EFF in the News
Yahoo was backed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Google and the Center for Democracy & Technology in challenging the government’s position. It defied a court order to turn over those e-mails to the feds in a Colorado criminal probe that is under seal. Litigation over the topic ensued, and the government blinked in a legal standoff highlighting antiquated privacy laws.
Yahoo's efforts to fend off federal prosecutors' broad request attracted allies--in the form of Google, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Center for Democracy and Technology, and the Progress and Freedom Foundation--who argued that Americans who keep their e-mail in the cloud enjoy a reasonable expectation of privacy that is protected by the U.S. Constitution.
The message cited Section 3.3.14 of Apple's iPhone Developer Program License Agreement -- although Apple hasn't published it, the Electronic Frontier Foundation recently obtained a copy -- which bans things that "in Apple's reasonable judgment may be found objectionable."
See, the RIAA and the MPAA submitted a joint commentary that the EFF refers to as a "wish list" and, most accurately, a dystopian view of a future in which most government and police resources go toward stopping intellectual property theft and illegal downloading.
As a result, the DOJ is now seeking a federal court Order compelling the company to comply with its demands, and a coalition of privacy groups and technology companies -- led by EFF and including Google -- have now filed a brief supporting Yahoo's position. Both Yahoo and that coalition insist that federal law as well as the Fourth Amendment's search and seizure protection bar the Obama DOJ from acquiring these emails without a search warrant.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation has announced that it is siding with Yahoo after government attempts to access the company's Webmail accounts without a search warrant.
“The government says the Fourth Amendment does not protect these e-mails,” Kevin Bankston, an EFF lawyer, said in a telephone interview Wednesday. “What we’re talking about is archives of our personal correspondence that they would need a warrant to get from your computer but not from the server.”
The Department of Justice is seeking the documents in a case that is under seal, and apparently, the agency hasn't notified the account holder of the request, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, one of the groups opposing the move. The groups argue that federal law and the Constitution's Fourth Amendment clearly require the government to get a search warrant that's based on probable cause a crime has been committed.
The filers include the American Library Association, the Center for Democracy and Technology, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Internet Archive, Public Knowledge, and five other groups. They've got a tricky job—getting past the "smoking gun" accusations that Viacom makes of YouTube, and trying to get the court to see the big issue: the harder it becomes for a service provider to paddle into that safe harbor, the more exposed it will be to killer lawsuits from big content.
At the moment the commission is determined to uphold net neutrality and otherwise leave the Web alone. "But we might not like the next FCC," says Fred von Lohmann, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation. "Will we have to worry about the FCC someday announcing an indecency policy for the Internet?"