EFF in the News
"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?"
Matt Zimmerman, senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which advocates for the rights of anonymous speech, said there are tools people can use to try to hide their footprints online. But none is 100 percent effective, he said.
That leaves some online writers who use pseudonyms in the stressful situation of not knowing if or when their real names will be revealed.
Matt Zimmerman, senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco, said of the Cohen case:
"The notion that you can use the court as your personal private investigator to out anonymous critics is a dangerous precedent to set. This doesn't change the rules ... but I think the practical impact is that litigious people will see this as a green light to try to out critics. It's one of those bad facts make bad law cases. The court looked at the type of statements being made and the person wasn't engaging in very defensive behavior and unfortunately that affected the court's outcome. ... What the court was reacting to was what was more sympathetic, which was the plaintiff."
The co-signers of the Aug. 1 request include representatives from OpenTheGovernment.org, Federation of American Scientists, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation, the ACLU of Northern California and the Consumer Watchdog advocacy group wrote to Google to ask the company to "assure Americans that Google will maintain the security and freedom that library patrons have long had: to read and learn about anything... without worrying that someone is looking over their shoulder or could retrace their steps".
Rather, organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (which “defend[s] your rights in the digital world”) led the charge. Joining them were the governors of various states in a nigh revolutionary stand-off with the feds.
FARIVAR: That’s just one problem. Peter Eckersley can think of others. He’s with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a tech advocacy group in San Francisco.
PETER ECKERSLEY: There’s a hugely complicated ethical problem about vigilantism as a response. Sure these researchers that you’ve mentioned in Germany may be genuinely well-intentioned and may genuinely have found a flaw in one particular botnet that they think they can use to shut the botnet down but who watches the vigilantes? How do we know that parties like that are actually making the situation better and even have the public’s interest at heart?
This attack is three times that size. Jennifer Granick of the Electronic Frontier Foundation says this is clearly a growing problem.
Ms. JENNIFER GRANICK (Electronic Frontier Foundation): And I think one of the causes of the problem is that companies have not being careful about creating these treasure troves of customer information.
There is another approach to digital security: “fingerprinting” the machines that make modern counterfeiting so tempting. The Electronic Frontier Foundation reports that US authorities have succeeded in getting some colour laser printer makers to digitally label each page their printers produce. The privacy concerns are obvious: these machines do not know if a document is a forged banknote or a love letter.
"You really want to think twice about going after a political commenter," said Corynne McSherry, a senior staff attorney at the EFF. In Time's case, "a news organization probably doesn't want to be in the situation of pursuing political criticism."