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Patents

Patent Trolls On the Run But Not Vanquished Yet 56

Posted by samzenpus
from the don't-forget-the-fire dept.
snydeq writes Strong legislation that will weaken the ability of the trolls to shake down innovators is likely to pass Congress, but more should be done, writes InfoWorld's Bill Snyder. "The Innovation Act isn't an ideal fix for the program patent system. But provisions in the proposed law, like one that will make trolls pay legal costs if their claims are rejected, will remove a good deal of the risk that smaller companies face when they decide to resist a spurious lawsuit," Snyder writes. That said, "You'd have to be wildly optimistic to think that software patents will be abolished. Although the EFF's proposals call for the idea to be studied, [EFF attorney Daniel] Nazer doesn't expect it to happen; he instead advocates several reforms not contained in the Innovation Act."
Piracy

Trans-Pacific Partnership Enables Harsh Penalties For Filesharing 154

Posted by Soulskill
from the legislation-via-industry dept.
An anonymous reader writes: The Electronic Frontier Foundation went through a recent leak of the secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, an international treaty in development that (among other things) would impose new intellectual property laws on much of the developed world. The EFF highlights one section in particular, which focuses on the punishments for copyright infringement. The document doesn't set specific sentences, but it actively encourages high monetary penalties and jail terms. Its authors reason that these penalties will be a deterrent to future infringement. "The TPP's copyright provisions even require countries to enable judges to unilaterally order the seizure, destruction, or forfeiture of anything that can be 'traceable to infringing activity,' has been used in the 'creation of pirated copyright goods,' or is 'documentary evidence relevant to the alleged offense.' Under such obligations, law enforcement could become ever more empowered to seize laptops, servers, or even domain names."
Electronic Frontier Foundation

EFF: Hundreds of S. Carolina Prisoners Sent To Solitary For Social Media Use 176

Posted by timothy
from the don't-you-have-enough-friends-already? dept.
According to the EFF's Deep LInks, Through a request under South Carolina’s Freedom of Information Act, EFF found that, over the last three years, prison officials have brought more than 400 hundred disciplinary cases for "social networking" — almost always for using Facebook. The offenses come with heavy penalties, such as years in solitary confinement and deprivation of virtually all privileges, including visitation and telephone access. In 16 cases, inmates were sentenced to more than a decade in what’s called disciplinary detention, with at least one inmate receiving more than 37 years in isolation. ... The sentences are so long because SCDC issues a separate Level 1 violation for each day that an inmate accesses a social network. An inmate who posts five status updates over five days, would receive five separate Level 1 violations, while an inmate who posted 100 updates in one day would receive only one. In other words, if a South Carolina inmate caused a riot, took three hostages, murdered them, stole their clothes, and then escaped, he could still wind up with fewer Level 1 offenses than an inmate who updated Facebook every day for two weeks.
DRM

DMCA Exemption Campaign Would Let Fans Run Abandoned Games 157

Posted by Soulskill
from the don't-break-what-people-pay-for dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Games that rely on remote servers became the norm many years ago, and as those games age, it's becoming more and more common for the publisher to shut them down when they're no longer popular. This is a huge problem for the remaining fans of the games, and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act forbids the kind of hacks and DRM circumvention required for the players to host their own servers. Fortunately, the EFF and law student Kendra Albert are on the case. They've asked the Copyright Office for an exemption in the case of players who want to keep abandoned games alive. It's another important step in efforts to whittle away at overreaching copyright laws.
Government

DEA Hands MuckRock a $1.4 Million Estimate For Responsive Documents 136

Posted by samzenpus
from the pay-the-man dept.
An anonymous reader writes with news about what might be the largest Freedom of Information Act fee yet. "The EFF recently kicked off a contest for the 'most outrageous response to a Freedom of Information Act request' and we already have a frontrunner for the first inaugural 'Foilie.' MuckRock's loose confederation of FOIA rabblerousers has been hit with a $1.4 million price tag for John Dyer's request for documents related to the 'localization and capture' of Mexican drug lord 'El Chapo.'"
Electronic Frontier Foundation

Site Launches To Track Warrant Canaries 159

Posted by Soulskill
from the tag-and-release dept.
Trailrunner7 writes: In the years since Edward Snowden began putting much of the NSA's business in the street, including its reliance on the secret FISA court and National security Letters, warrant canaries have emerged as a key method for ISPs, telecoms, and other technology providers to let the public know whether they have received any secret orders. But keeping track of the various canaries scattered around the Web is difficult, so a group of legal and civil liberties organizations have come together to launch a new site to monitor the known warrant canaries.

The Canary Watch site is the work of the EFF, the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, and NYU's Technology Law and Policy Center and it works on a simple concept. The site maintains a list of all of the known warrant canaries and periodically checks each organization's site to see whether the canary is still there and then lists any changes to the status. Right now, Canary Watch lists 11 organizations, including Lookout, Pinterest, Reddit, and Tumblr.

"Canarywatch lists the warrant canaries we know about, tracks changes or disappearances of those canaries, and allows users to submit canaries not listed on the site. For people with interest in a particular canary, the site will show any changes we know about," Nadia Kayyali of the EFF said in a blog post.
Electronic Frontier Foundation

Hundreds Apply For FAA Drone Licenses 90

Posted by Soulskill
from the come-fly-the-increasingly-crowded-skies dept.
itwbennett writes: The Federal Aviation Administration has issued eight more commercial drone licenses, the latest approvals for several hundred applications it has received. The newest licenses went to companies planning to use drones for video and TV production, aerial photography and surveying and inspecting flare stacks in the oil, natural gas and petro-chemical industry. Other readers sent in followups to last week's stories about an enthusiast's drone that crashed onto the White House grounds, and the subsequent firmware update from the drone's manufacturer to enforce a no-fly zone in that area. The EFF argues that this is a shortsighted solution and only serves to highlight how the concept of ownership is increasingly being pulled out of users' hands. Meanwhile, such "no-fly zone" updates give rise to a host of liability issues for manufacturers and enthusiasts alike.
Electronic Frontier Foundation

EFF Unveils Plan For Ending Mass Surveillance 282

Posted by Soulskill
from the hopeful-but-doubtful dept.
An anonymous reader writes: The Electronic Frontier Foundation has published a detailed, global strategy for ridding ourselves of mass surveillance. They stress that this must be an international effort — while citizens of many countries can vote against politicians who support surveillance, there are also many countries where the citizens have to resort to other methods. The central part of the EFF's plan is: encryption, encryption, encryption. They say we need to build new secure communications tools, pressure existing tech companies to make their products secure against everyone, and get ordinary internet-goers to recognize that encryption is a fundamental part of communication in the surveillance age.

They also advocate fighting for transparency and against overreach on a national level. "[T]he more people worldwide understand the threat and the more they understand how to protect themselves—and just as importantly, what they should expect in the way of support from companies and governments—the more we can agitate for the changes we need online to fend off the dragnet collection of data." The EFF references a document created to apply the principles of human rights to communications surveillance, which they say are "our way of making sure that the global norm for human rights in the context of communication surveillance isn't the warped viewpoint of NSA and its four closest allies, but that of 50 years of human rights standards showing mass surveillance to be unnecessary and disproportionate."
Advertising

Healthcare.gov Sends Personal Data To Over a Dozen Tracking Websites 204

Posted by Soulskill
from the a-bit-too-standard dept.
An anonymous reader tips an Associated Press report saying that Healthcare.gov is sending users' personal data to private companies. The information involved is typical ad-related analytic data: "...it can include age, income, ZIP code, whether a person smokes, and if a person is pregnant. It can include a computer's Internet address, which can identify a person's name or address when combined with other information collected by sophisticated online marketing or advertising firms." The Electronic Frontier Foundation confirmed the report, saying that data is being sent from Healthcare.gov to at least 14 third-party domains.

The EFF says, "Sending such personal information raises significant privacy concerns. A company like Doubleclick, for example, could match up the personal data provided by healthcare.gov with an already extensive trove of information about what you read online and what your buying preferences are to create an extremely detailed profile of exactly who you are and what your interests are. It could do all this based on a tracking cookie that it sets which would be the same across any site you visit. Based on this data, Doubleclick could start showing you smoking ads or infer your risk of cancer based on where you live, how old you are and your status as a smoker. Doubleclick might start to show you ads related to pregnancy, which could have embarrassing and potentially dangerous consequences such as when Target notified a woman's family that she was pregnant before she even told them. "
Electronic Frontier Foundation

EFF Takes On Online Harassment 189

Posted by Soulskill
from the can't-we-all-just-get-along dept.
Gamoid writes: The Electronic Frontier Foundation has identified online harassment as a major challenge facing free speech on the Internet, and lays out its plan to fix it. They say, "Online harassment is a digital rights issue. At its worst, it causes real and lasting harms to its targets, a fact that must be central to any discussion of harassment. Unfortunately, it's not easy to craft laws or policies that will address those harms without inviting government or corporate censorship and invasions of privacy—including the privacy and free speech of targets of harassment. ... Just because the law sometimes allows a person to be a jerk (or worse) doesn’t mean that others in the community are required to be silent or to just stand by and let people be harassed. We can and should stand up against harassment. Doing so is not censorship—it’s being part of the fight for an inclusive and speech-supporting Internet."
Electronic Frontier Foundation

EFF: Apple's Dev Agreement Means No EFF Mobile App For iOS 220

Posted by samzenpus
from the not-for-you dept.
schwit1 writes The EFF launched a new app that will make it easier for people to take action on digital rights issues using their phone. The app allows folks to connect to their action center quickly and easily, using a variety of mobile devices. Sadly, though, they had to leave out Apple devices and the folks who use them. Why? Because they could not agree to the terms in Apple's Developer Agreement and Apple's DRM requirements.
Electronic Frontier Foundation

Federal Court Nixes Weeks of Warrantless Video Surveillance 440

Posted by timothy
from the if-you-watch-someone-long-enough dept.
An anonymous reader writes with this news from the EFF's Deep Links: The public got an early holiday gift today when a federal court agreed with us that six weeks of continually video recording the front yard of someone's home without a search warrant violates the Fourth Amendment. In United States v. Vargas local police in rural Washington suspected Vargas of drug trafficking. In April 2013, police installed a camera on top of a utility pole overlooking his home. Even though police did not have a warrant, they nonetheless pointed the camera at his front door and driveway and began watching every day. A month later, police observed Vargas shoot some beer bottles with a gun and because Vargas was an undocumented immigrant, they had probable cause to believe he was illegally possessing a firearm. They used the video surveillance to obtain a warrant to search his home, which uncovered drugs and guns, leading to a federal indictment against Vargas.
Encryption

Launching 2015: a New Certificate Authority To Encrypt the Entire Web 212

Posted by Soulskill
from the respect-their-authority dept.
Peter Eckersley writes: Today EFF, Mozilla, Cisco, and Akamai announced a forthcoming project called Let's Encrypt. Let's Encrypt will be a certificate authority that issues free certificates to any website, using automated protocols (demo video here). Launching in summer 2015, we believe this will be the missing piece that deprecates the woefully insecure HTTP protocol in favor of HTTPS.
Networking

Can the US Actually Cultivate Local Competition in Broadband? 135

Posted by timothy
from the but-what-we-really-want-is-more-rules dept.
New submitter riskkeyesq writes with a link to a blog post from Dane Jasper, CEO of Sonic.net, about what Jasper sees as the deepest problem in the U.S. broadband market and the Internet in general: "There are a number of threats to the Internet as a system for innovation, commerce and education today. They include net neutrality, the price of Internet access in America, performance, rural availability and privacy. But none of these are the root issue, they're just symptoms. The root cause of all of these symptoms is a disease: a lack of competition for consumer Internet access." Soft landings for former legislators, lobbyists disguised as regulators, hundreds of thousands of miles of fiber sitting unused, the sham that is the internet provider free market is keeping the US in a telecommunications third-world. What, exactly, can American citizens do about it? One upshot, in Jasper's opinion (hardly disinterested, is his role at CEO at an ISP that draws praise from the EFF for its privacy policies) is this: "Today’s FCC should return to the roots of the Telecom Act, and reinforce the unbundling requirements, assuring that they are again technology neutral. This will create an investment ladder to facilities for competitive carriers, opening access to build out and serve areas that are beyond our reach today."
AT&T

AT&T Stops Using 'Super Cookies' To Track Cellphone Data 60

Posted by timothy
from the turns-out-people-hate-that dept.
jriding (1076733) writes AT&T Mobility, the nation's second-largest cellular provider, says it's no longer attaching hidden Internet tracking codes to data transmitted from its users' smartphones. The practice made it nearly impossible to shield its subscribers' identities online. Would be nice to hear something similar from Verizon.
Encryption

ISPs Removing Their Customers' Email Encryption 245

Posted by Soulskill
from the aggressively-anticonsumer dept.
Presto Vivace points out this troubling new report from the Electronic Frontier Foundation: Recently, Verizon was caught tampering with its customer's web requests to inject a tracking super-cookie. Another network-tampering threat to user safety has come to light from other providers: email encryption downgrade attacks. In recent months, researchers have reported ISPs in the U.S. and Thailand intercepting their customers' data to strip a security flag — called STARTTLS — from email traffic. The STARTTLS flag is an essential security and privacy protection used by an email server to request encryption when talking to another server or client.

By stripping out this flag, these ISPs prevent the email servers from successfully encrypting their conversation, and by default the servers will proceed to send email unencrypted. Some firewalls, including Cisco's PIX/ASA firewall do this in order to monitor for spam originating from within their network and prevent it from being sent. Unfortunately, this causes collateral damage: the sending server will proceed to transmit plaintext email over the public Internet, where it is subject to eavesdropping and interception.
Electronic Frontier Foundation

Computer Scientists Ask Supreme Court To Rule APIs Can't Be Copyrighted 260

Posted by Soulskill
from the pleading-for-sanity dept.
An anonymous reader writes: The EFF, representing a coalition of computer scientists, filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court yesterday hoping for a ruling that APIs can't be copyrighted. The names backing the brief include Bjarne Stroustrup, Ken Thompson, Guido van Rossum, and many other luminaries. "The brief explains that the freedom to re-implement and extend existing APIs has been the key to competition and progress in both hardware and software development. It made possible the emergence and success of many robust industries we now take for granted—for example, mainframes, PCs, and workstations/servers—by ensuring that competitors could challenge established players and advance the state of the art. The litigation began several years ago when Oracle sued Google over its use of Java APIs in the Android OS. Google wrote its own implementation of the Java APIs, but, in order to allow developers to write their own programs for Android, Google's implementation used the same names, organization, and functionality as the Java APIs."
Electronic Frontier Foundation

EFF Hints At Lawsuit Against Verizon For Its Stealth Cookies 81

Posted by timothy
from the as-well-they-might dept.
An anonymous reader writes A few weeks ago I noted how security researchers had discovered that Verizon has been injecting a unique new 'stealth cookie' identifier into all user traffic that tracks user online behavior, even if the consumer opts out. Using a unique Identifier Header, or UIDH, Verizon's ham-fisted system broadcasts your identity all across the web — and remains intact and open to third-party abuse — even if you opt-out of Verizon's behavioral ad programs. Now the Electronic Frontier Foundation has filed a complaint with the FCC and has strongly indicated that they're considering legal action against Verizon for violating consumer privacy laws.
Electronic Frontier Foundation

The Fight Over the EFF's Secure Messaging Scoreboard 63

Posted by samzenpus
from the making-the-grade dept.
blottsie writes The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)'s new Secure Messaging Scorecard is designed to answer one important question: Which apps and tools actually keep your messages secure and safe from prying eyes? The results have been mixed. In the midst of many positive reactions from technology companies and users, the scorecard stoked a wave of criticism from several prominent figures in the security industry, who deemed the effort inaccurate, misleading, and vague."
Encryption

EFF Begins a Campaign For Secure and Usable Cryptography 96

Posted by Soulskill
from the hard-problems-to-solve dept.
Peter Eckersley writes: Over at EFF we just launched our Secure Messaging Scorecard, which is the first phase in a campaign to promote the development of communications protocols that are genuinely secure and usable by ordinary people. The Scorecard evaluates communications software against critical minimum standards for what a secure messaging app should look like; subsequent phases are planned to examine real world usability, metadata protection, protocol openness, and involve a deeper look at the security of the leading candidates. Right now, we don't think the Internet has any genuinely usable, genuinely secure messaging protocols — but we're hoping to encourage tech companies and the open source community to starting closing that gap.