EFF in the News
The groups have the support of Electronic Frontier Foundation, which has argued in court that laptop searches are invasive because devices like laptops contain personal data, which people should be able to keep private. EFF has also argued that some searches have been conducted without suspicion.
"This lawsuit will not seek monetary damages for individuals who have been searched; instead, it will focus exclusively on fixing the unconstitutional policy," wrote Jennifer Granick, civil liberties director and lawyer with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, in a blog entry on Wednesday.
Apex denies any wrongdoing and sought to quiet the perception storm with legal action by claiming libel, EFF Senior Staff Attorney Kurt Opsahl said in the blog post.
"This order dangerously overreaches," Opsahl wrote. "By restricting access to entire Websites, it places a prior restraint on all of the speech on the Websites, even if that speech is unrelated to Apex or Mr. Dharayan. Imagine if a court could order Amazon.com or Yelp.com shut down because of a disparaging review of a single product ... The New Jersey court's overreaching order shutting down these Websites also is inconsistent with federal law to the extent that it holds service providers to account for user posts."
But civil liberties groups and technology companies have been cautious about that kind of legislation because it is considered to be "using companies as a wing of U.S. foreign relations policy," said Danny O'Brien, international outreach director for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, in an interview. "But on the other hand, having the back-up and support for a strong human rights agenda from other executives makes companies more comfortable to do the right thing."
"The biggest focus on this from the Hill will surround cybersecurity," O'Brien said. "The real tipping point for Google was attacks on its infrastructure."
The contracts typically limit patient comments for five years from the last doctor’s visit and they imply that breaking the terms could land the patients in court. Matthew Zimmerman, a lawyer with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which monitors digital rights, says it’s not likely lawsuits against patients or Web site providers would be successful.
“The doctor can’t legally go to the Web site and demand that the content come down,” said Zimmerman.
"China may throw Google out, and it will undoubtedly block Google.cn," said Danny O'Brien, an international coordinator at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights group.
It's "an incredibly significant move," said Danny O'Brien, international outreach co-ordinator at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an Internet rights group in San Francisco. "This changes the game because the question won't be 'How can we work in China?' but 'How can we create services that Chinese people can use, from outside of China?"'
Five customers of AT&T had tried to go to court and charge that the government's omnipresent spy, the NSA, had been given by AT&T private information from their phone bills and e-mails. In a first, the Obama administration countered—says Kevin Bankston of Electronic Frontier Foundation, representing these citizens stripped of their privacy—that "the U.S. can never be sued for spying that violated federal surveillance statutes, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or the Wiretap Act."
Electronic Frontier Foundation attorney Kurt Opsahl said it is one thing to order that allegedly defamatory materials be taken down but quite another to shut down the web sites entirely.
"Imagine if a court could order Amazon.com or Yelp.com shut down because of a disparaging review of a single product," Opsahl said in a critique.
Among the databases: financial records, credit card data, even Blockbuster accounts.
From a privacy standpoint, ''it's a lot and it's quite scary,'' says Lee Tien, an attorney with the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation.
Kurt Opsahl, a senior staff attorney at EFF, a San Francisco-based organization that has litigated on issues of bloggers' rights, anonymity, and file sharing among others, believes the court order to shut down the Web sites is "deeply dangerous and wrong," in part, because it was aimed at the entire Web sites and not just the posts or comments in question.