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EFF Press Release Archives

Press Releases: August 2014

August 27, 2014

Wizards, Browncoats, Sherlockians, and Other Creative Communities Join EFF in “Project Secret Identity” Photo Campaign

Atlanta - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), sci-fi blog io9, and a coalition of fan communities are launching "Project Secret Identity," a cosplay photo campaign to raise awareness of the importance of anonymity and privacy during the annual pop culture convention Dragon Con in Atlanta, Georgia, Aug. 29 - Sept. 1.

The campaign, online at ProjectSecretIdentity.org, is supported by a cross-fandom coalition of organizations, including: Southeastern Browncoats, a Firefly-inspired non-profit; the Harry Potter Alliance, an activism organization; the Baker Street Babes, a Sherlock Holmes fan group and podcast; Wattpad, a community of readers and writers; and the Organization for Transformative Works, a fan-culture advocacy organization.

"Whether it's the 'Eye of Sauron' in The Lord of the Rings or 'The Machine' in Person of Interest, genre culture has long explored and criticized mass surveillance," said EFF Investigative Researcher Dave Maass. "The last year's worth of stories about the NSA have read too much like dystopian fiction. In response, we need to focus the imaginations of fans to advocate for a future where free expression is protected through privacy and anonymity. "

During the campaign, cosplayers around the world can use ProjectSecretIdentity.org to post photos of themselves in costume bearing pro-anonymity slogans, such as "I Have the Right to a Secret Identity" and "Privacy is Not a Fantasy." Dragon Con attendees can also stop by the Project Secret Identity photo stations at EFF's table (second floor at the Hilton Atlanta) and the Southeastern Browncoats' booth (#1000 at AmericasMart).

"In J.K. Rowling's novels, Voldemort came to power not only through coercion, but by monitoring, controlling, and censoring the Wizarding World's lines of communication," Harry Potter Alliance Executive Director Paul DeGeorge said. "In the real world, there is no charm-protected room where we can meet and organize in secret. What we have is the Internet and we need to fight to keep it free and secure."

"Freedom from oppressive governments is central to the ethos of the Firefly fandom," said Serenity Richards, captain of the Southeastern Browncoats. "By standing up for anonymity today, we can prevent 'The Alliance' from becoming a reality in the future."

The activism campaign coincides with Dragon Con's Electronic Frontiers Forum, a track of panels on the intersection of technology with free speech and privacy. EFF Deputy General Counsel Kurt Opsahl will present an update to his acclaimed presentation, "Through a PRISM, Darkly: Everything we know about NSA spying," which debuted at the Chaos Communication Congress in Hamburg, Germany in December 2013. Opsahl and Maass will also speak on a number of discussion panels, covering issues ranging from police searches of cell phones to the Freedom of Information Act.

EFF will also support screenings of Terms and Conditions May Apply, a 2013 documentary about Web site terms of service, and The Internet's Own Boy, Brian Knappenberger's 2014 documentary about the late Internet activist Aaron Swartz.

Founded in 1987, Dragon Con is expected to draw more than 62,000 attendees this year.

For EFF's schedule at Dragon Con:
https://www.eff.org/event/eff-goes-dragon-con

Contact:

Dave Maass
Media Relations Coordinator and Investigative Researcher
Electronic Frontier Foundation
press@eff.org

Cosplay photos:

Top: Kiba Shiruba as "Cyber" Frey from Fisheye Placebo. (High resolution)

EFF Investigative Researcher Dave Maass as Harry Tuttle from Brazil. (High resolution)

Hannah Grimm as Chell from Portal. (High resolution)

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August 20, 2014

EFF to Honor Former U.N. Special Rapporteur Frank LaRue, U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren, and artist Trevor Paglen at San Francisco Ceremony Featuring the Yes Men

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is pleased to announce the distinguished winners of the 2014 Pioneer Awards: United Nations Special Rapporteur Frank LaRue, U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren, and groundbreaking counter-surveillance artist Trevor Paglen.

The award ceremony will be held the evening of October 2 at the Lodge at the Regency Center in San Francisco. Keynote speakers will be Jacques Servin and Igor Vamos, better known as the Yes Men, who are known for their elaborate parodies and impersonations to fight government and corporate malfeasance

Frank LaRue is the former U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression. From his appointment in 2008 to the end of his term in 2014, LaRue brought technology to the forefront of the fight for free expression around the world, declaring that access to the Internet is a fundamental human right and highlighting the importance of uncensored communication and anonymous speech in increasingly filtered and tracked networks. LaRue also fought the global "book famine" for people with visual and reading disabilities, advocating for an international Treaty of the Blind to reform over-restrictive copyright that hindered the production and distribution of books in accessible formats. Last year, LaRue published a highly influential report on the dangers of widespread state surveillance, arguing that privacy is an essential requirement for true freedom of expression. Before taking his post at the U.N., LaRue spent years working on human rights issues, including bringing genocide cases against the military dictatorship in his native Guatemala in 2000 and 2001.

For nearly 20 years, Rep. Zoe Lofgren has been a crucial voice in Congress on technology, innovation, and free speech—defending the free and open Internet, fighting for privacy and free speech, and blocking dangerous copyright laws while pushing for sensible alternatives. Lofgren rallied congressional opposition to the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), one of the defining moments of Internet activism. Currently, Lofgren is fighting to reform some of the worst legal threats to our digital rights: the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which regulates our email privacy with outdated standards; the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which has been used to block phone unlocking, jailbreaking, and our freedom to tinker; and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, the law used to unfairly prosecute Aaron Swartz. Lofgren chairs the California Democratic Congressional Delegation, the largest delegation in Congress.

Trevor Paglen is an artist whose work uses methods from science, journalism, and other disciplines in an attempt to "see" the historical moment we live in. Paglen's groundbreaking projects exposing government secrecy have included documenting U.S. government drone flights, using high-end optical systems to photograph top-secret governmental sites, and tracking classified spacecraft in Earth's orbit. In a recent project, Paglen photographed the National Security Agency, the National Reconnaissance Office, and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, releasing the images without restriction for public use. Paglen's visual art has been exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Tate Modern in London, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, among many other places. Paglen is also the author of five books, including Torture Taxi, an early look at the CIA's extraordinary rendition program.

"Each of our Pioneer Award winners has helped the world understand how technology and civil liberties are interwoven into our lives, and each is still working to protect our freedom and fight abuses," EFF Executive Director Shari Steele said. "We are so proud to be able to present them with this year's Pioneer Awards."

Tickets to the Pioneer Awards, which includes access to the general reception and ceremony, are $65 for EFF members and $75 for non-members. Also available are tickets for a special, advance reception featuring some past and present Pioneer Award winners as well as keynoters, the Yes Men. The special advance reception tickets are $250, which includes entry for the ticket holder plus a guest.

Awarded every year since 1992, EFF's Pioneer Awards recognize the leaders who are extending freedom and innovation on the electronic frontier. Previous honorees include Aaron Swartz, Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras, Tim Berners-Lee, and the Tor Project, among many others.

To buy tickets to the Pioneer Awards: https://supporters.eff.org/civicrm/event/register?id=87

Contact:

Dave Maass
Media Relations Coordinator
Electronic Frontier Foundation
press@eff.org

August 20, 2014

Americans Deserve Full Protection of the Fourth Amendment for their Telephone Records, Groups Argue

Washington, DC - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) today filed an amicus brief in Klayman v. Obama, a high-profile lawsuit that challenges mass surveillance, arguing that Americans' telephone metadata deserves the highest protection of the Fourth Amendment.

Larry Klayman, conservative activist and founder of Judicial Watch and Freedom Watch, was among the first plaintiffs to sue the National Security Agency (NSA) over the collection of telephone metadata from Verizon customers that was detailed in documents released by Edward Snowden. In December 2013, Judge Richard Leon issued a preliminary ruling that the program was likely unconstitutional, and the case is currently on appeal before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

In the new amicus brief in Klayman v. Obama, the EFF and ACLU lawyers repudiate arguments by U.S. officials that the records are "just metadata" and therefore not as sensitive as the contents of phone calls. Using research and new case law, the civil liberties groups argue that metadata (such as who individuals called, when they called, and how long they spoke) can be even more revealing than conversations when collected en masse.

"Metadata isn't trivial," EFF Legal Fellow Andrew Crocker says. "Collected on a massive scale over a broad time period, metadata can reveal your political and religious affiliations, your friends and relationships, even whether you have a health condition or own guns. This is exactly the kind of warrantless search the Fourth Amendment was intended to prevent."

The brief explains that changes in technology, as well as the government's move from targeted to mass surveillance, mean that the holding of the 1979 Supreme Court case Smith v. Maryland that the government relies on (often called the "third-party doctrine") does not apply. Instead, EFF and the ACLU point to a series of recent key decisions—including the Supreme Court decisions in United States v. Jones in 2012 and Riley v. California in 2014—in which judges ruled in favor of requiring a warrant for electronic search and seizure.

"Dragnet surveillance is and has always has been illegal in the United States," says ACLU Staff Attorney Alex Abdo. "Our country's founders rebelled against overbroad searches and seizures, and they would be aghast to see the liberties they fought hard to enshrine into our Constitution sacrificed in the name of security. As even the president himself has recognized, we can keep the nation safe without surrendering our privacy."

EFF and the ACLU have each litigated numerous First and Fourth Amendment lawsuits related to NSA surveillance and together represent Idaho nurse Anna Smith in a similar case currently on appeal in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals called Smith v. Obama. The ACLU is a plaintiff in a case currently pending before the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, ACLU v. Clapper, to be heard on Sept. 2. EFF has two cases—Jewel v. NSA and First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles v. NSA—before the U.S. District Court for Northern District of California.

For the amicus brief:
https://www.eff.org/document/eff-and-aclu-amicus-brief-klayman

Contacts:

Andrew Crocker
   Legal Fellow
   Electronic Frontier Foundation
   andrew@eff.org

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August 5, 2014

The Internet's Own Boy Director Brian Knappenberger Releases Short Doc as Senate Introduces New Reform Bill

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San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) today released a video by acclaimed documentarian Brian Knappenberger (The Internet's Own Boy) that explores how and why an unlikely coalition of advocacy organizations launched an airship over the National Security Agency's Utah data center. The short documentary explains the urgent need to rein in unconstitutional mass surveillance, just as the U.S. Senate has introduced a new version of the USA FREEDOM Act.

The video, Illegal Spying Below, is available for re-use under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EsEkmHRbThk

At dawn on June 27, EFF, Greenpeace, and the Tenth Amendment Center launched an airship above the NSA's $1.2-billion data center in Bluffdale, Utah. The 135-foot-long airship carried a banner bearing a downward arrow and the words, "Illegal Spying Below," to bring attention to the facility as well as StandAgainstSpying.org, a website showing how members of Congress voted on legislation that would restrict mass surveillance.

"While it is only one of several data centers, for many people the Bluffdale facility has become a symbol out-of-control, unconstitutional, dragnet surveillance, as well as a threat to the environment," Knappenberger says. "I thought it was important to document this audacious attempt to raise awareness of this secretive facility and pressure Congress to rein in the NSA."

The action prompted thousands of people to contact their members of Congress about NSA surveillance. More than 30 articles were written about the airship, and those articles were collectively shared more than 51,000 times over social media within 72 hours.

"This video shows how a common threat to the freedom of association drew our three organizations together, despite very different missions," EFF Activism Director Rainey Reitman said. "Now it's time for Congress to build a diverse coalition to pass meaningful reform. We launched an airship, they need to land a bill on the president's desk."

Viewers are encouraged to use StandAgainstSpying.org, a site supported by more than 22 organizations, to review their elected representatives' record on surveillance and to send tweets to members of Congress to support meaningful surveillance reform.

Contact:

Dave Maass
Media Relations Coordinator
Electronic Frontier Foundation
press@eff.org

About Brian Knappenberger: 

Brian Knappenberger is a writer, director and producer who has created award winning investigative documentaries and feature films for PBS FRONTLINE/World, National Geographic, Bloomberg Television and the Discovery Channel. His new film about the life and death of Aaron Swartz, The Internet's Own Boy, debuted at Sundance and is available through iTunes at https://eff.org/r.cyoz. Knappenberger also runs the award winning production company Luminant Media.

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