EFF in the News
David Sobel, senior counsel for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a privacy advocacy group, said the government has successfully used existing FOIA exemptions to deny requests for watch-list records. He cited a court case last fall brought by the EFF in which the government, in keeping with it policy, refused to confirm or deny whether a European Parliament member's name was on the terrorist watch list. The government claimed in part an exemption that bars disclosure of law enforcement information on "techniques and procedures" for investigations. The EFF, concluding that the government would win, withdrew the case.
Google rebuffed the EFF's requests for a policy more than a month ago.
One imagines, then, the EFF would turn a critical eye toward the policy and it sure has; it is so dissatisfied it is filing a rejection to the settlement in time for the New York district court's Sept. 8 deadline to hear support and opposition before the court's Oct. 7 hearing.
Some critics of the settlement say that despite its flaws, they would prefer to find a way to make the scanning effort work rather than scratch the whole effort. For example, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a civil liberties group, is raising objections to the settlement. But EFF attorney Cindy Cohn thinks the public is better off having something than nothing.
Cohn grew up in a small town and remembers feeling limited by the size of her local library: "Google's creating a digital library that's going to create tremendously more access to the world's books than we'll have if we sit around and wait for 10 years for something better," she says.
It’s the first united push by the group, which includes the Center for Digital Democracy, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and Consumers Union, against the Internet industry’s opposition to any legislation to limit ad targeting.
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.