EFF in the News
This convenient arrangement paved the way for FBI agents to ultimately hand post-it notes with phone numbers to their telecom pals to find out if those accounts were worth investigating. It's the sort of stuff that makes privacy advocates shudder. And it's what Jennifer Lynch, staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, says we don't want to see repeated now that the FBI has created a new surveillance unit.
EFF filed a motion on Thursday seeking to intervene in the case on behalf of Internet Archive, a digital library that archives Web content.
Both Backpage and Internet Archive assert in their filings that they do not condone underage prostitution, but they argue that the law should not punish online service providers.
"At its core, this lawsuit is about the ability of the state of Washington to impose liability on online service providers for hosting and disseminating content created by third parties," the Internet Archive motion reads.
The law "will force, by threat of felony prosecution, websites and others to become the government's censors of users' content," Backpage alleges in its challenge.
Holding online service providers liable runs contrary to the immunity carved out in the federal Communications Decency Act, specifically in Section 230, both suits assert.
"The appropriate way to combat illegal speech online is to prosecute the people who are engaged in bad conduct," said Matt Zimmerman, a senior staff attorney at EFF.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation has filed a motion on behalf of the Internet Archive to intervene in the case of a Washington state law that is designed to combat online advertisements of underage sex workers, but that the tech law advocacy group says is fraught with problems and may be in conflict with federal law.
The law "is fraught with problems,” the organization wrote in a blog post on Friday.
“As written, the vaguely-worded statute–making it a felony to ‘directly or indirectly’ provide access to any material that might constitute an ‘explicit or implicit’ commercial offer for sex–could be read to apply not only to posters but to neutral entities that provide access to online information, including ISPs, Internet cafes, and libraries. This would result in a chilling effect as such entities begin feeling pressured to censor protected online speech in order to safely stay on the right side of the unclear law.”
Rainey Reitman, activism director for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, agrees with Harding.
EFF has objected strenuously to what it says is a lack of privacy protections in most of the pending proposals, and Reitman said she couldn't comment specifically on the Kyl-Whitehouse proposal, "because we haven't seen it."
"However, anytime the federal government is given the power to regulate technology, it creates the possibility that technology will outpace the government's ability to keep up," she said. "They have made efforts in the bill to address that concern, but it could be years before we really know whether they were successful."
This new map comes almost two months after the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) revealed another one, this time of public agencies – including police departments and universities – that have a permit issued by the Federal Aviation Agency to use UAVs in American airspace.
“It goes to show you how entrenched drones already are,” said Trevor Timm, an EFF activist, when asked about the new map. “It’s clear that the drone industry is expanding rapidly and this map is just another example of that. And if people are worried about military technology coming back and being sold in the US, this is just another example how drone technology is probably going to proliferate in the US very soon.”
“It’s really quite outrageous, frankly,” the 74-year-old President Jimmy Carter appointee said in a recent telephone interview. “I was thinking the government hadn’t learned to be discreet in its conduct in the digital world. This is a perfect example on how they are failing to apply traditional standards in the new context.”
A former State Department legal adviser, Sofaer has teamed up — free of charge — with the Electronic Frontier Foundation in urging a federal court to set up a system to allow Megaupload users to get back their legal content.
Rebecca Jeschke of the nonprofit Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco said such technologies could raise privacy questions, even if they also help match consumers with products they might want.
"The freedoms and protections in the physical world need to come with us into the digital world," said Jeschke, a digital rights analyst. "The future I don't want is one in which you can't use a new tool because you don't know what information they will share."
“So you might see students who share their textbooks might be on the hook for patent infringement and copyright infringement?” said Julie Samuels, a staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “That’s not good news.”
Not surprisingly, legal scholars are highly skeptical that this patent violates the spirit, if not the letter, of the existing balance in copyright law. Current law provides exceptions to the copying of copyrighted material, including fair use and the first-sale doctrine, legally allowing books to be resold a second time. In addition, it would effectively prevent libraries from holding copyrighted works for student use.
“What’s troubling is that as a society we should incentivize student learning and this patent does the opposite—that’s troubling,” Samuels added.
"When the government shut down Megaupload three months ago, it made it impossible for innocent third parties, like our client Kyle Goodwin, to access their data stored on that site," the EFF says. "Others—like service provider Carpathia—have also voiced legitimate complaints about their property getting caught up in the government’s dragnet. But the government has tried to wash its hands of all responsibility, insisting it doesn’t control the property anymore and that the court has no authority to intervene."
"They're definitely gathering information on everyone," said Rebecca Jeschke, a digital rights analyst with the Electronic Frontier Foundation. "It's a problem for the average person because the government is just sucking up data about your everyday life and we don't know what they are going to do with that."