Aggregated News

Texas Supreme Court Rejects Second-Class Status for Online Speech, Finds Internet Speech Injunctions Violate the First Amendment

eff.org - Sat, 30/08/2014 - 03:54

The Texas Supreme Court today ruled that orders preventing people who have been found liable for defamation from publishing further statements about the plaintiff are “prior restraints,” a remedy that the First Amendment rarely permits. Adopting a position advocated by EFF in an amicus brief, the court also delightfully quoted The Big Lebowski's Walter Sobchak: "For your information, the Supreme Court has roundly rejected prior restraint." It further rejected the argument that the ability of Internet publication to reach millions of readers almost instantaneously somehow required a change in First Amendment law.

EFF filed the amicus brief on behalf of itself and First Amendment scholars Erwin Chemerinsky and Lyrissa Barnett Lidsky urging this position, and the brief appears to have been highly influential on the court, which cited Prof. Chemerinsky’s scholarly writings extensively.

The court, in a case called Kinney v. Barnes, not only rejected the Internet-is-different argument, it took the exact opposite position, emphasizing the role of the Internet “as an equalizer of speech and a gateway to amplified political discourse.”

In ruling that post-trial injunctions are prior restraints, the court acknowledged the fundamental free speech principle that a court can prevent someone from speaking only in the most unusual circumstances. The court explained, echoing an argument made in our amicus brief, that such orders were especially inappropriate in defamation cases because a statement that it is defamatory in one context may not be in another: “Given the inherently contextual nature of defamatory speech, even the most narrowly crafted of injunctions risks enjoining protected speech because the same statement made at a different time and in a different context may no longer be actionable. Untrue statements may later become true; unprivileged statements may later become privileged.”

“The Texas Supreme Court reiterates a principle that has long been at the core of the First Amendment—that the government cannot resort to judicial orders to muzzle its citizens from speaking in the future, even if it fears their speech may be disruptive or defamatory,” said Professor Lidsky. “This principle, which prevents the permanent chilling of speech, is arguably even more important today than it was at the founding of the republic, as more citizens than ever before are communicating information, thoughts, ideas, and images to mass audiences.” Prof. Lidsky’s article on defamation in cyberspace had been cited by the plaintiff in support of its extreme position. She appeared as an amicus in this case to emphasize that her article should not be read to suggest that Internet speech should receive diminished First Amendment protection.

Tom Leatherbury and Marc Fuller of the Dallas office of Vinson & Elkins were co-counsel with EFF on the brief.

Files:  Kinney opinionRelated Issues: Free SpeechBloggers' Rights
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We're All In It Together: Cosplay With Us Over Labor Day Weekend

eff.org - Fri, 29/08/2014 - 22:12

Join the Electronic Frontier Foundation, io9, and a coalition of fan groups over Labor Day weekend for Project Secret Identity, a cosplay photo campaign to raise awareness of how online anonymity and privacy are key to free expression. Visit ProjectSecretIdentity.org during Dragon Con (Aug. 29 – Sept. 1) to participate online or visit us on the second floor of the Hilton Atlanta or the Southeastern Browncoats booth, #1000 at AmericasMart. 

For the first time in my life, I’m donning a costume at a convention.

At Dragon Con this weekend, I’ll put on a balaclava, a utility vest and a pair of flashlight glasses, shave my beard into a mustache, and draw a mole on my cheek. For a few days I’ll become Robert De Niro’s character, Archibald “Harry” Tuttle, in Terry Gilliam’s classic dystopian dark comedy, Brazil.  

There are three reasons for this.

First: Brazil has had a lasting impact on my life since I first saw it on VHS as a teenager.  It put me on a track that has found me defending civil liberties at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

The film is one of the early imaginings of a society where an authoritarian government uses big data to manage and control a population.  The plot revolves around a simple clerical error, which results in government agents kidnapping, torturing, and eventually killing the wrong guy—Harry Buttle, who they’ve confused with Harry Tuttle.  Now, Harry Tuttle is a renegade heating engineer who’s been branded a terrorist for making unauthorized repairs.  He’s a handyman superhero who hates paperwork and throughout the film, he keeps dropping his catchphrase: “We’re all in it together.”

That brings me to reason #2. When it comes to mass surveillance, we are all indeed in it together, both as data points in the giant databases and as allies in the battle against them.

That’s why I’d like to invite you to participate in Project Secret Identity, a cosplay activism campaign by EFF, io9, and a cross-fandom coalition of wizards, space cowboys, and other creative organizations.

We’re asking you to put on your mask and pose for photo holding a sign that says “I Have a Right to a Secret Identity” or another fandom-specific message about the importance of Internet freedom.

As we explain at ProjectSecretIdentity.org:

From George Orwell's Big Brother to J.K. Rowling's Ministry of Magic, science fiction, fantasy, and other genre fiction have long explored and criticized the intrusion of government on our private lives.

Today, many of those fictions have become reality, whether it's NSA mass surveillance, local police use of spy technology, or big data brokers scraping personal information from social media networks. Some governments are even trying to ban online anonymity.

Project Secret Identity underlines the belief that we must protect and advocate for ourselves in order to shape the future.

In addition to EFF and io9, the campaign is supported by the Harry Potter Alliance, Southeastern Browncoats and the Baker Street Babes. Anonymity isn't just important for privacy; it’s deeply engrained in fan culture, which is why the coalition also includes Wattpad, a community of 30 million readers and writers, and the Organization for Transformative Works.

As OTW's Claudia Rebaza writes:

Fan pseudonyms range from ordinary names to fanciful titles and are a long standing practice. There are many reasons why some fans might choose pseudonymity.  Not only is it a standard identity and privacy-protection precaution, but it may follow fan practice within the spaces they're part of online and it may mirror the use of pseudonyms in publishing where different names are used when writing for different audiences.

You don’t have to be at Dragon Con to participate: Just upload your image at ProjectSecretIdentity.org and share it online.

But if you are attending Dragon Con, you can get your photo taken at either our table (second floor in the Hilton Atlanta) or the Southeastern Browncoats’ booth (#1000 in AmericasMart).

Dragon Con is renowned not only for its cosplay, but for the intellectual curiosity of its attendees.  They understand the possibilities of technology and also appreciate that writers, artists, and fans have been censored and oppressed for challenging governments on these issues.

Dragon Con hosts the Electronic Frontiers Forum, a panel track devoted to exploring the intersection of technology with civil liberties.  EFF Deputy General Counsel Kurt Opsahl and I will be participating in a number of discussions on issues ranging from cell-phone searches to the Freedom of Information Act.  Opsahl will also be presenting an updated version of his talk, “Through a PRISM, Darkly: Everything We Know About NSA Spying,” which went viral when it first debuted at the Chaos Communication Congress last winter. We will also help with screenings of the documentaries Terms and Conditions May Apply and The Internet’s Own Boy.

You can check out the forum schedule here

As for the third reason I’m cosplaying as Harry Tuttle: Terry Gilliam himself will be at Dragon Con. If we’re all in it together, surely that includes a selfie with me.

Related Issues: AnonymityPrivacy
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Magical Drug Wins EFF’s Stupid Patent of the Month

eff.org - Fri, 29/08/2014 - 11:17

Good news everyone! The Patent Office has granted a patent on a cure for cancer.

Last December, the Patent Office issued Patent No. 8,609,915 on a “potent drug” that “rebukes cancer, cancer cells, and kills cancer.” According to the patent, this drug cures a litany of other maladies. What is this wonderful invention, you ask? It is a combination of “evening primrose oil, rice, sesame seeds, green beans, coffee, meat, cheese, milk, green tea extract, evening primrose seeds, and wine.” As the patent’s abstract says, “it works.” 

There is no reason to doubt the sincerity of the person who filed this application. But the patent examiner could and should have rejected it on any number of grounds, including enablement, indefiniteness, and utility. Why would the examiner issue the patent despite its clear infirmities? The answer to that question reveals the fundamental imbalance at the heart of the patent system.

This patent’s most obvious flaw is lack of utility – there’s no proof that the invention works. But the system places the burden of proof on the Patent Office, not the person asking for a 20 year monopoly. The examiner likely decided a rejection was not worth the effort – frankly, we wonder whether the examiner even read the application. In a similar case, the Patent Office issued a patent to an applicant whose work was widely known to be fraudulent. (The purported inventor had even spent time in jail for the fraud.) As Professor James Grimmelmann observed at the time: “The USPTO is an armory handing out legal howitzers on the honor system. What could possibly go wrong?”

The patent system also provides inadequate review of the crucial questions of anticipation and obviousness, i.e. is the patent really a new invention? Buried by hundreds of thousands of applications, the Patent Office can preform only a cursory review of each one. Examiners spend an average of only 19 hours per application (assuming that the claimed hours are real) and only a portion of that time is spent on the difficult and time consuming task of searching for prior art. Recent research confirmed that “examiners are more likely to approve marginal inventions when pressed for time.”

Despite this plainly inadequate review, granted patents are powerful litigation weapons. An issued patent, even Patent No. 8,609,915, is presumed valid and can only be invalidated in court with clear and convincing evidence. This is part of the reason why defending a patent suit is so expensive, even when the patent is weak. Patent trolls use this as leverage to extort settlements.

This month’s winning patent may be something of an outlier. But finding other bad patents is not difficult. Our (dis)honorable mentions this month include the recent patents US 8,793,159, US 8,793,178, and US 8,793,183. (Each of these patents, despite being issued after the Supreme Court’s decision in Alice v. CLS Bank, merely ties an abstract business process to a computer.) Whether we consider this month’s stupid patent or the runners-up, it’s clear we need fundamental reform to stop the flood of bad patents.

Related Issues: PatentsInnovation
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Internet Governance and the NETmundial Initiative: A Flawed Attempt at Turning Words into Action

eff.org - Fri, 29/08/2014 - 07:16

EFF was amongst a handful of user representatives invited to attend the initial scoping meeting of a new global convening called the NETmundial Initiative, which was held today in Geneva. In introducing the event, Virgílio Almeida of Brazil's Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation gave his prediction that the new Initiative could eventually come to take its place amongst other high-profile Internet governance institutions such as the IGF, ITU and ICANN.

If this is so, then we certainly hope that today's meeting doesn't set a standard for the nascent initiative to follow, because it wasn't a promising start. But before explaining why, a little more background information is in order.

Internet governance—which, broadly defined, is the network of mechanisms, ranging from laws to technical standards, that affect use of the Internet—can impact people's rights and freedoms. When Spain signed the Council of Europe Cybercrime Convention in 2010, amending its criminal law that same year to meet its heightened standards, and used those provisions over the following two years to track down and arrest Anonymous hacktivists, that is an example of one form of Internet governance at work. When the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) decided to consider a DRM standard called Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) that could take control of the Web browser away from the end-user, that was another example of a different form of Internet governance with real life impacts.

In other Internet governance processes the real-world impacts seem more remote. They may seem to be all talk, without any proximate effect on ordinary Internet users. The Internet Governance Forum (IGF), which doesn't make any recommendations or standards—let alone laws or treaties—is often accused of this (though others see its lack of real-world impact as a benefit, as it allows participants to discuss and network at the IGF in a low-pressure environment).

Earlier this year, a global meeting called NETmundial was held in Saõ Paulo, Brazil, at which participants collaborated upon a different form of Internet governance—norms, or non-binding (sometimes called “soft law”) principles. The NETmundial Multistakeholder Statement that encapsulated these principles was ultimately disappointing. Even so, in some areas it does make some important points (such as that “Rights that people have offline must also be protected online”), and it has been cited as a rough consensus statement of these principles by other influential governance institutions such as the UN Human Rights Council.

The question raised today was, will these NETmundial principles turn out to be “just talk”, like the IGF's meetings often are, or could they have a real (and hopefully positive) impact on people's rights and freedoms in the real world? The purpose of the NETmundial Initiative was to make sure that it would be the latter, the hope being expressed that the Initiative could “apply the NETmundial Principles to solve issues in concrete ways”, through a series of activities building upon those principles.

So far, so good. But the execution of the event was a significant departure from the earlier NETmundial meeting in Saõ Paulo with which it shares both its name and a parent in the form of ICANN CEO, Fadi Chehadé (but little else). The Saõ Paulo event was relatively transparent and open to all, from the agenda setting phase through to the drafting, and was executed by a structure of multi-stakeholder committees to which stakeholder groups nominated their own representatives.

The Geneva NETmundial Initiative on the other hand was hosted by the World Economic Forum (WEF), a think-tank of the world's largest companies. The participants and, from amongst those, the proposed steering committee members, were hand-picked by the organizers rather than being nominated by their own stakeholder groups (as, ironically, the NETmundial Principles set out as a best practice). The agenda was pre-written and released less than two weeks ahead of the meeting, but only after it had already been leaked. As for the meeting itself, much of the time allotted was taken up with closed-door bilateral meetings. In what scant few hours remained for discussion of the WEF's proposals, little receptivity was shown to those being reopened for discussion, or alternative proposals being entertained.

When civil society representatives took issue with these shortcomings, we were bizarrely accused (here, at 1:15), of being exclusive and elitist for rejecting what the WEF had come to offer. Now, surely nobody will stop the WEF or any other entity, multi-stakeholder or not, from executing initiatives designed to further the NETmundial Principles. But we are entitled to object to what is essentially a pre-cooked, big business initiative (well intentioned as it may be) from co-opting the name of an overtly more inclusive and grassroots-directed Internet governance meeting.

Too often there is a division between Internet governance processes that are truly open, inclusive and transparent on the one hand, and on the other hand those with the potential to actually produce tangible results that make a difference to real people's lives. Unfortunately the NETmundial Initiative scoping meeting maintains that distinction, in proposing a laudably action-focused agenda to take forward the NETmundial Principles, but by means of a rather closed, top-down and opaque process.

We don't think that the NETmundial Initiative will do any harm, but initial indications suggest it is far from an ideal model of global Internet governance in action, nor a worthy successor to its Saõ Paulo namesake. Equally though, it is not the only such model on the table. Next week's Internet Governance Forum in Istanbul (and the parallel Internet Ungovernance Forum organised by Turkish activists) illustrate two other approaches to the vexed question of how best to govern the global Internet. EFF will be on the ground there too, and will report back in this space next week.

Related Issues: International
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Aaron Swartz's Work, Computer Crime Law, and "The Internet's Own Boy"

eff.org - Thu, 28/08/2014 - 16:58

It’s been more than a year since Aaron Swartz’s tragic death, and now Aaron’s life is the subject of a new documentary, The Internet’s Own Boy, directed by Brian Knappenberger. The documentary has received much acclaim and deservedly so. It tells the story of a political activist and innovator who put theory into practice, always experimenting and building new tools and methodologies to animate his theory of change.

Aaron Swartz fought for an Internet grounded in community, creativity, and human rights. By co-creating platforms like RSS, reddit, Creative Commons, and the technology that became SecureDrop, he helped make information accessible. Perhaps more than anything, Aaron Swartz helped hundreds of thousands of people participate in the political processes that determine the laws we have to live under everyday.

There are so many things that Aaron accomplished by the age of 26 that we thought it may help to make a companion for the film, a guide for those who want to watch with a deeper understanding of the issues behind Aaron’s projects.

We begin with the projects discussed in the film and then examine the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, the law that was used to indict him on 11 criminal charges before his tragic death.

Creative Commons and the Problem with Copyright

As a teenager, Aaron was a core member on the team of lawyers and copyright wonks that developed Creative Commons, a project that simplifies sharing with easy-to-use copyright licenses. Aaron Swartz helped to design the code behind Creative Commons licensing.

Creative Commons was a revolutionary project that remains significant today. It’s a suite of licenses that artists, writers, and other creators can use to enable sharing, remixing, and collaboration. Online, it’s incredibly easy to copy and paste, to edit, and to share instantaneously. Doing so can sometimes run smack in the face of copyright law, which requires explicit permissions to be granted in advance of sharing or using a creative work in many contexts.

Creative commons is more compatible with the intensive sharing environment of the Internet. It allows for artists, makers, programmers, writers, and everyone in between to only reserve some rights, not all rights. With a Creative Commons license, one can encourage the sharing of her work while still being attributed. One can choose not to allow others to monetize a work, but still invite remixing, or block remixing while still encouraging distribution. Brian Knappenberger has made The Internet’s Own Boy available under a Creative Commons license and can be downloaded and shared for free from the Internet Archive.

Open Access and Open Government

A large part of The Internet’s Own Boy traces Aaron’s various projects aimed at furthering the pursuit of information. He wanted to make it easier to learn about the laws that we have to live with everyday, as well as ease access to the academic articles that form the building blocks of our knowledge about the world.

“The world's entire scientific and cultural heritage, published over centuries in books and journals,” reads the Open Access Manifesto, which was written by Aaron and is quoted in The Internet’s Own Boy, “is increasingly being digitized and locked up by a handful of private corporations.”

Aaron started projects like The Open Library that seeks to make one webpage for every book published (imagine a future where we don’t link to Amazon when directing people to a book). And during his brief stint at Stanford, Aaron worked with a law student to download the entire Westlaw database of law review articles and found troubling connections between funders of research and favorable conclusions.

Aaron’s quest led him to the PACER system, the federal judiciary’s pay-walled public court record database. PACER charges per page to view US court documents that are a matter of public record. Journalists, students, litigants, academics, and all kinds of people need access to the details of the litigation that defines our laws in order to do their work. We shouldn’t have to pay to see the law.

Information activists like Carl Malamud have long been critical of PACER and in 2009, when the system launched a project to allow free PACER access at 17 libraries nationwide, Malamud encouraged patrons to download PACER records and share them on an online repository. Aaron Swartz accepted the invitation and wrote a computer program that downloaded 20 million pages of federal court documents. In the process, scores of privacy violations were found in the PACER documents, which revealed Social Security numbers, Secret Service agents’ identities, and the like, leading to stricter privacy enforcement in the courts.

For doing this Swartz became the target of an FBI investigation that was later dropped. But as Malamud remembers in The Internet’s Own Boy, “I’ll grant you that downloading 20 million pages had perhaps exceeded the expectations of the people running the pilot access [PACER] project, but surprising a bureaucrat isn’t illegal.”

Stopping SOPA

Aaron Swartz played a central role in the fight to stop the censorious Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) that snowballed into the largest online campaign in history. SOPA was a poorly worded bill would have allowed the Department of Justice to shut down entire Internet domains because content posted on a single website might be infringing copyright—and without a trial.

Swartz co-founded Demand Progress, a digital rights organization that EFF continues to work with closely today. Demand Progress was instrumental in organizing the grassroots outcry; they boiled down the bill into super simple language and asked that people take a quick action to stop it. Most people in DC were trying to make slight improvements to a terrible bill, but Demand Progress, along with EFF, Fight for the Future, and Public Knowledge, and others mounted a campaign to stop it completely.

Wikipedia, Mozilla, Google, and countless others blacked out websites and displayed banners over their logos sending people to a petition to oppose the bill. It worked. SOPA didn’t pass, and today it remains one of the most important chapters in the history of the digital rights movement.

The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act

“There’s no justice in following unjust laws,” reads the Open Access Manifesto penned by Aaron Swartz. And an unjust law is exactly what prosecutors used against Swartz, who was charged with 13 criminal counts for downloading millions of articles from an academic journal database, on MITs network. An unjust system charged Aaron Swartz in a way that would have put him in jail for years (the maximum sentence possible added up to 35 years, yet we realize that would have been an unlikely outcome) in jail for [HF1] violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

The prosecution of Aaron also reflected profound problems with the criminal justice system far beyond the CFAA, including the incentives for prosecutors to pursue charges as aggressively as possible to try to make a defendant plead guilty. [HF2] 

Eleven of the thirteen counts against Aaron were based on the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), a law written in 1984 that makes it a crime to access a computer without “authorization” or in excess of authorized access. But these terms aren’t clear and the Department of Justice in the past has argued the CFAA makes it a federal crime to violate [HF3] a website’s terms of service, meaning that something like lying about your age or your height online could be counted as a federal crime.  

Framing Aaron’s Law as a Good Start

The Internet’s Own Boy points viewers to Aaron’s Law, a bill proposed soon after Swartz’s passing that would partly fix the broken and outdated CFAA. We support Aaron’s Law. If it passed, everyday computer users wouldn’t face criminal liability for violating a terms of service agreement and would protect users who access information in ways that protect their anonymity. But unfortunately, the bill does not go far enough and does not—currently—have wide spread support in Congress.

Aaron’s Law, as drafted wouldn’t have protected Aaron Swartz from the excessive penalties mounted against him. The CFAA currently punishes low-level offenses as felonies that, in a saner world, would be classified as misdemeanors. Currently, the CFAA is structured so that the same behavior can often be double-counted as violations of multiple provisions of law, which prosecutors then combine to beef up the potential penalties to an absurd degree. We strongly believe that CFAA reform should eliminate this kind of double-counting.

The Fight Continues

Aaron sought to make the world a better place; he wanted to share access to knowledge and expose corruption. Our movement to defend digital rights is stronger because of him. And we can only imagine how Aaron would have contributed to the fight to protect our rights and expand our freedoms as more people come to depend on an open Internet.

We will continue to fight. Aaron’s story is one worth telling. That’s why we encourage everyone who has seen this documentary to show it to a friend, host a screening at work or on campus, and encourage others to watch it. In a following post we will provide materials to host a viewing party of The Internet’s Own Boy and outline what we can all do to restore justice to computer crime laws, to improve access to knowledge, and defend free speech, and the future of our open Internet. We hope you’ll join us.

Related Issues: DMCASOPA/PIPA: Internet Blacklist LegislationInnovationCoders' Rights ProjectOpen AccessComputer Fraud And Abuse Act ReformStudent and Community Organizing
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Cosplayers Fight for Online Anonymity and Privacy During Dragon Con

eff.org - Thu, 28/08/2014 - 02:05
Wizards, Browncoats, Sherlockians, and Other Creative Communities Join EFF in “Project Secret Identity” Photo Campaign

Atlanta - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), sci-fi blog io9, and a coalition of fan communities are launching "Project Secret Identity," a cosplay photo campaign to raise awareness of the importance of anonymity and privacy during the annual pop culture convention Dragon Con in Atlanta, Georgia, Aug. 29 - Sept. 1.

The campaign, online at ProjectSecretIdentity.org, is supported by a cross-fandom coalition of organizations, including: Southeastern Browncoats, a Firefly-inspired non-profit; the Harry Potter Alliance, an activism organization; the Baker Street Babes, a Sherlock Holmes fan group and podcast; Wattpad, a community of readers and writers; and the Organization for Transformative Works, a fan-culture advocacy organization.

"Whether it's the 'Eye of Sauron' in The Lord of the Rings or 'The Machine' in Person of Interest, genre culture has long explored and criticized mass surveillance," said EFF Investigative Researcher Dave Maass. "The last year's worth of stories about the NSA have read too much like dystopian fiction. In response, we need to focus the imaginations of fans to advocate for a future where free expression is protected through privacy and anonymity. "

During the campaign, cosplayers around the world can use ProjectSecretIdentity.org to post photos of themselves in costume bearing pro-anonymity slogans, such as "I Have the Right to a Secret Identity" and "Privacy is Not a Fantasy." Dragon Con attendees can also stop by the Project Secret Identity photo stations at EFF's table (second floor at the Hilton Atlanta) and the Southeastern Browncoats' booth (#1000 at AmericasMart).

"In J.K. Rowling's novels, Voldemort came to power not only through coercion, but by monitoring, controlling, and censoring the Wizarding World's lines of communication," Harry Potter Alliance Executive Director Paul DeGeorge said. "In the real world, there is no charm-protected room where we can meet and organize in secret. What we have is the Internet and we need to fight to keep it free and secure."

"Freedom from oppressive governments is central to the ethos of the Firefly fandom," said Serenity Richards, captain of the Southeastern Browncoats. "By standing up for anonymity today, we can prevent 'The Alliance' from becoming a reality in the future."

The activism campaign coincides with Dragon Con's Electronic Frontiers Forum, a track of panels on the intersection of technology with free speech and privacy. EFF Deputy General Counsel Kurt Opsahl will present an update to his acclaimed presentation, "Through a PRISM, Darkly: Everything we know about NSA spying," which debuted at the Chaos Communication Congress in Hamburg, Germany in December 2013. Opsahl and Maass will also speak on a number of discussion panels, covering issues ranging from police searches of cell phones to the Freedom of Information Act.

EFF will also support screenings of Terms and Conditions May Apply, a 2013 documentary about Web site terms of service, and The Internet's Own Boy, Brian Knappenberger's 2014 documentary about the late Internet activist Aaron Swartz.

Founded in 1987, Dragon Con is expected to draw more than 62,000 attendees this year.

For EFF's schedule at Dragon Con:
https://www.eff.org/event/eff-goes-dragon-con

Contact:

Dave Maass
Media Relations Coordinator and Investigative Researcher
Electronic Frontier Foundation
press@eff.org

Cosplay photos:

Top: Kiba Shiruba as "Cyber" Frey from Fisheye Placebo. (High resolution)

EFF Investigative Researcher Dave Maass as Harry Tuttle from Brazil. (High resolution)

Hannah Grimm as Chell from Portal. (High resolution)


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Too Many Secrets: A Court Ruling Spells Bad News for Anonymous Speech in Brazil

eff.org - Wed, 27/08/2014 - 08:28

Last week was a bad day for freedom of expression in Brazil. Judge Paulo César de Carvalho, in the state court of Espírito Santo, issued a preliminary injunction ordering the removal of Secret—an anonymous sharing application that lets people share messages with friends, friends of friends, or publicly—from the Apple App store and Google Play store, as well as Cryptic (Secret’s application for the Windows Phone) from Microsoft's store. The injunction also ordered the three companies to remove the applications from phones belonging to their Brazilian users.

What’s the problem? The prosecutor alleges:

“…people are falling victim to embarrassment and violations of their honor without being able to defend themselves, given the anonymity of the postings, since the application SECRET ‘allows the user to tell their own or friends' secrets to Facebook contacts anonymously through the application,’ and since its developers themselves claim that ‘it's impossible to determine who told the secret, since there's no data or photo of the user and they guarantee that ‘there's no risk of the secret leaking out on Facebook,’ since ‘the most information that's revealed is that the message was published by a friend or by the friend of a friend on the app.’”

Furthermore, the prosecutor argues that because any removal request must be sent in English to an American judge via the Brazilian foreign ministry, there is no effective way for Brazilians to defend themselves against defamation.

And why is anonymous speech a problem in Brazil? The judge cites two sections of the Brazilian Constitution:

Chapter I, article 5, section IV: The expression of thought is free, anonymity being forbidden; and

Chapter I, article 5, section X: Intimacy, private life, and the honor and image of persons are inviolable, ensuring the right to compensation for material or moral damages resulting from their violation.

The judge quoted, at length, Brazilian legal scholar Daniel Sarmento, explaining that the right to freedom of expression is not absolute and that “those who act in an abusive manner in their exercise of this right, and thereby cause damage to third parties, may be held responsible for their actions.”

Opposing counsel argued that Secret does not violate the constitution because it is technically possible for the company to trace who is posting anonymous messages through email and phone records. Representatives from Secret informed a Brazilian paper that they would comply with a valid court order to hand over user data if it received one.

Will Brazilians really be losing their Secret apps in just a few days? In some cases, yes. Apple has already complied. But Apple, Google, and Microsoft will have an opportunity to appeal.

While Brazil has led the way in government support of open source culture and explicitly condemning mass surveillance, its Constitutional ban on anonymous speech poses a tremendous danger to free expression in Brazil. Anonymity may make it more difficult to hold bullies accountable for their speech, but it also has a chilling effect on victims of all forms of violence and abuse, people with unpopular opinions, minorities, and vulnerable populations. Banning anonymous speech also chills dissent against the government. In 2011, Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Opinion, Frank LaRue, called upon states to ensure that individuals have the right to express themselves anonymously online. In 2013, in a landmark report, he explicitly made the link between anonymous speech and privacy:

“The right to privacy is often understood as an essential requirement for the realization of the right to freedom of expression. Undue interference with individuals’ privacy can both directly and indirectly limit the free development and exchange of ideas. … An infringement upon one right can be both the cause and consequence of an infringement upon the other.”

EFF will be keeping a close eye on this case as it develops


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Supreme Court Tackles Online Threats

eff.org - Wed, 27/08/2014 - 07:58

When Sarah Palin placed crosshairs over political districts her political action committee was targeting in the 2010 midterm election, there was an outcry but she wasn’t arrested. Although some claimed the imagery was violent, no one believed Palin was actually intending to shoot anyone. But when Anthony Elonis posted some ugly speech on his Facebook account, fantasizing about killing his ex-wife and law enforcement agents, he was arrested, indicted for making Internet threats and sentenced to more than three and a half years in prison. Elonis claimed he was venting and that he didn’t mean what he said. The prosecutor explained to the jury that it didn’t matter what Elonis thought, and the Third Circuit Court of Appeals agreed, ruling the government only had to show a reasonable person felt threatened by the posts. 

With Elonis’ case now before the Supreme Court, we’ve joined an amicus brief filed by the Student Press Law Center and the PEN American Center to explain why the unique nature of the Internet and the First Amendment require the government prove a person actually meant to make a threat before he can be prosecuted.

This is especially important for youth who communicate through social media. One of the great things about the Internet is its ability to spread speech far and wide. But that also means speech may be misunderstood when it is received by an unintended audience or without the original context in which it was published, creating the risk that fiery rhetoric is transformed into criminal liability. We've already seen how one 18 year old who posted some ugly trash talk on Facebook is now facing ten years in prison. Obviously, there is no room in our society for true threats of violence, whether spoken online or offline. So requiring a subjective intent to threaten is the best way to balance First Amendment values with public safety. Speech that appears threatening but is clearly parody or a joke is protected, while true, violent threats meant to be threatening are punished.

The rapid growth of social media has clearly benefited society, enhancing the ability to connect with other people far and wide and with those both within and outside of our communities. Hopefully, the Court will help preserve this public resource by not unnecessarily extending criminal liability in overbroad ways.

Sean D. Jordan, Kent C. Sullivan, Peter Ligh and Travis Mock of Sutherland LLP, wrote the brief for EFF, SPLC and PEN American Center.

Related Issues: Free SpeechBloggers' RightsRelated Cases: Elonis v. US
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Registered Lobbyists Elbow Their Way Back Into TPP Committees

eff.org - Wed, 27/08/2014 - 04:43

Hollywood and big publishers already have an alarming stranglehold over the US Trade Representative's objectives in trade agreements, leading to extreme copyright enforcement and privacy-invading policies in trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement. But now, the White House is doing away with the remaining limits it has on lobbyists influencing federal policies.

Special interests won a federal court ruling earlier this year, where the judge in the case suggested that President Obama's ban on registered lobbyists serving on federal advisory committees violated those lobbyists' rights. In light of this ruling, the White House has sent a memo specifying new rules, permitting lobbyists to once again officially serve on federal agencies if they are representing a specific client (such as say, the Motion Picture Association of America).

These new relaxed rules on lobbyists mean that Hollywood will now be able to exercise their influence on US trade policy more than ever.

Since President Obama enacted the ban in 2010, only non-registered lobbyists were able to serve on these Trade Advisory Committees. These committees currently include hundreds of legal advisors for corporations, who can log in from their own computers to view and comment on the official drafts of trade agreements. Meanwhile, Congress members are only permitted to view the text in a specific room without the ability to take notes or be accompanied by legislative aides. Public representatives are afforded even less access to negotiations than corporate representatives.

It's no wonder that the TPP carries so many anti-user policies. Based upon what we've seen from the leaked Intellectual Property chapter, we know that this current arrangement already gives corporations undue influence over its terms. That's why the TPP includes provisions that criminalize the circumvention of DRM, expand the international standard of copyright terms to life of the author plus 70 years, and cement dangerous liabilities for websites and other Internet intermediaries that will force them to take down and censor users' content.

If you're a US voter, you can help us fix this broken, corporate-captured process. Senator Ron Wyden, who has been a vocal opponent to the TPP's secretive negotiations, has the unique opportunity to make things right. As Chair of the Finance Committee, he's under massive pressure from Hollywood to introduce a bill that will legitimize this whole undemocratic process.

We need your help to call on Sen. Wyden to bring Internet users' interests to the table. Let's ask him to bring real transparency and accountability to the trade negotiation process so our international laws protect, not impair, digital rights.

Related Issues: Fair Use and Intellectual Property: Defending the BalanceInternationalTrans-Pacific Partnership Agreement
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Comcast Data Breach Leaks Thousands of Unlisted Phone Numbers, Threatening Customers' Privacy

eff.org - Tue, 26/08/2014 - 01:46

The longer my information is out there, the worse the issue gets, yet still no action. I have paid for unpublishing my information for years as I testified in a murder trial. Now, my wife, children, and I are [a]ll in danger; and I have nowhere to turn.

Four years ago, users of Comcast's phone service who had paid for their personal information to be unlisted noticed that something was amiss. Complaints started appearing from these individuals who found their names, addresses, and telephone numbers in phone directories both online and off.

Later, it was revealed that this breach of confidential information affected more than 74,000 individuals and households in California—over half of Comcast's users in California with unlisted numbers. While the breach hit California the hardest, it also occurred with Comcast customers in other states. These numbers were treated just like ordinary listed phone numbers, licensed by Comcast to "publishers," directory assistance providers, and apparently passed on to other databases and published for everyone to see.

This is but one example of how a mistake in an industry built upon the acquisition and selling of personal information can hurt people.  And this is why California law requires phone companies to protect their customers' unlisted or non-published phone numbers.1 The California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has opened up an investigation [pdf] to determine whether and to what extent Comcast may have broken the law in allowing this release of non-published numbers. EFF Senior Staff Attorney Lee Tien has submitted testimony [pdf] as an expert witness for the California PUC in this case.

These customers were paying Comcast every month to keep their personal information out of public databases. Many of these customers rely on having a non-published number to withhold their names, telephone numbers, and addresses from public lists, not only to preserve their privacy, but to protect their safety. Data breaches like Comcast's can have grave consequences; many complaints explicitly mention abusive relationships or serious threats. As one complainant wrote:

They have put my life in danger & this is not the littlest bit of exaggerating.... I'm tired of getting the runaround & have now contacted corporate office, being paraplegic already how am I suppose [sic] to protect myself from a man that has threatened to kill me...

Comcast claims to have first heard about this breach in October of 2012, and they reported the error to California's Public Utilities Commission in January 2013. However, the Commission has found complaints about wrongly published unlisted numbers from more than two years earlier.

While "getting the runaround" from Comcast has become a matter of course, these reports reveal the actual danger that can come from a breach. And such breaches will only happen more often as more data is collected, shared, and sold.

Earlier this year, the Federal Trade Commission released its long-awaited report on the hidden intricacies of the data economy, focusing on data brokers. Apparent is the scope of use for consumer data: from marketing to risk mitigation and debt collection. Information gleaned from phone number databases can be used to flesh out profiles of individuals, making them easier targets for advertising campaigns and services—and more visible to those who want to find them.

Senior citizens often unlist their phone numbers to escape unwanted telemarketer calls. Yet, as the FTC report and many articles note, seniors are one of the more sought after segments of the population, since they are often vulnerable to deals, tricks, and scams. (For a specific example, the New York Times covered the story of Charles Guthrie, who was duped after a data broker sold his number to thieves.)

Consumers with unlisted numbers have a serious expectation of privacy, and Comcast broke not only their contracts with these customers, but most likely the law. There will be an evidentiary hearing in this case in September.

Files:  i1310003_sed_testimony_of_expert_witness_of_lee_tien_cor.pdf oii_13_10_003_comcast_-_final.pdfRelated Issues: Privacy
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Coding with EFF

eff.org - Fri, 22/08/2014 - 07:31

We at EFF are always excited to unveil new ways for our technically skilled community to help expand and defend our rights online. And time and again our members demonstrate an unbelievable drive and ability to take action in truly game-changing ways. Look at what happened when we asked coders earlier this year to help EFF build our new open-source tool to contact members of Congress. We thought the project would take weeks, but we finished it in two days. That’s because 142 volunteer coders joined forces to help. We were in awe.

Now, in that similar spirit, we are excited to announce yet another way digital rights defenders can help out: Coding with EFF. Join us.

Alongside our policy and legal work, we maintain software projects to defend freedom and enhance privacy and security online.

With the SSL Observatory and Panopticlick, we do data-based research that has improved the behavior of secure websites and tracking networks. HTTPS Everywhere and Privacy Badger, our browser extensions, give hundreds of thousands of users the safety and privacy they need to use the web confidently. STARTTLS Everywhere is pushing industry to implement better email encryption. The Open Wireless Movement aims to improve WiFi router security and performance so that people are comfortable sharing Internet access.

We run these projects with a very small technical team, and with the help of our members and the Internet community—that's you. All of our work is released under free software licenses. We do development and maintenance in public forums and we welcome contributors of all skill levels and backgrounds.

Here are a few examples of work we could use help on:

  • Add more automated tests to HTTPS Everywhere.
  • Make Open Wireless run under qemu or give it translation support.
  • Write tests and translate the UI for Privacy Badger.
  • Find a task that interests you in any project's issue tracker, or file your own.

Visit our Coding with EFF page, find a project you like, join the mailing list, and dive right in.

We're also hiring a full-time Staff Technologist or Senior Staff Technologist. Women and minorities are encouraged to apply.


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MLDI and EFF Petition the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in the Case of Alaa Abd El Fattah

eff.org - Fri, 22/08/2014 - 04:55

Alaa Abd El Fattah is currently serving a fifteen-year prison sentence for spurious accusations made in connection with his longstanding and influential activism. The Egyptian blogger and activist, who was sentenced in June, has faced years of harassment and arrests from each successive Egyptian government for his work.

EFF has partnered with the Media Legal Defence Initiative—which provides support to bloggers, journalists, and independent media around the world—to submit a petition to the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UNWGAD). The petition was also supported by the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network. We assert that Alaa Abd El Fattah was arbitrarily arrested and detained while exercising, or in situations connected to the exercise of, his right to freedom of opinion and expression, to freedom of association, and the right to take part in the conduct of public affairs, rights guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which Egypt is party.

On August 18, Abd El Fattah's family announced on Facebook that he had begun a hunger strike, to continue until he achieves his freedom. In the statement, Abd El Fattah was quoted as saying: "I will no longer play the role they’ve written for me."

Like Abd El Fattah's family, we are concerned for his well-being and hold the Egyptian authorities responsible for his safety and health. The petition, submitted on August 21 to the UNWGAD, can be read in full below.

Files:  UNWGAD petition and request for urgent action in the case of Alaa Abd El FattahRelated Issues: Free SpeechDefending Digital VoicesInternational
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Cost of Defending Against A Troll Is More Than Just A Bridge Toll

eff.org - Fri, 22/08/2014 - 04:34

We recently wrote about the end of Adam Carolla’s high-profile patent battle with the troll Personal Audio. We had a guess as to why Carolla settled: patent litigation is expensive. Even Carolla, with the backing of numerous fans and supporters, still likely didn’t have enough money to see his case through to the end. Today, we’d like to highlight the case of another patent troll defendant: Capstone Photography. 

You probably don’t know Capstone. Capstone is a small photography business based in Connecticut. Although it works with contractors around the country, it has only three part-time employees other than the owners. On New Year’s Eve, 2013, Capstone was sued by Peter Wolf, the owner of a company called Photocrazy, for infringement of three patents: U.S. Patent Nos. 6,985,875; 7,047,214; and 7,870,035.

Here is claim one from U.S. Patent 6,985,875:

1. A process providing event photographs of a sporting event for inspection, selection and distribution via a computer network, comprising the steps of:

taking photographs of at least one participant of a sporting event along at least one point of a course or field thereof;

associating identifying data with each photograph taken, wherein the identifying data is selected from at least one of: a number corresponding to a number worn by a participant, a participant's name, a code acquired from a component worn by a participant, and a date and time, including hour and minute the photograph was taken;

informing the sporting participants of the identifying data;

transferring the photographs to a computer network server;

cataloging each of the photographs in a web-site server according to the identifying data;

accessing the server at a location other than the sporting event and searching for a photograph of a particular sporting event participant utilizing the identifying data; and

displaying the photograph of the sporting event participant for inspection and ordering.

In plain English: Take photos of a race, tag and sort by bib number and date, and search for photos based on that tag via the Internet. That’s it.

We’re having a hard time seeing how this patent “promotes the progress of the sciences and the useful arts” given that it seems to be a patent on numerical sorting and searching. Indeed, the Supreme Court recently ruled that claims that simply add “do it on a computer” to an abstract idea are not even eligible for patent protection. We think the patent clearly fails this test. (It’s also likely not infringed). But because it can take months (and even years) for the court to even consider those issues, they will likely never be decided. Patent litigation is expensive, so many small businesses can’t afford to fight back no matter how weak the patent. That’s part of the problem. Companies can get 20 year “monopolies” after an average of 19 hours of review by the Patent Office. And because the cost to get a patent can be orders of magnitude less than the cost to defend against it, there is an incentive for people to get patents in order to later force defendants into settlement.

Capstone doesn’t have a widely-distributed podcast that it can use to drum up the backing of thousands of fans and supporters. Its owner’s own attempt to crowdfund the defense raised only about $5,000. And although Capstone’s business has been profitable, the owner tells us that because of the patent lawsuit and the costs his company is facing, his business faces the very real prospect of shutting down.

Recent reforms have been helpful to reduce costs for some defendants. For example, the Inter Partes Review (“IPR”) program now being implemented at the Patent Office promises to be a much cheaper way to determine validity.  One problem though, is that it is still too expensive for businesses like Capstone. An IPR costs $23,000 in filing fees alone, and requires paying lawyers and often experts as well. 

EFF previously advocated for reduced fees for IPR filings by small businesses and others without the ability to fund patent challenges. Unfortunately, the PTO ignored our request. However, the PTO is currently accepting comments regarding the post-grant challenges such as the IPR process. We encourage the public, especially small business owners, to let the PTO know by September 16 that the costs are still too high for many, and absent a lower cost, patent trolls will continue to assert dubious patents against companies they know can’t afford to do anything but settle.

Related Issues: PatentsPatent TrollsInnovation
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EFF, ACLU Demolish “It’s Just Metadata” Claim in NSA Spying Appeal

eff.org - Thu, 21/08/2014 - 07:27
Americans Deserve Full Protection of the Fourth Amendment for their Telephone Records, Groups Argue

Washington, DC - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) today filed an amicus brief in Klayman v. Obama, a high-profile lawsuit that challenges mass surveillance, arguing that Americans' telephone metadata deserves the highest protection of the Fourth Amendment.

Larry Klayman, conservative activist and founder of Judicial Watch and Freedom Watch, was among the first plaintiffs to sue the National Security Agency (NSA) over the collection of telephone metadata from Verizon customers that was detailed in documents released by Edward Snowden. In December 2013, Judge Richard Leon issued a preliminary ruling that the program was likely unconstitutional, and the case is currently on appeal before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

In the new amicus brief in Klayman v. Obama, the EFF and ACLU lawyers repudiate arguments by U.S. officials that the records are "just metadata" and therefore not as sensitive as the contents of phone calls. Using research and new case law, the civil liberties groups argue that metadata (such as who individuals called, when they called, and how long they spoke) can be even more revealing than conversations when collected en masse.

"Metadata isn't trivial," EFF Legal Fellow Andrew Crocker says. "Collected on a massive scale over a broad time period, metadata can reveal your political and religious affiliations, your friends and relationships, even whether you have a health condition or own guns. This is exactly the kind of warrantless search the Fourth Amendment was intended to prevent."

The brief explains that changes in technology, as well as the government's move from targeted to mass surveillance, mean that the holding of the 1979 Supreme Court case Smith v. Maryland that the government relies on (often called the "third-party doctrine") does not apply. Instead, EFF and the ACLU point to a series of recent key decisions—including the Supreme Court decisions in United States v. Jones in 2012 and Riley v. California in 2014—in which judges ruled in favor of requiring a warrant for electronic search and seizure.

"Dragnet surveillance is and has always has been illegal in the United States," says ACLU Staff Attorney Alex Abdo. "Our country's founders rebelled against overbroad searches and seizures, and they would be aghast to see the liberties they fought hard to enshrine into our Constitution sacrificed in the name of security. As even the president himself has recognized, we can keep the nation safe without surrendering our privacy."

EFF and the ACLU have each litigated numerous First and Fourth Amendment lawsuits related to NSA surveillance and together represent Idaho nurse Anna Smith in a similar case currently on appeal in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals called Smith v. Obama. The ACLU is a plaintiff in a case currently pending before the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, ACLU v. Clapper, to be heard on Sept. 2. EFF has two cases—Jewel v. NSA and First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles v. NSA—before the U.S. District Court for Northern District of California.

For the amicus brief:
https://www.eff.org/document/eff-and-aclu-amicus-brief-klayman

Contacts:

Andrew Crocker
   Legal Fellow
   Electronic Frontier Foundation
   andrew@eff.org


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We Need Sen. Wyden's Help to Fix the Broken, Anti-User Trade Negotiation Process

eff.org - Thu, 21/08/2014 - 04:44

We have joined more than a hundred organizations and tens of thousands of individuals across the US to oppose secret, undemocratic trade agreements that affect users' rights. Together, we defeated a bill that would have put agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) on the fast track to approval without any proper Congressional oversight. Now the White House, the United States Trade Representative (USTR), and other policymakers that are beholden to corporate interests are putting massive pressure on Congress to pass something like it again. They just face one problem: the Congress member with the mandate to introduce a new trade authority bill is a strong defender of digital rights and a vocal opponent to the secrecy that shrouds trade agreement. That is Senator Ron Wyden.

For years, Sen. Wyden has demanded more transparency in our trade negotiations. He has recognized that the US should not bind itself to deals whose agenda is dominated by big corporate interests at the expensive of Internet users' rights. He is now in the unique position to fix this broken, secretive process. But while the USTR works towards sealing the deal on the TPP, the Senator is under ever more pressure to lead the passage of a bill that would expedite trade agreements to approval.

Let's ask Sen. Wyden to bring transparency and accountability to trade negotiations once and for all.

They want him to introduce something like Fast Track (also known as Trade Promotion Authority). Under such a law, Congress hands to the president its own constitutional authority to oversee, debate, and set the agenda for US trade policy. When it was in place in the past, it created special rules that empowered the White House to negotiate and sign trade agreements without Congressional oversight. If enacted now, draconian Internet and copyright provisions, buried in omnibus treaties, could get passed with almost no oversight.

So how does Sen. Wyden fit into this? As the Chair of the Senate Finance Committee (which includes the subcommittee on international trade), he is in charge of overseeing congressional trade policies. That's why the White House and the USTR need him to pass a bill that would legitimize their back-room trade negotiations. Thankfully, Sen. Wyden has been an outspoken critic of the secrecy around these agreements. That's why over 25 leading tech companies sent him a public letter calling him to oppose Fast Track. In 2012, he sent a letter to the US Trade Rep calling them to release detailed information about provisions in the TPP that would impact Internet freedoms. He also introduced a bill to the floor in May 2012, demanding the USTR give Congress members full access to the TPP text—the same access afforded to representatives of corporations. In his statement at the hearing introducing this legislation, he said:

It may be the U.S. Trade Representative’s (USTR) current job to negotiate trade agreements on behalf of the United States, but Article 1 Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution gives Congress—not the USTR or any other member of the Executive Branch—the responsibility of regulating foreign commerce. It was our Founding Fathers’ intention to ensure that the laws and policies that govern the American people take into account the interests of all the American people, not just a privileged few.

And yet, Mr. President, the majority of Congress is being kept in the dark as to the substance of the TPP negotiations, while representatives of U.S. corporations—like Halliburton, Chevron, PHRMA, Comcast, and the Motion Picture Association of America—are being consulted and made privy to details of the agreement. As the Office of the USTR will tell you, the President gives it broad power to keep information about the trade policies it advances and negotiates, secret. Let me tell you, the USTR is making full use of this authority.

In the remainder of his statement, he describes how his staff was denied access to the negotiation text even after they had received proper security clearance. In introducing this legislation that summer in 2012, he wanted to make sure that Members of Congress and their staff could simply be afforded the same level of access to the negotiating texts of the TPP as corporate representatives.

So now, as a long time defender of digital rights in Congress, we call on Sen. Wyden to continue defending users' rights against big private interests, and ensure that users' interests are upheld, not trampled on. In our letter to the Senator, we outline some crucial fixes to the current negotiation process. If he is going to introduce a new version of trade authority, we want to make sure it has essential democratic procedures built into it to ensure that users' rights take a front seat in the trade policy debate.

Related Issues: Fair Use and Intellectual Property: Defending the BalanceInternationalTrans-Pacific Partnership Agreement
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U.N. Free Expression Champion, Congressional Internet Defender, and Groundbreaking Counter-surveillance Artist Win EFF Pioneer Awards

eff.org - Thu, 21/08/2014 - 04:18
EFF to Honor Former U.N. Special Rapporteur Frank La Rue, U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren, and artist Trevor Paglen at San Francisco Ceremony Featuring the Yes Men

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is pleased to announce the distinguished winners of the 2014 Pioneer Awards: United Nations Special Rapporteur Frank La Rue, U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren, and groundbreaking counter-surveillance artist Trevor Paglen.

The award ceremony will be held the evening of October 2 at the Lodge at the Regency Center in San Francisco. Keynote speakers will be Jacques Servin and Igor Vamos, better known as the Yes Men, who are known for their elaborate parodies and impersonations to fight government and corporate malfeasance

Frank La Rue is the former U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression. From his appointment in 2008 to the end of his term in 2014, La Rue brought technology to the forefront of the fight for free expression around the world, declaring that access to the Internet is a fundamental human right and highlighting the importance of uncensored communication and anonymous speech in increasingly filtered and tracked networks. La Rue also fought the global "book famine" for people with visual and reading disabilities, advocating for an international Treaty of the Blind to reform over-restrictive copyright that hindered the production and distribution of books in accessible formats. Last year, La Rue published a highly influential report on the dangers of widespread state surveillance, arguing that privacy is an essential requirement for true freedom of expression. Before taking his post at the U.N., La Rue spent years working on human rights issues, including bringing genocide cases against the military dictatorship in his native Guatemala in 2000 and 2001.

For nearly 20 years, Rep. Zoe Lofgren has been a crucial voice in Congress on technology, innovation, and free speech—defending the free and open Internet, fighting for privacy and free speech, and blocking dangerous copyright laws while pushing for sensible alternatives. Lofgren rallied congressional opposition to the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), one of the defining moments of Internet activism. Currently, Lofgren is fighting to reform some of the worst legal threats to our digital rights: the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which regulates our email privacy with outdated standards; the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which has been used to block phone unlocking, jailbreaking, and our freedom to tinker; and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, the law used to unfairly prosecute Aaron Swartz. Lofgren chairs the California Democratic Congressional Delegation, the largest delegation in Congress.

Trevor Paglen is an artist whose work uses methods from science, journalism, and other disciplines in an attempt to "see" the historical moment we live in. Paglen's groundbreaking projects exposing government secrecy have included documenting U.S. government drone flights, using high-end optical systems to photograph top-secret governmental sites, and tracking classified spacecraft in Earth's orbit. In a recent project, Paglen photographed the National Security Agency, the National Reconnaissance Office, and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, releasing the images without restriction for public use. Paglen's visual art has been exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Tate Modern in London, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, among many other places. Paglen is also the author of five books, including Torture Taxi, an early look at the CIA's extraordinary rendition program.

"Each of our Pioneer Award winners has helped the world understand how technology and civil liberties are interwoven into our lives, and each is still working to protect our freedom and fight abuses," EFF Executive Director Shari Steele said. "We are so proud to be able to present them with this year's Pioneer Awards."

Tickets to the Pioneer Awards, which includes access to the general reception and ceremony, are $65 for EFF members and $75 for non-members. Also available are tickets for a special, advance reception featuring some past and present Pioneer Award winners as well as keynoters, the Yes Men. The special advance reception tickets are $250, which includes entry for the ticket holder plus a guest.

Awarded every year since 1992, EFF's Pioneer Awards recognize the leaders who are extending freedom and innovation on the electronic frontier. Previous honorees include Aaron Swartz, Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras, Tim Berners-Lee, and the Tor Project, among many others.

To buy tickets to the Pioneer Awards: https://supporters.eff.org/civicrm/event/register?id=87

Contact:

Dave Maass
Media Relations Coordinator
Electronic Frontier Foundation
press@eff.org

var mytubes = new Array(2); mytubes[1] = '%3Ciframe src=%22//www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/XAdGdja1DdI?rel=0%22 allowfullscreen=%22%22 frameborder=%220%22 height=%22253%22 width=%22450%22%3E%3C/iframe%3E'; mytubes[2] = '%3Ciframe src=%22//www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/EsEkmHRbThk?rel=0%22 allowfullscreen=%22%22 frameborder=%220%22 height=%22281%22 width=%22500%22%3E%3C/iframe%3E';
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Colombia y México se Unirán para Editar Artículos sobre Derechos Digitales en Wikipedia

eff.org - Wed, 20/08/2014 - 20:18

Traducido por Jacobo Najera, ContingenteMX

Sabado 23 de agosto, EFF participará junto a Wikimedia Mexico, Rancho Electronico, Contingente MX, Fundación Karisma, Panoptykon Foundation, Hackbo, Enjambre Digital, RedPaTodos and May First Mexico se uniran para editar y mejorar artículos en español relacionados con derechos digitales en Wikipedia. En la ciudad de México, el HackerSpace Rancho Electrónico será la sede para el "editatón", mientras que en Colombia el Hacko. Este evento será una colaboración entre dos hackerspaces en América Latina, en compañía con varias organizaciones de derechos digitales y los wikipedistas, que trabajarán en conjunto los contenidos en español, en las entradas relacionadas a los derechos digitales en Wikipedia.

Los editatones son maratones de edición de Wikipedia, en donde los participantes redactan y mejoran sus artículos. El objetivo de este maratón es que las personas aprendan cómo utilizar y mejorar los artículos de Wikipedia, así como contribuir con artículos sobre derechos digitales en la enciclopedia en Internet. Este evento es abierto al público y durará toda la tarde. ¡Si usted es mexicano o colombiano ayúdenos a expandir y mejorar Wikimedia en temas de derechos digitales en español! Encuentra más información sobre el editatón aquí.

Katitza Rodríguez y Leez Wright de la EFF estarán en Bogotá para este evento; acércate a ellas para un día de edición!

Cuándo: Sábado, 23 de agosto 2014 Hora: 3:00 pm (México y Bogotá)

Dónde: Rancho Electrónico / CriptoRally: Fray Juan de Torquemada 76 Entre Bolívar e Isabel La Católica, México DF

Hackbo: Cll 44 No 8-50 oficina 201 Barrio Javeriana, Bogotá, Colombia

Related Issues: InternationalSurveillance and Human Rights
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Digital Rights Advocates in Mexico and Colombia Unite for Wikipedia Hackathon

eff.org - Wed, 20/08/2014 - 09:59

Saturday, August 23, EFF will join Wikimedia Mexico, Rancho Electronico, Contingente MX, Fundación Karisma, Panoptykon Foundation, Hackbo, Enjambre Digital, RedPaTodos and May First Mexico to edit and improve the Spanish text of digital rights-related articles on Wikipedia. Joining from Mexico City, hackerspace Rancho Electronico will be hosting its own “editathon,” while hackerspace Hackbo will follow suit in Bogotá, Colombia. This event will be a great collaboration between two hackerspaces in Latin America, along with several digital rights organizations and Wikipedians, who will work together to revise the Spanish content in digital rights entries on Wikipedia.

"Editathons" are hackathons where participants edit Wikipedia entries on a given topic.  The goal of this “editathon” is for people to learn how to use and improve Wikipedia articles while increasing the digital rights content on the internet encyclopedia.  This event is open to the public and will likely last throughout the evening. If you are Mexican or Colombian, help us expand and improve Wikipedia on digital rights issues in Spanish!

Find more information about the editathon here. EFF’s own Katitza Rodriguez and Leez Wright will both be in Bogotá for this event; join them for a day of editing and creating!

When: Saturday, August 23, 2014

Time: 3:00pm (Mexico and Bogotá)

Where: Rancho Electronico / CriptoRally: Fray Juan de Torquemada 76 Entre Bolivar e Isabel La Católica, Mexico DF

Hackbo: Cll 44 No 8-50 oficina 201 Barrio Javeriana, Bogota, Colombia

Related Issues: InternationalSurveillance and Human Rights
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EFF to Ethiopia: Illegal Wiretapping Is Illegal, Even for Governments

eff.org - Wed, 20/08/2014 - 05:57

Earlier this week, EFF told the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia that Ethiopia must be held accountable for its illegal wiretapping of an American citizen. Foreign governments simply do not have a get-out-of-court-free card when they commit serious felonies in America against Americans. This case is the centerpiece of our U.S. legal efforts to combat state sponsored malware.

In February 2014, EFF filed suit against the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia on behalf of our client, Mr. Kidane, an Ethiopian by birth who has been a U.S. citizen over a decade. Mr. Kidane discovered traces of Gamma International's FinSpy, a sophisticated spyware product which its maker claims is sold exclusively to governments and law enforcement, on his laptop at his home in suburban Maryland. A forensic examination of his computer showed that the Ethiopian government had been recording Mr. Kidane’s Skype calls, as well as monitoring his web and email usage. The monitoring, which violates both the federal Wiretap Act and Maryland state law, was accomplished using spyware that captured his activities and then reported them back to a command and control server in Ethiopia controlled by the government. The infection was active from October 2012, through March 2013, and was stopped just days after researchers at the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab released a report exposing Ethiopia's use of use of FinSpy. The report specifically referenced the very IP address of the Ethiopian government server responsible for the command and control of the spyware on Mr. Kidane’s laptop.

The Ethiopian government responded to the suit with the troubling claim that it—and every other foreign government—should be completely immune from suit for wiretapping American citizens on American soil. Ethiopia’s filing rests on several logic-challenged premises. Ethiopia claims that the recording of Mr. Kidane’s Skype calls and Internet activity at his home in Maryland actually took place in Ethiopia, and is therefore beyond the reach of any U.S. court. Worse still, Ethiopia claims that it had the "discretion" to violate U.S. law, reducing the Wiretap Act to something more like a traffic violation than a serious felony. Interestingly, Ethiopia does not actually deny that it wiretapped Mr. Kidane.

Yesterday, EFF and its co-counsel at Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi, filed a response knocking down each of Ethiopia’s arguments, noting that not even the U.S. government is allowed to do what Ethiopia claims it had the right to do here: wiretap Americans in America with no legal process whatsoever.  We argue that Ethiopia must be held accountable for wiretapping Mr. Kidane, just as any other actor would be. Neither its status as a government nor the fact that it launched its attack on Mr. Kidane from Ethiopia gives it carte blanche to ignore the law. If Ethiopia legitimately needed to collect information about Americans for an investigation, it could negotiate a deal with the U.S., called a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty, which would allow it to seek U.S. assistance for something like a wiretap. Otherwise, there simply is no “international spying” exception to the law for foreign governments, nor should there be. When sovereign governments act, especially when they invade the privacy of ordinary people, they must do so within the bounds of the law.  And when foreign governments break U.S. law, U.S. courts have the power to hold them accountable.

This is the next step in what we hope will set an important precedent in the U.S., fighting back against the growing problem of state-sponsored malware.  No matter what one thinks about the NSA spying on Americans inside the U.S. (of course EFF believes that this has gone way far too), it should be easy to see that foreign governments—be they Ethiopia, China, or as EFF itself experienced Vietnam—do not and should not have that right. 

Files:  kidaneopposition.pdfRelated Issues: AnonymityInternationalPrivacyRelated Cases: Kidane v. Ethiopia
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