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EFF Press Release Archives

Press Releases: May 2005

May 20, 2005

Bill Gives Justice Department More Power to Demand Private Records

On Thursday, May 26, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence will consider in closed session a draft bill that would both renew and expand various USA PATRIOT Act powers. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has obtained a copy of the draft bill, along with the committee's summary of it, and has made them available to journalists and interested citizens on its website, http://www.eff.org/.

"Even though Congress is still debating whether to renew the broad surveillance authorities granted by the original USA PATRIOT Act, the Justice Department is already lobbying for even more unchecked authority to demand the private records of citizens who are not suspected of any crime," said Kevin Bankston, EFF attorney and Equal Justice Works/Bruce J. Ennis Fellow. "The Senate's intelligence committee should focus on adding checks and balances to protect against abuse of already-existing PATRIOT powers, or repealing them altogether, rather than working to expand them behind closed doors."

Draft of new PATRIOT Act powers.

Senate Select Committee summary.

Contacts:
Kevin Bankston
Attorney, Equal Justice Works / Bruce J. Ennis Fellow
Electronic Frontier Foundation
bankston@eff.org

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

Related Issues:
May 17, 2005

NOTE: THIS RELEASE COMES FROM THE ACLU OF NORTHERN CALIFORNIA. EFF IS RECIRCULATING IT FOR YOUR INFORMATION.

Bill to Protect Californians' Privacy, Personal Safety, and Financial Security Advances in State Senate

Sacramento - The State Senate yesterday approved a bill with broad bipartisan support (29:7) that would prohibit state and local governments from issuing identification documents containing a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tag, a device that can broadcast an individual's most private information, including name, address, telephone number, and date of birth. The bill will be heard next in the State Assembly. It is the first bill of its kind in the country and has drawn national attention following the federal government's decision to embed RFID tags in new US passports.

Known as the Identity Information Protection Act of 2005, SB 682 was authored by State Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto). The bill would also make it unlawful for a person to read or attempt to read an identification document without the owner's knowledge.

"This is a milestone for a very important measure to protect people's privacy, personal safety, and financial security," said Simitian. "RFID technology is not the issue, the issue is whether and under what circumstances should the government be allowed to use this technology. SB 682 will help encourage a thoughtful and rational conversation about that question."

RFID tag readers are readily available to the public, making it easy for anyone to collect an individual's most personal information. That information can then be used to steal a person's identity, stalk them, or even kidnap them. Last year, more than 39,000 Californians were victims of identity theft, and these devices would make that crime even easier to commit. RFID tags embedded in identification cards and other official documents could allow the government to track its employees' movements.

"California legislators have always been on the forefront of passing important legislation to balance the potential benefits of emerging technology while safeguarding the privacy and security of Californians," said Nicole Ozer, Technology &amp Civil Liberties Policy Director of the ACLU of Northern California. "The Senate's passage of this bill has sent a strong bi-partisan message that the privacy and security of Californians must be protected."

SB 682 has gained bi-partisan support. Former Congressman Bob Barr (R-Georgia) recently featured Senator Simitian on his weekly show on Radio America. Other supporters include the Capitol Resource Institute, the Free Congress Foundation, the AARP, The California Alliance Against Domestic Violence, the Statewide California Coalition for Battered Women, California NOW, and the California Commission on the Status of Women.

"People have a right not to be tracked. The government shouldn't be putting tracking devices into driver's licenses and other ID cards that people need to go about their daily lives. This bill is so important because it represents a positive first step in managing a problem and will make all Californians safer," added Lee Tien, Senior Staff Attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

"This bill will protect students, families and individuals who are required to carry government issued IDs. The public should not be put in a situation where their document enables them to be monitored and tracked by anyone who has the right technology," said Beth Givens, founder and executive director of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse.

The bill was in part inspired by a case in which an elementary school in Sutter, California, required its students to wear identification badges that contained RFID tags that broadcast the student's name, photo, grade, school name, class year, and the four-digit school ID number. Parents successfully petitioned the school to remove the RFID tags.

Contacts:

Stella Richardson
Media Relations Director
ACLU of Northern California
srichardson@aclunc.org

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

Related Issues:
May 16, 2005

Circuit Court Deliberates Manual Recount Problems with Touchscreen Voting Machines

Florida - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and a coalition of national groups concerned with voting integrity filed a friend-of-the-court brief in a seminal e-voting case brought by Florida Congressman Robert Wexler and others. Florida law requires manual recounts in close races. Rep. Wexler's case argues that when Florida election officials purchased touchscreen voting machines that do not leave a paper trail, they prevented true manual recounts and violated this law. The Congressman also argues that the touchscreen voting machines violate federal constitutional law.

Wexler lost at the district court level and now appeals to the 11th Circuit Court. In its brief, EFF lists 17 examples in which touchscreen voting machine models used in Florida experienced significant problems -- including throwing election results into doubt -- because they were not designed to allow manual recounts. EFF also noted that a number of currently available technologies preserve the ability to conduct manual recounts, meaning that Florida election officials are simply choosing to use machines that flout state law. "While touchscreen voting machines offer some promising advances, critical shortcomings still exist in both design and implementation, not the least of which is a failure to allow for meaningful recounts," said EFF Staff Attorney Matt Zimmerman. "With better solutions available for Florida voters, systems that can't be audited simply have to go."

"In the aftermath of the 2004 election, we saw county after county engage in phony 'recounts' on touchscreen machines that lacked paper trails. If the 11th Circuit Court recognizes that true manual recounts are not possible on these machines, it will not only help Florida voters, it could help encourage election officials across the country to choose voting technologies that increase, rather than decrease, voter confidence," added EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn.

Joining EFF on the brief are Common Cause, People for the American Way Foundation, VerifiedVoting.org, Center for Constitutional Rights, Computer Scientists for Social Responsibility, and Voters Unite.

For more information about e-voting, visit EFF's website.

Contacts:

Cindy Cohn
Legal Director
Electronic Frontier Foundation
cindy@eff.org

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

May 6, 2005

Ruling Is a Victory for Innovation, Fair Use

Washington, DC - In a landmark case, the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit today struck down the "Broadcast Flag," an FCC rule that would have crippled digital television receivers beginning on July 1st.

The Broadcast Flag rule would have required all digital TV receivers, including televisions, VCRs, and personal video recorders like TiVo, to be built to read signals embedded in over-the-air broadcast television shows that would place certain limitations on how those shows could be played, recorded, and saved. The sale of any hardware that was not able to "recognize and give effect to" the Broadcast Flag, including currently existing digital and high-definition television (HDTV) equipment and open source/free software tools, would have become illegal.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) joined Washington DC-based advocacy group Public Knowledge in fighting the rule in the courts, together with Consumers Union, the Consumer Federation of America, the American Library Association, the Association of Research Libraries, the American Association of Law Libraries, the Medical Library Association, and the Special Libraries Association. The coalition argued that the rule would interfere with the legitimate activities of technology innovators, librarians, archivists, and academics, and that the FCC exceeded its regulatory authority by imposing technological restrictions on what consumers can do with television shows after they receive them.

The court agreed, ruling unanimously that the FCC overstepped its authority when it asserted control over the design of any device capable of receiving HDTV signals.

"This case is a great win for consumers and for technology innovation. It's about more than simply broadcasting. It is about how far the FCC can go in its regulations without permission from Congress," said Public Knowledge President Gigi Sohn. "Had the flag been implemented, Hollywood, acting through the FCC, would have been able to dictate the pace of technology in consumer electronics. Now, thankfully, that won't happen. While we recognize that the content industries may ask Congress to overturn this ruling, we also recognize that Congress will have to think very hard before it puts restrictions on how constituents use their televisions."

Since the FCC announced the July 1st deadline, EFF had been encouraging consumers to beat the Broadcast Flag by purchasing HDTV receivers manufactured before the restriction, as well as teaching them how to use the hardware with free, open-source digital video recorder applications such as MythTV. Part of the education campaign was a daily countdown to the date when the Broadcast Flag was to take effect.

"The clock will now stop," said EFF Special Projects Coordinator Wendy Seltzer, who led the campaign and organized nationwide HDTV "build-ins." "Now we can use the build-ins to celebrate the freedom to use innovative technology, rather than racing to beat a deadline for shutting it down."

Contacts:

Fred von Lohmann
Senior Intellectual Property Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation
fred@eff.org

Jason Schultz
Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation
jason@eff.org

May 4, 2005

Writer Danny O'Brien Will Join Staff and Lead Grassroots Campaigns

San Francisco, CA - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is pleased to announce that Danny O'Brien will be joining the organization as its new Activism Coordinator. Current Activism Coordinator Ren Bucholz will be moving to Canada later this month and will work on international issues for EFF from his home base there.

O'Brien is a British writer with a long track record of campaigning on digital rights issues in the UK. He was a co-founder of STAND (http://www.stand.org.uk), a UK grassroots network that helped successfully fight private key escrow in Britain, inspired a rare government apology for surveillance power excesses, and helped postpone a proposed national identity card scheme. He also helped devise FaxYourMP.com and TheyWorkForYou.com, two award-winning parliamentary oversight websites. He has lived in the United States since 2000.

"I've always been a great admirer of EFF's achievements," said O'Brien. "I'm looking forward to working not only with EFF's own incredible activist network, but also the many other groups that make up the growing movement for digital rights around the world."

O'Brien joins EFF's growing team of analysts with a background in powerful writing, including science fiction author Cory Doctorow, syndicated "Techsploitation" columnist Annalee Newitz, and Donna Wentworth, founding editor of the website, "Copyfight: The Politics of IP."

"EFF has a tradition of attracting some of the brightest, most talented minds in the technology world," said EFF Executive Director Shari Steele. "Danny will make a great addition to our team, as we work to protect civil liberties in the electronic age."

Contacts:

Shari Steele
Executive Director
Electronic Frontier Foundation
ssteele@eff.org

Danny O'Brien
Activism Coordinator
Electronic Frontier Foundation
danny@eff.org

May 3, 2005

Creators of Tor, an Anonymous Communication System, Discuss Their Work at May 10 BayFF

San Francisco, CA - On Tuesday, May 10, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) will host another "BayFF," a free event series for the general public. This month, the subject is anonymous Internet communication. Roger Dingledine, principal system designer of the anonymous communication network Tor, will appear in person to discuss his work with Chris Palmer, EFF's Technology Manager.

Tor is a network-within-a-network that protects Internet communication from a form of surveillance known as "traffic analysis." Traffic analysis tracks where data goes and when, as well as how much is sent, rather than the content of communications. Knowing the source and destination of Internet traffic allows others to track a person's behavior and interests. The serious privacy implications of this type of surveillance will be discussed, as well as ways Tor helps to protect against it.

This free event is being held at 111 Minna Gallery in San Francisco, from 7:00-9:30 p.m. Refreshments will be provided. Because 111 Minna is a bar, attendees must be 21 or over.

Contacts:

Katina Bishop
Projects Coordinator
Electronic Frontier Foundation
katina@eff.org

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