EFF in the News
For lawyers, rapidly changing online tools such as social networks can be a boon — or a minefield. Earlier this week, the Electronic Frontier Foundation posted some interesting documents from the Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Justice that detailed the use of social-networking sites to investigate taxpayers and suspects.
Looking ahead, David Sobel, Senior Counsel with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, sees hope in fixing FOIA in the form of a pending bill in the Senate. He says Senators Patrick Leahy (D.-Vermont) and John Cornyn (R.-Texas) this past week introduced the "Faster FOIA" bill, designed to create an advisory committee to look into the problem of FOIA processing delays.
Under what circumstances, for example, is it OK for a police officer to impersonate someone else online? A watchdog group called the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) demanded, under the Freedom of Information Act, that various government agencies release their guidelines on the subject. This morning, it posted the response from the Department of Justice on its website.
The next time someone tries to “friend” you on Facebook, it may turn out to be an undercover fed looking to examine your private messages and photos, or surveil your friends and family. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has obtained an internal Justice Department document that describes what law enforcement is doing on social networking sites.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco-based civil liberties group, obtained the Justice Department document when it sued the agency and five others in federal court. The 33-page document underscores the importance of social networking sites to U.S. authorities. The foundation said it would publish the document on its Web site on Tuesday.
RAZ: Now, this week, a group called the Electronic Frontier Foundation got a hold of and then published an Apple corporate document, which the company had kept secret. And it's basically a contract that the developers have to sign before they can even create applications for the iPhone and the iPad. What did the document reveal?
Mr. MANJOO: Yeah. First of all, it's pretty remarkable that it's been secret all this time. And one of the reasons it's secret is because there are 100,000 developers who are creating programs for the iPhone but they all have to sign this document, and one of the provisions on this document says that they can't publicly speak about it.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) disagreed with Aiken, saying that the electronic reading of an e-book does not amount to the creation of a derivative work.
“While a book read aloud may be useful (or not – let's remember this is a speech synthesizer, not a human being, reading the book), where is the originality that makes the version read aloud on a Kindle 2 creative, independent of the original book?” the group asked.
But, even if a few iPad readers do opt to have their books read to them by computer software versus a real person, the EFF said that’s unlikely to hurt the lucrative audio book market.
In the United States, where many cloud companies are based, legal standards make it much easier for law enforcement to obtain data for criminal or other investigations, said Kevin Bankston, a senior staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco-based digital rights group.
"Data stored in the cloud is substantially easier for the government to obtain than the data you store yourself because of lower legal standards," Bankston said. "And it is easier to do it secretly. We think this is a serious security concern, and the law needs to be updated."
Overstatement? Maybe not, said attorney Lee Tien with the Electronic Frontier Foundation. "It's really very clear, both under the Constitution, the 4th Amendment, the privacy of the home is really the most important value," Tien said.
And Tien said those meters could tell the government, even the police, what's going on in your home. "Inside your home is where the government isn't supposed to intrude without some kind of a warrant usually. And yet when this data is flowing freely outside your home, then the information gets outside that protected boundary and you start to have a problem."
In the wake of the DMCA takedown notice that forced Cryptome offline, the EFF is pointing out yet another massive in with the DMCA's notice-and-takedown setup: it leads to a ton of collateral damage in getting legitimate, authorized, non-infringing content blocked by overzealous takedowns.