Skip to main content

EFF Press Release Archives

Press Releases: August 2011

August 31, 2011

Lawyers Fight for the Future of Lawsuits Challenging Massive Spying Program

Seattle - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) urged the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals today to preserve lawsuits challenging the government's illegal mass surveillance of millions of ordinary Americans. In oral arguments today, EFF asked the court to block the government's attempt to bury the suits with claims of state secrecy and an unconstitutional "immunity" law for telecoms that participated in the spying.

Appearing before the court in Seattle, EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn and Senior Staff Attorney Kevin Bankston argued against the dismissal of EFF's two lawsuits, Hepting v. AT&T and Jewel v. NSA, along with the 32 other cases against various telecommunications carriers. At stake is whether the courts can judge the legality and constitutionality of the National Security Agency's (NSA's) bulk interception of Americans' phone calls and emails, accomplished through back-door access to AT&T's domestic telecom network and its databases of communications records.

"The scope and legality of the NSA program has been the subject of widespread reporting and debate for half a decade -- it is hardly a secret. And Congress long ago crafted balanced and comprehensive security procedures to govern courts' handling of secret evidence about electronic surveillance to ensure that the Judicial Branch is always able to watch over Executive Branch spying while preserving national security," said Bankston. "Yet the government still claims that any judicial scrutiny of the NSA program would disclose 'state secrets' and harm national security. It's time for these lawsuits to proceed and for the courts to be allowed to do their job and determine the legality of the NSA program."

EFF also argued that the FISA Amendments Act (FAA) -- the 2008 legislation aimed at getting telecoms participating in the NSA program off the hook for breaking the law -- violates the Constitutional separation of powers.

"The FAA effectively allows the President to grant favored companies a 'get out of jail free' card even though the law prohibits telecoms from violating their customers' privacy," said Cohn. "We can't allow the government to stack the deck against ordinary Americans. We need to protect against officials who overstep limits on their power."

More than five years ago, EFF filed Hepting v AT&T, the first lawsuit against a telecom aimed at stopping the government's dragnet domestic wiretapping. In 2008, when Congress passed legislation that threatened to end the Hepting case, EFF filed Jewel v. NSA -- a case directly against the government and government officials.

For more on NSA spying:
https://www.eff.org/issues/nsa-spying

Contact:

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

Related Issues:
August 4, 2011

Firefox Extension Defends Against Search Hijacking Schemes and Improves Web Security

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), in collaboration with the Tor Project, has launched an official 1.0 version of HTTPS Everywhere, a tool for the Firefox web browser that helps secure web browsing by encrypting connections to more than 1,000 websites.

HTTPS Everywhere was first released as a beta test version in June of 2010. Today's 1.0 version includes support for hundreds of additional websites, using carefully crafted rules to switch from HTTP to HTTPS. HTTPS protects against numerous Internet security and privacy problems, including the search hijacking on U.S. networks that was revealed by an article published today in New Scientist magazine. The article, entitled "US internet providers hijacking users' search queries," documents how a company called Paxfire has been intercepting and altering search traffic on a number of ISPs' networks. HTTPS can prevent such attacks.

"HTTPS secures web browsing by encrypting both requests from your browser to websites and the resulting pages that are displayed," said EFF Senior Staff Technologist Peter Eckersley. "Without HTTPS, your online reading habits and activities are vulnerable to eavesdropping, and your accounts are vulnerable to hijacking. Today's Paxfire revelations are a grand example of how things can go wrong. EFF created HTTPS Everywhere to make it easier for people to keep their user names, passwords, and browsing histories secure and private. With the revelation that companies like Paxfire are out there, intercepting millions of people's searches without their permission, this kind of protection is indispensable."

HTTPS Everywhere 1.0 encrypts connections to Google Image Search, Flickr, Netflix, Apple, and news sites like NPR and the Economist, as well as dozens of banks. HTTPS Everywhere also includes support for Google Search, Facebook, Twitter, Hotmail, Wikipedia, the New York Times, and hundreds of other popular websites.

However, many websites have not implemented HTTPS at all. On sites that are HTTP-only, users still have to live with lower levels of privacy and security.

"More websites should implement HTTPS to help protect their users from identity theft, viruses, and other security threats," said Senior Staff Technologist Seth Schoen. "Our Firefox extension is able to protect people using Google, DuckDuckGo or StartingPage for their searches. But we currently can't protect Bing and Yahoo users, because those search engines do not support HTTPS."

HTTPS Everywhere has been downloaded millions of times since last year's initial beta release.

To download HTTPS Everywhere for Firefox:
https://www.eff.org/https-everywhere

For more on implementing HTTPS in websites:
https://www.eff.org/pages/how-deploy-https-correctly

Contacts:

Peter Eckersley
Senior Staff Technologist
Electronic Frontier Foundation
pde@eff.org

Seth Schoen
Senior Staff Technologist
Electronic Frontier Foundation
seth@eff.org

Related Issues:
JavaScript license information