EFF in the News
As of Thursday morning, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and Digg had not commented on the report, which details the official government program to spy via social networking. Other websites the government is spying on include Twitter, MySpace, Craigslist and Wikipedia, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which filed the FOIA request.
While much of the information on public websites is out in the open for others to view, EFF staff attorney Jennifer Lynch still expressed concern about the government collecting "a massive amount of data on individuals and organizations explicitly tied to a political event." "The information is certainly open to whoever comes looking for it. What's concerning, though, is that the government was scouring information on people any reason. From those slides, it looks like DHS was concerned about protecting peoples' privacy - which is great to hear. What we were worried about was how long DHS was holding onto the information after the election and why they were monitoring sites where they didn't think there was a threat. Was it based on race or ethnicity or assumptions about a site? "
A 2008 memo obtained by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) confirms it: big brother is watching.
Federal agents are infiltrating social networks via sneaky friend requests and monitoring them via a special command center, according to documents obtained by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Who cares? Well, prospective citizens, for one.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation has used the Freedom of Information Act to get its hands on a Department of Homeland Security internal document describing how it planned to ramp up social media monitoring in advance of Obama’s inauguration last year. The Department created a Social Networking Monitoring Center to search for “items of interest” on social media sites in the week prior to and the day of the inauguration event, looking for “hits,” tagging and filing them, and searching for trends that might reveal security threats.
"If you think about it, you'll realize that your location history indicates where you sleep, where you work, who you sleep with, who you go to business meetings with, where you go to church, what political meetings you attend, what nightclubs you go to," said Peter Eckersley, senior staff technologist with the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
"These facts about people are astonishingly sensitive. And we don't want to build a permanent tracking system for those by accident," he said.
Likewise, Seth Schoen, senior staff technologist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, noted, "I think there's an interesting irony" given the news the FBI is planning "to force technology developers to build backdoors in their security systems. . . . Law enforcement's desires for backdoors in communications infrastructure could easily come in direct conflict with the government's desire to strengthen computer security."
"You always have to be careful with metaphors," said Cindy Cohn, legal director for the Electronic Frontier Foundation. "Metaphors can lead to really bad policy. That doesn't mean what Microsoft is proposing is bad. But the point here is to think hard about what it would mean."
The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which dubbed Leahy's bill, "censorship," called the inability to get it passed, a "victory."
EFF, however, recognizes that supporters of the bill will most likely try again.
"Make no mistake," EFF wrote on its site, "this bill will be back soon enough, and Congress will again need to hear from concerned citizens."
The EFF and the Apache Software Foundation support Microsoft's argument in favor of lowering the standard because they believe that the current standard is excessive and unfairly disadvantages open source software projects that don't have the resources to fight back against costly patent litigation. Adopting the "preponderance" standard would make patent invalidation consistent with other similar facets of civil law.