EFF in the News
"Location is a stream of information that is quite potent and quite personal and allows people to get a real read on your life," said Kurt Opsahl, senior staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation of San Francisco. "The question people should ask themselves is, is that something they want to do?"
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has examined Apple's patent application for, in the patent's words, "identifying unauthorized users of an electronic device." The patent application is number 20100207721, and was filed on August 19.
The EFF's blog notes that:
Apple's patent provides for a device to investigate a user's identity, ostensibly to determine if and when that user is "unauthorized," or, in other words, stolen. More specifically, the technology would allow Apple to record the voice of the device's user, take a photo of the device's user's current location or even detect and record the heartbeat of the device's user.
It was already known that Apple could remotely disable an Iphone, something that occurred when one of its employees had lost an Iphone 4 prototype in a bar. Although, given the number of faults the Iphone 4 has, it's equally likely that the device was just operating normally. However, this patent goes further than just disabling lost phones with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) calling it "downright creepy and invasive".
"We have over the past several years seen a new form of political activism emerge online that involves 'credibly impersonating' public officials and corporate executives for the purposes of political satire," said Ms McSherry.
"The way it works is that this impersonator makes an outrageous statement to cause a press controversy and bring attention to an issue.
"It is important that for this to work, one credibly impersonates the executive or official and I am worried a judge will look at this bill and feel this applies to that kind of speech. The bill does not include enough protections for satire and parody, in my view," she added.
Could similar online events be illegal under the new bill? Should they be? "Temporarily 'impersonating' corporations and public officials has become an important and powerful form of political activism, especially online," says EFF today. "Unfortunately, the targets of the criticism, like the Chamber, have responded with improper legal threats and lawsuits. It would be a shame if Senator Simitian’s bill added another tool to their anti-speech arsenal."
"For example, the Yes Men, a group of artists and activists, pioneered "identity correction," posing as business and government representatives and making statements on their behalf to raise popular awareness of the real effects of those entities' activities, like the failure to DuPont to adequately compensate victims of the Bhopal disaster and the U.S. government's destruction of public housing units in New Orleans," the EFF said.
Richard Esguerra, an activist with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), says tensions tend to erupt when a DRM scheme violates customers' sense of ownership. "Gamers have an idea that if you bought it, you own it, and that's what's being violated here," he says.
The EFF now argues in its brief that "Unless corrected, the District Court's ruling risks creating a perverse incentive for the government to violate the privacy rights of as many citizens as possible in order to avoid judicial review of its actions."
The American Civil Liberties Union, the Center for Democracy and Technology, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation have labeled cases like this one "CyberSLAPPs": frivolous lawsuits with the sole purpose of issuing a subpoena to a Web site or Internet Service Provider (ISP) to discover the identity of an anonymous critic and to intimidate or silence them. Cohen's decision to drop her lawsuit a day after she filed it and publicized Port's name lends credence to that label.