debunks
these claims here:

Finally, AT&T Whistleblower Mark Klein was recently
interviewed by PBS NOW in a segment that thoroughly covers
the evidence of illegal spying at the AT&T facility in San
Francisco and the numerous battles being waged over
government spying power:

: . : . : . : . : . : . : . : . : . : . : . : . : . : . :

* Three Strikes, Three Countries: France, Japan and Sweden

The music and movie industries have been making a concerted
attempt to introduce a "three strikes" rule for Net users
in many countries simultaneously -- pressuring ISPs to
throw their customers offline, possibly permanently, if the
rightsholders report that they have been infringing.

The response by national ISPs and governments has varied:
in the same week as Japanese ISPs declared they would
voluntarily follow such a scheme, Sweden's Ministers for
Justice and Culture came out strongly against shutting down
subscribers in their country.

The furthest ahead in its plans is France. The
International Federation of the Phonographic Industry
(IFPI) lobbied for France's "Olivennes Report," an
agreement brokered last year between the ISPs,
rightsholders and the French government to enforce such a
system. Denis Olivennes, the author of the report, is also
the director of FNAC, France's largest record shop chain.

The Swedish government, in rejecting "three strikes", noted
that shutting down an Internet subscription was "a
wide-reaching measure that could have serious repercussions
in society". That's the kind of wider policy consideration
that France and Japan needs to consider. This is more than
a fight between the entertainment and broadband industries:
this is about infrastructure, and citizen's access and
freedoms online. But right now, some countries seem to be
falling over themselves to discover its disadvantages --
without any true investigation into what will happen to
their citizens or their networks if they do.

For this complete post by EFF International Outreach
Coordinator Danny O'Brien:

: . : . : . : . : . : . : . : . : . : . : . : . : . : . :

* Wanted: Prior Art to Bust Firepond/Polaris Patent

The Patent Busting Project fights back against bogus
patents by filing requests for reexamination against the
worst offenders. EFF has successfully pushed the Patent and
Trademark Office to reexamine four of the ten patents on
our Most Wanted list, and now we need your help to bust

A company called Polaris has a patent on a method for
telling whether or not an incoming message (e.g., an email)
is a simple, standard request that can be answered
automatically, and, if so, for answering it. To bust this
overly broad patent, we need to find prior art that
describes a product made before 1997 in this way.

We anticipate that a lot of useful prior art will lie in
the area of helpdesk or customer service automation or in
server software. Consider specifically:

* Helpdesk automation systems that automatically respond
to user queries, or
* Systems that help customer service operatives identify
solutions to user problems by means of both rule and case

Where to send information on prior art:

For a more detailed description of the Firepond/Polaris

For this complete post by EFF Intellectual Property Fellow
Emily Berger:

: . : . : . : . : . : . : . : . : . : . : . : . : . : . :

* Thanks for Making the EFF Pioneer Awards a Success!

Earlier this month, EFF celebrated the work of an open
source advocate, a Canadian copyfighter, and an AT&T
whistleblower at this year's Pioneer Awards fundraiser in
San Diego! Congratulations to award winners Mitchell Baker
and the Mozilla Foundation, Michael Geist, and Mark Klein
for leading the way on the electronic frontier!

The event was made possible with the generous support of
platinum sponsor TCHO, "a new chocolate company for a new
generation of chocolate enthusiasts." Founded by Wired
co-founder Louis Rossetto and legendary chocolatier and
former technologist Timothy Childs, TCHO aims to produce
obsessively good dark chocolate, where Silicon Valley
start-up meets San Francisco food culture. TCHO held a
"beta sampling" between "A" and "B" flavors, and "B" won by
a landslide. TCHO will incorporate sampling results into
future chocolate releases. Emily Richards, president of
MP3tunes, won the business card drawing for the night.

EFF would also like to thank the O'Reilly ETech organizers
for providing space and assistance; and our bronze sponsors
MOG, Three Rings, Barracuda Networks, and Atomic PR. Kudos
also to keynote speaker Michael Robertson.

Finally, many thanks are due to the 2008 Pioneer Awards
judging panel, which reviewed the many nominations and
decided on the final winners: Kim Alexander (President and
founder, California Voter Foundation), Esther Dyson
(Internet court jester and blogger, Release 0.9; founding
chairman of ICANN; former chairman of EFF), Mitch Kapor
(President, Kapor Enterprises; co-founder and former
chairman EFF), Drazen Pantic (Co-director, Location One),
Barbara Simons (IBM Research [Retired] and former president
ACM), James Tyre, (Co-founder, The Censorware Project; EFF
policy fellow) and Jimmy Wales, (Founder, Wikipedia;
co-founder, Wikia; chair emeritus of the Wikimedia

: . : . : . : . : . : . : . : . : . : . : . : . : . : . :

* miniLinks
The week's noteworthy news, compressed.

~ FISA Attacks Fail to Sway CT Representative
Rep. Joe Courtney has a good video explaining why he
opposes telecom immunity, despite being attacked on the

~ Republican Opposes Telecom Immunity
A Republican candidate in North Carolina says he wants
telephone companies held accountable.

~ Facebook Expands Privacy Features
Facebook is making some privacy improvements -- but some
changes are just theatre.

~ Craigslist Not Liable for Postings
A Circuit Court has ruled that Craigslist cannot be held
liable for discriminatory housing ads posted on its site.

~ Fingerprinting Foreign Visitors
Airlines are objecting to a government plan would require
them to collect fingerprints of each visitor to the United

~ Google Book Search Gets Better
Library users can now use Google Book Search's new API to
get a preview of books in the catalog.

~ Hollywood Gets Into Spying Game
MPAA chairman says he wants to work with ISPs to police
networks and fight copyright infringement.

~ Indie Labels Bypassing iTunes
Independent record labels are going straight to the
consumer, opening their own stores with high-quality audio
and hard-to-find tracks.

~ "All You Can Eat" iTunes?
Apple is considering giving customers access to the entire
iTunes library for a premium.

: . : . : . : . : . : . : . : . : . : . : . : . : . : . :

* 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)

Richard Esguerra, EFF 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
Press releases and EFF announcements & articles may be
reproduced individually at will.

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

Back to top

JavaScript license information