EFF in the News
Taking counter measures against such cyber attacks is problematic. Microsoft issued an emergency patch for its Internet Explorer browser this week that it said addressed a vulnerability exploited in the Google hack. The previous week, Google beefed up its own Gmail security by automatically encrypting its e-mail sessions. The Electronic Frontier Foundation said the move was a "significant step to safeguard user's privacy and security."
Cindy Cohn, the legal director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation that brought one of the cases, said the decision means “when you’re trying to stop the government from doing something illegal, and if the government does it to enough people, the courts can’t fix it.”
The Elecronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), whose lawyers brought the case in 2008, expressed deep disappointment.
"This ruling robs innocent telecom customers of their privacy rights without due process of law. Setting limits on Executive power is one of the most important elements of America's system of government, and judicial oversight is a critical part of that," said EFF legal director Cindy Cohn.
"It's important that these companies speak for themselves in these kinds of issues," said Danny O'Brien, international outreach co-ordinator for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a civil liberties group defending users rights in the digital world.
"I think too strong a position by the State Department makes US companies look like an extension of US foreign policy and that can put them in a very awkward position," said Mr O'Brien.
But Danny O'Brien, a digital civil liberties activist with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, argues that Microsoft might actually gain users by taking a more liberal approach and offering more information than Baidu. "At this point, it behooves Bing to become the least censored search engine in China," he says. "Maybe it's time it used its lack of obedience to what the Chinese authorities want as a selling point. Perhaps free speech is part of the brand of American companies abroad."
Nevertheless, there are a couple of things that trouble me about what Verizon is doing. I'm not a lawyer, but I don't believe it's true that broadband account holders are "legally responsible for all activity" on their lines. And neither does Fred von Lohmann, a senior staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation who's active on copyright issues.
"What they might mean to say is we, Verizon, are going to hold you responsible," von Lohmann said. But the courts have stopped well short of that, von Lohmann said. For example, he noted cases where judges have refused to hold account holders liable for infringements done by their children. In fact, in at least one case a judge ordered the RIAA to pay the attorney fees for a parent it tried to hold indirectly liable for an offspring's file-sharing.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation criticized how long the illegal phone-record requests were allowed to continue and how much prodding it took for the FBI to change its policies. The EFF has filed a lawsuit against the government and said that the violations revealed in the DOJ document have not been disclosed by the FBI during the course of the ongoing lawsuit.
Cindy Cohn, legal director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said looking for clues in the judge's background or actions thus far in the case is probably fruitless. Cohn remembers how Walker surprised the San Francisco civil liberties group by ruling several times in recent years against the Republican administration and lawyers from his old blue chip law firm in cases arising from the warrantless wiretapping program.
"If you are going to try to make assumptions based on how he's ruled in the past or the firm that he came from, you will be wrong," Cohn said. "He is his own guy."
On the opposite end of the spectrum, the EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) is urging individuals to join its petition to convince the FCC to remove language from the proposed net neutrality guidelines which provide a legal loophole for the entertainment industry to "hijack the Internet."
In its comments filed with the FCC, the EFF states "EFF is also concerned that content-based discrimination may be looming on the horizon. The entertainment industry, for example, has been pressing ISPs to implement network-based measures to address the problem of online copyright infringement.7 Experience suggests that these technologies are likely to be overbroad, ineffective, expensive, and impede innovation."
The U.S. Federal Communications Commission should avoid adopting strict net neutrality rules that would limit broadband providers' flexibly to "address" illegal online file sharing, the Recording Industry Association of America said in comments filed with the FCC on Thursday.
Internet service providers should have authority to block subscribers from sharing music and other files without permission of the copyright owner, the RIAA said. "ISPs are in a unique position to limit online theft," the RIAA said in its comments. "They control the facilities over which infringement takes place and are singularly positioned to address it at the source. Without ISP participation, it is extremely difficult to develop an effective prevention approach."
Other groups called on the FCC to stay out of the copyright enforcement business. If ISPs are required to check for copyright infringement, they could interfere with legal online activities, said six digital rights and business groups, including Public Knowledge, the Consumer Electronics Association and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
ISPs are "poorly placed to determine whether or not transfers of content are infringing or otherwise unlawful, a task generally reserved to attorneys, courts, and law enforcement," the groups said in a filing with the FCC. "In short, the issue raised by broadening the 'reasonable network management' exception to include copyright enforcement and the blocking of unlawful content is not whether ISPs may undertake these efforts, but rather whether they may inflict collateral damage on lawful traffic when they do so."