EFF in the News
Cell phones run a hidden operating system that is always turned on and sends pings to cell phone towers constantly, always searching for the closest or strongest signal. Cell towers keep a log of those pings. Since pings are being sent constantly between multiple towers, records allow law enforcement to triangulate a phone’s location based on the strength of the pings between towers. “So there are various different technical ways that a cell phone could be sending various messages over a short period of time, these sort of signaling messages, to multiple towers,” said Jeremy Gillula, senior staff technologist with Electronic Frontier Foundation. “That’s likely how they figured it out.”
Next year section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Service Act—under whose auspices the NSA collected bulk phone and Internet data from US companies—will be up for reauthorization. Section 702 is what allowed for PRISM, the earth-shaking surveillance program that was Snowden’s first big reveal. And that’s just one of several security crossroads facing the next administration. “The state of security hangs in the balance,” said Rainey Reitman, activism director at the digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation.
A federal district court judge on
Tuesday denied homesharing company Airbnb, Inc. its request for an
injunction against a San Francisco law aimed at protecting local rental
housing stock from being used as tourist lodging. Airbnb filed suit against the city to
get an injunction against the law, arguing among other things that it
curbed the company’s free speech under the first amendment and went
against the provisions of the Communications Decency Act that protect
web-based intermediaries from liability if users break the law. “We see this as an issue that is not
really about Airbnb, but this is about the strength of the federal law
that protects internet intermediaries from liability,” said the EFF’s
David Greene. “If intermediaries were responsible for how their sites
were used by other people, then there would be these great disincentives
to having these sites, and the structure of the internet as we
currently have it would not be sustainable.”
Is there such a thing as responsible spying on loved ones? The
answer depends on whom you ask. Strong believers in privacy reject the
premise of the question outright, while others believe it is possible if
consent, trust and respect are involved. Lee
Tien, a senior staff lawyer at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a
nonprofit focused on online rights, is among those who are skeptical
about digitally monitoring children. “It’s
really hard for me to imagine that a parent who had been trying to be
rational and understanding would do that,” said Mr. Tien, who has two
children in their 20s.
Equipped with high-tech cameras and radar, and capable of staying in the
air much longer than planes flown by humans, drones fill a critical
gap in border security, officials with Homeland Security say. The
drones are also used to assist state and local law enforcement agencies
for operations that may not be related to border security. “That’s a major concern — that the drones are loaned out to other agencies for nonborder purposes,” said Jeremy Gillula,
a senior staff technologist with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a
privacy group in San Francisco. “The technology makes it easier to
conduct surveillance on people when they don’t have probable cause.”
After a year in limbo, the Librarian of Congress moved last week to allow a number of exceptions to the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) that will clear the way for researchers to delve into the security of connected products, including smart vehicles and other products. "It’s good that the Copyright Office and the Librarian of Congress agree that security research is a good thing and that Section 1201 is getting in the way,” said Kitt Walsh, a staff attorney at The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), referring to the part of the DMCA that prohibits the circumventing of copyright protections like Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology.
The proposed merger of AT&T and Time Warner for $85 billion comes amid news that AT&T built a powerful phone surveillance tool for police, called Hemisphere. Every day AT&T adds four billion call records to Hemisphere. "We view this as a menace to our privacy," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Adam Schwartz.
A new rule takes taking effect today expanding protections for white hat hackers—security researchers who disclose the software vulnerabilities they uncover to manufacturers or to the public rather than exploiting them. The rule includes specific exemptions for hacking into cars and certain medical devices. It would not apply to industrial systems such as nuclear power plants and air traffic control systems. The shift is particularly important now when software is creeping into ever-more devices, said Kit Walsh, a staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation
The Electronic Frontier Foundation urged the U.S. Copyright Office today to protect the public’s right to research and repair everything from phones to refrigerators to tractors, to support the right of people with print disabilities to convert media into an accessible format, and to restore users’ rights to make fair and lawful uses of the software and media they buy.
Amnesty has awarded Facebook’s WhatsApp and Messenger apps the top spot in a new privacy ranking for messaging services. The human rights NGO gave the two services a combined score of 73/100, with Apple’s iMessage and Facetime, and Telegram coming in 2nd with 67. But it criticised Facebook for failing to set end-to-end encryption as the default option on Messenger and not highlighting the risks of less secure messaging. But crucially, Facebook can decrypt these message if it needs to – if, for example, the FBI comes knocking. In its report, Amnesty quotes the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s senior attorney Nate Cardozo: “The fact that it is not on by default means that Messenger can’t and shouldn’t be treated as a secure platform.