EFF in the News
After the nearly two hours of arguments ended in court Wednesday, EFF lawyers said Obama had reneged on campaign promises by continuing to support the program. "It's not surprising; it is disappointing," said Kevin Bankston, an EFF attorney.
“What the government is arguing is that the president decides what is legal or not,” EFF legal director Cindy Cohn told Judge Walker at the end of the hearing.
“With both lawsuits, it’s the same underlying factual theory: The secret room on Folsom,” Cindy Cohn, the EFF’s legal director, said in a telephone interview. “If it was illegal for AT&T to hand this information over to the government, it was illegal for the government to get this information from AT&T,” Cohn added.
The fact that AHN agreed to acknowledge the hot news principle won't necessarily affect other cases, said Fred von Lohmann, a senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation who specializes in intellectual property.
The case "does send a message that the AP is serious about this hot news theory," he said. "Most intellectual property experts view hot news as a very narrow doctrine and the AP is going to have a very hard time protecting all its assets with hot news."
That thinking is flawed, says Lee Tien, a senior attorney and surveillance expert with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which opposes RFID in identity documents.
It won't take a massive government project to build reader networks around the country, he says: They will grow organically, for commercial purposes, from convention centers to shopping malls, sports stadiums to college campuses. Federal agencies and law enforcement wouldn't have to control those networks; they already buy information about individuals from commercial data brokers.
"And remember," Tien adds, "technology always gets better ... "
CINDY COHN, Electronic Frontier Foundation: There's plain-old hackers, security breaches. Sometimes we call those "Data Valdez" at EFF, where there's a spillage of data.
SPENCER MICHELS: Like the Exxon Valdez?
CINDY COHN: Like the Exxon Valdez, only it's your data spilling out, not the oil.
"As a consumer, it's hard to complain when you're being given incredible new things for free," said Fred von Lohmann, senior staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation. "But who knows where this ends up."
In an amicus brief, Electronic Frontier Foundation and Center for Democracy & Technology joined the plaintiffs, aiming to emphasize the core First Amendment protections that library users have and to remind the court that libraries play a key role in providing Internet access, particularly in rural areas.
As a practical matter, NCRL’s processing of unblocking requests can severely hinder job-seekers, the brief states. Even under NCRL’s new “automated’ unblocking system, fewer than one third of the 90 requests were responded to on the same day, and some were delayed by more than three days.
"The same folks are being potentially entrusted with cybersecurity who have already shown that they have no regard for the law," says Lee Tien, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit group that sued AT&T for its involvement in those wiretapping programs. "It's troubling that the Obama administration would consider this sort of thing."
"I would say that it looks like saner heads prevailed -- I don't think this lawsuit should've been brought in the first place," said Corynne McSherry, a lawyer with the Electronic Frontier Foundation who has followed the case. "I think their legal claims were weak at best."