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EFF Press Release Archives

EFF Press Release Archives

Press Releases: April 2012

April 18, 2012

EFF White Paper Outlines How Businesses Can Avoid Assisting Repressive Regimes

San Francisco - It's time for technology companies that sell surveillance and filtering equipment to step up and ensure they aren't helping governments in committing human rights violations. In a white paper released today entitled "Human Rights and Technology Sales," EFF outlines how corporations can avoid assisting repressive regimes.

The paper calls on companies to increase transparency of their dealings with potentially repressive regimes and to implement "Know Your Customer" standards for auditing technology sales, including review of the purchasing government's technical questions and customization requests. If the review indicates that the technologies or transactions may be used to facilitate human rights violations, the company should refrain from participating.

"Authoritarian governments around the world often rely on technologies built in North America and Europe to spy on their citizens – including listening in to cell phone calls, scanning crowd photographs with facial recognition tools, and monitoring mobile networks with voice recognition technology. These can have deadly ramifications for activists and others in repressive regimes," said EFF Director for International Freedom of Expression Jillian York. "We're asking companies to take responsibility for the uses that governments make of their products, instead of acting like 'repression's little helper.'"

There is ample evidence that sophisticated technology facilitates human rights abuses, and dozens of corporations are implicated. For example, Narus – a subsidiary of The Boeing Company – was revealed to have sold sophisticated surveillance equipment to Egypt, and California's Blue Coat Systems' equipment was being used in Syria. On the other hand, companies such as Websense have implemented programs to prevent their tools from being complicit in human rights abuses.

In the meantime, Congress has taken note of the problem. A House subcommittee has passed the Global Online Freedom Act (GOFA), which would require disclosure from companies about their human rights practices and limit the export of technologies that "serve the primary purpose of" facilitating government surveillance or censorship to countries designated as "Internet-restricting."

"GOFA is far from perfect, but it's an important step in protecting human rights and freedom of expression around the world," said EFF Activist Trevor Timm. "Tools available today can allow governments to track and spy every person in a country. Other software can block entire categories of websites, preventing citizens from accessing vital information. Technology companies have a responsibility to try to prevent their services from being used in this way."

For the full white paper "Human Rights and Technology Sales":

For more on the Global Online Freedom Act:

Cindy Cohn
   Legal Director
   Electronic Frontier Foundation

Trevor Timm
   Electronic Frontier Foundation

April 16, 2012

Internet Advocacy Coalition Announces Twitter Campaign to Fight Privacy-Invasive Bill

San Francisco - Civil liberties organizations are launching a week of Internet-wide protests today against the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act of 2011 (CISPA), the controversial cybersecurity legislation that would negate existing privacy laws and allow companies to share user data with the government without a court order.

The coalition is urging the public to take part in a Twitter protest directed at their lawmakers. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has created an interactive tool for people to find their representatives and their Twitter handles, and to share how CISPA's privacy invasions would affect their day-to-day lives.

"CISPA would allow ISPs, social networking sites, and anyone else handling Internet communications to monitor users and pass information to the government without any judicial oversight," said EFF Activism Director Rainey Reitman. "The language of this bill is dangerously vague, so that personal online activity – from the mundane to the intimate – could be implicated."

The campaign will use the hashtags #CongressTMI and #CISPA. In addition to the Twitter protest, organizations are planning letters of opposition and publishing articles outlining the civil liberties implications of the bill.

"Some people believe that we have to sacrifice civil liberties in order to shore up cybersecurity, but that's misunderstanding both issues," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Lee Tien. "Giving companies carte blanche to bypass federal law does not make us safer – it puts us at more risk."

CISPA is sponsored by Representatives Mike Rogers (R-MI) and C.A. “Dutch” Ruppersberger (D-MD).  Stop Cyber Spying Week participants are calling on Congress to reject legislation that sacrifices civil liberties in the name of security, and specifically to reject any legislation that:
* Uses dangerously vague language to define the breadth of data that can be shared with the government.  
* Hands the reins of America’s cybersecurity defenses to the NSA, an agency with no transparency and little accountability.
* Allows data shared with the government to be used for purposes unrelated to cybersecurity.

Participating groups include Access Now, American Civil Liberties Union, American Library Association, Avaaz, Bill of Rights Defense Committee, Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic, Center for Democracy and Technology, The Constitution Project, Demand Progress, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Fight for the Future, Free Press,, Open the Government, Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, Reporters Without Borders, Reverse Robo Call, Sunlight Foundation, Techdirt, and TechFreedom.

To take action against CISPA:


Access Now
   Mike Rispoli
   Campaign and Media Strategy

Electronic Frontier Foundation
   Rainey Reitman
   Activism Director

Fight for the Future
   Tiffiniy Cheng

Free Press Action Fund
   Jenn Ettinger
   Media Manager

Reporters Without Borders
   Delphine Halgand
   DC Representative

Reverse Robo Call
   Shaun Dakin

Sunlight Foundation
   Gabriela Schneider
   Communications Director

Related Issues:
April 11, 2012

Agencies Agree to Pay Damages, Delete Seized Data

Berkeley, CA - Two radical groups have settled their lawsuits over an armed, over-broad police raid after the law enforcement agencies agreed to delete improperly seized computer data and pay $100,000 in damages and attorney's fees. Moreover, the University of California-Berkeley Police Department (UCBPD) acknowledged that at the time of the raid one of the groups qualified for federal protections designed to protect journalists, publishers, and other distributors of information from police searches, despite the police's persistent denial of that status throughout the lawsuit.

UCBPD and the FBI raided the building housing the Long Haul, an alternative library, Infoshop and community center in Berkeley, in August of 2008 as part of an investigation into e-mail threats sent to UC animal researchers that allegedly came from public-access computers in the building. Agents conducted an armed search of both public and private rooms – cutting or unscrewing locks that protected private offices – and removed every computer from the building. The raid team seized clearly unrelated computers from behind the locked doors of the Slingshot collective, a division of Long Haul that has published the Slingshot newspaper for 24 years as well as the Slingshot Organizer, and from the office of East Bay Prisoner Support (EBPS), which published materials about prisoners' struggles. However, the federal Privacy Protection Act specifically protects publishers from search and seizure except in narrow, unrelated circumstances. The Long Haul and EBPS collectively filed suit and were represented by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the ACLU of Northern California.

As part of today's settlement, the UCPD:

* Conceded that it has no information that either the Long Haul or EBPS was connected with the e-mail threats;
* Acknowledged that the Long Haul was at the time of the raid a publisher protected by the Privacy Protection Act, designed to prevent against such searches; and
* Agreed to expand the scope and coverage of improved training regarding the provisions of the Privacy Protection Act that were first imposed in the wake of the 2008 raid. 

Both the UCPD and the FBI also agreed to:

* Destroy the data they seized as part of the raid; and
* Pay a total of $100,000 in damages and attorneys’ fees caused by the raid.

"We hope that in view of this lawsuit and this favorable settlement, law enforcement will think twice before they raid other radical spaces on flimsy pretenses," said Jesse Palmer, a long-time participant in Long Haul operations. "The raid was an abuse of power. The police refused to show Long Haul representatives a copy of the search warrant, prevented anyone from watching what they were taking during the raid, and preferred to cut locks rather than accept our offer to unlock doors. The raid was a fishing expedition and an attempt to intimidate and harass radicals undertaken by the FBI and UCPD, but as the settlement demonstrates, it was the police who broke the law. We've done nothing wrong."

"I have no faith that this agreement will change the attitudes or behaviors of the UC police or the FBI," said EBPS representative Patrick Lyons. "From kicking in our door and stealing our stuff, to the now-infamous UC Davis pepper spray incident, it is clear that the UC cops are at war with radicals, anarchists, and activists, and that will not change. I do, however, think that it is important that when they attack us, we fight back. I sincerely appreciate the hard work of EFF and the ACLU because in this situation our best weapon was our ability to make the UC police and FBI spend huge amounts of money defending their actions and concealing their agenda."

Long Haul and EBPS plan to donate $500 of their portion of the settlement to the Occupy Oakland Anti-Repression Committee to assist others targeted by the police for their political beliefs.

The Long Haul is an all-volunteer collective that operates a community space with free computer access, a historical archive, and a lending library of radical books to members of the public at its Infoshop in Berkeley, California. They have been at their current location since 1979 and have been a 501(c)(3) tax exempt educational organization since 1994. EBPS publishes a newsletter of prisoners' writings and distributes literature to prisoners.

For the full settlement agreement:


Hanni Fakhoury
   Staff Attorney
   Electronic Frontier Foundation

Matt Zimmerman
   Senior Staff Attorney
   Electronic Frontier Foundation

Related Issues:
April 10, 2012

Ninth Circuit Blocks Dangerous Interpretation of Federal Statute

San Francisco - A federal appeals court today rejected a dangerous interpretation of the federal anti-hacking law, dismissing charges that would have criminalized any employee's use of a company's computers in violation of corporate policy.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed an amicus brief in this case, U.S. v. Nosal, urging the court to come to this conclusion as part of its ongoing work to ensure fair application of the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA).

"Basing criminal liability on violations of private computer use policies can transform whole categories of otherwise innocuous behavior into federal crimes simply because a computer is involved," said the opinion by Chief Judge Alex Kozinski of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

In Nosal, the government prosecuted an ex-employee of an executive recruiting firm on the theory that he induced current company employees to use their legitimate credentials to access a proprietary database and provide him with information in violation of corporate computer-use policy. The government claimed that the violation of policy constituted a violation of the CFAA, a law with criminal penalties.

EFF argued in its amicus brief that turning mere violations of company policies into computer crimes could potentially create a massive expansion of the law – making millions of law-abiding workers criminals for innocent activities like sending a personal e-mail or checking sports scores from a work computer, and leaving them vulnerable to prosecution at the government's whim. The court agreed in an en banc decision, replacing a ruling last year in which a three-judge panel found that disloyal employees who breach computer use policies run afoul of the CFAA.

"We shouldn't have to live at the mercy of our local prosecutor," said the opinion. "Employees who call family members from their work phones will become criminals if they send an email instead. Employees can sneak in the sports section of the New York Times to read at work, but they'd better not visit"

"This is an important victory for all Americans who use computers at work," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Marcia Hofmann. "Violating a private computer use policy shouldn't be crime, just as violating a website's terms of use shouldn't be a crime. These policies are often vague, arbitrary, confusing and contradictory. Putting people on the hook for criminal liability when they violate these agreements would leave millions of law-abiding computer users vulnerable to federal prosecution."

"EFF has been fighting these aggressive government hacking arguments for years," said EFF Staff Attorney Hanni Fakhoury. "We're happy to see the court recognize that the government overreached here, and it issued a thoughtful decision that protects the rights of users."

Full for the opinion in U.S. v. Nosal:


Marcia Hofmann
   Senior Staff Attorney
   Electronic Frontier Foundation

Hanni Fakhoury
   Staff Attorney
   Electronic Frontier Foundation

April 10, 2012

Innocent Customers Deserve to Have Their Files Returned

Alexandria, VA - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) will ask a federal judge on Friday to establish a process that would allow lawful users of Megaupload's cloud storage service to get their files back. The hearing in USA v. Dotcom is set for 9 a.m. on April 13th at the federal courthouse in Alexandria, Virginia.

In January of this year, the U.S. government shut down and related sites as part of a copyright infringement investigation. But in addition to the alleged illegal activity by some users of Megaupload, there were also innocent customers that used the service to store lawful material – users who have been blocked from accessing their data for months. At Friday's hearing, EFF Staff Attorney Julie Samuels will argue that Megaupload's customers deserve a court-approved procedure to retrieve their property before it's deleted.

Motion hearing in USA v. Dotcom

Friday, April 13
9 a.m.

Albert V. Bryan U.S. Courthouse
401 Courthouse Square
Alexandria, VA 22314
Judge Liam O'Grady - Courtroom 700


Rebecca Jeschke
   Media Relations Director
   Electronic Frontier Foundation

Related Issues:
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