EFF in the News
Jamie Williams, a lawyer at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, says people no longer live in the world in which CFAA was written.
“It didn’t even envision the type of world we live in today, where we use other people’s computers all the time,” Williams said. “Every time I check my e-mail, I’m logging into Gmail’s computer. Every time I log onto Facebook, I’m logging into Facebook’s computer. We live in this very connected world, and the CFAA is so vague.”
“If you make it illegal for bots to access websites, you’ve given existing search engines a monopoly,” EFF staff attorney Nate Cardozo told TechCrunch. “Google and Bing got started by crawling the entire web. That’s essentially what LinkedIn is talking about here. To call scraping a CFAA violation is extremely anti-competitive. Using the CFAA to stifle innovation is certainly not what it was intended for.”
Corynne McSherry, legal director for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which advocates for digital rights, points out Azoff may be forgetting that things have gotten better in recent years: "I don't think copyright owners appreciate what they got. In 1997, if you wanted to get music taken offline, you had to go to court."
Gaines’ shooting and the way it played out on the ground and online is perhaps a unique incident, but as social media takes on a bigger role in how we communicate, it could be a harbinger of similarly complex situations. “We would encourage Facebook to have clear policies, have them be transparent, open to the public and implement them in a consistent fashion,” said Sophia Cope, a staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).
Digital rights advocates such as the EFF, would rather have social media companies impose their restrictions sparingly, particularly when they cooperate with law enforcement, in order to “respect the fact that people are using these platforms in situations that are very serious and potentially very dire,” Cope said.
While Cope acknowledged that Facebook wields significant power in a situation such as the Gaines’ shooting, she said that it’s better if the company is able act as a check on the government’s authority rather than an enabler. “From our perspective, we are concerned when the companies have no discretion because of the potential abuse by law enforcement,” she said.
The Secure Boot vulnerability only proves the point. “I don’t want to diminish any security concerns, but the bigger reason to talk about this is the symbolic issue,” says Jeremy Gillula of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “Trying to make a secure backdoor is a contradiction in terms.”
Lee Tien, senior staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said another problem with pay-for-privacy is that it relies heavily on the honor system.
“Even if you pay extra for privacy, you can’t know what they’re actually doing,” he said. “You can’t know if they’re still using your information for some kind of marketing purpose. It’s very difficult to know if you’re getting what you paid for.”
“I’m trying to understand cyberspace as a place,” he says. “I want to discourage people from making simplistic assumptions about this place where we can't even take our bodies.” One assumption that particularly rankles him is that law as we know it can regulate the electronic commonwealth, and the EFF is working to reconceive issues like copyright and intellectual property rights in electron land. “If there are no bodies,” he insists, “then identity, locale, and law all turn into new things. After all, legal structures develop like geology, while technology goes along fast.”
Cindy Cohn, executive director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, is a watcher and sometime critic of the FISA court. Her “big thesis,” she said, is that the court’s task is inappropriate for a secret court. After former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed the existence of surveillance programs, she said, Congress made some changes, including the establishment of amici to FISA court.
“I understand why law enforcement would like to have as much info on everyone as possible. But whether that’s consistent with the values of America is a different story,” says Dave Maass, an investigative researcher with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which advocates for civil-liberties protections in the digital world. “I think it is problematic when a law-enforcement agency collects evidence on everyone with the assumption that everyone may eventually be a criminal,” he says.
Stephanie Lacambra, criminal defense staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights group, said she did not want to speculate about the Gaines case without knowing all the facts.
"Generally speaking, social media platforms have the right to shut down accounts at their discretion," she said in a statement. "But they should do so sparingly and be as neutral and transparent as possible in how they make those decisions."