EFF in the News
Jeremy Gillula, a staff technologist with the EFF, called that data collection an “invasion of privacy” and a clear violation of the privacy pledge.
“When a student navigates to something that is not [part of] Google’s apps for education — like Youtube, Blogger, Maps — now they’re logged in and Google tracks that activity and does serve them ads,” Gillula told BuzzFeed News, noting that teachers can use Youtube and Google Maps for educational purposes.
“It’s entirely possible that teachers can say ‘Okay kids, open up your Chromebooks and we are going to watch a science video on Youtube.’ Youtube is not a Google app for education, but it can still be used for an educational purpose.”
US privacy campaigner the Electronic Frontier Foundation has accused Google of spying on students and logged a complaint with US regulator the Federal Trade Commission.
The EFF says that Google tracks and mines records of every site, search, result and video that students watch without obtaining permission from students or their parents.
EFF staff attorney Nate Cardozo said: “Despite publicly promising not to, Google mines students’ browsing data and other information, and uses it for the company’s own purposes. Minors shouldn’t be tracked or used as guinea pigs, with their data treated as a profit centre.”
In a blog post on Wednesday, Google claimed it had done nothing to invade the privacy of students using its laptop educational software, pushing back against accusations from a top advocacy group.
The response comes as the Electronic Frontier Foundation filed a complaint on Tuesday with the Federal Trade Commission, asking the agency to probe Google for breaking its own privacy commitments. The EFF alleged that Google for Education, the search giant’s school initiative, collects and shares personal student data in violation of the Student Privacy Pledge, which Google signed in January.
"This is a sensible ruling that will help protect free expression in Sweden," said Mitch Stoltz, senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
"The court recognized that Internet service providers shouldn't be held responsible for copyright infringement by their customers," he told the E-Commerce Times.
If ISPs are held liable for their customers' behavior then ISPs would have a huge incentive to snoop into the activities of their customers, Stoltz said.
The FBI began issuing NSLs in 2001, shortly after the September 11 terrorist attacks in the U.S. under the expanded powers offered by the PATRIOT Act. With the passage of the USA FREEDOM Act, the powers afforded law enforcement by a NSL have been reined in, said Andrew Crocker, staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
“On one level, this is a very big deal. This is the first NSL attachment that has been unsealed and the FBI issued 300,000 since 2001. That’s a lot to be issued without seeing even one attachment,” Crocker said. “We get to see the scope of what the FBI could get with a NSL since 2004. It’s since then been reined in, and the scope is a little bit narrower. But it’s a big deal to see the breadth of what they thought they could get back then.”
National Security Letters are controversial among privacy advocates because of their broad powers and minimal oversight. The FBI sends the letters whenever senior officials deem necessary, but no court approval is involved. Although the legal weight of the letters is unclear, the agency's intimidation tactics typically work, said Andrew Crocker, staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation in an interview with The Verge. Recipients comply, especially when they’re bound to silence and can’t discuss the terrifying letter they just received. "More transparency is really needed, and not just [around] what [the FBI] can get and how many they issue," Crocker said. The gag order and lack of judicial opinions over their constitutionality particularly need to be rethought, he said. Merrill's case is a start.
Joseph Bonneau, a postdoctoral researcher at Stanford's Applied Crypto Group and fellow at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, elaborated on the position that many technical experts have taken. "Most governments naively believe they can mandate 'backdoors' or extraordinary access in a way that is available to 'nobody but us,' Bonneau told the Washington Examiner.
Bonneau added that the technical dimension is as problematic as the legal side. "Even if we could agree on the set of governments who should have access, in practice we've found consistently that attempts to build this kind of access end up with implementation bugs that can be exploited to gain access," Bonneau said. "It is effectively impossible to write software without bugs, and bugs in an extraordinary access system are particularly dangerous, which is why the tech community knows 'nobody but us' is impossible to achieve."
The collection of license plate data is opposed by the nonprofit Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Los Angeles Daily News reported (http://bit.ly/1R8w0Ns).
The San Francisco-based foundation has an ongoing lawsuit against the Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department over the issue.
"What happens if you have legitimate reason to be in a neighborhood?" asked Dave Maass, an investigative researcher with foundation.
The protective order forcing the government to hang on to at least some of the data is connected to court cases over the legality of the phone program filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
One of the government's arguments in those cases is that such groups need to prove that their plaintiff's data was actually collected as part of the programs to sue over it. That puts privacy advocates in the awkward position of having to make sure that the government doesn't erase data it wishes it had never collected at all because it's evidence needed to keep their court challenges alive.
"We want them to delete it, but not until they confirm that our data was collected," explained Nate Cardozo, a staff attorney at EFF.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and Visualizing Impact are behind a website where users can report when a social network takes down their content or otherwise blocks activity on the platform.
An online form allows users to submit reports about six different websites, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Users can tell the project when their accounts are suspended, for instance, or when everything from a Facebook event to a Twitter ad is deleted.
“The public service value, to me, is making users aware of just how much companies control our everyday speech,” said Jillian C. York, the Director for International Freedom of Expression at EFF, who launched the site alongside Visualizing Impact co-founder Ramzi Jaber.