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EFF Press Release Archives

Press Releases: April 2009

April 28, 2009

EFF Calls on Congress to Examine the Investigative Data Warehouse

Washington, D.C. - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) called on Congress today to examine the Investigative Data Warehouse (IDW) -- a massive FBI data-mining project that includes a billion records, many of which contain personal information on American citizens. Supporting its request, EFF provided Congress with its new report on IDW, published today with information obtained through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) litigation.

EFF sued the FBI for information about the IDW under the FOIA in 2006, but the agency has withheld important details about the collection, maintenance, and use of personal information contained in the huge database. The Department of Justice recently told the court that no additional material will be disclosed, despite the Obama administration's new policies on open government. In a letter sent today to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy and House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, EFF says that Congress is the last avenue for accountability and oversight of this potentially dangerous program.

"Nearly two years ago, Senator Leahy noted that the IDW was a system that was 'ripe for abuse,'" said EFF Senior Counsel David Sobel. "We could not agree more. The congressional judiciary committees should examine the IDW and provide the public with needed information about its impact on privacy rights."

While the FBI is still withholding critical information, EFF's lawsuit did uncover some key documents about the IDW. Using these records, EFF has published a report surveying what is known about this massive data collection, and what questions are still unanswered. The report notes that the FBI has identified only 38 of the 53 "data sources" that feed into the IDW. The report also discusses the FBI's efforts to avoid "raising congressional consciousness levels and expectations" about the IDW's privacy impact.

"A data warehouse of the size and power of the IDW requires strict oversight from Congress and the public," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Kurt Opsahl, who authored the new report. "The IDW includes more than four times as many documents as the Library of Congress, and the FBI has asked for millions of dollars to data-mine this warehouse, using unproven science in an attempt to predict future crimes from past behavior. We need to know all of what's in the IDW, and how our privacy will be protected."

For the full letter to Senator Leahy:
http://www.eff.org/files/filenode/foia_idw/leahy_IDW_ltr.pdf

For EFF's report on the IDW:
http://www.eff.org/issues/foia/investigative-data-warehouse-report

Contact:

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

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

Related Issues:
April 27, 2009

Appleā€™s Baseless Copyright Claims Squelch Free Speech

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed suit against Apple Inc. today to defend the First Amendment rights of an operator of a noncommercial, public Internet "wiki" site known as BluWiki.

EFF and the San Francisco law firm of Keker & Van Nest represent OdioWorks LLC, which runs the BluWiki website. Like many "wiki" platforms, such as Wikipedia, it is open to the public for collaborative authoring and editing on any topic. The site is entirely noncommercial, operated by OdioWorks as a public service.

Late last year, after BluWiki users began a discussion about making some Apple iPods and iPhones interoperate with software other than Apple's own iTunes, Apple lawyers demanded removal of the content. In a letter to OdioWorks, the attorneys alleged that the discussions constituted copyright infringement and a violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act's (DMCA's) prohibition on circumventing copy protection measures. Fearing legal action by Apple, OdioWorks took down the discussions from the BluWiki site.

OdioWorks filed the lawsuit today in order to vindicate its right to restore those discussions. Filed in federal court in San Francisco, the suit seeks a declaratory judgment that the discussions do not violate any of the DMCA's anti-circumvention provisions, and do not infringe any copyrights owned by Apple.

"I take the free speech rights of BluWiki users seriously," said Sam Odio, owner of OdioWorks. "Companies like Apple should not be able to censor online discussions by making baseless legal threats against services like BluWiki that host the discussions."

The discussions on the BluWiki site focused on how hobbyists might enable iPods and iPhones to work with desktop media management software other than Apple's own iTunes software. The discussions were apparently spurred by Apple's efforts prevent the iPod Touch and iPhone from working with competing media management software such as WinAmp and Songbird.

"Apple's legal threats against BluWiki are about censorship, not about protecting their legitimate copyright interests," said Senior Staff Attorney Fred von Lohmann. "Wikis and other community sites are home to many vibrant discussions among hobbyists and tinkerers. It's legal to engage in reverse engineering in order to create a competing product, it's legal to talk about reverse engineering, and it's legal for a public wiki to host those discussions."

For the full complaint in OdioWorks v. Apple Inc.:
http://www.eff.org/files/filenode/odio_v_apple/Final%20Complaint.pdf

For more on this case:
http://www.eff.org/cases/odioworks-v-apple

Contacts:

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

Rebecca Jeschke
Media Relations Director
Electronic Frontier Foundation
press@eff.org

April 20, 2009

Legal Battle Over Online Gambling Jeopardizes Free Speech

Frankfort, KY - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT), and the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky (ACLU of Kentucky) on Friday urged the Kentucky Supreme Court to uphold an appeals court ruling that blocked state officials from ordering out-of-state registrars to turn over control of over 100 overseas Internet domain names accused of violating state gambling laws.

The case began in September when the commonwealth of Kentucky convinced a state court judge to order the seizure of 141 domain names, claiming that the names were "gambling devices" banned under Kentucky law. A Kentucky appeals court later overturned the ruling, but state officials appealed the order. In a friend-of-the-court brief filed with the Kentucky Supreme Court in support of the appeals court ruling, EFF, CDT, and the ACLU of Kentucky argue that the commonwealth's attempt to regulate overseas websites is fatally flawed and, if successful, would violate the First Amendment, the Commerce Clause, and the Due Process Clause.

"No state can order a domain name registrar over which it does not have jurisdiction to do anything. The commonwealth simply hasn't satisfied its burden here," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Matt Zimmerman. "Without these important protections, no website would be safe from arbitrary decisions by foreign courts to silence online content that they don't like."

"Under Kentucky's legal theory, any government in the world would be able to seize any website domain name if the site has content that the government does not like," said John Morris, general counsel for CDT. "Such a theory, if upheld, would be devastating to free expression around the world."

EFF, CDT, and the ACLU of Kentucky were joined on the brief by the Media Access Project (MAP), the United States Internet Industry Association (USIIA), the Internet Commerce Coalition (ICC), and the Internet Commerce Association (ICA) -- all leading public interest and industry trade groups.

For the full amicus brief:
http://www.eff.org/files/filenode/ky_v_domainnames/KYSupremeCouramicusbrief.pdf

For more on this case:
http://www.eff.org/cases/commonwealth-kentucky-v-141-internet-domain-names

Contact:

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

April 13, 2009

EFF Challenges Illegal Computer Seizure and Ongoing Data Searches by Campus Police

Boston - A Boston College computer science student has asked a Massachusetts court to quash an invalid search warrant for his dorm room that resulted in campus police illegally seizing several computers, an iPod, a cell phone, and other technology.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is representing the student, who has petitioned the court for the immediate return of his property and is demanding that investigators be prohibited from any further searches or analysis of his digital data. Massachusetts State Police participated in the search and are overseeing the forensic analysis of the seized property.

"This search warrant is invalid, as there is no probable cause that a crime was committed at all," said EFF Civil Liberties Director Jennifer Granick. "Every day this student's private information is in the hands of the police department, he suffers harm to his property interests and his constitutional rights."

The dorm room search stemmed from an investigation into who sent an email to a Boston College mailing list alleging that another student was gay. Police say they know who sent the email and that the sender committed the crimes of "obtaining computer services by fraud or misrepresentation" and obtaining "unauthorized access to a computer system." However, nothing presented by the investigating officer to obtain the warrant, including the allegation that the student sent the email to the mailing list, could constitute the cited criminal offenses.

Some of the supposedly suspicious activities listed in support of the search warrant application include: the student being seen with "unknown laptop computers," which he "says" he was fixing for other students; the student uses multiple names to log on to his computer; and the student uses two different operating systems, including one that is not the "regular B.C. operating system" but instead has "a black screen with white font which he uses prompt commands on."

"The police used inapplicable criminal laws as a basis for a fishing expedition to determine the author of an anonymous email," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Matt Zimmerman. "Now, this student has been suspended from his job, and he is without a laptop and other devices he needs to do his schoolwork. His private communications and papers are in the hands of police who are searching for evidence without just cause. Even his cell phone and iPod were taken, clearly an overreach if the goal is tracking the source of an email."

The motion to quash the search warrant was filed with assistance from Fish & Richardson attorneys Adam Kessel, Lawrence Kolodney, and Tom Brown. No court date has been set yet to hear the motion.

For the full motion for emergency relief:
http://www.eff.org/files/filenode/inresearchBC/CalixteMotEmergencyRelief.pdf

For more on this case:
http://www.eff.org/cases/re-matter-search-warrant-boston-college

Contact:

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

Related Issues:
April 6, 2009

Says Court Must Dismiss Jewel v. NSA to Protect 'State Secrets'

San Francisco - The Obama administration formally adopted the Bush administration's position that the courts cannot judge the legality of the National Security Agency's (NSA's) warrantless wiretapping program, filing a motion to dismiss Jewel v. NSA late Friday.

In Jewel v. NSA, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is challenging the agency's dragnet surveillance of millions of ordinary Americans. The Obama Justice Department claims in its motion that litigation over the wiretapping program would require the government to disclose privileged "state secrets." These are essentially the same arguments made by the Bush administration three years ago in Hepting v. AT&T, EFF's lawsuit against one of the telecom giants complicit in the NSA spying.

"President Obama promised the American people a new era of transparency, accountability, and respect for civil liberties," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Kevin Bankston. "But with the Obama Justice Department continuing the Bush administration's cover-up of the National Security Agency's dragnet surveillance of millions of Americans, and insisting that the much-publicized warrantless wiretapping program is still a 'secret' that cannot be reviewed by the courts, it feels like deja vu all over again."

For the full motion to dismiss:
http://www.eff.org/files/filenode/jewel/jewelmtdobama.pdf

For more on Jewel v. NSA:
http://www.eff.org/cases/jewel

Contacts:

Kevin Bankston
Senior Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation
bankston@eff.org

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

Rebecca Jeschke
Media Relations Director
Electronic Frontier Foundation
press@eff.org

Related Issues:
April 2, 2009

EFF and Others Call for New Offices to Promote Innovation

Washington, D.C. - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has joined a broad coalition of public interest groups and trade associations calling for President Obama to diversify future appointments to intellectual property policy positions and create new offices devoted to promoting innovation and free expression.

In all, 19 organizations signed the letter to the president, spearheaded by Washington D.C.-based non-profit Public Knowledge. The coalition includes the Consumer Electronics Association, the American Library Association, and the Wikimedia Foundation.

Several of the president's recent appointees to positions that oversee intellectual property policy have represented the recording industry or other industries that support overly broad IP protection. But many positions with IP policy responsibilities have not yet been filled. In the letter sent today, the coalition urges the administration to appoint individuals representing the diversity of stakeholders involved in IP issues.

"Innovators, artists, and the increasingly participatory public are all deeply invested in the future of America's intellectual property policy," said EFF Senior Intellectual Property Attorney Fred von Lohmann. "For example, thousands of remix videos are posted to YouTube every day, and they are already an important part of political debate and artistic expression in the 21st century. America needs policymakers who will protect new tools and new artistic works."

The coalition also calls on the president to create new positions at the Patent and Trademark Office, the United States Trade Representative, and the Department of State dedicated to promoting innovation and advancing the cause of progress in sciences and the useful arts.

"While the content industry plays a significant role in our economy, so too do the creators of technology and their force of innovation," said Gigi B. Sohn, president and co-founder of Public Knowledge. "And while we recognize the rights of corporate content creators, we might also recognize the rights of consumers lawfully to create their own works and to use their own digital media. It's that balance the Administration needs to recognize."

For the full letter to President Obama:
http://www.eff.org/files/filenode/obamaIPcoalitionletter.pdf

Contact:

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

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