News feeds

Australian Proposal Would Require Suspicionless Domestic Spying by ISPs - Sat, 09/08/2014 - 06:49

The Australian government announced new anti-terrorism measures this week, in response to the alleged involvement of Australian citizens with extremist groups in countries including Syria and Iraq. Quietly omitted from the briefing at which those changes were announced, but separately leaked to the press this week, were the government's plans to introduce mandatory data retention requirements for Australian Internet Service Providers (ISPs).

These changes are causing an outcry from privacy advocates and political parties alike. And they should.

The new measures remain shrouded in confusion—some of which is coming from its very proponents. There have been conflicting reports about whether users' browser history would be hoovered up by the new surveillance laws. And in a now infamous interview, Attorney General George Brandis struggled to explain how retaining the addresses of websites visited was different than determining what content users were viewing. Prime Minster Tony Abbott also attempted and failed to make the same distinction two days later.

The government has attempted to clarify, emphasizing that the data retained would include the IP addresses of websites visited, as well as the times and durations of visits. Also included would be senders' and recipients' email addresses, IP addresses assigned to users, as well as details of phone calls such as caller and recipient numbers, caller location and duration.

This is still an extraordinary amount of information. And EFF has previously explained why metadata matters at least as much as the content of communications. Users can take no solace in the fact that content is not being collected. As former National Security Agency General Counsel Stu Baker said: “metadata absolutely tells you everything about somebody’s life. If you have enough metadata, you don’t really need content.” Metadata includes information like who your contacts are, where and when you go online, and websites that you may legally visit that might be politically subversive, iconoclastic, or simply your own private business. But as a Stanford study earlier this year demonstrated, it can also reveal “medical conditions, firearm ownership, and more.”

So how is the government spinning this? One rationale for data retention sometimes heard in this debate is that ISPs collect some of this metadata already anyway for technical and billing purposes. But this rationale falls short—under Australian privacy law they are not permitted to collect personal data that they do not need, nor are they permitted to retain it for longer than they need it for the purpose of collection. That would all change under this new proposal, which may help explain why ISPs are expressing concerns and confusion about the potential mandate.

Although threatening, the proposal is not exactly new. Most recently it resurrects the subject of a 2012 discussion paper that recommended that ISPs be required to maintain the metadata of users for two years. At the time, a member of the current government, who was then in opposition, likened proposals for data retention to Gestapo tactics, and they were eventually dropped into the lead-up to the 2013 general election.

So if the proposals wouldn't fly in 2012 under the previous government, why now—particularly in light of leaked documents from Edward Snowden that show the role Australia has played in the NSA's invasive surveillance? The Prime Minister himself admits that the terrorist threat has not changed. Yet in a replay of the rushed introduction of similar laws in the United Kingdom last month, the new proposal could become law as soon as next month, before it has even been tabled for consideration of the Cabinet.

It appears the government is attempting to manipulate allegations of Australian citizens' involvement in terrorist activities overseas, to justify a much broader and more intrusive domestic surveillance regime. It's a cynical move, and one that the Australian public should not stand for.

Related Issues: InternationalMandatory Data Retention
Share this:   ||  Join EFF
Categories: Aggregated News

Middle East in Turmoil - Sat, 09/08/2014 - 05:56
Middle East in Turmoil
by Stephen Lendman
Again my great thanks to the many friends, colleagues and readers welcoming me back, sending me get well wishes from around the world.
It means so much to me. I thanked everyone and will ahead. Support messages mean so much emotionally and physically.
I continue my recovery as an outpatient. It's my top priority. I hope to write and do media work as able. It's what I love best.
It was agonizing being silenced during the worst of Israel's genocidal slaughter of non-combatant men, women, children, infants, the elderly and infirm.
The mass destruction of their neighborhoods, homes, property, vital infrastructure, loved ones and everything they hold dear. 
The cruel, calculated, premeditated state-sponsored aggression by one of the world's most powerful, ruthless military killing machines against near defenseless people is indefensible.
The murder of nonviolent West Bank protesters compounded the outrage. 
Israel is a rogue terror state. It thrives on violence and instability.
It aims to be the sole regional power. It's the only country without fixed borders.
It wants them expanded. It wants regional lines redrawn. It wants current Middle East states balkanized. It wants added territory at the expense of other nations.
It's mindless of international law, norms and standards. US tax dollars support its lawless agenda. 
The sham ceasefire and go nowhere peace talks were dead on arrival. Longterm all talk, no give, is official Israeli policy. 
Gazans want long denied justice. They won't tolerate more of the same. Nor should they. 
All Palestinians want the same thing - lifting the lawless siege Israel by its own admission says is political, not security related.
Israel's only enemies are ones it invents. The same is true for America.
Palestinians are systematically denied. They want Gaza's siege lifted. They want occupation ended. 
They deserve real, universally recognized self-determination. The right of return. Jerusalem as Palestine's exclusive capital. 
The release of thousands of political prisoners. The end of future mass arrests, torture, imprisonment, and land theft.
It bears repeating. Palestinians want what everyone deserves - peace, equity and justice.
They want what Israel categorically refuses to give. It bears repeating. Cairo talks were dead on arrival.
Resumed war may result. Hundreds more Palestinians my die. Maybe thousands.
Countless others may be injured. Some seriously. Others maimed for life. Israel remains unaccountable for unspeakable crimes of war, against humanity and slow-motion genocide.
Cairo talks went nowhere as expected. Israel yields nothing. America and Western allies one-sidedly support its killing machine.
Hamas and other Palestinian groups in Cairo are not terrorist organizations. Hamas was democratically elected Palestine's government in January 2006.
It and similar groups are legitimate resistance organizations. They're afforded the right of self-defense against Israeli premeditated aggression under international law.
Israel bears full responsibility for all violent outbreaks. Hamas and others are wrongfully blamed. They justifiably respond when attacked. The disturbing pattern repeats ad nauseam. 
Israel willfully attacked UN refuge centers. It outrageously suggested Hamas responsibility. Civilians were deliberately targeted and murdered in cold blood.
Israel's terror war against non-combatants is called Dahiya or the Dahiya Doctrine. It's named after a Beirut suburb IDF forces  attacked and destroyed in the 2006 Lebanon war.
IDF Northern Commander Gabi Eisenkot explained, saying:
"What happened in the Dahiya quarter of Beirut in 2006 will happen in every village from which Israel is fired on." 
"We will apply disproportionate force at the heart of the enemy's weak spot (civilians) and cause great damage and destruction."
"From our standpoint, these are not civilian villages (towns or cities), they are military bases."
Israel prioritizes damaging or destroying power and other vital infrastructure, assets, economic interests, and centers of civilian power and influence.
Doing so requires longterm reconstruction. It's hard to accomplish in Gaza because of the siege.
International law protects civilians, their property and non-military targets. Collective punishment is strictly prohibited.
Israel ignores all international laws with impunity. It repeatedly commits mass murder and destruction unaccountably.
The world community able to act does nothing. Washington generously funds Israel's killing machine. Both countries are partners in unspeakable crimes.
Afghans, Palestinians, Iraqis, Libyans, Syrians, Lebanese and others throughout the region suffer from crimes America, Israel and their rogue allies commit.
After Israel refused to agree to fundamental Palestinian demands in Gaza, the sham ceasefire ended for now. Bombing and shelling resumed. Where things end, who knows.
Israel's so-called Operation Protective Edge reflects premeditated mass murder and destruction. 
Civilians are willfully targeted. Hamas uses no human shields. Gaza is small and densely populated. 
Not one square inch of space is free from Israeli targeting. Every IDF attack is planned. They're deliberate. None are accidental.
Israel has precision weapons. They can accurately strike chosen targets. 
Gazans are trapped in the world's largest open air prison. They're stuck. They can't leave. There's no place to seek safety.
Israeli mass murder is like shooting fish in a barrel. IDF forces take full advantage.
It bears close watching where things go from here. Given longstanding history, things ahead look grim. Injustice remains.
Death, destruction and human misery haunts millions of Palestinians. The PA speaks piously. It does precious little to help its own people.
Abbas and other longtime Israeli collaborators are traitors. They're Israeli enforcers.
Abbas sided with Israel against Hamas in Operation Cast Lead. It's hard believing his pro-Israeli policy changed now.
He's not gone public condemning Israeli crimes in the strongest possible way. His attitude reflects continued siding with the enemy against his own people.
Israel's current Operation Protective Edge is Cast Lead on steroids. It could continue much longer.
Generous US tax dollars fund it. More money, weapons and political support come on request.
Trapped Palestinians remain on their own. They're struggling to survive against one of the world's most ruthless, lawless regimes.
It's the most one-sided mismatch anywhere. America, Western allies, Saudi Arabia and most other Gulf states support Israel.
So do Jordan and other regional Arab states. Palestinians are treated like Hitler's untermenschen - nonpersons, yesterday's garbage and much worse.
Israel treats Palestinians the way Nazis treated Jews. Nothing in prospect look encouraging. Long denied justice remains light years away.
The other vital remaining regional issue is Obama's lawlessly authorizing resumed US war on Iraq.
Air strikes against Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) elements began. At the same time, ISIS is an Al Qaeda offshoot. Washington uses it strategically as both enemy and ally.
It's longstanding US policy unreported by Western media scoundrels. On the one hand, Washington supports ISIS and likeminded groups. On the other, it declares them enemies and attacks.
It's unknown if air strikes approach shock-and-awe intensity or will ahead. Or if US troops will be involved on the ground.
It's unclear what, how many, and locations of targets.
It's uncertain how long the campaign will last. The objective is Iraqi oil and overall control. It has nothing to do with humanitarian intervention.
Post-9/11, America murdered many millions of Afghans, Iraqis, Libyans, Syrians, and conspired with Israel against Palestinians. 
Proxy wars rage in Somalia, Yemen and elsewhere. America's killing machine operates globally. It's lawless and ruthless. Western media scoundrels afford it unconditional support.
Unspeakable war crimes are sanitized, ignored and cheerled. Truth and full disclosure are systematically buried.
International law is clear and unequivocal. No nation may attack another except in self defense until the Security Council acts. It alone has final say.
It failed to authorize America's post 9/11 wars. Failure means lawless aggression against non-threatening nations in all cases.
Bush and Obama are war criminals multiple times over. Attacking Iraq again is the latest example. It's entirely unjustified and illegal.
It doesn't matter. Laws are for other nations. Not for America or Israel. Both countries consider themselves above international norms and standards.
Both get away with mass murder and destruction. Both remain unaccountable. Both plan lots more death, destruction as well as unspeakable human misery against defenseless populations.
Permanent wars without end persist. Media scoundrels feature all pro-Western/pro Israeli propaganda all the time.
Viewers and readers are systematically lied to daily. Outrageous human suffering is considered just cause.
Justice is upside down. US tax dollars fund unspeakable crimes. At the same time, vital homeland needs go begging.
While ill, offline and physically impaired, I was unable to comment on these and other vital issues. It was painful to be sidelined when I wanted my voice heard - no punches pulled.
Now it can be again if not as intensively as pre-illness for until I regain my full health and vigor. Writing and media work will come as able.
Every effort will be made to tell readers, listeners, and viewers what's essential to know - the truth, all of it, free from media scoundrel propaganda.
The Middle East threatens to boil over again. Gaza did, paused briefly, and threatens more of the same with no end of conflict in sight.
Resumed air war on Iraq may expand to something greater. It bears close watching to see what follows initial attacks.
Libya remains on the boil. Its a cauldron of violence thanks to 2011 US-led NATO naked aggression against a nonbelligerent leader and government supported by the great majority of their people.
The same holds in Syria. Assad was democratically reelected with a near 89% majority. Syrians want no one else leading them.
Washington's war of aggression continues. Syria was invaded by US enlisted extremist elements. Obama bears full responsibility.
Syria's war without end continues. Millions were displaced. Many tens of thousands died. Many others were injured.
Civilians most of all are affected. No end sight looms. 
The prospect of resumed war in Palestine, continued West Bank persecution, land theft and more, as well as Obama unleashing America's war machine in Iraq bodes ill for the region and world peace.
Dire Ukrainian conditions persist. US-led NATO lawlessly installed an illegitimate fascist government. Freedom fighting Southeastern Ukrainians reject tyranny.
They want real democracy. They're willing to sacrifice life and limb for it. They define the essence of courage and commitment. 
They deserve universal support, not condemnation. Instead they're wrongfully vilified. 
Billionaire anointed president Petro Poroshenko awarded US-led NATO Ukraine's highest award for foreigners - the Order of Freedom. 
It's a notion of fairness and lawfulness America categorically opposes. It thrives on violence, lawlessness and permanent wars. 
The notions of stability and peace are repugnant. World turmoil persists. Much is Middle East Centered.
US and Israeli wars against humanity compound a continuing deplorable situation. 
No end in sight looms. Continued death and destruction persist. The short and longer term outlooks appear grim.
Expect continued turmoil throughout the region with no end in sight. Expect unspeakable human suffering no populations should have to endure.
Blame Washington and Israel. They're partners in crime. They bear full responsibility for the worst high crimes against peace. 
The US and Israeli killing machines continue rampaging unchallenged. Justice remains denied. Innocent civilians suffer most.
It bears repeating. Israel considers them legitimate targets. So does Washington. Unspeakable crimes persist without end.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at 
Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.
It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

Dear FCC: Get Out of D.C. and Talk to the Over 1 Million Americans Who Support Real Net Neutrality - Sat, 09/08/2014 - 04:08

The FCC is slated to close the written comment window for the net neutrality proceeding on September 10th, but that doesn’t mean that the FCC is going to make up its mind anytime soon. In fact, it doesn’t even mean that the FCC will be done hearing from the public. Technically, the public can continue to comment, and the FCC, if it decides to do so, can continue to listen to Americans who speak out against proposed rules that would allow Internet providers to discriminate against how we access parts of the Net.

This is about the future of our Internet. It’s a big deal and the FCC should treat it as such by holding public hearings in geographically diverse locations around the country to hear directly from Americans who will be affected by the Commission’s net neutrality decision.

The FCC has held public hearings before. In 2007, the Commission hosted a series of events, in places like Nashville, Los Angeles, and Tampa, to discuss how new rules about media consolidation would effect the information needs of Americans.  Thousands of individuals spoke out, standing in line to testify in person, share stories, and build a robust public record that undeniably demonstrated the interest of the public. It’s time to do that again.

Filing a comment with the FCC is largely done via webforms on advocacy sites, like EFF’s own While online comments are a wonderful way to participate, we believe the Commission would greatly benefit from hosting public meetings to hear directly from the vibrant and richly diverse American public. If anyone can tell the FCC what is right and what is wrong with a potential rule set that would allow Internet providers to offer pay-to-play service for certain websites, it will be the students, entrepreneurs, artists, public safety officials, and everyday people for whom the Internet is a vital tool.

While written comments can be powerful, on an issue as important as this one, the Commission should listen to the voices of people who would stand up at a meeting, tell their stories and share their concerns about the future of the Internet. It’s time for the FCC to put faces to the over one million who have written to the Commission to speak out in defense of a neutral net.

So join us in calling for field hearings after the written comment period closes in September. And don’t forget to take action and get your comments into the FCC before September 10th. Now is the time to speak up. Let’s make sure the FCC listens.

Related Issues: Net Neutrality
Share this:   ||  Join EFF
Categories: Aggregated News

A Weakened California Open Access Bill Makes Its Way Forward - Sat, 09/08/2014 - 02:46

Earlier this week, AB 609, a California bill promoting better public access to taxpayer-funded research, passed through the Senate Appropriations Committee. The bill, which flew out of the Assembly last year, heads next to the Senate floor. It's great that California is just two steps away from passing the first meaningful state-level public access legislation in the US. We are disappointed, however that the current version of the bill has been watered down significantly.

In its initial stages, the bill required all publicly funded research in California to be made freely available six months after publication. But then politics stepped in. Before long, the embargo period changed from six months to a year. And most recently, with pressure mounting from publishers, the bill greatly narrowed its scope to only cover research funded by the State Department of Public Health.

On balance, we still support the bill, but taxpayers should have better access to the research they fund. In an effort to make sure this discussion isn't off the table, we sent a letter of concern [pdf] to the Appropriations Committee last week:

The initial version of AB 609 applied to all publication stemming from publicly funded research in California. Public access to such publications is crucial not only to doctors, patients, and researchers, but also to educators, students, entrepreneurs, and individuals who can benefit from the state of the art across all disciplines. Public access is quickly becoming the norm, particularly on the federal level with the White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy initiative last year mandating over 20 agencies create and implement public access policies. This initiative extends beyond public health research to cover publications about education, transportation, energy, security, and basic science. We hoped to see California follow this trend.

The current version of AB 609 is a step in the right direction, but an unnecessarily modest one. While we support the bill's intent and are encouraged to see California on its way to being the first state to pass meaningful public access legislation, we urge the bill's sponsors to restore its initial scope, so the public can benefit from the full array of extraordinary work California supports.

There is a chance the scope of California's potential public access policy could expand in future legislative sessions. Open access is as hot a topic as ever, and we do seem to be making inroads on the federal level. But it would be nice to see California meaningfully leading the charge to bring the people access to the important research we fund.

Files:  eff-letter-ab609-concerns.pdfRelated Issues: Open Access
Share this:   ||  Join EFF
Categories: Aggregated News

Understanding the New USA FREEDOM Act: Questions, Concerns, and EFF’s Decision to Support the Bill - Fri, 08/08/2014 - 05:30

Ever since the Snowden revelations, honest (and some dishonest) efforts have been made in Congress to try to scale back at least some of the NSA’s spying.  It’s a complex problem, since the NSA has overstepped reasonable bounds in so many different directions and there is intense secrecy surrounding the NSA’s activities and legal analysis.

The bill with the best chance to make some positive change currently is the Senate version of USA FREEDOM Act, a new piece of legislation with an older name.

After extensive analysis and internal discussion, EFF has decided to support this bill. But given the complexities involved, we wanted to lay out our thinking in more detail for our friends and allies.

Senator Leahy introduced S. 2685, the USA FREEDOM Act of 2014, last week. It’s clearly a vast improvement over the version of the bill that passed out of the House.1 It would also be an improvement over current law.

But it still has problems, some of which are inherent in any attempt to legislate in the shadow of national security. Specifically, we’ve seen the NSA and the intelligence community twist common words into tortured and unlikely interpretations to try to excuse their surveillance practices. We’re worried that, for all its good intentions, the bill may leave room for the intelligence community to continue to do so. Due to the secretive nature of surveillance, it will be difficult to ensure the intelligence community is not abusing its powers. And finally, this bill is a compromise between those who seek to reform the NSA and those who want to defend the status quo. Those compromises often fell short of what we’d hope for in comprehensive NSA reform.

Bad Faith Interpretations of the Bill’s Language

We now know that the NSA plays word games when it comes to interpreting the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and the Constitution. Words like “collect” and “target” have meanings for the NSA that no ordinary person would use. Words like “relevant” have been stretched far beyond any reasonable interpretation. 

The new USA FREEDOM Act is also vulnerable to this kind of misuse. The language has wiggle room and ambiguity in places that we tried to get rid of, and failed. It also likely has language that can be misused that we haven’t yet recognized.  While the clear intent of the bill is to end bulk collection of call detail records and bring more transparency to the NSA, the government could attempt to argue in bad faith that the bill does not require either.

Folks have begun pointing out where this is possible and we think this effort should continue. Specifically, some have emphasized that the bill only has extra restrictions for “daily” call record collection, like the collection the government currently does. They’ve argued that this means that the government can continue bulk collection if it simply crafts its request for call detail records, say, on a weekly or yearly basis. This interpretation of the legislation doesn’t take into account the additional restrictions imposed on any requests not made under the new language, but it’s still concerning.

Others have pointed out that the government can still get a second set of call detail records (a second “hop”) if there’s a “direct connection” to the first specific selection term. But the term “direct connection” is undefined. Some have noted that the government could interpret “direct connection” to include the physical proximity of two mobile devices, or being in someone’s address book, since both might be called “direct”—yet the bill is trying to stop that sort of surveillance by association.

While we do believe that the intent of the bill is to disallow either of these scenarios, some additional clarity in the language would really help here, especially given the secrecy discussed below.

We hope the entire community of people concerned about mass surveillance will join us in poring over this bill and helping to identify other areas where additional clarity is needed.

Secrecy May Still Undermine Accountability

We’ve only gotten this far in ensuring that ordinary people know how pervasive surveillance really is due to whistleblowers like Mark Klein, William Binney, Thomas Drake, J. Kirk Wiebe, Edward Snowden and countless anonymous whistleblowers, as well as the tenacious efforts of litigators under the Freedom of Information Act. Intelligence agencies like the NSA and FBI have fought hard to maintain as much secrecy as possible, only opening up when cornered.  

While there is significant new transparency required by the USA FREEDOM Act, much will remain secret, and some of those secrets may undermine our ability to know whether the bill has actually achieved the reform it is aimed at. Some government secrecy in national security investigations may be merited of course, but even 20 years ago, Senator Daniel Moynihan documented the problems arising from the government’s rampant overclassification.

Even after USA FREEDOM, the FISA Court (FISC) will continue to approve requests in secret. While we are pleased that the bill creates a panel of special advocates to argue for civil liberties in the FISC, more is needed—and even these advocates have limitations. For example, the advocate role is limited and advocates can only be appointed upon the government’s approval. In addition, special advocates have security clearance restrictions—an opportunity for the executive branch to block an advocate by denying a clearance or arguing an advocate doesn’t have adequate clearance to access certain documents.  Perhaps most concerning, the intelligence community will continue to determine what legal interpretations by the FISC will be made public.

By its very nature, national security law is hard to assess because of the secrecy that surrounds it. USA FREEDOM is no exception.

Compromises in the USA FREEDOM Act

This bill is a first step. And it’s a small step because Senator Leahy’s goal was to introduce something that had a real chance of passing this Congress and not getting vetoed by President Obama.

Some of the compromises in this bill are obvious. It does less than the original USA FREEDOM. It doesn’t simply outlaw bulk collection, as EFF has long advised. It doesn’t give the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board subpoena authority. It has special advocate and declassification provisions that will help transparency, but they aren’t as strong as the original USA FREEDOM Act. It doesn’t address bulk Internet collection under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act substantively at all and it pushes out the sunset date on Section 215 from 2015 to 2017, when the FISA Amendments Act is scheduled to sunset.

But some of the compromises in the bill are less apparent, especially if you haven’t been poring over NSA spying legislation. We are also particularly concerned with how the bill deals with the FBI. The FBI is exempt from Section 702 reporting, and the bill appears to provide a path for the FBI to get permanent gag orders in connection with national security letters.  

Why We Support the Bill, Even with Our Concerns

Despite these concerns, EFF supports the USA FREEDOM Act as a first step in spying reform. We believe it ensures that the government will be collecting less information about innocent people, that it creates an independent voice to argue for privacy in the FISA Court, and that it will provide modest transparency improvements that will assist in accountability. The second and third of those would not be possible through litigation alone. 

What’s more, we believe that this bill will help move comprehensive reform forward. It will show that the growing global community concerned about mass surveillance can band together and get legislation passed.  We know that the original Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was not enacted until 1978, three years after the Church Committee was formed. We are in this for the long haul.

Some wonder why we’d support legislation when we have litigation proceeding against Section 215 call records surveillance that could be sent back for further review if the law passes. While we’re very confident in our case, litigation is a long process and we’ve seen that progress in the courts can be undermined by subsequent legislation— our original case against AT&T was killed by Congress when it passed the FISA Amendments Act. So if we can end the telephone records collection in Congress, it may be a more lasting win. 

Finally, there is value in Congress reacting to the clear consensus: Americans of all political stripes think the NSA has gone too far—they do not support indiscriminate surveillance. Congress is where that political consensus should be expressed.

Your Support

This post lays out why we decided to support USA Freedom, and also many of our concerns. We made our decision based on the current version and we will not hesitate to pull our support if the bill gets watered down. 

But we also support efforts of the community to raise these or other concerns and push Congress to clarify and plug the holes. Since Congress is in recess we have a month to go before this has any chance of getting to the floor, and we’ll be continuing to scour the bill with a fine-toothed comb. We look forward to assistance.  We also respect those who have decided that they cannot support this bill without further changes, even significant ones.

In the meantime, if you agree with us that USA FREEDOM is a reasonable first step in the long project of surveillance reform, find out where your representatives stand and let them know what you think by tweeting at them, sending an email, or even setting up an in-district meeting over the Congressional recess.

  • 1. Some background may be helpful here: When USA FREEDOM was originally introduced in October of 2013, EFF called it a floor, not a ceiling. We supported the bill, but cautioned that it was just a first step towards NSA spying reform and still had some problematic pieces. But we were hopeful because it had bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate. Most importantly, we believed that it could start to address intelligence agency overreach.

    Unfortunately, months later, a drastically altered bill was introduced as a manager’s amendment in the House of Representatives. We made it clear that this bill, the result of political compromises, never earned our support. It passed out of the House as H.R. 3361. The current Senate version of USA FREEDOM is not as strong as the original version, but far stronger than what passed out of the House.

Related Issues: National Security LettersNSA SpyingPATRIOT ActRelated Cases: Jewel v. NSAFirst Unitarian Church of Los Angeles v. NSA
Share this:   ||  Join EFF
Categories: Aggregated News

Back from the Abyss - Thu, 07/08/2014 - 23:30
Back from the Abyss
by Stephen Lendman
I've been ill and unable to do what I love best for 2 months. Yesterday, August 6, I came home for the first time since hospitalized on June 4.
At the time, I posted a brief message on my blog site. I expected a few days of treatment. Then home to resume my writing and media work.
Things didn't turn out that way. I owe my friends, colleagues and readers an explanation.
Multiple problems developed. One rather serious one. Thankfully they were resolved. But it took time - 2 weeks at Northwestern Memorial Hospital followed by 6 weeks at Warren Barr rehab facility.
The experience was life changing. I wondered at times if I'd ever be me again. I still have lots of recovery to go as an outpatient. 
I worked very hard with good therapy people helping me daily. I'm deeply grateful to them for taking me from a very low point to going home yesterday.
It never felt so good to walk through my front door. I began emailing friends and colleagues to explain. More emailing coming.
Wonderful responses came. Means so much to this old guy - age 80 in mid-August. Still with so much I want to do - articles, media work and another book or 2 - maybe more as able.
I'll slowly get back to what I love best. My health, of course, is top priority. Later this morning I have hours of treatment at Northwestern Mem. Hosp and weekly after that for 2 months followed by monthly treatment for a year.
I'm working with wonderful doctors. Some personal friends. They know what I do. They want me back in full swing. Will take time. I'm very patient.
Writing et al will come as able. Important not to overdue it. Yet what i love best is therapeutic - for the mind, soul and body. I'm fully committed to return to a much full health as possible - my top priority.
My great thanks to everyone now wishing me well. I was offline, unconnected with no email addresses so unable to communicate until now.
Physically for a good while I wasn't in good shape enough to do it.
Now I'm back. My output won't be my customary 2 articles a day. I'll do what I can as health and strength permits. 
Words can't explain how wonderful it feels and how deeply grateful i am to be back from a very low point - mostly dependent on others to being near independent again now.
I can do things now we otherwise take for granted - my personal hygiene, cooking, laundry, all chores in my apartment, walk on the street with a walker, ride the bus, take a cab down, shop nearby and more.
Each day begins with an exercise regimen. It's crucial to my recovery and ability to regain full health and vigor. 
It gives me the energy to do my daily tasks. A day at a time I hope will make me fully me again - the me I largely took for granted. Never again. 
While absent I couldn't write on vital issues I'd have focused on daily - Israel's genocidal, cold, calculated, premeditated aggression, mass murder and destruction of Gaza.
It was and remains one of history's greatest crimes of war, against humanity, and genocide.
Israel remains unaccountable as always. Cairo talks will achieve nothing for the Palestinians. Israeli agreements when made aren't worth the paper they're written on.
They're systematically and repeatedly violated. Expect nothing different this time.
The Gaza war was much more than against Hamas. It was against millions of Palestinian non-combatant men, women, children, infants, the elderly and infirm. It's genocide writ large.
It's supported by Washington with billions of dollars of annual aid, weapons, Security Council vetoes and more. 
The international community yawns and lets Israel get away with unspeakable crimes with impunity. 
The pattern repeated large and smaller scale since the 1947-48 war taking a horrific toll on the entire Palestinian population.
Expect more of the same ahead. Expect Palestine's liberating struggle to continue with virtually no help from the international community.
Expect more Israeli initiated mass much and destruction. Expect multiple daily pre-dawn Israeli West Bank incursions, terrorizing Palestinian families.
Expect many more political prisoners in Israel's gulag. Expect torture, targeted assassinations and land theft to continue unabated.
Expect justice systematically denied as always. Expect Palestinians largely on their own in their struggle for dignity and proper treatment never afforded.
Expect Israeli crimes of war, against humanity and slow-motion genocide to continue unabated. 
Expect Hamas and other resistance groups to be unjustly blamed for repeated Israeli crimes - like premeditated shelling UN refuges, civilian neighborhoods, hospitals, schools, mosques, power and other vital infrastructure and more.
Israel is a lawless, rogue, racist, apartheid terror state - uncountable for horrific crimes repeatedly. 
Palestinian suffering is beyond words to explain properly. When will it end? How? No time soon for sure.
How many more Palestinians will die unjustly? How many more will have Israeli shells, bombs and missiles dismember their bodies?
How many more families will lose loved ones? How many more communities will be destroyed? How many more orphaned Palestinian children will be on their own?
How many more parents will lose their offspring, homes and all their possessions?
How much longer will injustice prevail? When, if ever, will Israel be held accountable?
When, if ever, will US tax dollars stop funding Israel's out-of-control killing machine?
Future articles will have much more to say - written as health permits.
And much to say about the war in Ukraine - the democratic freedom fighting struggle against lawless, illegitimate US installed fascism.
Much to say about these and other important issues ahead as health and strength permits.
It's wonderful being back doing what I love best.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at 
Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.
It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

One Way to Stand Against Spying: Meet With A Legislator - Wed, 06/08/2014 - 10:31

The NSA pulls no punches when it comes to the surveillance of innocent people in every corner of the world in its attempt to “collect it all.” Those in the U.S. prepared to vigorously oppose mass government spying need to fight back and hold our representatives to account for the routine human rights violations perpetrated by the National Security Agency. And this activism needs to occur on all levels, from lobbying local and state officials to setting up meetings with Congress members.

That’s part of the inspiration behind, a tool that grades members of Congress on their track record in the fight against unconstitutional mass surveillance and the protection of the basic human right to privacy. Congress is in recess for the month of August, so right now is an ideal time to schedule a visit in-district.

Yet elected officials rarely hear from the diverse communities of everyday people who live under the shadow of government surveillance—which includes every American. That’s why we’re encouraging people visit their Congressional office and local representatives and make sure they know beyond a shadow of a doubt that their constituents demand meaningful NSA reform. After all, our political leaders are supposed to be working for us.

Senator Leahy introduced the new USA FREEDOM Act S. 2685 in the Senate at the end of July. It’s likely to come up for a vote in September. That means that for the next month activists and concerned citizens need to flood the offices of our Senators and make sure they hear us loud and clear: now is the time to pass this critically important bill that will work rein in the NSA’s illegal mass spying and help to restore justice in the secret FISA court.

To help with lobbying visits to local Congressional offices, we made a handy one-page guide on the USA FREEDOM Act that you can leave with the staff person you meet with at your elected representative’s office.

Lobby for digital rights

Lobbying—whether you’re a concerned citizen or a representative of an interest group—boils down to building relationships. Usually these relationships are with staff members or, if at the local level, sometimes with elected officials directly.

Citizen lobbying can be a powerful tool for driving a vision for reform, especially when it comes to tech policy and digital rights issues, where elected officials often are non-experts.

What’s more, most expertise on technology issues too often comes from specialists hired by industry interests, so when constituents visit their representative to discuss how hard-to-approach technology issues effect voters back home, you’ll typically find policymakers ready to listen carefully.

Is there an issue that you think your member of Congress should consider more closely or change her stance on? Consider discussing the issue with your elected representative by attending a town-hall meeting or visiting the closest constituent office. Here are some tips for how to contact your representative—either federal, state, or local—to ensure a successful meeting.

Find your target office

The first step is to locate which political office you wish to target. This is easier for federal issues than state issues. For federal issues, you may wish to target a particular Senate or House committee or subcommittee, which might take some searching on the Internet.

In local political matters—for example, if you want to investigate the purchase or use of drones by your local police department—you may start by scheduling a meeting with a staff person from your City Council Member’s office.

Senate: Every state is represented by two senators and every senator has an office in Washington, D.C. and multiple offices in the state they represent.

House of Representatives: States are separated into numbered districts, and each district is represented by one representative in the House of Representatives. The number of districts in a state is adjusted after each census. Similar to Senators, Representatives have an office in Washington, D.C. and at least one office in their home state.

Mayors: You may wish to contact your mayor or city manager about issues in your city, like issues concerning the police department, municipal broadband initiatives, or funding for technology education in your city. Find your mayor.

Governors: For statewide issues, contact your governor’s office to share your views or set up a meeting.

State Lawmakers and City Council Members: Local political arenas are sometimes the best places to achieve tangible political change. Do some Internet searching to find your representative.

City councils have a tremendous affect on populations as they can pass resolutions, bring issues to mayoral offices, and conduct studies to drive policy reform. Consider going to a meeting to raise concerns about a local fusion center, community fiber Internet, or the need for more government transparency.

Set up a meeting

A phone call in favor of or against a particular action that an elected official can take is a great way to advocate for reform, but nothing beats a face-to-face meeting with a staff person or your representative.

Setting up a meeting is easy. On a federal level, when Congress is not in session members work out of their in-district offices, so try to set up meetings there at those times. Members also hold frequent "town-hall" meetings for constituents. Inquire at your local office about when they will be held. You can also track when your representative will be in town by looking at the Congressional calendars for the House and the Senate. Congress often designates "constituent weeks" in order to inform the public when they will be in their district. Elected representatives want to hear from voters back home.

You’ll most likely get a meeting with a staff person, and that’s great. Staffers usually know more about the specific details of issues than the representative herself.

When you make the call and set up the meeting, be sure you tell them which organization you represent or if you’re a solo concerned citizen, where you live, and the issue that you want to discuss.

Prepare for your meeting

Do your research and be prepared. You have the opportunity to be a local expert and help shape the thinking of your elected official!

  • Who are you representing? Try to bring a petition or a letter that has numerous signatories to the meeting. Show that you’re representing a community of people that will be affected by the change you’re calling for.
  • Bring research. Consider making a folder or an information packet with research, white papers, local stories, and contact information. If your issue is a digital rights related issue, visit for helpful resources!
  • Prepare stories. A fantastic way to communicate the need for reform is by sharing stories. Politicians often repeat stories to make a case, so be prepared to share yours.
  • Have a website and contact information ready to share. Try to have a website and business card ready in advance of your meeting. This will help the staff person find you, your community, and your position in the future.
  • Consider organizing a small delegation. Bring a group of stakeholders that all have diverse stories to share. The more real people and constituent numbers that you can tie to an issue the better.
Following up

After your meeting, send a thank-you email to the person who met with you. In your email, be sure to include information and one or two links that you want your representative to consider. Try to set up another meeting if you feel that you didn’t get to finish making your case. Always be polite and gracious and don’t overload the staffer with more information than she’ll realistically read.

If your contact responds with questions, this is a good sign, and by all means answer them. This is a chance for you to become an expert that your representative on digital rights issues. Remember: lobbying is all about building relationships, so try to keep the conversation going and meet again.

Good luck! Email to let us know how it went!

RESOURCE: A One-page guide to leave with your representative on the new USA FREEDOM Act

Related Issues: NSA SpyingStudent and Community Organizing
Share this:   ||  Join EFF
Categories: Aggregated News

EFF to Patent Office: End the Flood of Stupid Software Patents - Wed, 06/08/2014 - 06:51

We have often written about how software patents feed trolls and tax innovation. We’ve pushed for patent reform in Congress, in the courts, and at the Patent Office. While new legislation has stalled (for now), reformers have won significant victories in the courts. Of these, the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank may be the most important. In this case, the court issued a landmark decision cutting back on abstract software patents.

While the decision in Alice is promising, it will mean nothing if the Patent Office fails to apply it. Vested interests support the status quo and some commentators have already called for the Patent Office to essentially ignore Alice. (While software patents are bad for innovation, they are great for lawyers and trolls.) Last week, EFF filed written comments with the Patent Office urging it to diligently apply the new Alice standard to pending applications.

In our comments, we explain that Alice is a major change to patent law. Most significant was the court’s holding that “generic computer components” do not become patent eligible simply upon being “configured” to perform “specific computerized functions.” Many thousands of software patents—particularly the vague and overbroad patents so beloved by patent trolls—should be rejected under this standard. While some of those accustomed to the pre-Alice regime will complain about this result, the Patent Office should not hesitate to apply the Supreme Court’s standard.

EFF also urges the Patent Office to make sure that all pending applications (even those at the point of issuing) are reviewed under Alice. Last week we introduced our inaugural Stupid Patent of the Month—a very dumb patent on using a computer to take a telephone message for a doctor. In our view, this patent is clearly invalid under Alice. Yet it issued weeks after the Supreme Court’s decision. Since patent litigation is so expensive, even a clearly invalid patent can cause enormous harm. We hope the Patent Office ensures no more of these invalid abstract patents are granted.

Ultimately, Alice is good news for the Patent Office. A recent Washington Post article revealed that the office is overwhelmed by the massive volume of applications. Many patent examiners spend as little as ten hours per application. This is not nearly enough time to properly review an application and look for potential prior art (the publications and products that predate an application and render it obvious). While Alice creates some extra work now, the decision will hopefully deter applicants from filing applications for abstract software patents in the first place, especially since the Supreme Court made clear that clever wording (the “draftman’s art”) cannot make the unpatentable patentable. There is no better way to reduce the patent backlog than by clearing the system of thousands of bad software patent applications.

Files:  eff_comments_regarding_patentable_subject_matter_and_alice_corp.pdfRelated Issues: Fair Use and Intellectual Property: Defending the BalancePatentsPatent TrollsInnovationRelated Cases: Abstract Patent Litigation
Share this:   ||  Join EFF
Categories: Aggregated News

UNSEALED: The US Sought Permission To Change The Historical Record Of A Public Court Proceeding - Wed, 06/08/2014 - 06:19

A few weeks ago we fought a battle for transparency in our flagship NSA spying case, Jewel v. NSA. But, ironically, we weren't able to tell you anything about it until now.

On June 6, the court held a long hearing in Jewel in a crowded, open courtroom, widely covered by the press. We were even on the local TV news on two stations. At the end, the Judge ordered both sides to request a transcript since he ordered us to do additional briefing. But when it was over, the government secretly, and surprisingly sought permission to “remove” classified information from the transcript, and even indicated that it wanted to do so secretly, so the public could never even know that they had done so.

We rightly considered this an outrageous request and vigorously opposed it. The public has a First Amendment right not only to attend the hearing but to have an accurate transcript of it. Moreover, the federal law governing court reporting requires that “each session of the court” be “recorded verbatim” and that the transcript be certified by the court reporter as “a correct statement of the testimony taken and the proceedings had.” 28 U.S.C. § 753(b).

The Court allowed the government a first look at the transcript and indicated that it was going to hold the government to a very high standard and would not allow the government to manufacture a misleading transcript by hiding the fact of any redactions. Ultimately, the government said that it had *not* revealed classified information at the hearing and removed its request. But the incident speaks volumes about the dangers of allowing the government free rein to claim secrecy in court proceedings and otherwise.

We couldn't tell you anything about that fight because the government's request, our opposition to it, and the court's order regarding it were all sealed. But with today's order by Judge White, the transcript and the arguments over the government's request to revise it are finally public documents.

Here's how the events transpired:

On June 6, 2014, Judge White held a hearing in Jewel and Shubert v. Obama on our emergency motion to enforce the court's previous order that the government preserve evidence of its Internet backbone surveillance, evidence that is directly relevant to the plaintiffs' claims in Jewel that their Internet communications were collected by the government. Although the government's lawyers participated by telephone, the hearing was held in a crowded, open courtroom including TV and written press. The government never requested that the courtroom be closed or that attendance be limited in any way.

One week later, the government wrote a letter to Judge White, submitting it ex parte (which means we didn't get a copy), requesting that it be given the chance to review the written transcript of that hearing before the transcript was provided either to plaintiffs or the public. The government explained that Anthony Coppolino, the lawyer who argued for the government on June 6, “inadvertently made a statement during the hearing that we believe is classified.” The government further explained that “The National Security Agency has asked us to contact the Court to explore ways to determine whether the transcript in fact reveals classified information and, if it does, to attempt to remove it from the public record of the hearing.” The government further asked that neither the plaintiffs, their lawyers nor the public be told of its request.

Judge White correctly decided that there was no reason that plaintiffs' lawyers should not know the government's request. Thus, the day after receiving the government's letter, Judge White issued an order, still under seal but sent to us, alerting us to the government's request and giving us the opportunity to respond to it.

We filed our response on June 20, explaining that the US Supreme Court had repeatedly rejected attempts to prohibit or punish the publication of confidential material when that material was inadvertently disclosed to the public. We asked Judge White to reject the government's request in full arguing that the government could not meet the strong First Amendment test to prove that its revisions to the transcript were “essential to preserve higher values and narrowly tailored to serve that interest.” We also argued that under no circumstances should the government be able to “remove” anything from the transcript without indicating that something has in fact been removed, a process commonly called “redaction,” not “removal,” the term used in the government's request. We also asked the court to unseal all of the papers that had been filed about this dispute.

After receiving our response, Judge White asked the government to reply, which they did on June 30, trying to create a new rule that would allow such outrageous claims when the government accidentally revealed classified information in a public courtroom.

On July 11, Judge White ordered that the transcript be given to the government, and gave the government two-and-a-half weeks to inform it whether there was any classified information in the transcript. If the government believed that the transcript contained classified information, it was required to present to the court “the information that they content was classified and inadvertently disclosed, supported by declarations indicating that the information disclosed had been previously classified and is currently classified.” The court would then perform its own review and determine whether or not to redact anything from the transcript. Judge White further ruled that while this process was going on, these papers would remain sealed.

On July 28, the government informed the court that after reviewing the transcript it determined that there was no inadvertent disclosure of classified information after all.

As a result, Judge White today granted our motion to unseal and as this is being written the various papers are being unsealed. The disputed transcript has already been posted. We will continue to post and index the other documents on our Jewel page as they are unsealed.

The transcript of a court proceeding is the historical record of that event, what will exist and inform the public long after the persons involved are gone. The government's attempt to change this history was unprecedented. We could find no example of where a court had granted such a remedy or even where such a request had been made. This was another example of the government's attempt to shroud in secrecy both its own actions, as well as the challenges to those actions.

We are pleased that the record of this attempt is now public. But should the situation recur, we will fight it as hard as we did this time.


Related Cases: Shubert v ObamaJewel v. NSA
Share this:   ||  Join EFF
Categories: Aggregated News

UK's Lords and EU Take Aim at Online Anonymity - Wed, 06/08/2014 - 02:26

Last week, the UK's House of Lords Select Committee on Communications released a report on "social media and criminal offences." Britain has faced a number of high-profile cases of online harassment this year, which has prompted demands for new laws, and better enforcement of existing laws.

"Our starting point," the peers begin, "is that what is not an offence off-line should not be an offence online". The report is cautious in its recommendations for modifying existing regulation, and reasonable in spelling out how current criminal law can deal with patterns of harassment and bullying, whether they intersect with modern social media or not.

The report does gave tentative support, however, to removing online speakers' ability to communicate online without recording their identity. The report's authors write:

From our perspective in the United Kingdom, if the behaviour which is currently criminal is to remain criminal and also capable of prosecution, we consider that it would be proportionate to require the operators of websites first to establish the identity of people opening accounts but that it is also proportionate to allow people thereafter to use websites using pseudonyms or anonymously. There is little point in criminalising certain behaviour and at the same time legitimately making that same behaviour impossible to detect. We recognise that this is a difficult question, especially as it relates to jurisdiction and enforcement.

This presents a false dichotomy. The use of anonymity and pseudonymity tools online don't render ordinary police detection impossible. The solution offered by the House of Lords (demanding the identity of online users be recorded at the online service registration) won't make anonymous commenters disappear from the Net either. The experience of countries like South Korea and China has shown that determined speakers will use fake identities — and that requiring online service providers to collect troves of identification documents increases the risk of identity theft.

What requiring identity papers whenever you join a new social media site, however, would do is criminalize the actions of anyone who has a legitimate need to remain anonymous. Those groups include abused spouses and other harassed individuals, whistleblowers, political speakers and others concerned with retribution from above. Some harassers use anonymity tools; but all anonymous speakers need them. The negative effects of harassment will continue but the benefits of anonymity will become tied to a criminal offense.

While unsure whether its new proposal to mandate compulsory identity registration on all online websites might be workable, the peers make another suggestion based on current UK law. Websites might be incentivized to prohibit anonymous discussion, they suggest, by the provisions of the UK's new libel law. Websites under the law are protected from defamation lawsuits aimed at third-party postings. They lose that protection if they do not reveal the posters' identity, and don't comply with a "notice-and-takedown"-style set of regulations.

The idea that the incentives of existing law might be used to chase anonymity out of the public arena even when it is not, by itself, illegal, is worrying. Despite the Lords' suggestion, British law doesn't seem to reach that far — but Europe's courts might.

Late last year, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) decided, in Delfi vs. Estonia, that European websites were liable for anonymous comments even if they took down content. In the Delfi case, the court said that an Estonian news site was liable for third-party comments because their take-down procedures did not go far enough to ensure "sufficient protection for the rights of third persons", that should have anticipated that a particular news article was controversial, and that the comments section was anonymous. The Delfi decision has been appealed, and the ECHR's Grand Chamber is currently considering the case. But Delfi and the Lords' report shows courts and policymakers continue to respond to pressure to put limits on anonymous speech, even when an explicit law banning anonymity is beyond the pale.

Share this:   ||  Join EFF
Categories: Aggregated News

New Behind-the-Scenes Video: Airship Flight Over the NSA Data Center - Wed, 06/08/2014 - 02:09
The Internet's Own Boy Director Brian Knappenberger Releases Short Doc as Senate Introduces New Reform Bill

Privacy info. This embed will serve content from

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) today released a video by acclaimed documentarian Brian Knappenberger (The Internet's Own Boy) that explores how and why an unlikely coalition of advocacy organizations launched an airship over the National Security Agency's Utah data center. The short documentary explains the urgent need to rein in unconstitutional mass surveillance, just as the U.S. Senate has introduced a new version of the USA FREEDOM Act.

The video, Illegal Spying Below, is available for re-use under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license here:

At dawn on June 27, EFF, Greenpeace, and the Tenth Amendment Center launched an airship above the NSA's $1.2-billion data center in Bluffdale, Utah. The 135-foot-long airship carried a banner bearing a downward arrow and the words, "Illegal Spying Below," to bring attention to the facility as well as, a website showing how members of Congress voted on legislation that would restrict mass surveillance.

"While it is only one of several data centers, for many people the Bluffdale facility has become a symbol out-of-control, unconstitutional, dragnet surveillance, as well as a threat to the environment," Knappenberger says. "I thought it was important to document this audacious attempt to raise awareness of this secretive facility and pressure Congress to rein in the NSA."

The action prompted thousands of people to contact their members of Congress about NSA surveillance. More than 30 articles were written about the airship, and those articles were collectively shared more than 51,000 times over social media within 72 hours.

"This video shows how a common threat to the freedom of association drew our three organizations together, despite very different missions," EFF Activism Director Rainey Reitman said. "Now it's time for Congress to build a diverse coalition to pass meaningful reform. We launched an airship, they need to land a bill on the president's desk."

Viewers are encouraged to use, a site supported by more than 22 organizations, to review their elected representatives' record on surveillance and to send tweets to members of Congress to support meaningful surveillance reform.


Dave Maass
Media Relations Coordinator
Electronic Frontier Foundation

About Brian Knappenberger: 

Brian Knappenberger is a writer, director and producer who has created award winning investigative documentaries and feature films for PBS FRONTLINE/World, National Geographic, Bloomberg Television and the Discovery Channel. His new film about the life and death of Aaron Swartz, The Internet's Own Boy, debuted at Sundance and is available through iTunes at Knappenberger also runs the award winning production company Luminant Media.

var mytubes = new Array(1); mytubes[1] = '%3Ciframe src=%22// allowfullscreen=%22%22 frameborder=%220%22 height=%22281%22 width=%22500%22%3E%3C/iframe%3E';
Share this:   ||  Join EFF
Categories: Aggregated News

Front Lines of the Open Access Fight: Colombian Student's Prosecution Highlights the Need for Fundamental Policy Reforms - Tue, 05/08/2014 - 07:25

Scientific progress relies upon the exchange of ideas and research. The Internet is the most powerful network the world has ever seen, with the capability to enable this exchange at an unprecedented speed and scale. But outmoded policies and practices continue to present massive barriers that collectively stifle that potential. Many major online research databases are kept under lock and key by publishers, making them extremely expensive to access. Given the subscription model for these repositories, most people cannot afford to pay the fees to read or cite to existing research, let alone know what research and studies have already been published.

Circumventing these barriers can lead to extreme consequences. Aaron Swartz was one of the strongest voices leading the open access movement, and he faced up to 35 years in prison for violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), for accessing the JSTOR research database and downloading copies of academic articles. Now Diego Gomez, the Colombian graduate student who faces imprisonment for sharing another researcher's thesis online, is on the front lines of this fight. His story is only one of countless many, but it highlights the problems facing students and academics who are simply trying to access works to further their studies.

It might seem as though the payments are being passed along to academics as compensation for their work, or that they are necessary to cover the costs involved in editing and publishing their research. Yet this is often not the case. Publishers normally give none of the subscription fees to the researchers themselves. Academics generally conduct the research, writing, and peer review processes without compensation from the publishers. Then, still without compensation, those academics usually assign the copyright over their article to the journal, on terms so strict that they can prevent even the authors themselves from making copies of their own articles.

That makes this problem especially frustrating. The high costs of accessing journals is unrelated to funding the research in the first place. Publishers are middlemen who enact high paywalls, making it expensive for academics to access their peers' research for their own work.

But how do they get away with this? It has to do with the culture around academic publishing. Some journals are considered prestigious. For academics, that prestige can mean their research is more highly regarded, which can help advance their career in the field. Unfortunately, this means that their work can only be read by those who can afford to pay for subscriptions, or more commonly, who are affiliated with a university or institution that provides access to them.

The Open Access Movement: Fighting for Free and Easy Access to Knowledge

The open access movement is a fight for the continued progress of knowledge, science, and culture, by recognizing the intrinsic importance of enabling scholarly works to be shared widely, cheaply, and easily. There are two basic goals for open access advocates: first, to make research freely available online without cost, through shared digital repositories or open access journals. Second, to make research reusable by promoting the use of open licenses—ensuring that the public can not only read existing works, but can also pick apart the research and build upon it.

In many parts of the world, a major policy goal is to ensure that publicly funded research becomes publicly accessible research. It is founded on the straightforward concept that if the public is already paying for research through their tax dollars, they have a right to see and share what they have paid for. In the US, research that has been funded by government grants from certain major government agencies must be published in open access repositories, like PubMed Central. EFF, along with groups like Creative Commons, SPARC, the Open Knowledge Foundation, and many others, are leading these calls for open access policy reforms.

How Copyright and Other Related Laws Stifle Open Access

It's clear that where it's possible—through policy or individual choices by academics—robust open access is the best way for research to advance the goals of academia. But where individuals work towards those goals in the absence of formal policies, they have faced truly draconian penalties. That's because our current copyright system is a poor fit for many academics. Where a reasonable copyright policy should reflect the economic interests of creators and researchers, instead our laws are shaped instead by the lobbying of special interests such as book publishers, movie studios, and music labels, which push for extreme restrictions on how content can be shared and used.

Academics, scientists, and other professionals tend to benefit little from copyright restrictions. And yet they also need to be able to access other new, cutting edge research to read relevant studies and understand what others are doing in the field. Heightened criminalization of copyright, the lack of strong legal safeguards for publicly beneficial and personal uses, and excessive, long copyright terms all fly in the face of these academic goals. The massive penalties that Gomez faces are a prime example. The demands of the copyright industries in the Colombia-US free trade agreement led to extreme policy language in the agreement, which then led Colombia to enact new, harsher criminal sanctions over "unauthorized" sharing and uses of copyrighted works.

In the midst of this experience, Gomez has brought his story to light in hopes of sparking debate and bringing about policy reform. In a recent open letter, he wrote [translated from Spanish]:

I regret that my actions in good faith I can have an impact on my life plan, just because I acted against the barriers to knowledge. [...] From this painful experience I have learned that knowledge really have invisible barriers, main reason now I am committed to activism in favor of open access, to promote the results of scientific research are public and open for everyone's benefit through open access policy.

The inability to readily access important research is an issue that affects us all. Outdated policies and practices must be reformed until we can unleash the Internet's potential to enable free and open access to research and promote the progress of science.


Take Action

In the US? Send a message to your lawmakers to secure open access to taxpayer-funded research

Watch Internet's Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz

Related Issues: Fair Use and Intellectual Property: Defending the BalanceOpen AccessInternational
Share this:   ||  Join EFF
Categories: Aggregated News

Tor on Campus, Part II: Icebreakers and Risk Mitigation Strategies - Tue, 05/08/2014 - 05:03

In part one of this blogpost, we discuss why it makes good sense to contribute to the Tor project on university campuses, and we offer some examples of students who have been able to set up relays or exit nodes in recent years.

EFF realizes that many students may be interested in contributing to the Tor Project, but are unsure of how to get the conversation with their university started. In this post, we offer some tips that we've pulled from successful efforts to establish an exit or a relay node on campus. We also provide some suggestions for addressing concerns students are likely to encounter from their campus administration.

Many campus IT departments may be understandably concerned about the risk of having Tor traffic exit from their network. There is a potential for legally questionable activity to occur over Tor, and anonymized traffic will appear to have originated from the campus. This can cause law enforcement to first come to the campus in search of the origin of the suspicious activity or for DMCA copyright complaints to be sent to the host of the exit node. Though this can often be addressed through an explanation of Tor to the complaining party, and it is rare for the host of an exit node to be troubled by law enforcement, we highly recommend reading our legal FAQ to better understand the risks.

Let’s start with some tactics for organizing on campus. If you encounter resistance, please use and remix our Open Letter Urging Universities To Encourage Conversation About Online Privacy.

Start a conversation about Tor on Campus

Ask your friends and other professors if they know of someone working in the computer science, political science, or journalism department that may already advocate for security or online privacy. Students will often need faculty allies to initiate running a Tor node on campus, and often there are already professors and technologists at universities who are familiar with and support the Tor Project. If you don't already have contacts, try searching through your computer science, journalism, political science, or any related departments' websites to see if any professor specializes in online privacy, security, or communications and human rights. Email them to set up a meeting to talk about setting up a Tor node on campus.

Contact a computer science or human rights group on campus. There is a great chance that other students will want to be involved or get excited about the prospect of contributing to the Tor Project. You all can work together to find out who the professors and IT professionals are on campus that you'd need to talk to in order to get the project started.

Start a digital rights campus group. Often the biggest barrier to setting up a Tor node on campus is one of understanding. The faculty and the IT department might not be convinced that supporting a freedom-enhancing technology project is worth the potential risk, so sometimes it might take a series of information sessions and ongoing meetings to demystify Tor for people that are new to the concept of online anonymity. Check out our organizing resources and start a campus group. Setting up a Tor node is a great first project.

Understand the Risks and Try to Address Potential Concerns

Try to dedicate a separate IP address to the relay or exit node. Some servers blacklist Tor traffic, so having a separate IP address will help to ensure that only traffic from the dedicated Tor IP address will be blacklisted or affected, and not other users of the campus network who share an IP address with the Tor node. Note that EFF believes that Tor relays should be protected from copyright liability for the acts of their users and that a Tor relay operator can raise an immunity defense under the DMCA as well as defenses under copyright's secondary liability doctrines. However, no court has yet addressed these issues in the context of Tor itself. Check out our legal FAQ, which includes a template for a response to a DMCA notice.

Consider a reduced exit policy. Exit policies allow hosts of Tor nodes to decide what kind of traffic is allowed to travel through their node. The Tor Project has an excellent explainer on the kinds of exit policies available for exit node hosts and how limiting what is allowed to travel through your node can reduce its risk of receiving legal complaints. Most reduced exit policies still allow web browsing activity that may give rise to content-related complaints or investigations.

Set up a reverse DNS entry for the IP address. By setting up a reverse domain name for the IP address running the Tor node, you can help to alleviate knee-jerk reactions from sysadmins and people who see unfamiliar traffic coming from your IP node. A domain name like or might be useful.

Set up a Tor Exit Notice. Once you have a good reverse DNS name, you should put some content there that explains what Tor is for those who see the name and try to visit it via HTTP. If you run your DirPort on port 80, you can use the Tor config option "DirPortFrontPage" to display a notice explaining that you are running an exit node. This sample content from The Tor Project website will help educate and inform people who stumble upon the Tor exit node DNS name. Be sure to update the contact info and other places marked with FIXME in the notice.

Tell us how it goes

We want to Tor project to become as robust as possible and encourage students contribute in any way they can. Even if you are unable to get past the concerns or bureaucracy of the campus administration, the fact that the conversation has been started is a wonderful contribution in and of itself. At the moment, too many Internet users wrongly associate the need for privacy and anonyminity online with deviance, ignorant to the fact that these tools are essential for journalists, activists, medical and legal professionals, as well as everyday users around the world need to circumvent government censorship to communicate and stay informed.

Email to keep us posted, and good luck!

In part one of this blogpost, we discuss why it makes good sense to contribute to the Tor project on university campuses, and we offer some examples of students who have been able to set up relays or exit nodes in recent years.


Share this:   ||  Join EFF
Categories: Aggregated News

Tor on Campus, Part I: It’s Been Done Before and Should Happen Again - Tue, 05/08/2014 - 01:18

German newspapers recently reported that the NSA targets people who research privacy and anonymity tools online—for instance by searching for information about Tor and Tails—for deeper surveillance. But today, researching something online is the near equivalent to thinking out loud.  By ramping up surveillance on people simply for reading about security, freedom of expression easily collapses into self-censorship; speech is chilled; people may become afraid to research and learn.

What effect does this threat to research have on university life? Just this summer student groups at seventeen universities across the country penned open letters in protest of NSA surveillance, calling attention to the pernicious effects of the surveillance state on academic freedom. And despite the fact that the very act of learning about basic online privacy tools subjects one to increased government scrutiny, we sincerely hope this student activism continues.

EFF has long encouraged students and professors to support the Tor project by running a relay on campus. Universities are supposed to be places where exploration and research of new and controversial topics should be encouraged, where freedom of speech and thought should flourish. Although it saddens us that research of any topic in and of itself has become a suspicious activity, it would be tragic if students stopped exercising their First Amendment rights and stopped exploring freedom-enhancing software tools. Anonymity is one way to more freely explore information online.

In fact, the more people use Tor, the safer it is for those who use it. When a university runs a Tor node, the students and professors who back it are contributing to the strengthening of a human rights project that enables a safe, free, and globally connected Internet.

Many are bound to question whether those who seek privacy and anonymity should continue to use Tor knowing that it could subject one to greater NSA scrutiny. After careful consideration, we feel the benefits strongly outweigh the burdens. That’s why we’re continuing the Tor Challenge.

There are plenty of reasons why a university may have reservations about running a Tor relay or exit node on campus. We discuss those concerns as well as ways to address potential risk in part two of this post.

Tor is already on campuses

For years, students and professors have been running Tor exit and relay nodes on college campuses. Whether part of a research project or as an independent, activist-minded contribution to the Tor project, these instances of Tor have helped to make the network more robust and diverse.

Take the nodes set up at University of Pennsylvania, for example, where students maintain multiple Tor relays. Or consider the Tor exit node a student was running a few years ago under his desk in a dorm room at Princeton.

"I gradually made my way through different administrative procedures, talking with several administrators and committees, and finally Princeton's general counsel,” recounted the Princeton alum Tom Lowenthal (now a staff technologist at the Committee to Protect Journalists) about his struggle to demystify the Tor project to the campus administration. “It took a while and numerous meetings but I eventually persuaded them that running a Tor exit node is neither illegal nor unethical, but actively altruistic.”

And in Sweden at Karlstad University, student researchers have installed two middle relays and are currently in the midst of setting up an exit node as well. We wish them the best, as it would be a significant contribution to helping make the Internet safer for activists and journalists who rely on online anonymity tools such as Tor.

In Utah, Jesse Victors, a computer science graduate student at Utah State University is running four relays and two exit nodes at the university as part of his ongoing graduate research into online anonymity tools. He also assists new Tor users in discussion forums and even hosted a Reddit AMA to share his experiences earlier this year.

In Southern California, Alex Ryan, a rising sophomore at Caltech is running a relay too. “I had access to some really amazing resources, and I want to do my part to give back,” Ryan reported. “I think it's a really important tool in this day and age, and Tor is a way for people to avoid undue surveillance.”

As the preceding anecdotes illustrate, while some universities may initially object to running a Tor node on campus, it is possible.

It makes sense to run a Tor node on university and college campuses

University and college campuses function like Internet service providers unto themselves, delivering and uploading content for tens of thousands of users, hosting hundreds of sites, and maintaining email and other communications platforms for tens and even hundreds of thousands of students, faculty, staff, and alumni. University networks are often also very fast and have a vast IP address space. Tor benefits from a diversity of connections, and university networks are often a wonderful and reliable addition to the set of networks that host Tor nodes. Exit nodes can be configured so as not to be a strain on university.

What’s more, configuring and running a Tor node is a learning experience. All too often, Tor is maligned through associations with illegal or criminal activity. But we know that this is a shallow and incomplete understanding of the uses and purposes of anonymous Internet usage. In fact, Tor was initially developed as a U.S. government project in association with the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory.

Fostering safety and human rights online

The truth is that anonymous browsing is essential for the exercise of the basic human right to free expression in countries where the Internet is filtered or blocked by oppressive regimes. Victims of domestic abuse or medical patients often need to explore the Internet and communicate without fear that their identity will be tied to their activity online, and all kinds of professionals, from inventors with trade secrets to lawyers that need to secure the confidentiality of their clients, use Tor to accomplish their work.

Setting up a Tor node on campus can be a vital and exciting learning opportunity. It helps those who are new to Tor shift away from the demonization of a freedom-enhancing technology, and move towards an understanding rooted in reality.

Professors and students who care about human rights and free speech have the opportunity to participate in strengthening a project of human rights technology. The larger and more diverse and dense the network of Tor nodes is, the better the project works. That means that anonymized Internet connections travel faster and people can use the Internet safely and more efficiently.

The ubiquitous use of privacy and security tools is the Internet’s best hope for protecting the people who really need those tools—people for whom the consequences of being caught speaking out against their government can be imprisonment or death. And the greater the number of ordinary people using Tor and Tails, the harder it is for the NSA to make the case that reading about or using these tools is de facto suspicious.

“Tor is also one of the strongest tools to fight against censorship and information control. I am just one person, and I feel very small when faced with these problems,” reported the student at Utah State University who runs six nodes. “I'm proud to help thousands of others preserve their freedoms. 2.4 million used Tor yesterday, and this number will no doubt continue to rise.”

There are a lot of reasons why a university might be concerned about having Tor traffic exit from their network. In a following post, we offer tips on how to get the conversation started on campus and things to think about when running Tor. It is very important to understand the risks as well as ways to lessen those risks; all of this is discussed in part two of this Deeplink.

Related Issues: AnonymityStudent and Community Organizing
Share this:   ||  Join EFF
Categories: Aggregated News



Advertise here!

Syndicate content
All content and comments posted are owned and © by the Author and/or Poster.
Web site Copyright © 1995 - 2007 Clemens Vermeulen, Cairns - All Rights Reserved
Drupal design and maintenance by Clemens Vermeulen Drupal theme by Kiwi Themes.
Buy now