EFF in the News
Dave Maass, an investigative researcher with a San Francisco-based electronic privacy group, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, noted that automatic license plate readers can reveal a wealth of information about a person’s daily routine and interests based on where they drive.
“It only takes a few data points to know where you work and where you live,” Maass said. “It can reveal a lot about your political affiliations. If police want to know where a reporter’s going, all they need is their license plate.”
What can be done about it: If you ask any privacy advocate for a list of their greatest fears, any change to Section 230 will likely be on it. Making platforms at all liable for content that users post is seen by many activists as a slippery slope that ends in the destruction of public discourse as we know it. "If you introduce liability, these companies don't have a particularly compelling reason to let everybody talk," says Danny O'Brien, the international director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. "What would happen is that you would see conversations, arguments about issues like Israel and Palestine being pushed off networks."
A patent lawyer who sued the Electronic Frontier Foundation for defamation for writing about his invention in a "Stupid Patent of the Month" blog post has dropped the lawsuit.
"There was no settlement or agreement," EFF general counsel Kurt Opsahl told Ars in an e-mail. "It was a voluntary dismissal of a meritless lawsuit by Scott Horstemeyer."
The lawsuit, which was served on Monday and dropped on Thursday, named both the EFF and EFF lawyer Daniel Nazer, who authored the April blog post, as defendants.
Facebook’s change in policy, which took place at some point in the spring, came after the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) called attention to a process that allowed prisons to remove accounts simply by submitting a notice. As a result, profiles—and any photos or comments they contained—simply vanished at the whim of prison officials.
The EFF, which has a full account of the changes, commended Facebook for the new procedures, but said the company should start including deleted prisoner accounts in its semi-annual Transparency Report, a document that reports on government censorship.
Others were equally baffled. Hanni Fakhoury, a former public defender and current lawyer with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, wasn't worried about the lack of usage records necessarily.
"An important tool for preventing use of the technology is to be clear with officers about what they can and can’t do," he told Ars. "It does both the officers and the public a disservice when decisions governing the use of the device are left to the whims of the officers in the field."
The nonprofit group Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed an amicus brief on Friday in support of Mormon Match. Corynne McSherry, intellectual property director at EFF, told ABC News she hopes the judge will dismiss the lawsuit, though a hearing is scheduled for September.
"The Mormon church is claiming rights for 'Mormon' to describe a Mormon," McSherry said. "I don't think the Vatican can trademark 'Catholic.' The Vatican or any other entity can get it trademarked as part of a phrase."
She points to the fact that Mormon Tabernacle Choir is trademarked, for example, because it's a "distinct entity."
"The whole point of trademark law is to prevent consumer confusion. When you’re using the term simply to describe somebody and it’s the accurate way to describe them, there’s no consumer confusion," McSherry said.
Jewel filed the case seven years ago, claiming the government acquires AT&T customers' email and other data using spy devices attached to the company's network. Digital watchdog group Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) represents Jewel in the action.
“Facebook did recently adjust their procedures,” says Dave Maass of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a San Francisco-based digital civil liberties nonprofit. “They’re now asking at least very basic questions of the prison before they take a prisoner’s page down—such as, ‘What exactly is the inmate doing that’s so dangerous?’”
Hanni Fakhoury, a senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, says the feds' broad interpretation of Sarbanes-Oxley in the digital age is part of a wider trend: federal agents' feeling "entitled" to digital data.
Fakhoury compares the broad application of Sarbanes-Oxley in the digital realm to the federal government's resistance to cellphone companies that want to sell encrypted phones that would prevent law enforcement from being able to access users' data. When the new encrypted iPhone came out, FBI Director James Comey told reporters that he didn't understand why companies would "market something expressly to allow people to place themselves beyond the law."
"At its core," Fakhoury says, "what the government is saying is, ‘We have to create a mechanism that allows everybody's [cellphone] data to be open for inspection on the off-chance that one day in the future, for whatever random circumstance, we need to see that data.'"
Similarly, Fakhoury says the government's underlying theory in cases like Kernell's is, "Don't even think about deleting anything that may be harmful to you, because we may come after you at some point in the future for some unforeseen reason and we want to be able to have access to that data. And if we don't have access to that data, we're going to slap an obstruction charge that has as 20-year maximum on you."
In a call with reporters this afternoon, Cindy Cohn, Electronic Frontier Foundation executive director, said it means “nothing.” She referenced several review groups commissioned by the government in the wake of the Snowden revelations that found the bulk phone record collection program had not thwarted terrorst attacks. Additionally several judicial bodies, including recently an appellate court, have questioned the legality of these programs.