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EFF Press Release Archives

Press Releases: February 2013

February 27, 2013

EFF and High-Tech Innovators Demand Hearings on SHIELD Act

Washington, D.C. - A coalition of entrepreneurs, investors, and innovators have joined the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and Engine Advocacy today in requesting that Congress schedule hearings on patent trolls and the SHIELD Act, introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives to quash the rash of patent lawsuit abuse.

In an open letter to the House Committee on the Judiciary, the coalition—including investor Mark Cuban and Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian—explains how patent trolls are chilling innovation, which in turn stifles job growth in the expanding tech sector. Researchers estimate that the U.S. economy took at least a $29 billion hit in 2011 due to patent trolls, which make no products but instead assert patents as their sole business model.

"We have a shameful situation in this country, with patents and patent litigation hurting both competition and innovation. That's bad for both consumers and small businesses," said Cuban. "The time for Congress to act is now."

The letter expresses the coalition's support for the SHIELD (Saving High-Tech Innovators from Egregious Legal Disputes) Act, a bipartisan bill from Rep. Peter DeFazio and Rep. Jason Chaffetz that would create real and appropriate consequences for patent lawsuit abuse. Under the Act, if a patent troll loses in court because the patent is found to be invalid or there is no infringement, then the troll pays the other side's legal costs, which often reach into the millions of dollars.

"It's time to force these trolls to take responsibility for the damage they cause with their bogus claims," said Julie Samuels, EFF Staff Attorney and the Mark Cuban Chair to Eliminate Stupid Patents. "The introduction of the SHIELD Act sends an important message to patent trolls: their business model is dangerous and their days are numbered."

In addition to Cuban and Ohanian, managing directors of prominent venture capital firms the Foundry Group and Union Square Ventures also signed the letter. They're joined by David Cohen, founder and CEO of Techstars, as well as Paul Sieminski, general counsel to Auttomatic, which is the company behind the popular blogging platform Wordpress, among other signers.

For the full open letter:
https://www.eff.org/document/open-letter-shield-act

Contacts:

Julie Samuels
   Staff Attorney and The Mark Cuban Chair to Eliminate Stupid Patents
   Electronic Frontier Foundation
   julie@eff.org

Rebecca Jeschke
   Media Relations Director and Digital Rights Analyst
   Electronic Frontier Foundation
   press@eff.org

Related Issues:
February 22, 2013

Wrongheaded Copyright Claim Blocks Online Posting of Important Technical Standards

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) asked a federal judge today to protect the free speech rights of an online archive of laws and legal standards after a wrongheaded copyright claim forced the removal of a document detailing important technical standards required by the federal government and several states.

EFF and co-counsel David Halperin represent Public.Resource.Org, Inc., a non-profit organization that improves the public's access to laws and codes that affect their lives. As part of its work, Public Resource acquires and makes available public safety documents such as fire safety codes, food safety standards, and other regulations that have been incorporated into U.S. and international laws. But last month, the association of Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors (SMACNA) claimed an online post of a federally-mandated 1985 standard on air-duct leakage violated its copyright and demanded the post be removed. The standards are a crucial element of U.S. federal energy conservation efforts and an integral part of model codes, such as the International Energy Conservation Code. After a threat of legal action from SMACNA, Public Resource took down the document until a court could affirm its right to publish the information.

"The public has a right to meaningful access to the laws that govern their lives," said Carl Malamud, the president and founder of Public Resource. "Technical standards like the ones in this document have the force of law, and people need to know them in order to comply with regulatory obligations, keep the public safe, and avoid costly penalties. The right of citizens to read and speak the law is fundamental to an informed citizenry in the United States and throughout the world. Ignorance of the law is no excuse, which means we have to be able to read the law."

In a petition for declaratory and injunctive relief filed today, EFF and Public Resource asked the court to rule that posting the standards does not infringe any copyright.

"Building codes and other technical specifications touch our lives every day, and Public Resource is helping to make it easier for us to access and understand how they affect us," said EFF Intellectual Property Director Corynne McSherry. "We're asking the judge today to let Public Resource continue its important work in increasing the public's access to the laws and regulations that govern us."

For the full petition:
https://www.eff.org/node/73298

Contacts:

Carl Malamud
   President and Founder
   Public Resource
   carl@media.org

Corynne McSherry
   Intellectual Property Director
   Electronic Frontier Foundation
   corynne@eff.org

Matt Zimmerman
   Senior Staff Attorney
   Electronic Frontier Foundation
   mattz@eff.org

February 21, 2013

Longtime Internet Activist to Focus on Global Issues

San Francisco - Digital-rights activist Danny O'Brien is back at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), rejoining the organization as its new International Director.

O'Brien will head up global strategy at EFF at a time when digital rights and freedoms are under attack across the globe. O'Brien said he's seen the effects of many of EFF's traditional concerns in privacy, free speech, and innovation play out around the world – from Internet kill switches and targeted malware aimed at vulnerable users, to privacy-invasive biometric tracking, to damaging international treaties that quash free expression.

"The last few years have been incredibly transformative for international digital rights. They've gone from theoretical threats to practical realities," O'Brien said. "The policy issues EFF works on are becoming day-to-day issues for everyone around the world."

O'Brien has a particular interest in the rights of Internet users in repressive regimes, where governments are using the rise of trackable mobile devices and a filtered Internet to control their citizens, not empower them.

"What I really don't want to happen is for people to look back at this time as the 'Golden Age' of Internet freedom because in the future we failed to stand up against a new world of threats to civil liberties," he said.

O'Brien has spent the last three years defending at-risk online reporters as the Internet advocacy coordinator at the Committee to Protect Journalists. From 2005 to 2007, O'Brien served as an EFF activist before becoming the organization's international outreach coordinator, a position he held until 2009. He is also a co-founder of the Open Rights Group, which advocates for digital civil liberties in his native Britain.

"Protecting digital rights is a global effort in our interconnected world," said EFF Executive Director Shari Steele. "We are so pleased that Danny has brought his wealth of talent and experience back to EFF to help with this important work."

Contact:

Rebecca Jeschke
   Media Relations Director
   Electronic Frontier Foundation
   press@eff.org

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February 11, 2013

EFF Urges Strict Rules to Protect Drivers’ Data

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) urged the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) today to include strict privacy protections for data collected by vehicle "black boxes" to protect drivers from long-term tracking as well as the misuse of their information.

Black boxes, more formally called event data recorders (EDRs), can serve a valuable forensic function for accident investigations, because they can capture information like vehicle speed before the crash, whether the brake was activated, whether the seat belt was buckled, and whether the airbag deployed. NHTSA is proposing the mandatory inclusion of black boxes in all new cars and light trucks sold in America. But while the proposed rules would require the collection of data in at least the last few seconds before a crash, they don't block the long-term monitoring of driver behavior or the ongoing capture of much more private information like audio, video, or vehicle location.

"The NHTSA's proposed rules fail to address driver privacy in any meaningful way," said EFF Staff Attorney Nate Cardozo. "These regulations must include more than minimum requirements of what should be collected and stored – they need a reasonable maximum requirement as well."

The current NHTSA proposal mandates a boilerplate notice to consumers that "various systems" are being monitored. The plan also calls for a commercial tool to be made available to allow user access to black box data. In its comments submitted to the NHTSA today, EFF calls for complete and comprehensive disclosure of data collection as well as a free and open standard to access black box information.

"The information collected by EDRs is private and must remain private until the car owner consents to its use," said Cardozo. "Consumers deserve full disclosure of what is being collected, when, and how, as well as an easy and free way of accessing this data on their own. Having to buy access to your own data is not reasonable. "

In addition to submitting its own comments to the NHTSA today, EFF also joined the Electronic Privacy Information Center and a broad coalition of privacy, consumer rights, and civil rights organizations in comments urging the NHTSA to adopt specific, privacy-protecting amendments to its proposed rules.

For EFF's full comments submitted to the NHTSA:
https://www.eff.org/document/effs-comments-nhtsa-about-black-boxes-cars

Contact:

Nate Cardozo
   Staff Attorney
   Electronic Frontier Foundation
   nate@eff.org

Related Issues:
February 4, 2013

Law Enforcement Should Not Gather Genetic Information Without a Warrant

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) urged the Supreme Court Friday to block DNA collection from everyone arrested for a crime, arguing that law enforcement must get a warrant before forcing people to give samples of their genetic material.

EFF's amicus brief was filed Friday in Maryland v. King – a case challenging a law in the state of Maryland that requires DNA collection from all arrestees, whether they are ultimately convicted of a crime or not. Maryland officials claim that DNA is necessary for definitive identification, but they do not use the sample to "identify" the arrestee. Instead, they use the sample for other investigatory purposes – retaining and repeatedly accessing the wealth of personal information disclosed by an individual's genetic material despite lacking individualized suspicion connecting the arrestee to another crime. This violates the Fourth Amendment.

"Your DNA is the roadmap to an extraordinary amount of private information about you and your family," said EFF Staff Attorney Jennifer Lynch. "It contains data on your current health, your potential for disease, and your family background. For government access to personal information this sensitive, the Fourth Amendment requires a warrant."

In addition to Maryland, 27 states and the federal government have laws that mandate DNA collection from anyone arrested, even if they are not yet convicted of a crime. EFF has filed amicus briefs in a number of cases challenging these unconstitutional laws. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has shown increasing sensitivity to the power of sophisticated technology to undermine traditional privacy protections.

"Let's say you were picked up by police at a political protest and arrested, but then released and never convicted of a crime. Under these laws, your genetic material is held in a law enforcement database, often indefinitely," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Lee Tien. "This is an unconstitutional search and seizure."

The Supreme Court is set to hear arguments in Maryland v. King later this month.

For the full brief in Maryland v. King:
https://www.eff.org/document/amicus-brief-16

Contacts:

Jennifer Lynch    Staff Attorney
   Electronic Frontier Foundation
   jlynch@eff.org

Lee Tien    Senior Staff Attorney
   Electronic Frontier Foundation
   tien@eff.org

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