EFF in the News
A U.S. man convicted after his emails were revealed by the NSA’s PRISM program, the first public case of its kind, will not have his case overturned, an appeals court has found.In its ruling, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals declared that Mohamud wasn’t actually a victim of a backdoor search, and didn’t need to be informed. But it’s not clear everyone in the court was on the same page. “We think the court almost certainly got the facts wrong,” Andrew Crocker, an EFF staff attorney who helped craft Mohamud’s appeal, told Vocativ.“What I think they got wrong is the chain by which the government actually read Mohamud’s emails,” Crocker said.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation is accusing the Drug Enforcement Agency of improperly withholding documents in a court case that hopes to reveal details about the government’s controversial surveillance program known as Hemisphere. The EFF, which is suing the DEA as part of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, is demanding the agency turn over documents that have been withheld or have been highly redacted. “The DEA has refused to comply with its FOIA obligations to disclose important details about the Hemisphere program. We believe DEA has improperly withheld these records,” said Aaron Mackey, a Frank Stanton legal fellow at the EFF.
The new ruling concludes that government surveillance of Mohamud, the target of an FBI sting operation, did not violate his Fourth Amendment rights. The decision deals a considerable blow to anti-surveillance advocates seeking to rein in activity under Section 702. TechCrunch spoke to Andrew Crocker, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, to clarify the bounds of the appeals court ruling.“First, the surveillance of the defendant did not involve the NSA’s so-called Upstream program, where the government taps directly into the fiber optic backbone of the Internet, a practice that the court said would raise more serious constitutional issues,” Crocker explained.
After Uber introduced a controversial app update that tracks users’ locations even when they’re not using the app, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a leading privacy group, has asked the company roll it back. "Tracking you five minutes after you have been dropped off — some people might have very legitimate reasons why they don’t want a record about that,” said Kurt Opsahl, deputy executive director and general counsel at EFF. “They may be concerned about getting into some database about their location and may get dropped off across the street. It’s sad to take that away."
Consider AT&T, the telecommunications giant. Police departments across the country pay it as much as $100,000 a year for special access to the telephone records of its clients (without first obtaining a warrant). The program is called “Hemisphere” and the company requires buyers to keep its existence secret. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco–based activist group, calls this “evidence laundering.” As Adam Schwartz, senior staff attorney on the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s civil liberties team, puts it: “When police hide their sources of evidence, the accused cannot challenge the quality or veracity of the government’s investigation, or seek out favorable information still in the government’s possession"
Daniel Nazer, a lawyer with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told Fortune that applications to patent the blockchain - which is a form of software - face a high hurdle due to a Supreme Court case called Alice.
The Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable searches and seizures, but the Supreme Court carved out space for boarder patrol agents to examine personal property without a warrant, said Sophia Cope, a staff lawyer for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit organization that defends civil liberties in the digital age.
The FBI, Department of Homeland Security, and other US government authorities now require only the signature of a single judge to hack criminal suspects' computers and personal devices regardless of where they're located. "We don’t have any confidence whatsoever that the FBI is not going to mess it up and end up causing damage to the computers that they are searching," said Nate Cardozo, senior staff attorney at the EFF. "If the malware bricks your laptop," rendering it inoperable, "you have no recourse under the new rules."
Kahle’s appeal for donations coincided this week with a triumph on another front for the Internet Archive, which announced that the FBI has backed down from a national security letter it sent the archive in August, along with an accompanying gag order, demanding information. The group challenged the gag order and has published the letter.
“People who get them can’t talk about them unless the government says they can,” said Lee Tien, a staff attorney and expert in internet rights at the Foundation.
Nate Cardozo, an attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, pointed out that President-elect Trump's pick of Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions- a leading critic of Apple during its' spat with the Justice Department - to be the next Attorney General could signal a willingness to go after encrypted devices, although it wasn't immediately clear what for that would take.