With the holidays upon us, it's easy to default to giving the tech gifts that retailers tend to push on us this time of year: smart speakers, video doorbells, bluetooth trackers, fitness trackers, and other connected gadgets are all very popular gifts. But before you give one, think twice about what you're opting that person into. A number of these gifts raise red flags for us as privacy-conscious digital advocates.
After finding risky software on an Android (Google’s mobile operating system) device marketed for kids, we wanted to put together some tips to help better secure your kid's Android device (and even your own). Despite the dangers that exist, there are many things that can be done to at least mitigate harm and assist parents and children. There are also safety tools that your child can use at their own discretion.
A federal court blocked Montana’s effort to ban TikTok from the state, ruling that the law violated users’ First Amendment rights to speak and to access information online, and the company’s First Amendment rights to select and curate users’ content. Montana passed a law in May that prohibited TikTok from operating anywhere within the state and imposed $10,000 penalties on TikTok or any mobile application store that allowed users to access TikTok. The law was scheduled to take effect in January. EFF opposed enactment of this law, along with ACLU, CDT, and others, and EFF and the ACLU filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the challenge.
EFF and five organizations defending free speech urged the Supreme Court to strike down laws in Florida and Texas that let the states dictate certain speech social media sites must carry, violating the sites’ First Amendment rights to curate content they publish—a protection that benefits users by creating speech forums accommodating their diverse interests, viewpoints, and beliefs. The court’s decisions about the constitutionality of the Florida and Texas laws—the first laws to inject government mandates into social media content moderation—will have a profound impact on the future of free speech. At stake is whether Americans’ speech on social media must adhere to government rules or be free of government interference.
Meta announced that they have begun rolling out default end-to-end encryption for one-to-one messages and voice calls on Messenger and Facebook. While there remain some privacy concerns around backups and metadata, we applaud this decision. It will bring strong encryption to over one billion people, protecting them from dragnet surveillance of the contents of their Facebook messages.
At EFF, we spend a lot of time calling out the harm caused by copyright trolls and protecting internet users from their abuses. Copyright trolls are serial plaintiffs who use search tools to identify technical, often low-value infringements on the internet, and then seek nuisance settlements from many defendants. These trolls take advantage of some of copyright law’s worst features—especially the threat of massive, unpredictable statutory damages—to impose a troublesome tax on many uses of the internet. EFF continues the fight against copyright trolls by filing an amicus brief in Warner Chappell Music v. Nealy, a case pending in the U.S. Supreme Court.
EFF and 17 other digital and human rights organizations are issuing an updated set of demands to ensure that Meta considers the impact of its policies and content moderation practices on Palestinians, and takes serious action to ensure that its content interventions are fair, balanced, and consistent with the Santa Clara Principles on Transparency and Accountability in Content Moderation.
If you are reading EFFector, you might already be a donor to EFF (thank you!) or are considering supporting us and want to do your due diligence. In this blog post, we share some information about how EFF raises money for digital rights and—perhaps more importantly—how we don’t.
By amplifying the voices (and podcasts) that spark global change, the Anthem Awards seek to inspire others to take action in their own community. That’s exactly why we launched “How to Fix the Internet” — through curious conversations with some of the leading minds in law and technology, we want our listeners to become deeply informed on vital technology issues and join the movement working to build a better technological future. This nomination is testament to our support by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation's Program in Public Understanding of Science and Technology, and to all the amazing thinkers, makers, and doers who have been our guests. We want to honor them by winning this!
If you’re a fan of How to Fix the Internet (and EFF), here’s how you can help:
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EFF's series of interviews with free-speech thought leaders continues. Cindy Cohn interviewed Alison Macrina, founder and executive director of the Library Freedom Project, which won a 2023 EFF Award for its work creating a network of values-driven librarian-activists taking action together to build information democracy. LFP offers trainings, resources, and community building for librarians on issues of privacy, surveillance, intellectual freedom, labor rights, power, technology, and more—helping create safer, more private spaces for library patrons to feed their minds and express themselves. And Jillian York interviewed Ron Deibert, a Canadian professor of political science, a philosopher, an author, and founder of the renowned Citizen Lab, situated in the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto. He is perhaps best known to readers for his research on targeted surveillance, which won the Citizen Lab a 2015 EFF Award.
A federal judge’s order blocking Montana’s first-in-the-nation TikTok ban from going into effect is the latest blow to states’ efforts to rein in the social media app owned by the China-based Bytedance Ltd. The judge called the measure unconstitutional—agreeing with what EFF had argued in its amicus brief. “Hopefully decisions like the Montana one today will redirect legislators to what they should be doing, which is protecting all consumers from surveillance from technology companies,” EFF’s Adam Schwartz said.
EFF’s Cindy Cohn joins former EFFer Danny O’Brien to discuss why decentralization is core to EFF’s vision for user empowerment online. She also gives advice to decentralized tech builders on thinking through policy obstacles, getting the law on your side, and lifting up positive examples of how the tech helps people.
As America’s fourth-largest city contemplates creating a camera network that would let police see everything everywhere all the time, EFF’s Matthew Guariglia pushes back: "Cameras going up everywhere and blanketing a city does not stop people from committing crimes." And the police chief had no statistics handy to back up his claims!
Great coverage of EFF’s Red Flag Machine project, in which we found widely used student-monitoring software is dangerously wrong much of the time. “We just got these huge datasets where GoGuardian was flagging, as they call it, students for just doing their homework, for looking for jobs online—for doing the things that you expect kids to do,” EFF’s Dave Maass said.
The Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA) will lead to censorship for kids and adults alike, with the bill becoming a political tool rather than a safety one, EFF’s Aaron Mackey warns. A comprehensive consumer data privacy law would do far more to curb social media’s harms.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation is the leading nonprofit defending online civil liberties. We promote digital innovation, defend free speech, fight illegal surveillance, and protect rights and freedoms for all as our use of technology grows. Find out more at https://eff.org.
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