EFF in the News
Advocates for free speech argue "anonymity is crucial to the free flow of information on the Internet and preservation of civil rights," according to Mike Cronin in the October 16, 2010 Pittsburgh Tribune Review article "Internet Anonymity at Risk as Real Costs of Free Speech Weighed." And some experts say eliminating anonymity on the Internet is technically impossible (Cronin).
Rebecca Jeschke, a spokeswoman for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, states in Cronin's article, anonymity is about free speech and privacy. Many people do not want the things they say online to affect their offline identities. They have concerns about political or economic retribution, harassment and even threats to their lives. "'Whistle-blowers need anonymity. So do human rights workers who struggle against repressive governments, and victims of domestic violence who want to hide from their abusers'" (qtd. in Cronin). Jeschke also states that parents may want anonymity for children so they can safely surf the Internet.
Newly available documents shed light on such questions. Digital rights advocates at the Electronic Frontier Foundation have been suing federal agencies for months under the Freedom of Information Act with help from the Samuelson Clinic at UC Berkeley’s School of Law. The goal was to force open policies that explain when social networking sites can be used for government surveillance, data collection and investigations.
Results made public so far by EFF are available below for more than a dozen sites in a chart built by the Center for Investigative Reporting. Old and new policies alike are posted next to the document year, so you can compare possible changes over time. EFF argues that the variety among them shows how “social networking sites have struggled to develop consistent, straightforward policies.”
If you want HTTPS everywhere, the Electronic Frontier Foundation's (EFF) aptly named HTTPS Everywhere is a Firefox extension to provide that functionality. They also recommend KB SSL Enforcer for Chrome users, but have found that it isn't implemented as securely (which could be a limitation of the Chrome extension framework).
The Justice Department hopes to force ISPs to archive personal user data usage for help facilitate future law enforcement investigations, which puts the fate of our Internet privacy up in the air. Kevin Pereira talks to EFF's Richard Esguerra about the upcoming hearing and the details.
One of those questioning is Kevin Bankston, the senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation—a group that was instrumental in persuading a New York court not to allow law enforcement to secretly trace cell phone user’s activities. Bankston is bleak about the future of American’s privacy rights.
“We don’t know what’s coming next,” he told us. “Because of the extensive secrecy surrounding law enforcement and intelligence investigation practices, every new revelation is just that: a revelation, and often a shocking one. ”
Not surprisingly, that doesn’t convince the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which says “A legal obligation to log users’ Internet use, paired with weak federal privacy laws that allow the government to easily obtain those records, would dangerously expand the government’s ability to surveil its citizens, damage privacy, and chill freedom of expression.”
People were systematically redirected to phishing sites, HTTPS connections were blocked, and password stealing code was injected into the login pages of major websites", he said.
Then, he added, after Tunisian bloggers began being arrested, the Electronic Frontier Foundation requested that Facebook, Google and Yahoo should help to keep Tunisian accounts secure.
Privacy advocates have complained for years about Web users having little control over being tracked and targeted. The largest ad networks are operated by Google, Adobe, Yahoo, Microsoft and AOL. "We have seen the industry try, and fail, to self-regulate in this arena," says Rainey Reitman, analyst at the Electronic Frontier Foundation
Lee Tien, senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation advocacy group, believes government agencies and corporations will find it difficult to resist tapping deeper into sensor data. "If there's money to be made or a mission to be accomplished by correlating this data, it's the height of skepticism to argue that it's never going to happen," he says.
In the hope of stopping ‘copyright trolls’ such as XPAYS, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed an amicus brief last week in which it asks an Illinois judge to quash subpoenas issued in pay-up-or-else lawsuits involving alleged illegal file-sharing of pornography.
“Copyright owners have a right to protect their works, but they can’t use shoddy and unfair tactics to do so,” said EFF Intellectual Property Director Corynne McSherry. “We’re asking the court to protect the rights of each and every defendant, instead of allowing these copyright trolls to game the system.”