EFF in the News
In the last few weeks, the Chinese government compelled Apple to remove New York Times apps from the Chinese version of the App Store. Then the Russian government had Apple and Google pull the app for LinkedIn, the professional social network, after the network declined to relocate its data on Russian citizens to servers in that country. But Eva Galperin, the director of cybersecurity at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights activist organization, said the internet giants were not without leverage in this fight. “The flip side of that is, is China going to block the entire Apple App Store over a single app?” she asked. Interestingly, the internet giants’ hold on every aspect of online life works toward their advantage in battling governments.
The Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that a judge's order requiring a man to provide a fingerprint to unlock his cellphone was constitutional, a finding that is in line with similar rulings across the U.S. Mark Rumold, senior staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said cases nationwide have fallen into two camps: those dealing with thumbprint-protected phones and those dealing with passcode protection. He said courts have found that compelling a fingerprint does not violate the Fifth Amendment, but many have ruled that compelling someone to provide a passcode does — because a passcode is information stored in one's mind. Rumold said the means of protecting a phone shouldn't matter. "(Cellphones) are basically this window into people's mind," he said. "I think the Fifth Amendment should evolve to protect it outright."
Federal prosecutors are defending the agency’s decision to secretly hijack and peddle child porn for two weeks as part of a sting operation.Andrew Crocker, staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco nonprofit group dealing with civil liberties in the digital world, said the government abused its power in these cases. "They got a single warrant to hack into the computers of anyone visiting this website without any limitation," he said.
Popular websites and apps like Facebook, Amazon and Instagram aren't coming after your first born, but they do intentionally draft privacy policies, terms of service and end user license agreements (EULAs) that they know (or hope) no one will ever read. "There's a clear advantage to them to being unreadable," says Kit Walsh, a staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights advocacy group. "It would take you two months to read all of the agreements that you click through in a year. The PayPal terms of service is longer than ‘Hamlet' and lot less interesting to read."
In a controversial move, President Obama commuted the sentence of known whistle blower and Army intelligence analyst, Chelsea Manning, a transgender woman who served under the name Bradley. Manning has a strong support network in the Bay Area. One group here raised $1 million for her legal defense. "She is so gentle, so intelligent and so sensitive," said Rainey Reitman, who started the Chelsea Manning Support Network. "And just a wonderful human being."
FamilyTreeNow.com is raising concerns about internet privacy. Launched in 2014, the site claims to have one of the largest collections of genealogy records anywhere. Accessing the site is easy, which requires a first and last name and state of residence. Not only will it list your name and address, but it also lists the names and addresses of relatives as well. This is an obvious concern for public figures, police officers, stalking and domestic violence victims, but the Electronic Frontier Foundation points out this could be dangerous for just about anyone. EFF Activism director Rainey Reitman said, “Let’s say you’re on vacation with your family and posting photos on Instagram. Anybody who happens to see those photos can look up your home address. So everyday people have lots of good reason to keep their address private.”
An unclassified document released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence spells out how the NSA, under Executive Order 12333, can share raw data that beforehand was sanitized before it was shared with any of the 16 other IC agencies.“That’s a huge and troubling shift in the way those intelligence agencies receive information collected by the NSA. Domestic agencies like the FBI are subject to more privacy protections, including warrant requirements,” said Kate Tummarello, a member of the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Activism Team.
In his final public address as chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Tom Wheeler implored the incoming Trump administration to press ahead with efforts to preserve and strengthen net neutrality amid increasingly strong signals that the policy designed to keep the Internet fair and open may be in jeopardy. Ernesto Falcon, legislative counsel at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said that while his group is anticipating an “aggressive effort to roll back” the scope of net neutrality, he remains optimistic that the broad public support behind the regulations will help to shape the president-elect’s selection for the next FCC chair.
Over the last month, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Attorney General Loretta Lynch signed off on changes to NSA rules that allow the agency to loosen the standards for what raw surveillance data it can hand off to the other 16 American intelligence agencies. “The fact that they’re relaxing these privacy-protective rules just as Trump is taking the reins of the surveillance state is inexplicable to me,” says Nate Cardozo, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
How far do laws go? Can businesses be forced to cooperate with authorities? Kurt Opsahl, deputy executive director of the US civil liberties organization Electronic Frontier Foundation, addressed these issues in Hamburg. He used the example of a hotly debated fight between the FBI and Apple, in which authorities sought a court order to force the smartphone manufacturer to crack the encryption of an iPhone owned by a suspected terrorist.