EFF in the News
I just spoke to Kevin Bankston, the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s senior attorney specializing in free speech and privacy law, about his reaction to today’s Senate Judiciary Committee markup session on the Patriot Act, which resulted in passage of the Leahy-Feinstein bill, with a few amendments. Bankston, who’s been following this debate closely, was not pleased.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation has elected to help SkipScreen defend itself and senior staff attorney Fred von Lohmann offers this succinct response in a blog post: "It's my browser, and I can ignore your ads if I want to."
The SkipScreen developers, however, have gotten the Electronic Frontier Foundation to take up their case. In a letter that has also been sent to Mozilla, the EFF calls MediaFire's claim's "baseless," arguing, "SkipScreen, like many other add-ons, simply automates certain browser tasks in order to improve the user experience." The letter points out that only users who set up accounts agree to the company's acceptable use policy; downloaders just go straight through to the file. Furthermore, it notes, there's no real difference in total bandwidth use for downloads initiated with or without the plugin.
Civil liberties advocates quickly expressed their disappointment. The American Civil Liberties Union called it “a watered-down version” of the original Leahy bill. Kevin Bankston of Electronic Frontier Foundation similarly described it as having “even fewer PATRIOT reforms than the original Leahy bill.”
Separately, digital rights advocates like the Electronic Frontier Foundation and ACLU objected to the deal on the grounds that Google had not guaranteed to preserve readers' privacy. They argued that the deal should not go forward without assurances from Google that it will guarantee readers the same privacy and anonymity that patrons of brick-and-mortar libraries have.
This week, the digital rights groups, along with a coalition of authors and other interested parties, asked Google to revise the settlement by including "enforceable privacy protections."
In contrast, Attorney Jennifer Granick is the Civil Liberties Director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Executive Director of the Center for Internet and Society at Stanford Law School. According to her, neither Richards nor Wikileaks.org broke the law. "Based on her knowledge of this case, as well as the law, Granick said it was legal for Richards to view the Web directory on which Coleman's donor list resided. "There has to be some kind of indication that information is locked away," she said.
According to the police complaint obtained by the non-profit Electronic Frontier Foundation and posted online on Tuesday, Madison and another man were in the motel room when police arrived.
Fred von Lohmann represents the Electronic Frontier Foundation. He warns publishers are inviting piracy.
FRED VON LOHMANN: I do think that's going to become a real threat if publishers decide to take the view that people only get to read what they tell them to read, in the format they tell them to enjoy, at the price point that they insist on. That's exactly the kind of short-sighted, anti-customer attitude that landed the music industry in so much trouble.
"The problem is not so much the customization of advertising but the customization of the data the advertising is based from. It's an indication that people are being watched in a profound and surreptitious way they're unaware of," said Peter Eckersley, a senior technologist with the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
Late Friday the FBI posted an edited version of its Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide on its Web site as a result of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The guide was approved in December, during the final days of the Bush administration, and establishes policy that guides all the FBI's domestic operations, including counterterrorism, counterintelligence, criminal or cyber crime.
Foundation attorney David Sobel said he's more concerned with what the FBI removed from its guidelines for public consumption than what it disclosed.