In our 590th issue:
This week, the House of Representatives introduced its companion legislation to the Senate's PROTECT-IP Act, called the Stop Online Piracy Act, or "SOPA." This bill would not only sabotage the domain name system but also threatens to effectively eliminate the DMCA safe harbors that, while imperfect, have spurred much economic growth and online creativity. EFF urges everyone to contact their representatives about the dangers in this bill. Follow the link to take action.
On October 26th, the tenth anniversary of the signing of the PATRIOT Act, the Electronic Frontier Foundation sued the Department of Justice (DOJ) for answers about "secret interpretations" about a particular provision known as Section 215. Several senators have warned that the DOJ is using Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act to support what government attorneys call a "sensitive collection program" that may be targeting large numbers of Americans that are not implicated in any national security investigations.
Just what sort of powers does the PATRIOT Act grant law enforcement when it comes to surveillance and sidestepping due process? Read about three provisions of the PATRIOT Act that were sold to the American public as necessary anti-terrorism measures, but are now used in ways that infringe on ordinary citizens’ rights.
For years, there’s been ample evidence that authoritarian governments around the world are relying on the technology of U.S. and European companies to facilitate abuse of human rights, including a wealth of recent evidence from the Arab Spring and China. It's time for tech companies, especially those selling surveillance equipment, to step up and ensure that they aren’t assisting foreign governments in committing human rights violations against their own people.
BART Considers a Cell Phone Shutdown Policy
This summer, decision-makers at Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) garnered considerable criticism after they chose to shut down cell phone access to four BART stations in downtown San Francisco based on rumors of an upcoming protest. Now BART’s Board Directors has drafted a Cell Phone Interruption Policy, which they considered at a meeting on October 27th. Read EFF's recommendations to bring their policy into compliance with the First Amendment.
Bloggers Under Fire
The intimidation and persecution of bloggers and online journalists is a grave threat to free expression in many countries these days. The effects are often far-reaching as bloggers are scared into silence. Bloggers from the UAE, Egypt, and Syria have all been threatened with prosecution this week.
Geo-Mapping and the FBI: High-Level Statements Contradict Practices on the Ground
The FBI is tracking Muslims in the United States using “geo-maps” with little, if any, suspicion of criminal activities. These practices are in direct contrast to language in agency materials EFF received from the FBI in a recent response to a FOIA request.
FBI Ramps Up Next Generation ID Roll-Out—Will You End Up in the Database?
NextGov.com is reporting that the FBI will begin rolling out its Next Generation Identification (NGI) facial recognition service as early as this January. Once NGI is fully deployed and once each of its approximately 100 million records also includes photographs, it will become trivially easy to find and track Americans. EFF looks at the problems with such technology and how your privacy will be affected.
EFF Gets Straight Privacy Answers From Amazon About New "Silk" Tablet Browser
Amazon recently announced that the new Kindle Fire tablet will ship with a brand new browser called Silk. The Silk browser works in “cloud acceleration” mode by routing most webpage requests through servers controlled by Amazon. Following the announcement, security experts as well as lawmakers have raised privacy questions and concerns about Silk. Amazon talked to EFF about all of our concerns.
Google Encrypts More Searches
On October 18, Google announced that it is switching its Search service for logged-in users over from insecure HTTP to encrypted HTTPS. This is a significant win for users: HTTPS is an essential protection against surveillance and alteration of your search traffic — whether by governments, companies, or hackers. Privacy conscious users should keep using HTTPS Everywhere, which will ensure that you're always using encrypted on Google, even when you're not logged in.
How secure is HTTPS today? How often is it attacked?
HTTPS is a lot more secure than HTTP! If a site uses accounts, or publishes material that people might prefer to read in private, the site should be protected with HTTPS. Unfortunately, it is still feasible for some attackers to break HTTPS. Read about some of the structural ways for its authentication mechanism to be fooled for any domain and how often these attacks are happening.
The Dangers in Classifying the News
Recently, the White House issued the so-called ‘WikiLeaks’ Executive Order, which mandates better security for the nation’s classified computer systems. While ensuring that the government has better security over its own systems is a good goal, it fails to address an equally important problem: the American government’s addiction to overclassification, which goes far beyond the appropriate and effective means necessary to safeguard real secrets. President Obama should follow through on his promises to reform the classification system.
EFF's Membership Program Goes Open Source
You may have noticed that EFF's donation pages look different. EFF is proud to join a growing cadre of activist organizations using CiviCRM and will continue contributing to its ongoing success.
U.S. Firm Acknowledges Syria Uses Its Gear to Block Web
Blue Coat Systems, a company that makes Internet-blocking gear, acknowledges that Syria has been using at least 13 of its devices to censor Web activity amidst a violent government crackdown on pro-democracy protests.
Protecting The Safe Harbors Of The DMCA And Protecting Jobs
A pair of venture capitalists explain why the House of Representatives' new copyright bill -- SOPA -- will stifle innovation and kill jobs.
Obama's DOJ Seeks to Weaken the FOIA
The Sunlight Foundation analyzes the Justice Department's proposed rule changes for the Freedom of Information Act and finds they would be a severe setback for government transparency.
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