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EFF Press Release Archives

Press Releases: December 2006

December 22, 2006

Controversial Website Shielded by Federal Law Protecting Internet Free Speech

Pittsburgh - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) urged a Pennsylvania court today to dismiss defamation claims against the controversial website DontDateHimGirl.com, arguing that federal law shields the website from liability to protect the free flow of information online.

DontDateHimGirl.com was created by Tasha Joseph as a forum for women to share information about men. One of the men discussed on the site, Todd J. Hollis, claims that some participants posted defamatory statements about him on the website. In its amicus brief filed today, EFF argues that DontDateHimGirl.com's owner cannot be held liable for comments written by others under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Section 230 specifically protects hosts of interactive computer services from liability to encourage free discourse and robust debate.

"The Internet allows people all over the world to share information and diverse opinions. Without Section 230, no one would risk creating a website where others express ideas," said EFF Staff Attorney Marcia Hofmann. "This doesn't mean that people like Hollis can't pursue defamation cases. They can. But they should sue the person who made the statement in the first place, not the person who created the forum where it was made."

Nearly every court that has considered Section 230 has recognized the intent of the law and shielded website operators from liability. EFF has provided amicus support in a number of lawsuits, including one that recently held that Craigslist was not responsible for the content of posts made by the public.

"Section 230 is key to fostering vital debate and discussion across the Internet. Craigslist and other online communities are thriving because of its protection," said EFF Staff Attorney Kurt Opsahl.

The amicus brief was also signed by the Center for Democracy and Technology and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Pennsylvania.

For the full amicus brief:
http://www.eff.org/legal/cases/ddhg/joseph_amicus_final.pdf

Contacts:

Marcia Hofmann
Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation
marcia@eff.org

Kurt Opsahl
Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation
kurt@eff.org

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December 20, 2006

Princeton Professor Behind Important E-voting Vulnerability Research

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) welcomes the newest member of its Board of Directors, computer security expert Edward W. Felten. A professor of Computer Science and Public Affairs at Princeton University, Felten recently demonstrated the ability to manipulate results on a Diebold electronic voting machine -- showing that the equipment was extremely vulnerable to "vote-stealing" attacks that would undermine the accuracy of vote counts.

Felten's research interests include computer security and privacy -- especially relating to media and consumer products -- and technology law and policy. He has published about 80 papers in the research literature and two books. Felten was the lead computer science expert witness for the Department of Justice in the Microsoft antitrust case. He has also testified before the Senate Commerce Committee on digital television technology and regulation and before the House Administration Committee on electronic voting.

Felten is the founding Director of Princeton's Center for Information Technology Policy, and his weblog, at freedom-to-tinker.com, is widely regarded for its commentary on technology, law, and policy. In 2004, Scientific American magazine named Felten to its list of 50 worldwide science and technology leaders.

"EFF confronts critically important issues on the cutting edge of technology and freedom," said Felten. "My research and EFF's work have often intersected over the years, and I'm very pleased to take the next step and join the board as we strive to keep the digital world innovative, free, and secure."

In 2001, Felten and EFF sued the Recording Industry Association of America and the Secure Digital Music Initiative in a case challenging the constitutionality of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). EFF honored Felten with a Pioneer Award in 2005, which recognizes those who have made outstanding contributions to the development of computer-mediated communications and empower individuals in using computers and the Internet. He had previously served on EFF's advisory board.

"I have always been a huge fan of Ed's work, using his technical expertise to expose weak and vulnerable technologies to those of us more technically challenged," said EFF Executive Director Shari Steele. "I'm delighted to have him join EFF's Board of Directors."

Other members of EFF's executive board include Brad Templeton, John Perry Barlow, David Farber, John Gilmore, Brewster Kahle, Joe Kraus, Lawrence Lessig, and Pamela Samuelson.

Contact:

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

December 19, 2006

Millions of U.S. Travelers Affected by Giant Data-Mining Program

Washington, D.C. - The FLAG Project at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed suit against the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in federal court today, demanding immediate answers about an invasive and unprecedented data-mining system deployed on American travelers.

The Automated Targeting System (ATS) creates and assigns "risk assessments" to tens of millions of citizens as they enter and leave the country. In November, DHS announced that the program would launch on December 4, but Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff later admitted that the program had already been in operation for several years.

"The news of this secret program sparked a nationwide uproar. DHS needs to provide answers, and provide them quickly, to the millions of law-abiding citizens who are worried about this 'risk assessment' score that will follow them throughout their lives," said EFF Senior Counsel David Sobel.

Under ATS, individuals have no way to access information about their "risk assessment" scores or to correct any false information about them. But while you cannot see your score, it will be made readily available to untold numbers of federal, state, local, and foreign agencies. The government will retain the data for 40 years.

While the publicly available information about ATS is disturbing enough, there are many critical details the government did not disclose. For example, DHS has not announced what the consequences might be of a "risk assessment" score that indicates an individual might be a threat. EFF's suit demands an urgent and expedited response to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed earlier this month, including all Privacy Impact Assessments for the ATS, all records that describe redress for individuals who believe the system includes inaccurate information, and all records that discuss potential consequences for travelers as a result of the system.

"ATS is precisely the sort of system that Congress sought to prohibit with the Privacy Act of 1974," said Sobel. "DHS needs to abide by the law and give Americans the information they deserve about this dangerous program."

Congressional leaders have indicated that they are likely to convene hearings on ATS when the new Congress convenes in January. Today's lawsuit cites that pending oversight as an additional reason why DHS must release details about the system on an expedited basis.

For the FOIA complaint filed against the Department of Homeland Security:
http://www.eff.org/Privacy/ats/ats_complaint.pdf

For more on the ATS program and other travel screening issues:
http://www.eff.org/privacy/travel/

Contacts:

David Sobel
Senior Counsel
Electronic Frontier Foundation
sobel@eff.org

Marcia Hofmann
Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation
marcia@eff.org

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December 18, 2006

Thursday Hearing on Public Release of Documents

San Francisco - On Thursday, December 21, at 2 p.m., a federal judge in San Francisco will consider requests from media groups to unseal critical evidence in the Electronic Frontier Foundation's (EFF's) class-action lawsuit against AT&ampT.

EFF's suit accuses the telecom giant of collaborating with the National Security Agency (NSA) in illegal spying on millions of ordinary Americans. The sealed evidence includes a declaration by Mark Klein, a retired AT&ampT telecommunications technician, as well as several internal AT&ampT documents and portions of a declaration from EFF's expert witness. Some of the evidence was previously released in redacted form, while other evidence is still completely unavailable to the media and the public.

U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker will also consider whether two state court lawsuits against AT&ampT and Verizon over NSA access to phone records, which were recently transferred to his courtroom, should be transferred back to state court.

WHAT:
Hepting v. AT&ampT and other NSA telecommunications records lawsuits

WHEN:
2 p.m.
Thursday, December 21

WHERE:
450 Golden Gate Ave., Courtroom 6
San Francisco, CA 94102

For more on EFF's case against AT&ampT:
http://www.eff.org/legal/cases/att/

Contact:

Rebecca Jeschke
Media Coordinator
Electronic Frontier Foundation
press@eff.org

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December 15, 2006

Search for Thousands of Missing Votes in Sarasota County Congressional Race

Tallahassee, Fla. - On Tuesday, December 19th, at 1 p.m., a state judge in Tallahassee, Florida, will consider whether representatives of Florida voters will gain access to voting machines and software in a contested election for the U.S. House of Representatives seat for Florida's 13th congressional district.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and other election advocacy groups last month filed suit on behalf of Sarasota County voters – both Republicans and Democrats – and are demanding a thorough investigation into potential electronic voting machine malfunctions. State and local election officials, however, continue to object to making the electronic voting machines and software available for examination. Tuesday's hearing will consider, among other issues, whether such materials must be made available to outside experts.

According to the electronic voting machines used during the November general election, more than 18,000 people in Sarasota County – approximately 15% of the voter turnout – did not cast a vote for any congressional candidate for this hotly contested seat. Instead of performing a robust analysis of the County's voting machines and software, the Florida Elections Canvassing Commission certified Vern Buchanan as the winner by 363 votes. The voters' lawsuit contends that thousands of voters were likely disenfranchised by machine-related problems.

WHAT:
Fedder v. Gallagher

WHEN:
1 p.m.
Tuesday, December 19

WHERE:
Leon County Courthouse
301 S. Monroe St.
Tallahassee, FL 32301

For more on the Florida lawsuit:
http://www.eff.org/news/archives/2006_11.php#005020

For more on EFF's E-Voting work:
http://www.eff.org/Activism/E-voting/

Contacts:

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

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