EFF in the News
“We don’t want to see the Internet become balkanized,” said Maira Sutton, a global policy analyst at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights advocate.
“But having these discussions decided in a trade agreement is exactly the wrong place to do it. There’s been no security researchers at the table, no public interest groups that have been following this for a long time," she added.
“Trade agreements are not the place to decide digital policy."
"Apple has almost an obsessive secrecy culture. They don't have a public policy blog. They have a much smaller presence in Washington than any other tech company their size. The culture of secrecy at Apple doesn't tend to these sorts of public reports," Nate Cardozo, staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told MacNewsWorld.
"I think this shows that transparency reports are now industry standard," he added. "If you want to be taken seriously as a tech company that respects its users, you do need a transparency report."
TPP CONCERNS FOR SECURITY RESEARCHERS — The Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement could put security researchers at risk of arrest by law enforcement or other criminal punishments because of language that defines what a “trade secret” is, the Electronic Frontier Foundation says. The treaty’s language — released officially Thursday — includes a section on trade secrets requiring participating nations to outline criminal penalties for anyone who commits “unauthorized and willful access to a trade secret held in a computer system.” The problem is that “trade secrets” is defined too broadly, EFF’s Jeremy Malcom told MC. The TPP “doesn’t require that it’s valuable, copyrightable, or patentable, anything like that,” he said. Rather, a “trade secret” just has to be a secret. That could lead foreign firms to slap trade secret qualifiers on anything that security researchers might nose through to find vulnerabilities in a bid to limit access, he said.
“With a probable cause search warrant it would be great if they could have access to a child molester’s text messages,” says Nate Cardozo, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation that advocates for secure privacy.
“The problem is … you can’t make a back door in a house that only law enforcement can enter. It’s just not possible.”
Electronic Frontier Foundation policy analyst Jeremy Malcolm agrees that this is a positive highlight in the TPP text, but argues that the net neutrality protections it offers are pretty weak. “It doesn’t cover blocking or filtering or anything else that we consider a part of net neutrality,” he says.
More broadly, he points to the myriad other ways the agreement disappoints the EFF and other digital rights groups. The data privacy section of the e-commerce chapter doesn’t go far enough to protect users, he says, and he worries that even the anti-spam section, which the group also supports, is too vague. And, of course, the intellectual property laws are largely what the the organization has long expected and critiqued.
According to Nadia Kayyali of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, this kind of chokehold coming from private companies and organizations, rather than from law enforcement or the courts, is a plain censorship issue—one that compares to the way credit card companies were pressured to block donations to WikiLeaks in 2010.
"What Visa and MasterCard have done with Backpage and in countless other instances, is a censorship that is sort of quasi-governmental, and that's what I would call this," said Kayyali told the Daily Dot. "I also think the important point about financial censorship, which sort of bleeds over into our work with sex workers, is that they're using this threat of one type of user [traffickers] and using it as a blanket cover for shutting down something they just don’t like."
But Nadia Kayyali, an activist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said that number doesn't tell the whole story.
"Facebook isn't counting all the people negatively affected by the policy," she said. The Electronic Frontier Foundation was among groups that asked Facebook to change its policy and enforcement because some groups it works with have been cut off from their communities. "People are unsafe," she said.
Technology companies could be compelled to assist in that process. Even if they cannot be ordered to provide an update that would compromise equipment, said Kurt Opsahl, deputy executive director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, they might be told not to issue an update that patches a security flaw being exploited by the government.
Digital right to repair advocates seek to similarly protect “your right to repair and tinker with your devices, whether it be a phone, a car, or any other device that has embedded software,” explains Corynne McSherry, legal director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco.
Unfortunately, she notes, manufacturers frequently try to use their copyright in the software to impose restrictions on consumers, either through license agreements or through the use of technical restrictions that, if circumvented, could subject the consumer to legal liability under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), the bête noire of the digital rights people.
Others looked more to innovations that eroded human health. Individuals voted to scrap cigarettes and heroin. Jillian York, of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, wants to annul “genetic testing for the masses.”