EFF in the News
How the CFAA, which was originally intended to target criminals for havoc-wreaking computer break-ins and data theft, came to be used to convict people for using someone else's password is a study in prosecutorial overreach and shows how the law has failed to keep up with technology. Congress needs to step up and overhaul this flawed and outdated law. This summer, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued two confusing rulings in two separate cases that could allow prosecutors to charge users with CFAA violations for seemingly innocuous conduct—specifically, sharing a password.
Jennifer Lynch, senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), added: “It’s not enough for a government to just say we have a warrant to search this house and therefore this person should unlock their phone. The government needs to say specifically what information they expect to find on the phone, how that relates to criminal activity and I would argue they need to set up a way to access only the information that is relevant to the investigation.
FEATURING SHAHID BUTTAR – An explosive Reuters report this week revealed that the tech company searched through thousands of private emails of its customers on behalf of the US government. Former employees of Yahoo spoke with Reuters saying the Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer complied with the government directive, which led to at least one executive, Alex Stamos, resigning in opposition. Stamos now works at Facebook.
Banning pornography is reasonable, but specifically banning female nipples is questionable, says Jillian York, director for international freedom of expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). “Imposing a blanket ban on nudity, even if a handful of exceptions are carved out, furthers the idea that women’s bodies are inherently sexual,” York told the Verge.
Political campaigns will spend an estimated $1.2 billion on digital ads this election cycle, and data on social media is helping tailor ads that will resonate with voters. Privacy experts say there are ways to safeguard your personal information, and Facebook says they have made it easier to adjust your preferences.
"What it means is that when you’re going on Facebook you're likely going to be presented with ads and other information based on what your patterns have done in the past,'' said Cindy Cohn, executive director of privacy and digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation. "It's not neutral. It's not supposed to be neutral."
The EFF contends that any company looking to enter the classroom needs to be completely transparent with its intentions and practices to ensure student safety and privacy, especially if public money is used to facilitate the purchase of the company's products. "We think the pledge is a good idea, but there is a disconnect from the way companies interpret the pledge and the way parents do," EFF staff attorney Sophia Cope told Real Money in an interview.
Cory Doctorow, the popular science fiction author and journalist blogger, says he will be writing a lot less in order to focus on his digital activism work in fighting Digital Rights Management (DRM) laws alongside the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). The security of corporate IT systems is weakened by many of the provisions in DRM laws, which raises the cost of business operations as massive security breaches continue to rise in number around the world.
Doctorow says that it is important that these DRM laws be challenged and changed. He is working with the EFF on legal strategies and legal actions aimed at challenging US DRM laws. He says the work is more important than his novels and his posts for Boing Boing, a popular blog site he co-edits. "I'll start slowing down on my posts on Boing Boing and doing more with EFF," he said.
Most of the internet’s most popular voter registration sites make no promise to not turn and sell your information to advertisers, a Vocativ analysis has found. Of the nine major voter registration sites surveyed, only vote.gov, maintained by the U.S. General Services Administration, explicitly promises to neither share hopeful voters’ raw personal information with third parties nor to use it for commercial purposes.
None of this is to say that each of these sites actively mine their users’ information to sell to the highest bidder. Instead, it’s that they haven’t promised not to. “The thing about privacy policies is they’re written by lawyers to sound like they’re understandable to regular people, but intentionally so that they’re not,” Nate Cardozo, a senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told Vocativ. “I don’t know under what circumstances Rock The Vote will share my personal information.”
According to a study to be published later this month in the academic journal Significance, PredPol may merely be reinforcing bad police habits. When researchers from the Human Rights Data Analysis Group — a nonprofit dedicated to using science to analyze human-rights violations around the world — applied the tool to crime data in Oakland, the algorithm recommended that police deploy officers to neighborhoods with mostly black residents. As it happens, police in Oakland were already sending officers into these areas.
Terms-of-service agreements, which most Internet users consent to without even knowing it, do not explicitly ban pair testing. Rather, they ban the techniques that underlie it. CareerBuilder, the site that Villarreal used to look for work, has rules against providing false personal information and engaging in scraping, a method of automatically recording large amounts of data, even if that data is freely available. Other employment and housing sites—LinkedIn, Airbnb, Craigslist—have similar provisions. Companies say these rules are necessary to insure honest transactions. But digital-rights advocates point to a chilling effect: researchers, fearful of C.F.A.A. litigation, are deterred from uncovering discrimination online.