Press Releases: December 2016
President-Elect Threatens Free and Open Internet
San Francisco - In a full-page advertisement in Wired magazine, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has a warning for the technology community: “Your threat model just changed.”
EFF’s open letter calls on technologists to secure computer networks against overreaches by the upcoming Trump administration and to protect a free, secure, and open Internet. The January issue of Wired with EFF’s open letter on page 63 hit newsstands today.
“Our goal is to rally everyone who makes digital tools and services to this important cause: protect your technology and networks from censorship and government surveillance,” said EFF Activism Director Rainey Reitman. “The Internet was created to connect and empower people around the world. We cannot let it be conscripted into a tool of oppression. But if we are going to protect the Internet, we need a lot of help. Wired has been looking to the technological future for over two decades, and its readers have the skills we need.”
EFF’s open letter outlines four major ways the technology community can help: using encryption for every user transaction; practicing routine deletion of data logs; revealing publicly any government request to improperly monitor users or censor speech; and joining the fight for user rights in court, in Congress, and beyond.
“EFF has fought for the rights of creators and users since 1990—through four presidential administrations,” said EFF Executive Director Cindy Cohn. “We’ve battled privacy invasions, censorship attempts, and power grabs from Democrats and Republicans alike. Now, President-Elect Trump has promised to increase surveillance, undermine security, and suppress the freedom of the press. But he needs your servers to do this. Join us in securing civil liberties in the digital world, before it’s too late.”
For the full ad in Wired:
For more on how the tech community can defend users:
Privacy Badger 2.0 Blocks Hidden Trackers from Following You Around the Web
San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) today released Privacy Badger 2.0—a free browser extension for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera with new upgrades to help protect shoppers from online tracking.
“If you or your family does holiday shopping on the Internet, it’s likely that advertisers and other data collectors are learning a lot about you and the things you are interested in buying,” said EFF Staff Technologist Cooper Quintin, lead developer of Privacy Badger. “Privacy Badger 2.0 gives you more control over this data collection, spotting many of the sneaky trackers that follow you without your knowledge, and blocking them from transmitting information about you.”
Online trackers are embedded in images, scripts, or advertising on many webpages. Just visiting a page with a tracker can allow it collect a record of the page you are visiting and merge it with a database of what you visited before and after. One of the results of this tracking are the ads that seem to follow you around the web, reflecting your past browsing history. If Privacy Badger spots a tracker following you without your permission, it blocks all content from the tracker or screens out the tracking scripts or cookies.
Hundreds of thousands of users have already installed earlier releases of Privacy Badger. The new version allows you to import and export your data and preferences across browsers, allows for incognito mode, and has an improved experience with many more websites, along with many other upgrades.
“Neither you nor your loved ones should have to sacrifice your privacy to data miners in order to use the Internet,” said Quintin. “Installing Privacy Badger on your family’s computers is a practical and effective way to fight abuses in the online advertising industry, and make your family’s online experience safer and more secure.”
Privacy Badger works in tandem with the Do Not Track (DNT) policy. Users set the DNT flag in their browser settings or by installing Privacy Badger. Privacy Badger won’t block ads or third-party services that promise to honor all DNT requests.
For your free download of Privacy Badger:
Tuesday Hearing in Case With Potentially Significant Implications for Free Speech
Ottawa, Ontario—On Tuesday, Dec. 6, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) will tell Canada’s highest court that an overbroad court order that censors Google search results for users everywhere violates our rights to freely search the web without government interference.
The court is hearing arguments in Google v. Equustek, a trade secret case in which a British Columbia court issued an order forcing Google to block certain websites from its search results around the world, setting a dangerous precedent for online free expression. Equustek Solutions sued a group of defendants for allegedly misappropriating designs for its routers and selling counterfeit routers online. While Google isn’t a party to the case and had done nothing wrong, Equustek obtained a court order telling the search engine company it must delete search results that directed users to the defendants’ websites, not just in Canada but from all other local domains such Google.com and Google.go.uk. EFF filed a brief in the case siding with Google.
EFF's Canadian counsel, David Wotherspoon of MacPherson Leslie & Tyerman and Daniel Byma of Fasken Martineau DuMoulin, will urge the court to recognize that the order, which puts the private commercial interests of one company ahead of the interests of Internet users worldwide, improperly dismissed free expression concerns. The order issued by the British Columbia court failed to consider international free expression principles, and in particular, how the order would likely run afoul of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and well-established U.S. Internet policy.
Hearing in Google v. Equustek
EFF Canadian Counsel David Wotherspoon of MacPherson Leslie & Tyerman and Daniel Byma of Fasken Martineau DuMoulin
Tuesday, Dec. 6, 9:30 am
Supreme Court of Canada
301 Wellington Street
Ottawa, Ontario K1A OJ1
Potentially Thousands of Communication Providers Received Bad Instructions for Fighting Secrecy Provisions
The Internet Archive published a formerly secret national security letter (NSL) today that includes misinformation about how to contest the accompanying gag order that demanded total secrecy about the request. As a result of the Archive’s challenge to the letter, the FBI has agreed to send clarifications about the law to potentially thousands of communications providers who have received NSLs in the last year and a half.
The NSL issued to the Archive said the library had the right to “make an annual challenge to the nondisclosure requirement.” But in 2015, Congress updated the law to allow for more than one request a year, so that communications providers could speak out about their experience without unneeded delay. Represented by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the Archive informed the FBI that it did not have the information the agency was seeking and pointed out the legal error. The FBI agreed to drop the gag order in this case and allow the publication of the NSL.
“The free flow of information is at the heart of the Internet Archive’s work, but by using national security letters in conjunction with unconstitutional gag orders, the FBI is trying to keep us all in the dark,” said Brewster Kahle, founder and digital librarian of the Internet Archive. “Here, it’s even worse: that secrecy helped conceal that the FBI was giving all NSL recipients bad information about their rights. So we especially wanted to make this NSL public to give libraries and other institutions more information and help them protect their users from any improper FBI requests.”
The Archive received this NSL in August, more than a year after Congress changed the law to allow more gag order challenges. In its letter removing the gag order, the FBI acknowledged that it issued other NSLs that included the error, and stated that it will inform all recipients about the mistake. Given that the FBI has said that it issued about 13,000 NSLs last year, thousands of communications providers likely received the false information, and potentially delayed petitioning the court for the right to go public.
“The opaque NSL process—including the lack of oversight by a court—makes it very vulnerable to errors of law. Add to that the routine use of gags and enforced secrecy, and those errors become difficult to find and correct,” said EFF Staff Attorney Andrew Crocker. “We are grateful to the Internet Archive for standing up to the FBI and shining some light on this error. We hope that others who receive the correction will also step forward to have their gags lifted and shine more light on these unconstitutional data collection tools.”
This is the second NSL that the Internet Archive has published after battling with the FBI. In 2007, the Archive received an NSL that exceeded the FBI’s authority to issue demands to libraries. With help from EFF and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the FBI withdrew the letter and agreed to let the Archive go public in May of 2008.
But many gag orders are still in place. Yesterday, CREDO Mobile confirmed it was at the center of EFF's long-running fight against NSLs after a three-year-old gag order was finally revoked. Along with CREDO's case, EFF is litigating two other challenges to NSL gag orders on behalf of communications providers who are still gagged.
For the national security letter published by the Internet Archive:
For more on the fight against NSLs: