EFF in the News
California's revised Pay-As-You-Drive auto insurance proposal has drawn fire from the EFF, which hailed the amended bill as an improvement over the original, but voiced substantially the same privacy complaints.
"The irony that the two books involved were 'Animal Farm' and '1984' is just too much," said Fred Von Lohmann, staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
Although both the Bush and Obama administrations have refused to discuss the extent of phone company participation, several members of Congress have confirmed that the government obtained records from phone companies, the plaintiffs' lawyer, Kevin Bankston of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told Walker.
After the nearly two hours of arguments ended in court Wednesday, EFF lawyers said Obama had reneged on campaign promises by continuing to support the program. "It's not surprising; it is disappointing," said Kevin Bankston, an EFF attorney.
“What the government is arguing is that the president decides what is legal or not,” EFF legal director Cindy Cohn told Judge Walker at the end of the hearing.
“With both lawsuits, it’s the same underlying factual theory: The secret room on Folsom,” Cindy Cohn, the EFF’s legal director, said in a telephone interview. “If it was illegal for AT&T to hand this information over to the government, it was illegal for the government to get this information from AT&T,” Cohn added.
The fact that AHN agreed to acknowledge the hot news principle won't necessarily affect other cases, said Fred von Lohmann, a senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation who specializes in intellectual property.
The case "does send a message that the AP is serious about this hot news theory," he said. "Most intellectual property experts view hot news as a very narrow doctrine and the AP is going to have a very hard time protecting all its assets with hot news."
That thinking is flawed, says Lee Tien, a senior attorney and surveillance expert with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which opposes RFID in identity documents.
It won't take a massive government project to build reader networks around the country, he says: They will grow organically, for commercial purposes, from convention centers to shopping malls, sports stadiums to college campuses. Federal agencies and law enforcement wouldn't have to control those networks; they already buy information about individuals from commercial data brokers.
"And remember," Tien adds, "technology always gets better ... "
CINDY COHN, Electronic Frontier Foundation: There's plain-old hackers, security breaches. Sometimes we call those "Data Valdez" at EFF, where there's a spillage of data.
SPENCER MICHELS: Like the Exxon Valdez?
CINDY COHN: Like the Exxon Valdez, only it's your data spilling out, not the oil.
"As a consumer, it's hard to complain when you're being given incredible new things for free," said Fred von Lohmann, senior staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation. "But who knows where this ends up."