EFF in the News
“You would have to prove that Twitter took a certain step–or failed to take a step–that caused the Paris attack to happen,” Aaron Mackey, a legal fellow at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told FRANCE 24.
The causality argument may be even harder to win than the argument against the CDA, Mackey says.
The ordinance won praise from privacy advocates including the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Adam Schwartz, a senior staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said the new regulations on surveillance will be a good way to improve the trust between the public and law enforcement, and that it's important for the supervisors to ultimately decide whether the benefits of new surveillance technology outweigh the costs.
"We believe the decisions about such powerful, transformative technologies ought to be made at the very top," Schwartz said.
Still, AMC is likely walking on shaky legal grounds, some analysts said. "It's not infringement to make guesses about what will happen in a TV series, even if those guesses turn out to be right," said Mitch Stoltz, a lawyer at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). "Copyright doesn't cover facts, or isolated details from a fictional TV show. So revealing which character gets killed, or other spoilers like that, isn't copyright infringement." In fact, the Lucille Victim spoiler singled out by AMC's lawyers is already available to fans through the original comic book series on which the TV show is based.
“Part of the people’s desire to use ad blockers is to safeguard their privacy as well as clean up a cluttered experience, or simply just take control of their browsing experience and … see the things that they want to see,” said Mitch Stoltz, senior staff attorney with the Electronic Frontiers Foundation.
What happens in the background when a user encounters online ads is that “networks that deliver them are collecting vast amounts of information about consumers using the Internet and aggregating vast amounts of information across multiple websites,” said Stoltz.
That means that visits to multiple websites, buying and reading habits – all “have the potential to be combined into very comprehensive profiles of a person’s life and preferences and activities,” he added. “And then that information is sold.”
A lawyer working for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a civil rights group that focuses on technology-related matters, said Wednesday that social media companies likely have a strong legal shield in cases like those filed by Fields’ and Gonzalez’s family members.
Federal law generally holds that social media companies and other publishers are not liable for user-generated content, lawyer Aaron Mackey said Wednesday.
Jennifer Lynch of the Electronic Frontier Foundation agreed.
The report shows the FBI "has access to hundreds of millions more photos than we ever thought -- and the bureau has been hiding this fact from the public, in flagrant violation of federal law and agency policy, for years," she said.
The database contains "an unprecedented number of photographs, most of which are of Americans and foreigners who have committed no crimes," she added.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation attorney Nate Cardozo points to the prosecution as a dangerous use of the law, and one that should have been settled with a civil lawsuit.
The rapid pace of improvements in police technology has been a thorn in the side of policy makers, and watchdogs have taken note. Electronic Frontier Foundation Investigative Researcher Dave Maass said the delay in rolling out rules along with the cameras is part of a trend of law enforcement getting ahead of itself, with best practices being considered after officers begin using their body cameras.
"There's this game law enforcement plays with policy makers where they go and get [technology] instead of asking for permission in advance," he said. "Policy doesn't move as fast as innovation."
This is disturbing, he said, because well-crafted policies indicate law enforcement takes body cameras' roles in transparency, evidence collection and civil rights seriously—and the pitfalls of the new technology are numerous. Maass recommended cities consult with neutral technologists to identify the hidden ways video evidence could cause harm, and mitigate them through rules and protocols.
"Oftentimes policy makers aren't the most technologically savvy individuals," he said.
According to Mitch Stoltz, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a single "fact" from a fictional TV series probably can’t be protected by copyright law.
"Copyright probably doesn't cover revealing a single fictional detail about a show," he e-mailed Ars. "And copyright doesn't apply to facts that are discovered without having access to the creative work. So if ‘The Spoiling Dead’ community deduced the identity of the ‘Lucille Victim’ by looking at aerial photos of the sets, public sightings of the actors, rumors, etc., without actually having seen the episode or the script, they didn't infringe any copyright."
However, he acknowledged that AMC "could force the group into expensive litigation."
"Copyright law's penalty provisions don't require any proof of actual harm," he added. "It means that a threat like AMC's can deter passionate fans from talking about their favorite show simply by sending a threatening letter, even if the law is not really on AMC's side."
But Jamie Lee Williams, a lawyer at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, thinks that this case will have little impact on the laws set up to protect these online services.
“The court’s decision was fact specific and stressed that any liability for failure to warn here would be based on information the website learned from outside sources, including a criminal complaint, not any information posted on its website,” she said. “In other words, the court found that this is not a Section 230 issue. Any liability here does not arise from content posted on the website, which the court made clear.” She says she feels that the scope of this case is small and has little to do with larger issues of the right to hold websites responsible for its users.