EFF in the News
But the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a major Internet rights advocacy organization, is already calling H.B. 271 "a dangerous anti-anonymity bill."
"A great many websites could be de-anonymized by this statute, whether they are hosted in Florida or not," the EFF's Mitch Stoltz wrote.
The bill's definition of a commercial work is so broad, Stoltz said, that "a potentially vast number of people" could seek a court order forcing a website owner to disclose his or her identity, even if the website raised no substantive piracy concerns.
"The ability to speak anonymously is an important free speech right," Stoltz wrote. "Forcing website owners to identify themselves violates the First Amendment when laws like this one are vague about which sites must comply."
Other’s support Warnken’s argument that the taking Raynor’s DNA without his consent was a violation as well. Last month in its request that the Supreme Court hear the arguments (which was denied Monday), the Electronic Frontier Foundation wrote “genetic material contains a vast amount of personal information that should receive the full protection of the Constitution against unreasonable searches and seizures.”
"I don't actually have any less faith in Google than I do in the government to secure those emails," Nate Cardozo, a staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told me. "But, it's still a terrible idea. Let's assume for the sake of argument she was using Gmail. If she was using Gmail, it means Google was scanning all of the email to present her with targeted advertising about it. Is that something we want as a nation? Do we want a private company doing profiling on our Secretary of State?"
The ability to speak anonymously is an important free speech right. Forcing website owners to identify themselves violates the First Amendment when laws like this one are vague about which sites must comply. Even a site that a court decides is “likely to violate” the statute could be de-anonymized.
In addition, using state law to regulate the contents of websites creates constitutional problems because the Internet is borderless. This bill could easily apply to sites hosted anywhere in the U.S., not just in Florida. State regulation of websites can interfere with the federal government’s exclusive authority over interstate commerce.
The Facebook matter, reported by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, quickly got attention. The group has billed itself as "the leading nonprofit organization defending civil liberties in the digital world." Its report discussed a South Carolina prison policy that resulted in what the group said were more than 400 disciplinary cases for using Facebook. It noted that the policy even considered it an offense for prisoners to ask a family member to update his or her Facebook status.
The EFF has very nice step-by-step instructions for installing GPGTools to allow it to be used directly with either Apple Mail or Mozilla Thunderbird for email; the tools are also available via the application Services menu wherever you can manipulate or select text. GPGTools is currently free, but plans to charge a very modest fee for its email plug-in at some point to help support development costs.
"What I've traditionally seen is very targeted investigations," said Hanni Fakhoury, senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and a former US federal public defender who has represented people in similar cases. "Agents will go undercover on some peer to peer site and see files that are available for sharing, and they'll engage a person and trade photos with them. Or they'll see that the person is sharing child pornography files and take investigative steps to uncover that specific individual and arrest them. That's very common, that's bread and butter how these sorts of cases are done."
“What is new is this approach that says, you know what, there's a web hosting server out there that hosts a lot of child porn. It also hosts other stuff that we're not interested in, but it hosts a lot of child porn, so we're going to take down that whole host,” Fakhoury said.
The concern has led the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation to ask the U.S. Copyright Office to create a specific exemption for home mechanics under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which could otherwise be construed to prevent such home maintenance.
“That American tradition of tinkering with your vehicle in your garage is threatened by copyright law, of all things,” says EFF attorney Kit Walsh. “Let’s say you replace the cylinder. But you need to calibrate it and torque it right, or it’s not going to work. To do that, you need to change variables in the software.”
“The white paper itself makes clear it is a retread of SOPA and PIPA. It goes through those bills point by point and essentially intends to revive them,” says Mitch Stoltz, an attorney at the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation, whose mission is “defending civil liberties in the digital world.” The white paper “is essentially raising the same arguments that failed spectacularly several years ago,” he says. “It is beyond controversial. It is almost in the realm of the absurd.”