EFF in the News
“They are doing it in the most privacy protective way they could, given the limitations of Facebook’s API,” says Gillula. “At the same time, people may not realize that they don’t have to do it that way, and it’s entirely possible that they could have done it another way — a less conscientious developer could have done it differently.”
The idea of allowing law enforcement secure access to encrypted information doesn't faze Nate Cardozo, a staff attorney for the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation — provided a warrant is involved. Unfortunately, he says, cryptographers agree that the prospect is a "pure fantasy."
Eva Galperin, Electronic Frontier Foundation, guest on KCRW:
Since the Charlie Hebdo murders 10 months ago, France has been on high alert against possible terror. Authorities knew that attacks on Paris were being planned, but could not prevent the killing of 129 people, the wounding of many more — and the growing uncertainty about what to expect in the future. Was there too little information about thousands of possible suspects, or were investigators overwhelmed by too much data? Should the US give the NSA new power to intercept private messages, or is that too high a price for a strategy that hasn't been proven to work? And what about YouTube, Facebook and other public media used for terrorist propaganda and recruitment? Is it time to crack down on Silicon Valley?
If governments are limited in their ability to require local data storage, critics say, digital information may be end up being more vulnerable to hackers and to surveillance by other countries, including U.S. intelligence agencies. “Trade agreements are not the place to decide digital policy,” says Maira Sutton, global policy analyst at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
Kit Walsh, a lawyer with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said the group believed that researchers and car owners needed access to vehicle software not only to make repairs or to adjust a car’s performance, but also to improve security. To demonstrate security vulnerabilities in automotive software, two security experts, Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek, recently performed an experiment in which they remotely hacked into a Jeep Cherokee and took control from the driver.
Mr. Walsh said many companies that make auto components supported the changes to the law. One such company, Derive Systems of Sanford, Fla., reprograms engine computers in ways that it says improve fuel efficiency while reducing emissions.
The E.P.A. also warned that the exemption could result in more pollution. “Based on the information E.P.A. has obtained in the context of enforcement activities, the majority of modifications to engine software are being performed to increase power and/or boost fuel economy,” the agency said in a letter to the Copyright Office opposing the change. “These kinds of modifications will often increase emissions.”
The fact that officials and policymakers are already using the attacks to revive the debate — without a definitive answer on whether or not encryption was used by the attackers — is especially problematic, some Influencers said. “At this point there is no confirmation that end-to-end encryption was used by the attackers, much less that the use of that encryption is what led the world’s intelligence services to fail to detect the plot before the tragedy,” said Cindy Cohn, executive director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
On the other hand, the benefits of widespread, strong encryption are well known, Ms. Cohn said. “What we do know is that strong encryption is crucial to allow political organizers, government officials, and ordinary people around the world to protect their security, privacy and safety from criminals and terrorists alike.”
“Any ‘backdoor’ into our communications will inevitably (and perhaps primarily) be used for illegal and repressive purposes rather than lawful ones,” she said.
"I'm concerned that France's creeping censorship is both potentially harmful — in that it's undemocratic and could silence other speech — and counterproductive," says Jillian York, director for international freedom of expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). "ISIS wants a society where only one point of view is accepted; when the state takes more power over our speech, they're acting on the same knee-jerk impulses."
Von Lohmann said the number of legitimate videos affected by takedown notices is small. And big entertainment companies are not always the most aggressive in demanding that the videos be removed. But the problem is growing, said Corynne McSherry, legal director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights group.
“It’s become incredibly easy to take down legitimate content, and we need a counterbalance to that situation, so we welcome YouTube’s announcement,” McSherry said.
There are many problems with the censoring of online content, not least that it can limit free speech. But there is also the question of transparency. By the very nature of censorship, unless you have been kept in the loop you would simply not know that anything had been censored.
This is something the Electronic Frontier Foundation wants to change, and today the digital rights organization launches Onlinecensorship.org to blow the lid off online censorship. The site, run by EFF and Visualizing Impact, aims to reveal the content that is censored on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Instagram, Flickr, and YouTube -- not just the 'what' but the 'why'. If you find yourself the subject of censorship, the site also explains how to lodge an appeal.
Privacy advocates and experts who support unbreakable encryption argue that investigators have other tools at their disposal and warn that building a special key to unlock encryption just for law enforcement comes with risks of abuse, both in the U.S. and abroad, that are too great.
“You can’t make a back door in a house that only law enforcement can enter,” said Nate Cardozo, a staff attorney for Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit organization that defends civil liberties in the digital world.