EFF in the News
As more IoT-related cases begin to test the regulatory framework, “the main thing that connects them is they’re going to have internet connectivity of some sort,” said Lee Tien, senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “Regulating a Fitbit is very different from regulating an automobile or regulating an implantable medical device like a defibrillator.”
“This is easily the largest domestic use of hacking by law enforcement in U.S. history,” said Mark Rumold, a senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital freedom and legal services nonprofit in San Francisco. “The problem is that there just aren’t a lot of rules on how they go about it.”
“I will not be surprised at all if we wind up before the U.S. Supreme Court,” he said. Critics also accuse the FBI of committing crimes more serious than it was investigating — distribution of pornography versus receiving it — and say the operation flies in the face of the Justice Department’s pronouncement that a child is re-victimized every time a pornographic photo is viewed or distributed.
But Cooper Quintin, a security researcher and chief technologist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, doesn’t bother running an anti-virus program on his computer.
And Bruce Schneier? The prominent cryptography expert and chief technology officer of IBM-owned security company Resilient Systems, won’t even risk talking about what he does to secure his devices and data.
“The stuff I do, I consider my business,” Schneier said. “I’m kind of a target.”
Just by keeping your software up to date, "you will be far less vulnerable to attacks," said Cooper Quintin, staff technologist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights advocacy group.
It’s these trackers that result in “those annoying ads following you around and kind of creeping you out,” said Cooper Quintin, a staff technologist with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights group in San Francisco.
“It doesn’t take into account all the things people use the Internet for,” says Mitch Stolz, a staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “People use it for their jobs, to interact with government. The circumstances in which it’s reasonable to cut someone off are narrower now than 20 years ago.”
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.