bill_mcgonigle writes with this news from from CNET: "Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D NY) disclosed that NSA analysts eavesdrop on Americans' domestic telephone calls without court orders during a House Judiciary hearing. After clearing with FBI director Robert Mueller that the information was not classified, Nadler revealed that during a closed-door briefing to Congress, the Legislature was informed that the spying organization had implemented and uses this capability. This appears to confirm Edward Snowden's claim that he could, in his position at the NSA, 'wiretap anyone from you or your accountant to a federal judge to even the president.' Declan McCullagh writes, 'Because the same legal standards that apply to phone calls also apply to e-mail messages, text messages, and instant messages, Nadler's disclosure indicates the NSA analysts could also access the contents of Internet communications without going before a court and seeking approval.' The executive branch has defended its general warrants, claiming that 'the president had the constitutional authority, no matter what the law actually says, to order domestic spying without [constitutional] warrants,' while Kurt Opsahl, senior staff attorney at EFF claims such government activity 'epitomizes the problem of secret laws.'" Note that "listening in" versus "collecting metadata" is a distinction that defenders of government phone spying have been emphasizing. Tracking whom you called and when, goes the story, doesn't impinge on expectations of privacy. Speaking of the metadata collection, though, reader Bruce66423 writes "According to the Washington Post, the Bush administration took 'bulk metadata' from the phone companies under voluntary agreements for more than four years after 9/11 until a court agreed they could have it compulsorily." Related: First time accepted submitter fsagx writes that Brewster Kahle of the Internet Archive has calculated the cost to store every phone call made in the U.S. over the course of a year: "It's surprisingly inexpensive. It puts the recent NSA stories (and reports from the Boston bombings about the FBI's ability to listen to past phone conversions) into perspective."
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Nerval's Lobster writes "In an open letter addressed to U.S. attorney general Eric Holder and FBI director Robert Mueller, Google chief legal officer David Drummond again insisted that reports of his company freely offering user data to the NSA and other agencies were untrue. 'However,' he wrote, 'government nondisclosure obligations regarding the number of FISA national security requests that Google receives, as well as the number of accounts covered by those requests, fuel that speculation.' In light of that, Drummond had a request of the two men: 'We therefore ask you to help make it possible for Google to publish in our Transparency Report aggregate numbers of national security requests, including FISA disclosures—in terms of both the number we receive and their scope.' Apparently Google's numbers would show 'that our compliance with these requests falls far short of the claims being made.' Google, Drummond added, 'has nothing to hide.'" Another open letter was sent to Congress from a variety of internet companies and civil liberties groups (headlined by Mozilla, the EFF, the ACLU, and the FSF), asking them to enact legislation to prohibit the kind of surveillance apparently going on at the NSA and to hold accountable the people who implemented it. (A bipartisan group of senators has just come forth with legislation that would end such surveillance.) In addition to the letter, the ACLU sent a lawsuit as well, directed at President Obama, Eric Holder, the NSA, Verizon and the Dept. of Justice (filing, PDF). They've also asked (PDF) for a release of court records relevant to the scandal. Mozilla has also launched Stopwatching.us, a campaign to "demand a full accounting of the extent to which our online data, communications and interactions are being monitored." Other reactions: Tim Berners-Lee is against it, Australia's Foreign Minister doesn't mind it, the European Parliament has denounced it, and John Oliver is hilarious about it (video). Meanwhile, Edward Snowden, the whistleblower who leaked the information about the NSA's surveillance program, is being praised widely as a hero and a patriot. There's already a petition on Whitehouse.gov to pardon him for his involvement, and it's already reached half the required number of signatures for a response from the Obama administration.
James Logan founded MicroTouch Systems in the 80s and served on the on the Board of Directors of Andover.net, the company that acquired Slashdot back in 1999, but it is the company he founded in 1996, Personal Audio, that has garnered him much attention recently. Personal Audio sued Apple in 2009 for $84 million, claiming infringement on patents for downloadable playlists. Apple eventually lost the case and a jury ordered them to pay $8 million in damages. More recently, Personal Audio has filed suit against several prominent podcasters claiming that “Personal Audio is the owner of a fundamental patent involving the distribution of podcasts.” The EFF challenged the patents calling the company a patent troll saying, "Patent trolls have been wreaking havoc on innovative companies for some time now." The vice president of licensing for the Texas company counters that the EFF is working for "large companies against a small business and a couple of inventors," adding "Every defendant calls every plaintiff a patent troll. I've heard IBM called a patent troll. It's one of those terms everyone defines differently." Mr. Logan has agreed to answer your questions about his company and his patents. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one question per post.
Bismillah writes "Following the example of the Dutch, who enacted laws supporting network neutrality, the European Union is now looking at doing the same. They are pushing for an end to the throttling and blocking of services such as Skype and Whatsapp by providers hoping to drive users to their own competing services. The EU also wants a service transparency requirement for ISPs, so people know what they're buying — like minimum speed. It'll be interesting to see how this pans out."
An anonymous reader writes "The Electronic Frontier Foundation reports that the United Nations has finally come to the realization that there is a direct relationship between government surveillance online and citizens' freedom of expression. The report (PDF) says, 'The right to privacy is often understood as an essential requirement for the realization of the right to freedom of expression. Undue interference with individuals' privacy can both directly and indirectly limit the free development and exchange of ideas. An infringement upon one right can be both the cause and consequence of an infringement upon the other.' The EFF adds, 'La Rue's landmark report could not come at a better time. The explosion of online expression we've seen in the past decade is now being followed by an explosion of communications surveillance. For many, the Internet and mobile telephony are no longer platforms where private communication is shielded from governments knowing when, where, and with whom a communication has occurred.'"
An anonymous reader writes "CNet reports that a U.S. District Court Judge has rejected Google's attempt to fight 19 National Security Letters, which are used by the FBI to gather information on users without a warrant. Quoting: 'The litigation taking place behind closed doors in Illston's courtroom — a closed-to-the-public hearing was held on May 10 — could set new ground rules curbing the FBI's warrantless access to information that Internet and other companies hold on behalf of their users. The FBI issued 192,499 of the demands from 2003 to 2006, and 97 percent of NSLs include a mandatory gag order. It wasn't a complete win for the Justice Department, however: Illston all but invited Google to try again, stressing that the company has only raised broad arguments, not ones "specific to the 19 NSLs at issue." She also reserved judgment on two of the 19 NSLs, saying she wanted the government to "provide further information" prior to making a decision.' This does not affect the Electronic Frontier Foundation's challenge to the constitutionality of the letters in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals."
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has filed a formal objection to the inclusion of DRM in HTML5, saying that a draft proposal from the W3C could hurt innovation and block access to people around the world. From their press page: '"This proposal stands apart from all other aspects of HTML standardization: it defines a new 'black box' for the entertainment industry, fenced off from control by the browser and end-user," said EFF International Director Danny O'Brien. "While this plan might soothe Hollywood content providers who are scared of technological evolution, it could also create serious impediments to interoperability and access for all."'
An anonymous reader writes "A bill has reached the desk of Texas Governor Rick Perry that would give stronger privacy protections to email accounts than exist in any other state. If Perry signs it (or simply declines to veto it before June 16th), the legislation would force law enforcement agencies to obtain a warrant before reading somebody's email, even if the email has been sitting on the server for a long time. 'As we've noted many times before, there are no such provisions in federal law once the e-mail has been opened or if it has been sitting in an inbox, unopened, for 180 days. In March 2013, the Department of Justice acknowledged in a Congressional hearing that this distinction no longer makes sense and the DOJ would support revisions to ECPA.' This bill passed the state legislature unanimously. The article points out that the legislation won't protect from federal investigations, but it will set a precedent that the U.S. Congress will surely notice. An attorney with the EFF said, 'It's significant as proof that privacy reform is not only needed, but also politically-feasible with broad bipartisan support. And hopefully that will impact federal ECPA reform efforts by getting people on both of sides of the political aisle to work together to make meaningful electronic privacy reform a reality. The more states that pass similar legislation, the more pressure it will put on Congress to keep up with the changing legal landscape.'"
hypnosec writes "The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has started accepting donations in the form of Bitcoins again after a two year hiatus, stating that the legal uncertainty hovering over the digital currency has all but disappeared. On their blog the EFF noted that a report from U.S. Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), in addition to their own findings, 'have confirmed that, as a user of Bitcoin or any virtual currency, EFF itself is likely not subject to regulation.'"
An anonymous reader writes "Remember how the Australian Government tried to enact a big bad Internet filter on the population? Well, that effort failed, but now there's a new initiative in place. At least one government agency, the country's financial regulator, has quietly started issuing legal notices to ISPs requesting them to block certain types of websites deemed illegal. There's no oversight or appeals process, and already a false positive event has resulted in some 1,200 innocent websites being blocked from Australians viewing them. Sounds ideal, right?"
jrepin writes "Digital restrictions management (DRM) creates damaged goods that users cannot control or use freely. It requires users to give-up control of their computers and restricts access to digital data and media. Device manufacturers and corporate copyrights holders have already been massively infecting their products with user-hostile DRM. Tablets, mobile phones and other minicomputers are sold with numerous restrictions embedded that cripple users freedom. The proposal at table in W3C to put DRM into HTML goes even further. Fight it: use today's today is international Day Against DRM, so spread the word and make yourself heard!" The EFF suggests making every day a day against DRM.
Jakob Perry organized the first LinuxFest Northwest when he was still a student. He got off to a good start: now LFNW has been running for 14 years, and has retained its flavor as a low-key, friendly conference. Exhibitors from Linux distributions from tiny (CrunchBang) to huge (Red Hat) were on hand for 2013, and enough speakers and topics to fill about 80 different sessions over the two days of the conference. Not all of it's about Linux per se, either: the EFF and FSF were represented, along with a BSD table, and a local astronomy group with a great name. At this year's event I ran into the first Firefox OS phone that I've had a chance to play with in person. Firefox OS integrates Linux by way of the Android kernel, but is otherwise its own beast. Ubuntu and Mozilla contributor Benjamin Kerensa was on hand to talk about what makes it tick, and to give a demo of the all-HTML5 interface.
tdog17 writes "Verizon and MySpace scored a zero out of a possible six stars in a test of how far 18 technology service providers will go to protect user data from government data demands. Twitter and Internet service provider Sonic.net scored a perfect six in the third annual Electronic Frontier Foundation 'Who Has Your Back?' report. Apple, AT&T and Yahoo ranked near the bottom, each scoring just one star. 'While we are pleased by the strides these companies have made over the past couple years, there’s plenty of room for improvement. Amazon holds huge quantities of information as part of its cloud computing services and retail operations, yet does not promise to inform users when their data is sought by the government, produce annual transparency reports, or publish a law enforcement guide. Facebook has yet to publish a transparency report. Yahoo! has a public record of standing up for user privacy in courts, but it hasn't earned recognition in any of our other categories. Apple and AT&T are members of the Digital Due Process coalition, but don’t observe any of the other best practices we’re measuring. ... We remain disappointed by the overall poor showing of ISPs like AT&T and Verizon in our best practice categories.'"
sl4shd0rk writes "Remember SOPA? If not, perhaps the name Lamar Smith will ring a bell. The U.S. House Committee on Science, Space and Technology chose Smith to Chair as an overseer for the National Science Foundation's funding process. Smith is preparing a bill (PDF) which will require that every grant must benefit 'national defense,' be of 'utmost importance to society,' and not be 'duplicative of other research.' Duplicating research seems reasonable until you consider that this could also mean the NSF will not provide funding for research once someone has already provided results — manufactured or otherwise. A strange target since there is a process in place which makes an effort to limit duplicate funding already. The first and second requirements, even when read in context, still miss the point of basic research. If we were absolutely without-a-doubt-certain of the results, there would be little point in doing the research in the first place."
kxra writes "The Free Culture Foundation has posted a thorough response to the most common and misinformed defenses of the W3C's Extended Media Extensions (EME) proposal to inject DRM into HTML5. They join the EFF and FSF in a call to send a strong message to the W3C that DRM in HTML5 undermines the W3C's self-stated mission to make the benefits of the Web 'available to all people, whatever their hardware, software, network infrastructure, native language, culture, geographical location, or physical or mental ability.' The FCF counters the three most common myths by unpacking some quotes which explain that 1.) DRM is not about protecting copyright. That is a straw man. DRM is about limiting the functionality of devices and selling features back in the form of services. 2.) DRM in HTML5 doesn't obsolete proprietary, platform-specific browser plug-ins; it encourages them. 3.) the Web doesn't need big media; big media needs the Web." Also: the FSF has announced that a coalition of 27 web freedom organizations have sent a joint letter to the W3C opposing DRM support in HTML5.
An anonymous reader writes with a story at the Daily Dot: "Despite the protests of Internet privacy advocates, the controversial Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) passed the House of Representatives Thursday. The vote was 288-127. ... CISPA saw a handful of minor amendments soon before passage. A representative for the EFF told the Daily Dot that while they were still analyzing the specifics, none of the actual changes to the bill addressed their core criticisms. ... But also as was the case the year before, on Tuesday the Obama administration issued a promise to veto the bill if it reaches the president’s desk without significant changes." Techdirt has a short report on the vote, too — and probably more cutting commentary soon to follow.
gale the simple writes "Mike Rodgers made a minor splash Tuesday when he decided to liken CISPA opponents to 14-year-old basement dwellers. The EFF, naturally, picked up on this generalization and asked everyone to let the representative know that it is not just the 14-year-olds that care about privacy."
An anonymous reader sent in word that the Obama administration is threatening to veto CISPA in its current form because "The Administration, however, remains concerned that the bill does not require private entities to take reasonable steps to remove irrelevant personal information (PDF) when sending cybersecurity data to the government or other private sector entities. Citizens have a right to know that corporations will be held accountable — and not granted immunity — for failing to safeguard personal information adequately. The Administration is committed to working with all stakeholders to find a workable solution to this challenge." Ars has a few more details, the EFF urges U.S. citizens to oppose the bill, and one of the sponsors tweeted that those opposed to the bill are basement dwelling fourteen-year-olds. Note that the Administration still wants there to be some kind of comprehensive data sharing law in the name of cybersecurity, so this may very well rear its head again in the coming months.
Peter Eckersley writes "At the EFF we were recently contacted by the organisers of the Melbourne Free University (MFU), an Australian community education group, whose website had been unreachable from a number of Australian ISPs since the 4th of April. It turns out that the IP address of MFU's virtual host has been black-holed by several Australian networks; there is suggestive but not conclusive evidence that this is a result of some sort of government request or order. It is possible that MFU and 1200 other sites that use that IP address are the victims of a block that was put in place for some other reason. Further technical analysis and commentary is in our blog post."