EFF in the News
Indeed, a variety of software tools that R.I.M. provides to corporations to monitor and record nearly everything employees do with their BlackBerrys — including where they carry them — potentially makes the devices powerful tools for surveillance by companies and governments.
“Users need to know that the security is not for them,” said Seth D. Schoen, senior staff technologist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
Kevin Bankston, senior staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said the case has important implications for cellphone GPS tracking. The federal government has mandated that U.S. cellphone carriers make nearly all their phones trackable for help in 911 emergencies. However, companies say that the federal law that allows them to turn over data to law enforcement without subpoenas is prone to abuse.
The Journal reported last week that engineers working on a new version of Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser thought they might set certain defaults to protect privacy better, but they were overruled when the business segments at Microsoft learned of the plan.
Privacy "sabotage," the Electronic Frontier Foundation called it. And a Wired news story says Microsoft "crippled" online privacy protections.
"The court correctly recognized the important differences between limited surveillance of public activities possible through visual surveillance or traditional 'bumper beepers,' and the sort of extended, invasive, pervasive, always-on tracking that GPS devices allow," said Jennifer Granick of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which filed a brief in the case.
"This same logic applies in cases of cell phone tracking, and we hope that this decision will be followed by courts that are currently grappling with the question of whether the government must obtain a warrant before using your cell phone as a tracking device."
Cindy Cohn, the legal director for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, says things in the BlackBerry case are pretty clear.
"They shouldn't blink. They should be saying no [to the UAE]. They should look out for the interest of their customers," she says. "Sometimes you just have to do the right thing."
A federal appeals court ruled Friday that the police can’t covertly track a suspect’s car using a GPS device for an extended period of time without getting a warrant...EFF Civil Liberties Director Jennifer Granick welcomed the decision, and hoped the reasoning would spread to similar issues with the mobile phones most of us carry in our pockets. “This same logic applies in cases of cell phone tracking,” Granick said in a press release. “We hope that this decision will be followed by courts that are currently grappling with the question of whether the government must obtain a warrant before using your cell phone as a tracking device.”
Kevin Mitnick was eager to participate in a social-engineering contest at the Defcon hacker conference in Las Vegas last weekend and was told he would target Microsoft in the event.
Attorneys for the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) advised the social-engineering contest organizers on legalities and since no confidential information was being sought the event passed muster. "We would never advise anyone to break the law," Jennifer Granick, EFF civil liberties director, said in an e-mail exchange this week.
Jailbreaking iPhones to load Web apps not approved by Apple used to be difficult. And anyone who did so to his or her iPhone risked Apple shutting down service, or "bricking" the device. But there's a popular jailbreaking app available at jailbreakme.com. And the Electronic Frontier Foundation recently won a federal ruling banning Apple from bricking jailbreaked iPhones.
The State Department recently said it would seek clarification on why the United Arab Emirates decided to block BlackBerry services. But Gwen Hinze, international director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, noted U.S. officials cannot expect other countries to support a free and open Internet when federal laws at home require a degree of regulatory control over citizens' digital information for security and law enforcement purposes.
"It is going to become increasingly difficult for the U.S. government to put pressure on other countries to protect their citizens' civil liberties, and the free and open Internet while the U.S. does not lead by example," Hinze said, echoing an Aug. 2 statement by United Arab Emirates Ambassador to the United States Yousef Al Otaiba.
The open-source Mozilla project has been offering cash bounties for security bugs for six years now, but often bug finders simply turn down the cash.
"A lot of people would say, 'Don't worry about it. Donate it to the EFF [Electronic Frontier Foundation] or just send me a T-shirt,'" said Johnathan Nightingale, the director of Firefox development, in a recent interview.