EFF in the News
The whole thing is financed by advertising. Each kiosk's twin 55-inch displays will carry targeted ads based on an audience profile algorithmically derived from the information the kiosks collect from their users. But as the old internet saw goes: If you're not paying for the product, you are the product. And that should give New Yorkers pause, says Lee Tien, a lawyer with the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
"If CityBridge is using a business model that is not charging, and they are spending a bunch of money putting these things in, they are going to be monetizing the data hard," Tien says. "That means that they are always thinking about how to collect your data and how to profit off of it."
Lee Tien, senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, was on the technical advisory committee that led to the pay-by-mile pilot program. His victory was ensuring volunteers could "pay" without being tracked.
"You can do odometer readings," he says. "We wouldn't object to that. There are ways you can design the system to collect money from people without invading privacy."
Asked if there is a way that the state could do GPS tracking with the promise that data would otherwise be kept private, Tien responds: "The problem is if an entity would do that and make that promise, the FBI and courts could also order them to preserve that data or hand it over as soon as they get it. Giving it to the government and trusting them doesn't work."
Some legal experts in the complex area of internet law agreed that Airbnb and other platforms are viewed as intermediaries, not the creators of the content, and they have protections under this law. David Greene, a senior staff attorney and civil liberties director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which calls the CDA the most important law created to protect internet speech, said Airbnb has a good argument here.
“The San Francisco law is going to require that if anyone has a post on Airbnb, they include their license number, to the extent that Airbnb is being held liable because of some defect in the content,” he said.
"Putting the onus on the companies to act as censors is wrong; corporations do not have users' best interests or right to free expression at heart, and lack the expertise to make good decisions about who is or isn't a terrorist," Jillian York, director for international freedom of expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said in an email to The Verge. "This becomes particularly problematic at Facebook's size; Facebook has more users than any country in the world has citizens."
"The underlying motivation behind this kind of development is definitely alarming," said Parker Higgins, a spokesperson for the digital advocacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation. Higgins said that governments at the local, state, and national levels have all advocated to be able to remotely control phones before. "We've seen it before when police in Ferguson called a no-fly zone to keep media from capturing aerial shots, or when authorities in the Bay Area or Egypt shut down cell service during protests. There's no good reason to trust the government to control criticism of its own behavior," he said.
Updated rules adopted by the United States Supreme Court could change the way in which the government can obtain search warrants to access computer systems and electronically stored information of suspected computer criminals. In most circumstances, final approval of the rules is a mere formality. But this time, PayPal, Google, the American Civil Liberties Union, Electronic Frontier Foundation, and even a United States Senator are attempting to block one of the new rules from moving ahead.
“It’s very disturbing when someone proposes technology that would take the power out of the owner or user and hand it to a third party,” Danny O’Brien of the Electronic Frontier Foundation said.
O’Brien worries the new technology could be easily corrupted.
“Where something that was designed to stop you from filming concerts can be turned around to stop you from filming police violence,” O’Brien said.
Last week, PayPal and Google joined the American Civil Liberties Union and Electronic Frontier Foundation, among other organizations, in formally opposing the measure, arguing it will greatly increase the potential for abuse.
The changes, the group said in a letter to lawmakers, “give federal magistrate judges across the United States new authority to issue warrants for hacking and surveillance in cases where a computer’s location is unknown.”
He cites a case where entertainment conglomerate Universal pushed YouTube to take down a video a mother posted of her baby dancing to Let’s Go Crazy by Prince (RIP). Doctorow is proud that the Electronic Frontier Foundation helped win an appeals-court victory in the case. “It’s one thing when an entertainment company is negotiating with Harry Potter’s publisher for the right to do a Harry Potter ride at a theme park. (2) It’s another when there’s some teen in her basement in Calgary, writing and posting Harry Potter fan-fic.”
"I think it's lost on most people how much of their activity online is tracked and cataloged and can be made available on a day-to-day basis," said Mark Rumold, senior staff attorney at the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation. "Information disclosed to Google can be as diverse as the thoughts that are in your mind."