In our 721st issue:
Lawmakers are getting serious about renewing the U.S. government’s Internet spying powers, so we need to get serious about stopping their bad proposals.
Sen. Tom Cotton has introduced legislation that would not just reauthorize, but make permanent the expiring measure that the government says justifies the warrantless surveillance of innocent Americans’ online communications. That measure is Section 702, as enacted by the FISA Amendments Act. Cotton's bill (S. 1297) is supported by several Republicans in the Senate, including Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr and Sens. John Cornyn, John McCain, and Lindsey Graham.
Section 702 surveillance violates the privacy rights of millions of people. This warrantless spying should not be allowed to continue at all, let alone be made permanent as is. Luckily, there’s already opposition to the proposal. Sen. Dianne Feinstein--whose defense of warrantless surveillance has historically been sympathetic to the intelligence community--has said she can not support a bill that makes Section 702 permanent.
Now we need other members of Congress to take the same stand. We cannot let lawmakers ignore our privacy concerns and their own responsibility to review surveillance law, and our lawmakers need to hear that. Sign our petition today and tell Congress to oppose S. 1297 and the permanent reauthorization of Section 702 spying.
With net neutrality rules on the line, we need to give the world an idea of what the Internet will look like if the FCC goes forward with its plan to dismantle open Internet protections.
Less than two years after the FCC finally adopted a legally viable Open Internet Order, and less than one year after the courts finally upheld real net neutrality protections, the new FCC Chair, Ajit Pai, has put those protections on the chopping block. If he succeeds, broadband service providers will be free to create Internet fast lanes for those who can afford them--meaning slow lanes for anyone who can’t pay to play, like startups offering innovative services, not to mention libraries, schools, and nonprofits. They will also be free to steer you to the content they choose--often without you knowing it.
We can't let that happen. On July 12, EFF is joining a huge coalition of nonprofits and companies in a day of action to stand up for net neutrality. One simple way that organizations, companies, and even individuals can participate is to install our widget. If you’ve installed the widget on your website, then on July 12, visitors will be greeted with an alarming preview of the Internet without net neutrality protections. This widget will send a clear message to your site’s visitors: giving up protections for net neutrality will give ISPs a frightening amount of control over your Internet experience.
Three years ago, the Supreme Court ruled that an abstract idea does not become eligible for a patent simply by being implemented on a generic computer. Since then, the ruling--Alice v. CLS Bank--has provided a lifeline for real businesses threatened or sued with bogus patents.
On the third anniversary of Alice, EFF is launching a new series called Saved by Alice where we’ll collect these stories of times when Alice came to the rescue. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing stories of business owners large and small. These stories all have one thing in common: someone with a patent on an abstract idea sued a small business, and that business could have lost everything. But Alice saved the day.
But now Alice is under attack. A few loud voices in the patent lobby want to amend the law to bring back these stupid patents. It’s time to tell the stories of the individuals and businesses that have been sued or threatened with patents that shouldn’t have been issued in the first place.
Zillow Threatens Architecture Humor Blog
Real estate site Zillow sent an aggressive cease and desist letter to architecture humor blogger Kate Wagner, demanding that Wagner remove from her website, McMansion Hell, any image originally sourced from Zillow’s site. EFF responded on Wagner's behalf with a letter explaining why none of Zillow’s contentions had merit. Faced with real opposition, Zillow quickly withdrew its threat and said it won't be seeking to take down any of the posts on McMansion Hell. We hope that other companies seeking to shut down humor, criticism, and parody online see this as a cautionary tale and avoid sending threats in the first place.
Antitrust Laws Won't Cut it for Net Neutrality Protections
U.S. antitrust law is not up to the challenge of protecting the open Internet and is not an adequate substitute for the FCC's net neutrality rules. Antitrust law is an economic doctrine that gives little if any weight to freedom of expression and other noneconomic values secured by net neutrality. If a practice is not clearly harmful to competition--a definition that is narrower than most people think--it does not matter how much that practice represses speech, distorts access to knowledge, or intrudes on privacy. Nor does antitrust law address the "gatekeeper" problem posed by an ISP's control over your conduit to information. Opponents of net neutrality may say otherwise, but antitrust lawyers can't protect the open Internet. We need Title II, and those who care about net neutrality need to defend it.
When Secret Investigations Aren't So Secret
The government should not be allowed to impose gag orders on information that is already publicly known. EFF led a group of civil society organizations in filing a brief in an alarming case pending in federal court that centered around an investigation of private Facebook content earlier this year. Facebook has described the investigation as "known to the public," and the timing and venue match the January 20th, 2017 Presidential Inauguration protests (known as “J20”). Our brief demands that the court apply a stringent constitutional test before enforcing gag orders accompanying a number of secret search warrants. It also argues that the First Amendment rarely, if ever, allows gag orders in such cases, where the government seeks to limit public scrutiny of high-profile and potentially politicized investigations.
Canada's Supreme Court Allows Global Censorship
A country has the right to prevent the world’s Internet users from accessing information, according to Canada's highest court. In a decision late last month that has troubling implications for free expression online, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld a company’s effort to force Google to de-list entire domains and websites from its search index, effectively making them invisible to everyone using Google’s search engine. The court ignored concerns expressed by EFF and others that forcing Google to globally de-list would expand the power of any court in the world to edit the entire Internet, whether or not the targeted material or site is lawful in another country. Instead, it ruled that because Google was subject to the jurisdiction of Canadian courts by virtue of its operations in Canada, courts in Canada had the authority to order Google to delete search results worldwide.
Copyright Offices Leaves Fundamental Flaws in DMCA 1201 Untouched
The U.S. Copyright Office is passing up the chance to reverse course on an especially restrictive offshoot of copyright law. The Office just released a long-awaited report about Section 1201, the law that blocks everything from video remix, to security research, to repair of electronic devices. The law broadly bans the circumvention of digital restrictions on copyrighted works without adequately preserving the rights you have to use copyrighted works, leading to massive unintended consequences. It takes power from end-users and gives it to manufacturers and publishers to control the use of your computing devices and even hide spyware and security vulnerabilities from you. Despite years of evidence that the social costs of the law far outweigh any benefits, the Copyright Office is mostly happy with the law as it is and commends the 'control' it offers to rightsholders. The Office does recommend that Congress enact some narrow reforms aimed at protecting security research, repair activities, and access for people with disabilities. We’re disappointed the Office didn’t take a stronger stance to rein in a law that has gone far beyond copyright's traditional sweep to the detriment of research, innovation, and speech.
Small ISPs Rally Behind Net Neutrality Rules
As FCC Chairman Ajit Pai tries to dismantle net neutrality protections, often citing alleged harm the rules have caused to ISPs, dozens of small ISPs are coming to the rules' defense. In a recent letter, more than 40 ISPs told the FCC that they have had no problem with the Open Internet Order and that it hasn't hurt their ability to develop and expand their networks. What is more, they want the FCC to do its job and address the problem Congress created when it repealed the broadband privacy rules in March. These ISPs are taking a stand for network neutrality because they know Chairman Pai's plan will hurt them as well as their subscribers.
Still Standing with Diego
A few weeks ago, we joined the global open access community in celebrating that Diego Gomez had finally been cleared of criminal charges for sharing scientific research over the Internet without permission. Unfortunately, the fight is not over yet. The ruling has been appealed to the Tribunal de Bogota, a Colombian appellate court. The Karisma Foundation, a Colombian NGO that has been coordinating Diego’s legal defense, has now launched a campaign to raise money for this expensive next step of Diego’s defense. EFF is proud to stand with Karisma and Diego.
Correction: The issue of EFFector sent on June 12, 2017, had an inaccurate headline. EFF is suing the FBI over records about the agency's use of Best Buy Geek Squad employees to search people's computers without a warrant.
Girl Scouts Roll Out Cybersecurity Badges
The Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. are introducing 18 new badges aimed at teaching the organization's young women about cybersecurity threats.
Orange is the New Hack
Variety takes a look at how a post-production sound company's data security gaps led to the leak of Netflix hit "Orange is the New Black."
U.S. Voter Data Exposed by Data-Mining Firm
Cybersecurity analysts say a Republican data-mining firm inadvertently made public information about nearly 200 million U.S. voters.
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Kate Tummarello, Policy Analyst
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