EFF in the News
The coalition, which included the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Consumers Union and Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, singled out behavioral advertising, in which Internet users are tracked, analyzed and served ads based on the information gleaned from their movements, in its recommendations.
Privacy advocates are rightly concerned. Corporations and the government can keep track of what political meetings people attend, what bars and clubs they go to, whose homes they visit. It is the fact that people’s locations are being recorded “pervasively, silently, and cheaply that we’re worried about,” the Electronic Frontier Foundation said in a recent report.
As the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Lee Tien told CNET: "The language has changed but it doesn't contain any real additional limits. It simply switches the more direct and obvious language they had originally to the more ambiguous." Tien adds that the bill contains no administrative or appeals process to limit what he describes as the "amorphous" powers granted to the president.
But California's law was designed to prosecute people who break into computers, not those engaged in workplace disputes, said Jennifer Granick, civil liberties director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. In Childs' case, his bosses asked him to hand over a password and he refused to do it, she said. "I don't think the California legislature contemplated that as a criminal action when they passed [the state's computer crime law]."
"This interpretation of the statute basically criminalizes certain types of commercial and employment disputes," she said.
That isn't enough for Cindy Cohn, a staff attorney at the online civil liberties group Electronic Frontier Foundation. She doesn't doubt Brin's sincerity. But, Cohen says, "Even if you believe that the Google of today would never, ever do the wrong, I don't think it's wise to assume that the Google of tomorrow will be the same."
Cohen says EFF wants Google to put in writing terms for privacy around its Google book searches.
"They have this argument that they haven't built the product yet, well that's fine. Your policy on disclosure doesn't turn on the product," says Cindy Cohn, chief attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a non-profit online rights group.
Today, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a group that defends citizens' rights on the Internet, is fighting the Bush administration-era warrantless wiretapping, seeking the release of FBI surveillance rules, and investigating the Google Book Search settlement, which threatens to strip away the privacy and anonymity of readers everywhere. These are the cases that Ms. Cohen's lawsuit should bring to the forefront. They illustrate how precious our privacy is, and why we should fight for it, while also underlining that we must keep in mind what's good for the people and the safety of all.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco digital-rights nonprofit group that includes a lot of "burners" among its members, accused Burning Man of "fast and easy online censorship." Burning Man's Andie Grace fired back that the foundation's hit was "a startling disappointment" coming from a fellow traveler counterculture group, as both organizations are Bay Area-bred and dedicated to free expression. Burning Man is just trying to protect privacy and counter "the creep of ... commercialist wolves," she insisted.
It's like a battle between two giant, fluffy, white do-good rabbits. But this is serious business.
Marcia Hofmann, staff attorney at the EFF, says the new directives appear to be largely the same as past policy, although they do provide welcome specificity about border search procedures. "For example, the July 2008 border search policy issued by CBP said that agents could detain devices or copies for a 'reasonable period of time to perform a thorough border search,' but it wasn't clear what a 'reasonable period of time' was," she explained in an e-mail. "The new directives specify actual time lines, which is a positive change."
Matt Zimmerman, senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco, has voiced many of these concerns himself, but he, too, doesn't see a valid legal argument for Port.
That said, he and other privacy advocates do worry about the legal precedent established, given the growing number of what are known as CyberSLAPP lawsuits. In such cases, targets of anonymous criticism file suits, often frivolous, just so they can issue a subpoena to a Web site or Internet service provider to uncover the identity of the authors and intimidate, embarrass or silence them. Cohen, in fact, has dropped her subsequent defamation suit, according to the New York Post.
"The notion that you can use the court as your personal private investigator to out anonymous critics is a dangerous precedent to set," Zimmerman said. "I think the practical impact (of the Cohen case) is that litigious people will see this as a green light to try to out critics."