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EFF Press Release Archives

EFF Press Release Archives

Press Releases: August 2012

August 30, 2012

Government Withholding Information About Unconstitutional Spying at NSA

Washington, D.C. - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) sued the Department of Justice (DOJ) today, demanding answers about illegal email and telephone call surveillance at the National Security Agency (NSA).

The FISA Amendments Act (FAA) of 2008 gave the NSA expansive power to spy on Americans' international email and telephone calls. However, last month, in a letter to Senator Ron Wyden, a government official publicly disclosed that the NSA's surveillance had gone even further than what the law permits, with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) issuing at least one ruling calling the NSA's actions unconstitutional. The government further disclosed that the FISC had determined the government's surveillance violated the spirit of the law on at least one occasion, as well. EFF's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit seeks disclosure of any written opinions or orders from FISC discussing illegal government surveillance, as well as any briefings to Congress about those violations.

"For years we've seen news reports in the New York Times and other outlets about widespread government spying going beyond the broad powers granted in the FAA, but we've yet to get any real answers about what is going on," said EFF Open Government Legal Fellow Mark Rumold. "When law-breaking is allowed to remain secret, there's no accountability or way to monitor future abuses. It's time for the government to come clean and tell us about the NSA's unconstitutional actions."

The surveillance provisions in the FAA will sunset at the end of this year unless Congress reauthorizes the law. The pending congressional debate on reauthorization makes it all the more critical that the government release this information on the NSA's actions.

"As Congress gears up to reconsider the FAA, the American public needs to know how the law has been misused," said EFF Senior Counsel David Sobel. "The DOJ should follow the law and release this information to the American public."

EFF represents the plaintiffs in Jewel v. NSA, a class-action lawsuit challenging the underlying legality and constitutionality of the government's warrantless surveillance program. That case is currently being briefed in federal court in San Francisco.

For the full complaint:


Mark Rumold
   Open Government Legal Fellow
   Electronic Frontier Foundation

David Sobel
   Senior Counsel
   Electronic Frontier Foundation

Related Issues:
August 27, 2012

EFF to Honor Andrew (bunnie) Huang, Jérémie Zimmermann, and the Tor Project at San Francisco Ceremony

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is pleased to announce the distinguished winners of its 2012 Pioneer Awards: hardware hacker Andrew (bunnie) Huang, anti-ACTA activist Jérémie Zimmermann, and the Tor Project – the organization behind the groundbreaking anonymity tool Tor.

The award ceremony will be held the evening of September 20 at Project One Gallery in San Francisco. The founding developer of WordPress, Matt Mullenweg, will be the keynote speaker.

Andrew (bunnie) Huang is an activist who takes a push-and-pull approach to open hardware: he contributes original open designs and also liberates closed designs. Huang's book on reverse engineering, "Hacking the Xbox," is a widely respected tool for hardware hackers. Huang has also released an open implementation of a man-in-the-middle attack on HDCP – enabling overlays on encrypted video without circumventing access controls. As part of his long-term advocacy for users' rights, Huang worked with EFF to help encourage more than 25,000 people to ask the Copyright Office for the right to install the software of their choice on their smartphones, tablets, and video game consoles. Huang serves as a Research Affiliate for the MIT Media Lab and a technical advisor for several hardware startups and MAKE magazine, and he shares his experiences manufacturing hardware in China through his blog.

Jérémie Zimmermann is the co-founder of La Quadrature du Net, an influential French advocacy group defending the rights and freedoms of citizens on the Internet. Zimmermann has been instrumental in the fight against the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), a far-reaching international treaty that would curtail many Internet freedoms in favor of extremist intellectual property protectionism. Zimmermann has worked tirelessly to spread the word about ACTA and the ways in which it would put a chokehold on Internet and digital rights. This July, after years of secretive negotiations, ACTA was defeated in the European Parliament. Zimmermann has also worked on numerous other technology policy topics, including freedom of expression, copyright, regulation of telecommunications, and online privacy.

The Tor Project is a group of software developers and other advocates who maintain Tor, free software that helps Internet users circumvent Internet censorship and protect their anonymity. Tor enables activists, journalists, and others to keep websites from tracking them and to connect to uncensored news sites and services. Tor's hidden services let users publish web sites and do other online work without needing to reveal their locations. Tor also enables software developers to create new communication tools with built-in privacy features. Ongoing global trends in law, policy, and technology threaten anonymity as never before and undermine our ability to speak and read freely online, but the groundbreaking work from the Tor Project helps users everywhere improve the safety of their online communications.

"Every year, our Pioneer Awards celebrate those who have made a difference for digital freedom. We are extraordinarily proud of this year's winners and their unflagging dedication to protecting the rights of technology users around the world," said EFF Executive Director Shari Steele. "Whether it's your right to reverse engineer a game console, or to avoid the interference of overbroad IP enforcement, or to block websites or governments from tracking your every online move, these winners are working hard to protect our online freedom. We're honored they will be at our annual awards ceremony on September 20."

Tickets to the Pioneer Awards are $75 and can be purchased online at Also available are tickets to a special VIP event featuring the Pioneer Award winners and keynoter Matt Mullenweg. In addition to being founding developer of WordPress – the open source blogging software that runs millions of sites around the world – Mullenweg also started Automattic, Akismet, Gravatar, bbPress, IntenseDebate, and BuddyPress.

Awarded every year since 1992, EFF's Pioneer Awards recognize leaders who are extending freedom and innovation on the electronic frontier. Previous honorees include Tim Berners-Lee, Senator Ron Wyden, Limor "Ladyada" Fried, Linus Torvalds, and Tunisian blogging collective Nawaat, among many others. Sponsors of this year's Pioneer Awards include Adobe, JibJab,, and Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP.

To buy tickets to the Pioneer Awards:


Rebecca Jeschke
   Media Relations Director
   Electronic Frontier Foundation

August 22, 2012

EFF Manual Outlines How Keep Your Content Online in Case of a Denial of Service Attack

San Francisco - Denial of service attacks – flooding websites with traffic in order to make them unavailable to the public – have become an increasingly popular way to take down or block Internet content. A new online guide from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) outlines how website operators can fend off these attacks and keep their sites alive and accessible.

"Denial of service attacks have been used by governments to silence online criticism as well as by activists protesting companies and organizations they don't like," said EFF Director for International Freedom of Expression Jillian York. "Major websites often have the resources to keep running during a denial of service attack, but smaller sites – such as those belonging to independent media or human rights organizations – are sometimes taken down permanently. Our online guide is aimed at leveling the playing field."

EFF's "Keeping Your Site Alive" guide includes tips on choosing an appropriate webhost to provide the security and technical assistance needed to weather an attack. The guide also gives advice on how to back up and mirror content so it can be made available elsewhere in case the site is compromised, and includes tutorial videos with background information on the technical concepts involved. Denial of service attacks are an issue for websites across the globe, so EFF's guide is available in many different translations, including Chinese, Russian, Persian, and Arabic.

"Lack of resources or knowledge can mean some websites are more vulnerable than others," said EFF International Freedom of Expression Coordinator Eva Galperin. "We want to give website operators around the world the tools they need to protect their content and stay online."

For EFF's guide "Keeping Your Site Alive":


Eva Galperin
   International Freedom of Expression Coordinator
   Electronic Frontier Foundation

Jillian York
   Director for International Freedom of Expression
   Electronic Frontier Foundation

Related Issues:
August 14, 2012

Defendant Pushes to Exclude Cell Phone Location Data Obtained Without a Warrant

San Francisco - A federal district court is poised to determine whether the government can use cell phone data obtained without a warrant to establish an individual's location. In an amicus brief filed Monday, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) argue that this form of surveillance is just as unconstitutional as the warrantless GPS tracking the U.S. Supreme Court already shot down in this case.

"Location data is extraordinarily sensitive. It can reveal where you worship, where your family and friends live, what sort of doctors you visit, and what meetings and activities you attend," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Marcia Hofmann. "Whether this information is collected by a GPS device or a mobile phone company, the government should only be able to get it with a warrant based on probable cause that's approved by a judge."

In U.S. v. Jones, FBI agents planted a GPS device on a car and then tracked its position every ten seconds for 28 days without a valid search warrant. In a landmark decision earlier this year, the Supreme Court ruled that this violated the Fourth Amendment. The case is now back in the trial court, where Jones is moving to suppress six months of cell phone location data that government investigators obtained – yet again – without a warrant. In Monday's brief, EFF and CDT argue that the Fourth Amendment doesn't allow government investigators to collect cell phone data to track users' locations over a prolonged period of time without a warrant. This right isn't defeated even if cell phone users disclose their locations to service providers when their phones connect to a cell phone tower.

"As Justice Sonia Sotomayor said in the Jones GPS Supreme Court decision, the idea that privacy rights are forfeited simply by giving them to a third party is 'ill-suited to the digital age,'" said EFF Staff Attorney Hanni Fakhoury. "If the government gets its way here, it could jeopardize any expectation of privacy we have in our private movements."

For the full amicus brief in U.S. v. Jones:


Hanni Fakhoury
   Staff Attorney
   Electronic Frontier Foundation

Marcia Hofmann
   Senior Staff Attorney
   Electronic Frontier Foundation

August 1, 2012

Ignoring Fair Use Doctrine, Authors Guild Suit Tries to Block Valuable Resource

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed an amicus brief today urging a federal court to find that the fair use doctrine shelters Google's Book Search "snippet" project from copyright infringement claims from the Authors Guild. EFF was joined by three associations representing over 100,000 libraries, the Association of Research Libraries, the American Library Association, and the Association of College and Research Libraries.

For years, Google has been cooperating with libraries to digitize books for a searchable database available to the public. Google Book Search now includes over 12 million works that users can search for keywords. Results include titles, page numbers, and small snippets of text. Google Book Search has become an extraordinarily valuable tool for librarians, scholars, and amateur researchers of all kinds. For example, librarians surveyed about Google Book Search said the service can help them find valuable research sources inside their own libraries as well as lead them to rare books they can borrow from other institutions. Many librarians say that they have purchased new books for their collections after discovering them through using Google Book Search. However, the Authors Guild argues that its members are due compensation in exchange for their books being digitized and included in the database – even though blocking Google Book Search's digitization wouldn't bring any author any additional revenue.

"Google Book Search is a reference tool that helps people find books. It doesn't take the place of sales," said EFF Fellow Michael Barclay. "The fair use doctrine allows for services like Google Book Search – they cause no economic harm and serve the welfare of the public."

The amicus brief filed today is part of EFF's long involvement in Authors Guild v. Google. In 2009 EFF and a coalition of authors and publishers objected to a proposed broad settlement of the case that would have created a business for Google selling access to whole books, based on the failure of the settlement to protect the privacy of readers. A judge rejected that broad settlement last year. Now Google seeks approval of the more narrow search and snippet project, and EFF agrees that the fair use doctrine applies.

"Google Book Search is a digital update to the old card catalog that helps libraries, helps researchers, and ultimately helps authors reach their audiences," said EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn. "We hope the court protects Google Book Search – and the researchers and other readers who depend on it – from these meritless copyright claims."

For the full amicus brief in Authors Guild v. Google:


Michael Barclay
   Electronic Frontier Foundation

Cindy Cohn
   Legal Director
   Electronic Frontier Foundation

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