EFF in the News
The Electronic Frontier Foundation sustained a notable blow in one of its oldest ongoing surveillance-related lawsuits—its motion for partial summary judgment was denied on Tuesday, while a counter motion filed by the National Security Agency was granted.
"The Court is frustrated by the prospect of deciding the current motions without full public disclosure of the Court's analysis and reasoning...," White wrote in his ruling. "The Court is persuaded that its decision is correct both legally and factually and furthermore is required by the interests of national security."
The judge did not dismiss all of the claims in the suit, said Nate Cardozo, a staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which brought the suit in 2008.
Still, he said the judge's ruling was disappointing.
"What we want is a court to rule on the merits of the NSA's program," he said. "Is what they are doing legal? Is it constitutional? The court didn't do that. It didn't say 'yes' or 'no.'
The foundation plans to continue fighting the case, Cardozo said.
Cardozo said other pending lawsuits are challenging the government's collection of telephone metadata such as the duration of a call and to whom it was placed.
The court could not rule whether the NSA's collection of Internet and phone content under a program known as Upstream violates the Fourth Amendment's protection from unreasonable search and seizures due to a need to protect "state secret information," Judge Jeffrey White ruled in a 10-page decision. Moreover, the arguments against the NSA's program raised by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital-rights group, aren't factually correct, White, a George W. Bush appointee, said.
For the time being, privacy advocates are not focusing on fighting for federal legislation. "For activists, it's generally easier to do things at the local and state level," says Nadia Kayyali of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a privacy and free speech advocacy organization. "Any fight at the local level is more likely to see results, but also does take a much more significant investment in time."
Wheeler "will forbear from imposing many of the provisions in Title II that were developed for telephone service,” said Corynne McSherry, intellectual property director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. "Most of those rules just don’t make sense when we’re talking about Internet infrastructure. Forbearance is how we help ensure the FCC does what is necessary — and no more.”
"A lot of the transparency reports don't really matter at all, because both Twitter and Facebook are perfectly willing to take phone calls from government officials who are looking for content that are against their terms and services," Jillian York, director for international freedom of expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told me. "If we're talking about a terms of service violation, there's no transparency at all. It's really insidious, obviously."
York has started a project to detail all takedowns, not just government-ordered ones.
Parker Higgings, an activist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, sent out a tweet, comparing the privacy statement to a passage from 1984:
This confirms the suspicious of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a major privacy advocate, that the data collection was mostly being used to improve the smart TVs’ voice feature.
But the organization would still prefer that Samsung say who it’s passing its customers’ conversations to, and whether it was doing so in an secure fashion.
It allows users to control the TV using a microphone. It appears the “third party” in question is probably the company that produces Samsung’s speech-to-text conversion, according to Corynne McSherry, the intellectual property director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. She told the Daily Beast: “If I were the customer, I might like to know who that third party was, and I’d definitely like to know whether my words were being transmitted in a secure form.”