EFF in the News
Do Not Track, a standard Web browser setting intended to let consumers avoid sharing their browsing behavior with advertisers, has become a battleground.
Online publishers and advertisers often ignore it, and major browser makers switch it off by default. Nearly a quarter of people who use Web browsers have responded by installing software that simply blocks online ads, according to Forrester Research Inc.
Now the Electronic Frontier Foundation has called a truce. The privacy group Monday unveiled a code of conduct for online publishers. The EFF positions its proposal as a compromise that allows consumers to avoid tracking and publishers to gather ad revenue.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation, the non-profit dedicated to securing digital privacy and civil liberties, is trying to get the companies behind major web browsers to adopt a standard for their “Do Not Track” setting. The organization is allying with Disconnect, a San Francisco developer of user-friendly privacy tools, to form a coalition of internet companies that will set down harder rules for the oft-looked-over setting that seeks to give users power over data that’s tracked by advertising companies on most commercial websites.
Most Bay Area communities also have automated license scanners on officers’ cars or at fixed locations, and some have already cited the Los Angeles case as authority to withhold their records, said attorney Jennifer Lynch of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Her group and other civil liberties advocates asked the state high court to take the case.
Jennifer Lynch, a senior staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation who specializes in privacy issues, was surprised at the extent of the LA Sheriff’s Department’s use of facial recognition technology, particularly the mobile devices that deputies employ in the field.
To the San Francisco-based organization, the advent of mobile facial recognition presents the possibility for police to stop people merely to check their identification and document their biometric information for future reference.
“It pushes the line of what’s legal, whether it’s permissible to go up to someone and say, ‘I want to take your picture.’ That’s a different issue, a different standard of suspicion than a mug shot photo collected on booking, where there’s presumably probable cause for the arrest,” Lynch said.
“Face recognition data can be collected without a person’s knowledge,” said Jennifer Lynch, an attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco-based privacy rights group. “It’s very rare for a fingerprint to be collected without your knowledge.”
Last week, a U.S. District Court ruled that it should be able to get a compulsory license to legally stream local broadcasts. The ruling is under appeal, but should it be upheld it means that local TV stations can be streamed by any number of services, including Netflix, Amazon and Hulu, said Mitch Stoltz, senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. "It will destroy ... existing cable and satellite systems’ comfortable position as the only ones who can transmit broadcast TV for a fee," he said.
Activist Katitza Rodriguez of the Electronic Frontier Foundation said she had not seen "any legal provision anywhere that stripped geolocation data of constitutional communications privacy protections as explicitly" as the Peruvian decree.
It follows a global pattern of governments seeking to fast-track surveillance legislation without public debate, said Rodriguez, the foundation's international rights director.
“Just because governments around the world engage in spying doesn’t make it legal,” said Nate Cardozo, a staff attorney with the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation, which is representing Kidane. “And when spies get caught, there are consequences.”
Instead of tossing their project in the digital trash bin at Facebook's request, Gross and Croom, who have since taken jobs at Google and Twitter respectively, turned to the Electronic Frontier Foundation. EFF lawyer Daniel Nazer responded (PDF) to Facebook on Friday, telling the company that Gross and Croom are now his clients, and they have no intention of taking the site down.
In a blog post explaining the decision to help the undergraduate project, Nazer writes that it isn't clear if the Facebook letter is simply an example of "mindless over-enforcement" or an attempt to intentionally censor a critic. "Either way, this kind of demand undermines online expression," Nazer says.
For Jeremy Gillula of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the bill is a "well-intentioned" effort to prevent "nuisance by drone." Although the bill doesn't forbid your neighbor from spying on you, Gillula said, it does prohibit your neighbor — or anyone else with a drone — from disturbing your peace.