EFF in the News
FEATURING SHAHID BUTTAR – An explosive Reuters report this week revealed that the tech company searched through thousands of private emails of its customers on behalf of the US government. Former employees of Yahoo spoke with Reuters saying the Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer complied with the government directive, which led to at least one executive, Alex Stamos, resigning in opposition. Stamos now works at Facebook.
Banning pornography is reasonable, but specifically banning female nipples is questionable, says Jillian York, director for international freedom of expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). “Imposing a blanket ban on nudity, even if a handful of exceptions are carved out, furthers the idea that women’s bodies are inherently sexual,” York told the Verge.
Political campaigns will spend an estimated $1.2 billion on digital ads this election cycle, and data on social media is helping tailor ads that will resonate with voters. Privacy experts say there are ways to safeguard your personal information, and Facebook says they have made it easier to adjust your preferences.
"What it means is that when you’re going on Facebook you're likely going to be presented with ads and other information based on what your patterns have done in the past,'' said Cindy Cohn, executive director of privacy and digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation. "It's not neutral. It's not supposed to be neutral."
The EFF contends that any company looking to enter the classroom needs to be completely transparent with its intentions and practices to ensure student safety and privacy, especially if public money is used to facilitate the purchase of the company's products. "We think the pledge is a good idea, but there is a disconnect from the way companies interpret the pledge and the way parents do," EFF staff attorney Sophia Cope told Real Money in an interview.
Cory Doctorow, the popular science fiction author and journalist blogger, says he will be writing a lot less in order to focus on his digital activism work in fighting Digital Rights Management (DRM) laws alongside the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). The security of corporate IT systems is weakened by many of the provisions in DRM laws, which raises the cost of business operations as massive security breaches continue to rise in number around the world.
Doctorow says that it is important that these DRM laws be challenged and changed. He is working with the EFF on legal strategies and legal actions aimed at challenging US DRM laws. He says the work is more important than his novels and his posts for Boing Boing, a popular blog site he co-edits. "I'll start slowing down on my posts on Boing Boing and doing more with EFF," he said.
Most of the internet’s most popular voter registration sites make no promise to not turn and sell your information to advertisers, a Vocativ analysis has found. Of the nine major voter registration sites surveyed, only vote.gov, maintained by the U.S. General Services Administration, explicitly promises to neither share hopeful voters’ raw personal information with third parties nor to use it for commercial purposes.
None of this is to say that each of these sites actively mine their users’ information to sell to the highest bidder. Instead, it’s that they haven’t promised not to. “The thing about privacy policies is they’re written by lawyers to sound like they’re understandable to regular people, but intentionally so that they’re not,” Nate Cardozo, a senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told Vocativ. “I don’t know under what circumstances Rock The Vote will share my personal information.”
According to a study to be published later this month in the academic journal Significance, PredPol may merely be reinforcing bad police habits. When researchers from the Human Rights Data Analysis Group — a nonprofit dedicated to using science to analyze human-rights violations around the world — applied the tool to crime data in Oakland, the algorithm recommended that police deploy officers to neighborhoods with mostly black residents. As it happens, police in Oakland were already sending officers into these areas.
Terms-of-service agreements, which most Internet users consent to without even knowing it, do not explicitly ban pair testing. Rather, they ban the techniques that underlie it. CareerBuilder, the site that Villarreal used to look for work, has rules against providing false personal information and engaging in scraping, a method of automatically recording large amounts of data, even if that data is freely available. Other employment and housing sites—LinkedIn, Airbnb, Craigslist—have similar provisions. Companies say these rules are necessary to insure honest transactions. But digital-rights advocates point to a chilling effect: researchers, fearful of C.F.A.A. litigation, are deterred from uncovering discrimination online.
At least three Minnesota men have been charged with participating in a vast, secretive child pornography internet forum after being swept up in a far-reaching FBI sting considered the biggest hacking investigation in federal law enforcement history. Operation Pacifier has also triggered a series of legal challenges that are stirring constitutional debates over how law enforcement tries to smoke out criminals in the darkest corners of the web.
Though it doesn’t consider hacking to be an inappropriate law enforcement tool by itself, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) worries about the scope of Operation Pacifier. “It’s evidence of the need for greater restrictions on law enforcement using this type of hacking,” said Mark Rumold, senior staff attorney for the EFF. “That’s not what’s happening right now, which is the doors are going to be flung wide open and this is going to happen more and more.”
NSA general counsel, Glenn Gerstell, said in a statement that the agency “believes in strong encryption” while talking to the “Privacy vs. Security: Beyond the Zero-Sum Game” panel at the Cambridge Cyber Summit at MIT
Executive Director of Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), Cindy Cohn, an attendee of the panel, took an aggressive stand and told the NSA that when speaking of the term encryption, it should use asterisks. “I have been in meetings with people from the FBI and NSA and when they say we believe strong encryption what they mean is strong encryption that only THEY have access to. It sounds disingenuous; it seems that what they mean by strong encryption isn’t near the same as what the rest of us say,” Cohn said.