EFF in the News
The analysis under scrutiny, known as an intelligence note, was prepared in October 2007 by Homeland Security's office of intelligence and analysis, according to department officials and the documents, which were released Wednesday by the Obama administration in response to freedom of information lawsuits filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation, a privacy and civil liberties group.
The intelligence gathering violated domestic spying rules because analysts took longer than 180 days to determine whether the U.S-based group or its American members posed a terrorist threat. Analysts also disseminated their report too broadly, according to documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a civil liberties group.
The documents were released by the Justice Department in connection with a lawsuit filed by the nonprofit Electronic Frontier Foundation. It had sought reports to the Intelligence Oversight Board, a watchdog panel appointed by the president, by various agencies documenting violations of law, executive orders or presidential directives.
Marcia Hofmann, a staff lawyer with the foundation, praised agency officials for destroying the reports but said the public needed to know about such incidents.
“I think it’s a positive sign that these agencies responded to this and took steps to correct the situation,” Ms. Hofmann said, adding, “We would never have known that this happened had we not seen these internal reports.”
The latest release of government documents were the result of separate Freedom of Information lawsuits from two civil liberties groups — the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union.
David Sobel, the EFF's senior counsel, said, "There remains a lot of material that continues to be withheld. To the extent that today's disclosures indicate a new approach to the Freedom of Information Act, we welcome it."
Even among the pages released, there were many sections blacked out or otherwise redacted, including a section about a congressional spending bill marked "talking points" that is entirely redacted.
The most vocal opponent has been the consumer watchdog group Electronic Frontier Foundation. "The fact that Facebook's 350 million users are being forced to grapple with their privacy settings is a good thing," says EFF staff attorney Kevin Bankston. "That doesn't justify the incredibly broad defaults that they're trying to get people to accept or the transformation from personal data into publicly-available information."
Richard Esguerra, the EFF’s residence activist, said in a telephone interview Monday and in a recent blog post that the giant database, if it ever comes to fruition, “threatens citizens’ personal privacy without actually justifying its impact or improving security.”
The Electronic Frontier Foundation is trying to make Universal Music pay damages for unfairly taking a home video of a toddler dancing to a Prince song off YouTube.
"The changes will actually reduce the amount of control that users have over some of their personal data," wrote Electronic Frontier Foundation attorney Kevin Bankston in a blog post.
“It is fair to say that a number of these issues aren’t exactly new, but the accessibility of the Web makes us conscious of them in a way that we weren’t before,” says Corynne McSherry, author of the 2001 book “Who Owns Academic Work?” and a lawyer at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “The question of people taking notes in lectures and reselling them is old, but now if you make them available online, the reach is so much broader that people get concerned in a different way.”
This month the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Samuelson Law, Technology and Public Policy Clinic at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law sued the Department of Defense, the C.I.A. and other federal agencies under the Freedom of Information Act to learn more about their use of social networking sites.
The suit seeks to uncover what guidelines these agencies have about this activity, including information about whether agents are permitted to use fake identities or to engage in subterfuge, such as tricking people into accepting Facebook friend requests.