EFF in the News
"The EFF is not supporting the bill, but it's one example of how members of congress are trying to fix the surveillance law," Mark Jaycox, legislative analyst for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told El Reg.
All this was an unlikely achievement for a man who personified what the British theorists Richard Barbrook and Andy Cameron called “the Californian Ideology.” Barlow wrote songs for the Grateful Dead, tended to his parents’ Wyoming ranch in the waning days of family farms and eventually helped co-found the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights advocacy organization. The trajectory of his life is embodied in the title of Fred Turner’s excellent history of the era, “From Counterculture to Cyberculture,” about how hippie communitarianism found its way into early Web communities like The WELL, a popular message board.
As it turns 25, the Electronic Frontier Foundation is turning to a new leader: veteran digital rights advocate Cindy Cohn.
Cohn is taking the reins of a group that has grown more prominent as Americans' concerns about digital privacy and government surveillance mount. She previously served as the EFF's legal director, leading the charge on EFF cases that tried to rein in the National Security Agency long before government contractor Edward Snowden's revelations about the body's extensive surveillance. The San Francisco nonprofit seeks to promote privacy, free speech and innovation in the digital realm.
Hanni Fakhoury, an attorney with the pro-privacy Electronic Frontier Foundation, said Tuesday's court order was the first time that revealed a nationwide police tactic to maintain secrecy at all costs.
"We've long suspected that's the policy, but now we know," he said. "It's crazy on a billion legal levels."
"It is great to see that Virginia legislators have recognized the threats to privacy posed by longer ALPR retention periods and also recognized that longer retention periods aren’t necessary to serve the main purposes of ALPRs—finding wanted and stolen vehicles," Jennifer Lynch, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told Ars by e-mail.
Interestingly, this issue has been pretty much absent from the discussion in recent months. This is curious as many activist groups, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), protested heavily against the copyright loophole in the past, issuing warnings over massive collateral damage.
“Carving a copyright loophole in net neutrality would leave your lawful activities at the mercy of overbroad copyright filtering schemes, and we already have plenty of experience with copyright enforcers targeting legitimate users by mistake, carelessness, or design,” the EFF wrote at the time.
So why was there little outrage about the copyright loophole this time around? TF contacted EFF staff attorney Kit Walsh who admits that the issue didn’t get much attention, but that it’s certainly problematic.
“The language about ‘lawful’ content and applications creates a serious loophole that seems to leave it up to ISPs to make judgments about what content is lawful or infringes a copyright, subject to challenges after the fact about whether their conduct was ‘reasonable’,” Walsh says.
“It’s one thing to say that ISPs can block subject to a valid court order, quite another to let ISPs make decisions about the lawfulness of content for themselves,” he adds.
"The fact is, ALPR systems collect sensitive location information on millions of innocent Americans and, in many cases, retain that data for years or even indefinitely," Jennifer Lynch, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told Ars by e-mail. "99.8 percent of the vehicles recorded by license plate readers are never involved in criminal activity or even vehicle registration issues. It is fully appropriate for Congress and state legislatures to investigate and place limits on this privacy-invasive technology."
One of the most vocal critics of Bill C-51 is the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit group that describes itself as defending civil liberties, particularly online, as technology grows.
In a post to the organization's website Friday, the foundation encouraged Canadians to march against the bill that proposes changes to how the Canadian government would handle national security and anti-terrorism efforts, changes the group characterized as "dangerous" and a threat to Canadians' rights to privacy and freedom of expression.
Much has been made of the “Internet versus telecom” divide on this issue. But John Perry Barlow, founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, believes Silicon Valley’s support for Title II has been overstated. Despite a desire to court FCC regulators and general support for a level playing field, he said that “almost everybody I know who is a major technologist” has “limited willingness to believe that Title II is the best answer.” And no wonder. Silicon Valley after all is where minimally viable, smart and simple product design reigns supreme. In contrast, Title II, by far one of the most cumbersome, complicated and clumsy of all regulatory frameworks ever conceived by our government is the antithesis of these values. With Facebook extending an olive branch and Netflix playing both sides on Title II, will there be mounting pressure to achieve a more rational middle ground, perhaps via Congressional action?
Even the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation, which pushed and eventually celebrated the FCC’s intervention in the Internet marketplace, labeled this section of the net neutrality regulation as the “worrisome bit.”
“Does the FCC intend to suggest that throttling unlawful content is OK? How are ISPs to determine what is and is not lawful without snooping on their users?” asked Corynne McSherry, EFF’s intellectual property director in an article last month.