EFF in the News
A recent move by Congress to strip the Federal Communications Commission of the power to protect Internet privacy has provoked outrage among some, and state legislatures may try to weigh in. Ernesto Falcon is legislative council for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which is one of the groups that fought to keep the stricter federal privacy rules. "I think in the long term this is something that either the federal judiciary or Congress will have to resolve."
As Trump surveys the surveillance system at his disposal, he should know that there are at least 471 of the location-spying devices in the U.S. today, according to an exclusive Vocativ survey of known police and other official documents. “The big concern with stingrays is we still don’t know exactly how they’re used and where they’re used,” Jennifer Lynch, an attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation who specializes in privacy and civil liberties, told Vocativ.
Issa and other Republicans are under fire from pro-digital privacy organizations after they voted for a bill that lets internet service providers continue to sell or give away information on the web sites that their customers visit – though ISPs don’t typically have access to information about what their customers do on these websites – such as purchases they make. Some of those groups had long lauded Issa for his stands. "We're disappointed that Rep. Issa voted to weaken privacy protections,” said Ernesto Falcon, legislative counsel for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights organization.
Mass arrests that sweep up journalists — enabling police and prosecutors to collect electronic evidence they might not otherwise have access to — threatens the independence of the press, said Stephanie Lacambra, a staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The EFF has been working with Jan. 20 arrestees to get their phones back. “If you’re made to turn over your phone to law enforcement, they can unmask anonymous sources, they may impede on the relationship you have with some of your sources,” Lacambra said. “It will chill people’s willingness to come forward.”
The US government has backed down from its attempt to unmask an anonymous Twitter account that criticized the Trump administration, a victory for free speech advocates. Jamie Lee Williams, a staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said: “The fact that they withdrew the summons doesn’t necessarily show that the new administration recognizes the importance of [anonymous] speech. “I think they just recognized that they were going to lose.”
Ernesto Falcon, who serves as legislative counsel at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an advocacy organization for digital rights and civil liberties, said the suggestion that this move would be good for consumers is “laughable.”
“Do you think most consumers trust their cable company to have their best interest in mind?” Falcon said. “I think it fits very closely with the mindset that there should be no consumer protection.”
Twitter dropped its legal fight with the federal government Friday after U.S. Customs and Border Protection reversed course and withdrew a summons seeking to unmask the users of an account critical of the Trump administration. "Once there’s push back and legal rights are asserted, then those things typically go away. The surprise with this one was that the government even let it get as far as it did,” said David Greene, a lawyer and civil liberties director for the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
Although authorities retreated, the case has laid bare the broad power of the U.S. government to demand information from technology companies, sometimes with no oversight from the courts and often with built-in secrecy provisions that prevent the public from knowing what the government is seeking. "It's important to keep in mind how formidable the government's range of investigatory powers is," said Andrew Crocker, a staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which advocates for digital rights.
Hawaii and Minnesota are exploring proposals, and California is expected to as well, said Falcon, legislative counsel for the San Francisco-based civil-liberties organization. The Montana Senate voted on Monday to approve its own language seeking to strengthen privacy protections, and Illinois is looking at the issue. “These are all cropping up very quickly,” Falcon said.
The US government sought to unmask the identity of an anonymous Twitter account criticizing its policies, according to a lawsuit filed by the social media platform Thursday. “The government must not be able to use its formidable investigatory powers to intimidate and silence its critics,” said staff attorney Andrew Crocker in a statement.