In our 731st issue:
You shouldn’t have to wade through complicated privacy settings to ensure that the companies with which you’ve entrusted your personal information are making reasonable, legal efforts to protect it. But while legislators and regulators scramble to understand the implications of last week’s revelation that Facebook allowed third parties to violate users privacy on an unprecedented scale, users are left with the responsibility to make sure their profiles are as locked down as possible
Cambridge Analytica, a data analytics company, acquired access to more than 50 million Facebook users accounts in 2014. The data was collected, shared, and stored without most users’ consent. This violation of user privacy was not a data breach. It was in line with Facebook’s terms of service and API at the time; this is how Facebook’s infrastructure was designed to work.
In addition to raising questions about Facebook’s role in the 2016 presidential election, this news is a reminder of the inevitable risks users face when their information is captured, analyzed, indefinitely stored, and shared by a constellation of data brokers, marketers, and social media companies.
EFF and other civil liberties organizations opposed it; sex trafficking experts and sex workers alike explained its flaws, and even the Department of Justice warned Congress not to pass it. This chorus of voices attempted to dissuade Congress, explaining that—though the bill’s intent may have been to stop sex trafficking—in execution it would place those it purported to aid at greater risk and undermine the Internet we all know and love. Yet, the Senate voted 97-2 to pass the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA, H.R. 1865), forcing Internet platforms to censor their users and making trafficking victims less safe.
The CLOUD Act, giving U.S. and foreign police new mechanisms to seize data across the globe without a warrant and with few restrictions on using and sharing your information, was never reviewed or marked up by any committee in either the House or the Senate. It never received a hearing. It was never subject to a stand-alone floor vote. Instead, congressional leadership attached this un-vetted, unrelated data bill to the $1.3 trillion government spending bill. Congress has a professional responsibility to listen to the American people’s concerns, to represent their constituents, and to debate the merits and concerns of this proposal. It failed.
„Irreparable Harm,“ a short film sponsored by the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council (SEACC), documents Alaska’s Admiralty Island National Monument, inhabited by the Tlingit people for thousands of years. It is also home to Hecla’s Greens Creek silver mine. The film explores the mine’s relationship with its Tlingit neighbors—highlighting pollution levels in traditional Tlingit food sources.
Last month Hecla Mining Company attempted to prevent further screenings of the film, claiming the use of footage from a company promotional video violated the Copyright Act. EFF responded to Hecla’s demands on behalf of SEACC, pointing out what should have been obvious–that the use of short clips in a critical documentary is “a paradigmatic case of fair use.”
There’s a whole catalog of devices that are missing from our world. Things we’d pay money for — things you could earn money with — don’t exist thanks to the chilling effects of an obscure copyright law: Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. This week’s entry is Physics Barbie, a talking doll that’s been reprogrammed to talk science.
Electronic Frontier Alliance ally Lucy Parsons Lab is a dedicated group of volunteers doing incredible work to protect civil liberties in Chicago and beyond. EFF’s Lindsay Oliver sat down with Lucy Parsons Lab co-founder Freddy Martinez to gain a better understanding of the lab and how they use their powers for good.
As part of his Senate Confirmation Hearing, Lt. General Paul Nakasone, the new nominee to direct the NSA, faced pointed and necessary questions from Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) about how he would lead the spy agency.
Though elusive, Nakasone assured Sen. Wyden that he would „follow the law“ and ensure that the NSA would do so as well. Nakasone also conceded that, conditionally, he agreed with encryption experts that tech companies could not modify their encryption to permit law enforcement access without „the bad guys“ getting in too.
We hope that given the opportunity to question Nakasone, additional senators will ask the pointed questions we need answers to about the NSA’s still-ongoing Section 702 surveillance program, and how he plans to reconcile the agencies invasive spying program with constitutional rights to privacy.
As criminal justice advocates work to abolish cash bail schemes and dismantle the prison industrial complex, one of the many tools touted as an alternative to incarceration is electronic monitoring (EM). While EM’s use has expanded, regulation and oversight lag behind. Electronic Monitoring devices—capable of recording and regularly transmitting a subject’s location, blood alcohol level and more—raise a range of digital rights and civil liberty concerns.
These concerns are not limited solely to how those facing or convicted of criminal charges may be affected, but how in the absence of responsible guidelines those harms may extend to their families and communities as well. That’s why EFF, along with over 50 other organizations, has endorsed the Center for Media Justice’s Guidelines for Respecting the Rights of Individuals on electronic monitoring.
Turn off your phone’s location services for ANY app that doesn’t seem like it should need them. (Consumer Reports)
When platforms over-censor their users, marginalized communities are often silenced disproportionately. (Rolling Stone)
We warned Congress that passing SESTA/FOSTA would result in Internet censorship. With the bill headed to the president’s desk, we’re already seeing this happen. (Ars Technica)
We must demand better privacy practices from social media platforms rather than suggest people simply delete Facebook. (Marketplace)
Facebook’s sharing of user data was how the business model was supposed to work. (Threatpost)
Technology can make our lives better, or be used to threaten fundamental liberties. Privacy Watch, a member of the Electronic Frontier Alliance, is working to ensure transparency and oversight of police use of spy tech in St. Louis. (The St. Louis American)
Our members make it possible for EFF to bring legal and technological expertise into crucial battles about online rights. Whether defending free speech online or challenging unconstitutional surveillance, your participation makes a difference. Every donation gives technology users who value freedom online a stronger voice and more formidable advocate.
If you aren’t already, please consider becoming an EFF member today.
Editor: Nathan Sheard, Grassroots Advocacy Organizer
EFFector is a publication of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
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Join us for a celebration of the life and leadership of the recently departed founder of EFF, John Perry Barlow. His friends and compatriots in the fight for civil liberties, a fair and open internet, and voices for open culture will discuss what his ideas mean to them, and how we can follow his example as we continue our fight.
Electronic Frontier Alliance member Eyebeam seeks applications that consider how art and technology can challenge dominant notions of access and how together we can shape a more equitable future.
Electronic Rights Rainier will host a roundtable discussion on privacy and security while crossing the border with your devices—including technical measures you can take, experiences with border security, and recent newsworthy events that may affect your decisions on what to take with you on your trip and what information you are willing to disclose.
EFF’s Jillian York will be speaking on three panels at the International Journalism Festival in Perugia, Italy. Entrance is free of charge.
Join us for our second annual exploration of the fascinating, obscure, and trivial minutiae of digital security, online rights, and Internet culture. It’s the ultimate technology quiz crafted by EFF experts and hosted by our very own Cooper Quintin.
EFF’s Tech Trivia Night is a great opportunity to gather with peers in the tech community AND support the crucial fight for online civil liberties.
Spaces are limited, so act fast and register now!
EFF is seeking an intellectual property staff attorney to join our legal team in San Francisco. Responsibilities include litigation, public speaking, media outreach, and legislative and regulatory advocacy, all in connection with a variety of intellectual property and cutting-edge technology matters. Founded in 1990, EFF champions user privacy, free expression, and innovation through impact litigation, policy analysis, grassroots activism, and technology development.