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EFFector - Volume 30, Issue 5 - Congress' latest attack on online privacy

EFFector! Electronic Frontier Foundation

In our 715 issue:

Tell Congress to Protect Our Online Privacy Rights

Records of your online activity reveal a tremendous amount about you. That's why the FCC put in place critical broadband privacy protection rules late last year to protect your right to privacy online. Now, some members of Congress are looking to completely erase those rules and let your Internet service provider sell information about what you look at, what your purchase, and who you talk to online.

If that weren't enough, the method Congress would use -- passing a Congressional Review Act resolution -- would effectively permanently ban the FCC from ever writing new privacy rules. Because of the current legal landscape, the Federal Trade Commission is already barred from policing Internet service providers. So if Congress repeals the rules, there will be no federal cop on the beat for Internet privacy, and your sensitive Internet activity could be sold to the highest bidder.

We're Halfway to Encrypting the Web

The movement to encrypt the web has reached a milestone. As of earlier this month, approximately half of Internet traffic is now protected by HTTPS. In other words, we are halfway to a web safer from the eavesdropping, content hijacking, cookie stealing, and censorship that HTTPS can protect against.

Mozilla recently reported that the average volume of encrypted web traffic on Firefox now surpasses the average unencrypted volume. Google Chrome’s figures on HTTPS usage are consistent with that finding, showing that over 50% of of all pages loaded are protected by HTTPS across different operating systems.

Our goal is a universally encrypted web. Until then, we have more work to do. Protect your own browsing and websites with tools like HTTPS Everywhere and Certbot, and spread the word to your friends, family, and colleagues to do the same. Together, we can encrypt the entire web.

Lawmakers Call for Warrants for Cell-Site Simulators

A new bipartisan report from U.S. lawmakers showcases troubling details about police abuse of cell-site simulators and calls on Congress to pass laws ensuring that this powerful technology is only deployed with a court-issued probable cause warrant.

EFF has long opposed law enforcement’s use of cell-site simulators as incompatible with the protections of the Fourth Amendment because they indiscriminately gather information on countless innocent people who have the misfortune of being in the vicinity of a suspect target. They also disproportionately burden minority communities.

Unless and until cellular technology evolves beyond the vulnerability that makes cell-site simulators possible, we’re advocating for strong regulation, transparency, and public oversight of the use of such technology by law enforcement. Accordingly, we applaud the report from Reps. Jason Chaffetz and Elijah Cummings, which provides new information to the public about these shadowy tools and recommends important privacy safeguards.

EFF Updates

Sen. Wyden Stands up for Fourth Amendment at the Border

This week Sen. Wyden sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly announcing plans to introduce legislation that would require law enforcement agencies to obtain a warrant before searching the data on digital devices at the border. We have been arguing for a while that the Fourth Amendment requires a warrant based on probable cause for border searches of cell phones, laptops, and other mobile devices, and we applaud Wyden for trying to “guarantee that the Fourth Amendment is respected at the border.”

EFF Tells Copyright Office: Safe Harbors Work

The “notice-and-takedown” process for addressing online copyright infringement isn’t perfect: it’s often abused to remove lawful speech from the Internet. But it many cases this process works pretty well, particularly because of the safe harbors that protect Internet services that comply with the law. EFF submitted comments to the Copyright Office this week arguing that safe harbors help protect the Internet as a viable and accessible platform for free expression and innovation, ensuring that online platforms are encouraged to experiment with new forms of communication and connection without threat of costly legal action.

Microsoft's Fight Over Government Requests for Data Moves Ahead

A federal court in Seattle recently allowed Microsoft to move ahead with its challenge to the law that lets courts impose indefinite gag orders on Internet companies when they receive requests for customer data. It’s an important ruling, with implications for a range of government secrecy provisions, including national security letters. Unfortunately, the court also dismissed Microsoft’s Fourth Amendment claim on behalf of its users.

San Diego Police Targeted African American Children for Unlawful DNA Collection

Police in San Diego, California unlawfully stopped a group of African American children and collected their DNA to add to the department's DNA database, according to a lawsuit filed recently by the ACLU Foundation of San Diego & Imperial Counties on behalf of one of the families affected. The police department's actions, as alleged in the complaint, illustrate the severe and very real threats to privacy, civil liberties, and civil rights presented by granting law enforcement access to our DNA.

Government Malware Goes After Mexican Public Health Advocates

A group of Mexican nutrition policy makers and public health workers have been the latest targets of government malware attacks. According to The New York Times, several public health advocates were targeted by spyware developed by NSO Group, a surveillance software company that sells its products exclusively to governments. The targets were all vocal proponents of Mexico’s 2014 soda tax—a regulation that the soda industry saw as a threat to its commercial interests in Mexico.

miniLinks

How Palantir Fuels the NSA

The Intercept looks at how Peter Thiel's Palantir has boosted the NSA's spying capabilities.

Amazon Resists Request for Echo Data

Amazon is pushing back as Arkansas prosecutors attempt to obtain recordings from a suspect's Amazon Echo system.

EU Privacy Officials Still Concerned About Windows 10

A group of privacy enforcers from the European Union are expressing continuing concerns about Microsoft's Windows 10 operating system.

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If you aren't already, please consider becoming an EFF member today.

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Administrivia

Editor: Kate Tummarello, Policy Analyst
editor@eff.org

EFFector is a publication of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
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