EFF in the News
After the intervention of FIRE and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, along with the support of eleven other civil liberties organizations, MSU withdrew the charges against Kara and promised to reform its spam policy. Unfortunately, the university has put in its place a new spam policy that is not much of an improvement.
Marcia Hofmann, a lawyer with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a ditigal civil rights advocacy group, said in an interview the new rules are an improvement. But they don't go far enough, she said.
She said travelers should be told if information is copied from their devices. The new directive states that federal agents must tell travelers if they are looking at their property. But if officials copy the hard drive during this search, the traveler will not know.
"I don't think that's the way to go," Hofmann said.
The privacy implications of sweeping changes implemented before the legal review is finished worry Lee Tien, a senior staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco. "As soon as you're saying that the federal government is going to be exercising this kind of power over private networks, it's going to be a really big issue," he says.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation sought the exemption, staff attorney Fred von Lohmann says, because it believes Apple is exploiting copyright laws to protect its business interests and those of its iPhone partner, AT&T. By deciding whether entrepreneurs like Arlo Gilbert get access to the iPhone platform, von Lohmann says, Apple can stymie innovation for reasons totally unconnected to copyright. He likens it to giving automakers the power to decide who can fix cars. "Sure, GM might tell us that for your own safety, all servicing should be done by an authorized GM dealer using only genuine GM parts," he says. "But we'd never accept this corporate paternalism as a justification for welding every car hood shut and imposing legal liability on car buffs tinkering in their garages."
In these and other cases, however, the White House is fighting outside groups like the ACLU, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which it can try to stonewall in the courts with relatively little press attention.
Privacy groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation have pushed Congress to stop border officers from searching laptops, cell phones and other electronic devices without probable cause when people enter or return to the country.
Today's lawsuit is not the first time the DHS has been pressed for more information on its policies relating to border laptop searches. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the Asian Law Caucus had filed a similar FOIA lawsuit in February 2008, in which they had sought similar data from the CBP.
In response to that lawsuit, the CBP released about 600 pages worth of information on its policies relating to border laptop searches, said Marcia Hoffman, an attorney for EFF. (The documents are available on EFF's site.)
"It gave us some insight into their policies and procedures around border searches," Hoffman said. What the documents showed was that until fairly recently DHS had not thought about how policies covering other forms of searches applied to digital information, she said. Following the EFF and Asian Law Caucus lawsuit, the CBP also published a formal note describing its policy regarding border searches.
The problem with the location-based services is that it affects a skittishness in people. Concepts like location-based services that send "bits of data back to Google" tend to make people nervous. Electronic Frontier Foundation has a great report on the intersection of location services and privacy.
EFF attorney Matt Zimmerman says the developer is targeting people "solely based on their critical speech and nothing else." He adds that the developer has no reason to think that any of the Web commenters are involved in the lawsuit. "This would be like going into the neighborhood that is affected by this development project and subpoenaing every resident because -- who knows? -- maybe the resident might have information relevant to their case," he says.
"As opposed to 20 years ago, everyone’s moving online the general discussion that they’d have had with their friends in the lunchroom," says Electronic Frontier Foundation senior staff attorney Matt Zimmerman. "Are we really saying that it’s the job of the courts to monitor these kinds of tit-for-tat, silly, pointless insults?"