EFF in the News
MTV music writer, Hazel Cills, asks Jillian C. York of the Electronic Frontier Foundation how we can protect our data and digital spaces from surveillance.
Silicon Valley should work with the US government in Washington to
arrive at a solution that gives law enforcement access to encrypted
comms, but that respects individual privacy. That's according to former White House
counterterrorism and cybersecurity official Daniel Rosenthal, who was
debating where the issue of encryption should go next. Nonsense, responded Cindy Cohn of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), on stage at the Versus
conference in San Francisco. If the tech sector offers some form of
compromise now, the government will only come asking for more later.
Apple may have refused to help the FBI unlock an iPhone used by the San Bernardino shooter, but the tech industry is still better off working with the U.S. government on encryption issues than turning away, according to Daniel Rosenthal, who served as the counterterrorism director in the White House until January this year. However, Rosenthal’s comments were met with resistance from Cindy Cohn, executive director for Electronic Frontier Foundation, a privacy advocate. She also spoke at the talk and opposed government efforts to weaken encryption, saying it “dumbs down” security. “This idea of a middle ground that you can come up with an encryption strategy that only lets good guy into your data, and never lets a bad guy into your data, misunderstands how the math works,” she said.
The business-focused global social network LinkedIn faces being blocked
in Russia after a court ruled that it broke a new Russian law on data
storage. The new law is contained within surveillance legislation signed by President Vladimir Putin in July 2014. Eva Galperin, from the U.S.-based nongovernmental Electronic Frontier
Foundation (EFF), says non-Russia-based messaging services and
social-media platforms cannot reasonably comply with Russia's new laws
because of the prohibitive costs of new servers to store the enormous
amounts of data required.
A California judge has agreed to give the
state attorney general's office more time to persuade him that the
operators of what she called "the world's top online brothel" should
face charges of pimping after he tentatively rejected them in a ruling. Sacramento County Superior Court Judge
Michael Bowman said, however, in a tentative ruling Wednesday that
Harris lacked authority to bring the charges because the federal
Communications Decency Act, as a way of promoting free speech, grants
immunity to website operators for content posted by users.
The section of the Communications Decency
Act that applies to the case protects websites from content posted by
third parties, said David Greene, civil liberties director for the
Electronic Frontier Foundation. It immunizes sites such as Yelp.com from
being held accountable for scathing reviews left by customers or online
news sites from vicious reader comments.
With a Trump presidency now approaching in January, his stance on encryption is one of the big open policy questions cybersecurity experts and privacy advocates have their eyes on. The debate may just be getting started.
Too many law enforcement advocates act like there must be a technical compromise that experts just are too stubborn to find. But that's not the case, because encryption is based on hard math, not compromises, said EFF Executive Director Cindy Cohn said at debate during the Versus16 conference in San Francisco. "Math doesn't work in the same way that a DC policy discussion works," she said.
Backpage asked a court to dismiss the case, citing the 1996
Communications Decency Act, and saying the prosecution had provided no
proof that Backpage’s business had been anything more than web
publishing. On Wednesday, a judge agreed that the CDA barred the charges against the site, and tentatively ruled to dismiss the case. David Greene, civil liberties director at the Electronic Frontier
Foundation, says the controversy over the site can’t be separated
from the broader protections of the law. “The big picture view is that
people aren’t out there defending Backpage. They’re out there defending
the Internet as we know it,” he said. “You can’t only grant immunity to
people you like.”
Cell phones run a hidden operating system that is always turned on and sends pings to cell phone towers constantly, always searching for the closest or strongest signal. Cell towers keep a log of those pings. Since pings are being sent constantly between multiple towers, records allow law enforcement to triangulate a phone’s location based on the strength of the pings between towers. “So there are various different technical ways that a cell phone could be sending various messages over a short period of time, these sort of signaling messages, to multiple towers,” said Jeremy Gillula, senior staff technologist with Electronic Frontier Foundation. “That’s likely how they figured it out.”
Next year section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Service Act—under whose auspices the NSA collected bulk phone and Internet data from US companies—will be up for reauthorization. Section 702 is what allowed for PRISM, the earth-shaking surveillance program that was Snowden’s first big reveal. And that’s just one of several security crossroads facing the next administration. “The state of security hangs in the balance,” said Rainey Reitman, activism director at the digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation.
A federal district court judge on
Tuesday denied homesharing company Airbnb, Inc. its request for an
injunction against a San Francisco law aimed at protecting local rental
housing stock from being used as tourist lodging. Airbnb filed suit against the city to
get an injunction against the law, arguing among other things that it
curbed the company’s free speech under the first amendment and went
against the provisions of the Communications Decency Act that protect
web-based intermediaries from liability if users break the law. “We see this as an issue that is not
really about Airbnb, but this is about the strength of the federal law
that protects internet intermediaries from liability,” said the EFF’s
David Greene. “If intermediaries were responsible for how their sites
were used by other people, then there would be these great disincentives
to having these sites, and the structure of the internet as we
currently have it would not be sustainable.”