EFF in the News
Here we go again. UK Home Secretary Amber Rudd has said that end-to-end encryption in apps like WhatsApp is “completely unacceptable” and that there should be “no hiding place for terrorists”. Her comments resurface the debate over banning encryption – an idea that is realistically unworkable and potentially mathematically impossible. An outright ban on end-to-end encryption would mean no more online banking, no more online shopping, and no more online privacy. “Encryption is not just for terrorists, it’s for everyone,” says Jillian York at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
Last week, a House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform found that privacy experts were right to be concerned: the FBI uses facial recognition without complying with privacy laws; 1 out of every 2 Americans’ photo is in some kind of FRT database; and facial recognition technology can reproduce race and gender bias, “misidentifying female and African American individuals at a higher rate.” Jennifer Lynch, staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, testified about all the ways that police can use—and misuse—facial recognition. “Law enforcement officers can use mobile devices to capture face recognition-ready photographs of people they stop on the street; surveillance cameras boast real-time face scanning and identification capabilities; and the FBI has access to hundreds of millions of face recognition images of law-abiding Americans,” Lynch testified.
The Obama administration had put in place rules to make it more difficult for internet service providers to share your browsing and app activity without permission. But last week, Republican senators moved to roll back those rules. The measure now heads to the House where it's also expected to be passed. Now, consumer privacy activists are up in arms about this, and we wanted to know why. So we called Jeremy Gillula with the Electronic Frontier Foundation. MARTIN: So right now if I order a latte from a certain company that we all know, if I shop online or reach out to folks on Facebook, what happens to my browsing activity and do I have any say in controlling any of that? GILLULA: So right now that information would be collected by companies you'd expect, you know, Google, Facebook, ad networks, and they're going to see parts of it. You know, none of them is going to see the whole thing.
The ban prohibits travellers from certain Muslim-majority countries and in-bound carriers from the Middle East and North Africa to airports in the UK and US, from carrying electronics items that are larger than a standard mobile phone. Although the countries and carriers are slightly different for the US and UK, combined it could affect millions of travellers who would be forced to put their devices in check-in baggage now. "The government should be more transparent about the need for the new rule, which affects the privacy of our data," said Danny O'Brien, the international director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). "Congress also needs to make it clear that agents need a warrant before accessing these electronic devices," he added.
The World Wide Web Consortium has formally put forward highly controversial digital rights management as a new web standard. Dubbed Encrypted Media Extensions (EME), this anti-piracy mechanism was crafted by engineers from Google, Microsoft, and Netflix, and has been in development for some time. The DRM is supposed to thwart copyright infringement by stopping people from ripping video and other content from encrypted high-quality streams. But EME still faces considerable opposition. One of its most persistent vocal opponents, Cory Doctorow of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, argues that EME "would give corporations the new right to sue people who engaged in legal activity."
FBI spokesperson Kimberly Del Greco said, “The only information the FBI has and have collected in our database are criminal mugshot photos,” Del Greco stated, when asked by committee chairman Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) whether the FBI was collecting or storing photos of innocent people from other sources, like social media. “We do not have any other photos in our repository.” Jennifer Lynch, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said that Del Greco’s statement is false, noting the FBI repository does in fact include the photos of people not suspected of any crime. She referred to a section of the Georgetown report, which is based on FBI documents showing that photos of non-criminals comprise roughly 16% of the FBI’s NGI database.
EFF Senior Staff Attorney Jennifer Lynch emphasized that the Federal government needs to implement certain regulations to safeguard privacy issues regarding law enforcement’s use of facial recognition technology. “Face recognition and its accompanying privacy and civil liberties concerns are not going away,” Lynch said in her testimony.
You are what you browse. And chances are, advertisers know more than you realize about your digital hygiene. "Sometimes advertisers have your identity, but they really don't need to know who you are in order to precision target you with advertising," said the Electronic Frontier Foundation's (EFF) William Budington. "Chances are your digital fingerprint is distinct."
The US Third Circuit Court of Appeals today upheld a lower court ruling of contempt against an ex-cop who claimed he couldn't remember the password to decrypt his computer's hard drives. In so doing, the appeals court in Philadelphia avoided addressing a lower court's rejection of the defendant's argument that being forced to reveal his password violated his Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination. In a phone interview with The Register, Mark Rumold, senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation – which filed an amicus brief in this case arguing against compelled password production – said the ruling was disappointing but not entirely surprising and noted that the EFF's position is that individuals should not be compelled to provide passwords. "Any time suspects are forced to disclose the contents of their mind, that's enough to trigger the Fifth Amendment, end of story," said Rumold.
A U.S. appeals court on Monday rejected a fired police sergeant's stance that he has a Fifth Amendment right not to turn over computer passwords in a child porn investigation. A lawyer with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, who argued the case last year, disagreed. "You're being compelled to provide the contents of your mind. That is squarely prohibited by the Fifth Amendment," Senior Staff Attorney Mark Rumold said. "Law enforcement is asking (him) to produce evidence that they don't have to aid in his conviction."