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EFF Press Release Archives

Press Releases: October 2011

October 31, 2011

EFF to Honor Senator Ron Wyden, Technologist Ian Goldberg, and Blogging Collective Nawaat at San Francisco Ceremony

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is pleased to announce the winners of its 2011 Pioneer Awards: U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, encryption innovator Ian Goldberg, and Tunisian blogging collective Nawaat.

The award ceremony will be held on the evening of November 15 at the Children's Creativity Museum in San Francisco. Twitter co-founder Evan Williams will be the keynote speaker.

Few legislators have done more to promote and protect online speech, privacy rights and innovation than U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.). Most notably, he authored Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a law that helps make user-generated content and online services possible by protecting hosts from liability. Senator Wyden is currently the lone senator blocking passage of the PROTECT IP Act, legislation that attempts to safeguard intellectual property at the expense of free speech, technological innovation and the very foundation of the Internet. Most recently, Senator Wyden introduced legislation to create a legal framework for when and how location information derived from cell phones and other electronic devices can be accessed and used by both government agents and private entities.

Encryption innovator Ian Goldberg is an Associate Professor of Computer Science at the University of Waterloo, where he is a founding member of the Cryptography, Security, and Privacy (CrySP) research group. Goldberg's research has helped expose design weaknesses in the encryption used to protect cell phone conversations and wifi networks, spurring improvements to these systems. Goldberg also co-invented the widely used Off-The-Record Messaging protocol, which makes secure instant messaging easy. Goldberg is a Senior Member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and a winner of both the Early Researcher Award and the Outstanding Young Computer Science Researcher Award.

Created in 2004, Nawaat.org is an independent, award-winning, collective community blog operated by four Tunisian bloggers. Nawaat means "the core" in Arabic, and Nawaat.org played a crucial role in covering the social and political unrest in Tunisia last winter, which ended in the toppling of Ben Ali's regime. Nawaat disseminated day-by-day user-generated news about the uprising and helped bridge the gap between international mainstream media and citizen journalists and activists by aggregating and contextualizing information spread through social media. Nawaat has won the Reporters Without Borders Netizen Prize and the Index on Censorship Award for its work before and during the Tunisian revolution.

"The Internet and other electronic communication tools are deeply woven into today's global community, playing key roles in activism, dissent, and revolution," said EFF Executive Director Shari Steele. "These Pioneer Award winners are all working to make sure that technology protects freedom instead of curtailing it, and we're so proud to honor them for their invaluable contributions."

Tickets to the Pioneer Awards are $75 for regular admission, or $65 for EFF members. They are available online at https://www.eff.org/awards/pioneer along with more information about a special VIP event featuring the Pioneer Award winners and keynoter Evan Williams, an American entrepreneur who has co-founded several Internet companies, including Pyra Labs (creators of Blogger) and Twitter.

Awarded every year since 1992, EFF's Pioneer Awards recognize leaders who are extending freedom and innovation on the electronic frontier. Previous honorees include Tim Berners-Lee, Linus Torvalds, Amy Goodman, and Craigslist, among many others. Sponsors of this year's Pioneer Awards include Adobe, Facebook, JibJab, JunkEmailFilter, Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP, Palantir Technologies, and Sonic.net.

For more information about the Pioneer Awards and to buy tickets:
https://www.eff.org/awards/pioneer

Contact:

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

October 26, 2011

'Secret Interpretations' Raise Questions from Lawmakers, Public

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) sued the Department of Justice (DOJ) today for answers about "secret interpretations" of the USA PATRIOT Act, signed into law ten years ago today.

Several senators have warned that the DOJ is using Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act to support what government attorneys call a "sensitive collection program" that may be targeting large numbers of Americans. Section 215 allows for secret court orders to obtain "tangible things" when the FBI certifies they are relevant to a government investigation. The list of possible "tangible things" the government can obtain is seemingly limitless, and could include everything from driver's license records to Internet browsing patterns. Section 215 also limits the court's discretion to deny the order and prevents the recipient of an order from disclosing its existence.

Before the PATRIOT Act became law, the government could only obtain Section 215 orders for limited types of records and for suspects the government could demonstrate were agents of a foreign government. But the PATRIOT Act expanded the section's scope, increasing both the government's surveillance powers and the threat to citizens' civil liberties.

"In the last few months, senators have taken to the floor of Congress to warn that Americans would be stunned and angry about the government's interpretation of Section 215," said EFF Open Government Legal Fellow Mark Rumold. "The only way to ensure accountability is if citizens understand how the government is interpreting this section. The public deserves answers."

EFF's lawsuit comes after the DOJ failed to respond to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request on the interpretation and use of Section 215. The suit demands records describing the types of "tangible things" that have been collected so far, the legal basis for the "sensitive collection program," and information on the how many people have been affected by Section 215 orders.

"Senators have said publicly that the Justice Department is misleading the American people about the use of the PATRIOT Act, but the DOJ continues to hide this information from public scrutiny," said Staff Attorney Jennifer Lynch. "The government should follow the law and release this critically important information."

Separately, in New York today, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a similar FOIA lawsuit against the Department of Justice also seeking the release of records related to Section 215.

For the full complaint:
https://www.eff.org/document/complaint-3

Contacts:

Mark Rumold
   Open Government Legal Fellow
   Electronic Frontier Foundation
   mark@eff.org

Jennifer Lynch
   Staff Attorney
   Electronic Frontier Foundation
   jlynch@eff.org

October 14, 2011

Sens. Wyden and Kirk Join EFF for Press Conference and ‘Retro Tech’ Fair

Washington, D.C. - On Oct. 18 at 11 a.m., Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) will jointly call for updating U.S. privacy law to keep pace with 21st Century technology.

The press conference comes the same week as the 25th anniversary of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), the main federal law setting standards for government surveillance of digital technologies. ECPA – signed at a time when mobile phones were the size of bricks and the World Wide Web didn't even exist – is woefully outdated, putting Americans' privacy at risk as technology continues to advance.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is co-sponsoring the press conference along with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Americans for Tax Reform, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the Center for Democracy & Technology, the Constitution Project, and TechFreedom. Representatives of each organization, including EFF Senior Staff Attorney Kevin Bankston, will be on hand to answer questions.

Tuesday's conference will also include a "Retro Tech Fair," featuring various "high tech" devices from the 1980s. The display – including what was then state-of-the-art cell phones, desktop computers, and other gadgets – will spotlight just how far technology has advanced since ECPA was originally passed.

WHAT:
Media Conference and Tech Fair

WHEN:
Tuesday, Oct. 18
10 a.m. - Tech Fair begins
11 a.m. - Media Conference begins

WHERE:
U.S. Capitol Congressional Visitors Center
Room SVC 209
Washington, D.C.

MEMBERS OF THE PRESS: Please check in at the Senate Appointment Desk and be prepared to show your Congressional ID. If you do not have a Congressional ID, please contact Mark Stanley (mark@cdt.org) to get on the press list for this event.

Contacts:

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

Mark Stanley 
   Center for Democracy and Technology
   mark@cdt.org

October 3, 2011

EFF-Backed Bill Will Protect Californians' Reading Habits

Sacramento, CA - California Governor Jerry Brown has signed the Reader Privacy Act, updating reader privacy law to cover new technologies like electronic books and online book services as well as local bookstores.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) were sponsors of the bill, authored by California State Senator Leland Yee. It had support from Google, TechNet and the Consumer Federation of California, along with the Internet Archive, City Lights Bookstore, and award-winning authors Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman. The Reader Privacy Act will become law on January 1, and will establish privacy protections for book purchases similar to long-established privacy laws for library records.

"This is great news for Californians, updating their privacy for the 21st Century," said EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn. "The Reader Privacy Act will help Californians protect their personal information whether they use new digital book services or their corner bookstore."

Reading choices reveal intimate facts about our lives, from our political and religious beliefs to our health concerns. Digital books and book services can paint an even more detailed picture -- including books browsed but not read, particular pages viewed, how long spent on each page, and any electronic notes made by the reader. Without strong privacy protections like the ones in the Reader Privacy Act, reading records can be too easily targeted by government scrutiny as well as exposed in legal proceedings like divorce cases and custody battles.

"California should be a leader in ensuring that upgraded technology does not mean downgraded privacy," said Valerie Small Navarro, Legislative Advocate with the ACLU's California affiliates. "We should be able to read about anything from politics, to religion, to health without worrying that the government might be looking over our shoulder."

"California law was completely inadequate when it came to protecting one's privacy for book purchases, especially for online shopping and electronic books," said Yee. "Individuals should be free to buy books without fear of government intrusion and witch hunts. If law enforcement has reason to suspect wrongdoing, they should obtain a court order for such information."

Contacts:

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

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

October 3, 2011

Coalition Urges Supreme Court to Block Government Abuse of Surveillance Technology

Washington, D.C. - The principal inventor of the Global Positioning System (GPS) and other leading technologists have joined the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) in urging the U.S Supreme Court to block the government from using GPS tracking without first getting a warrant, arguing that the massive collection of sensitive location data should require court oversight.

Roger L. Easton is considered the father of GPS as the principal inventor and developer of the Timation Satellite Navigation System at the Naval Research Laboratory. The current GPS is based on Timation, and its principles of operation are fundamentally identical. In an amicus brief filed with the Supreme Court Monday in United States v. Jones, EFF, Mr. Easton, along with other technology experts, pointed out the many ways in which GPS tracking is fundamentally different from and more invasive than other surveillance technologies the court has allowed before, and how law enforcement use of GPS without a warrant violates Americans' reasonable expectations of privacy.

"This is the first case where the Supreme Court will consider automatic, persistent, passive location tracking by law enforcement," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Marcia Hofmann. "The government can use location information over time to learn where you go to church, what sort of doctors you go to, what meetings and activities you participate in, and much more. Police should not have blanket permission to install GPS devices and collect detailed information about people's movements over time without court review."

In Jones, FBI agents planted a GPS device on a car while it was on private property. Agents then used the GPS to track the position of the vehicle every ten seconds for a full month without obtaining a search warrant. An appeals court ruled that the surveillance was unconstitutional without a warrant, but the government appealed the decision.

"If police are allowed to plant GPS devices wherever they please, that's essentially blanket permission for widespread, ongoing police surveillance without any court supervision," said EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn. "It's not hard to see how that kind of leeway would be abused. We hope the Supreme Court takes a close look at how this technology works and act to protect the Fourth Amendment rights of Americans."

The brief was authored by Andrew Pincus of Mayer Brown LLP and The Yale Law School Supreme Court Clinic. It was also signed by the Center for Democracy and Technology, Professor Matt Blaze of the University of Pennsylvania, Professor Andrew J. Blumberg of the University of Texas at Austin, and Professor Norman M. Sadeh of Carnegie Mellon University.

For the full amicus brief in U.S. v. Jones:
https://www.eff.org/files/filenode/US_v_Jones/10-1259bsac_eff_cdt_amicus.pdf

For more on this case:
https://www.eff.org/cases/us-v-maynard

Contacts:

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

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

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