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Revealed: What Info the FBI Can Collect With a National Security Letter 13

An anonymous reader writes with this lead from Help Net Security's story on a topic we've touched on here many times: the broad powers arrogated by the Federal government in the form of National Security Letters: On Monday, after winning an eleven-year legal battle, Nicholas Merrill can finally tell the public how the FBI has secretly construed its authority to issue National Security Letters (NSLs) to permit collection of vast amounts of private information on US citizens without a search warrant or any showing of probable cause. The PATRIOT Act vastly expanded the domestic reach of the NSL program, which allows the FBI to compel disclosure of information from online companies and forbid recipients from disclosing they have received an NSL. The FBI has refused to detail publicly the kinds of private data it believes it can obtain with an NSL. A key sentence from the same story: "Merrill is now able to reveal that the FBI believes it can force online companies to turn over the following information simply by sending an NSL demanding it: an individual’s complete web browsing history; the IP addresses of everyone a person has corresponded with; and records of all online purchases." Reader Advocatus Diaboli adds this, from The Intercept: One of the most striking revelations, Merrill said during a press teleconference, was that the FBI was requesting detailed cell site location information — cellphone tracking records — under the heading of "radius log" information. Traditionally, radius log refers to a user's attempts to connect to a server or a DSL line — a sort of anachronism given the progress of technology. "The notion that the government can collect cellphone location information — to turn your cellphone into a tracking device, just by signing a letter — is extremely troubling," Merrill said.
Electronic Frontier Foundation

Judge Wipes Out Safe Harbor Provision In DMCA, Makes Cox Accomplice of Piracy ( 222

SysKoll writes: The DMCA is well-known for giving exorbitant powers to copyright holders, such as taking down a page or a whole web site without a court order. Media companies buy services from vendors like Rightscorp, a shake-down outfit that issues thousands of robot-generated take-down notices and issues threats against ISPs and sites ignoring them. Cox, like a lot of ISPs, is inundated with abusive take-down notices, in particular from Rightscorp. Now, BMG Rights Management and Round Hill Music are suing Cox for refusing to shut off the Internet access of subscribers that Rightscorp accused of downloading music via BitTorrent. Cox argues that as an ISP, they benefit from the Safe Harbor provision that shields access providers from subscribers' misbehavior. Not so, says U.S. District Judge Liam O'Grady. The judge sided with the media companies ahead of trial, saying Cox should have terminated the repeat offenders accused by Rightscorp. Cox's response is quite entertaining for a legal document (PDF): its description of Rightscorp includes the terms "shady," "shake-down," and "pay no attention to the facts." O'Grady also derided the Electronic Frontier Foundation's attempt to file an amicus brief supporting Cox, calling them hysterical crybabies.
Social Networks

EFF launches Site To Track Censored Content On Social Media ( 39

Mark Wilson writes: There are many problems with the censoring of online content, not least that it can limit free speech. But there is also the question of transparency. By the very nature of censorship, unless you have been kept in the loop you would simply not know that anything had been censored. This is something the Electronic Frontier Foundation wants to change, and today the digital rights organization launches to blow the lid off online censorship. The site, run by EFF and Visualizing Impact, aims to reveal the content that is censored on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Instagram, Flickr, and YouTube — not just the 'what' but the 'why'. If you find yourself the subject of censorship, the site also explains how to lodge an appeal.

How Cisco Is Trying To Prove It Can Keep NSA Spies Out of Its Gear ( 130

itwbennett writes: A now infamous photo [leaked by Edward Snowden] showed NSA employees around a box labeled Cisco during a so-called 'interdiction' operation, one of the spy agency's most productive programs,' writes Jeremy Kirk. 'Once that genie is out of the bottle, it's a hell of job to put it back in,' said Steve Durbin, managing director of the Information Security Forum in London. Yet that's just what Cisco is trying to do, and early next year, the company plans to open a facility in the Research Triangle Park in North Carolina where customers can test and inspect source code in a secure environment. But, considering that a Cisco router might have 30 million lines of code, proving a product hasn't been tampered with by spy agencies is like trying 'to prove the non-existence of god,' says Joe Skorupa, a networking and communications analyst with Gartner.

How California Police Are Tracking Your Biometric Data In the Field ( 46

v3rgEz writes: EFF and MuckRock teamed up in August to reveal how state and local law enforcement agencies are using mobile biometric technology in the field by filing public records requests around the country. With the help of members of the public who nominated jurisdictions for investigation, we have now obtained thousands of pages of documents from more than 30 agencies. Here's how police around California are using iris scanners, fingerprint readers, and facial recognition to monitor civilians.

Firefox 42 Arrives With Tracking Protection, Tab Audio Indicators 134

An anonymous reader writes: Mozilla today launched Firefox 42 for Windows, Mac, Linux, and Android. Notable additions to the browser include tracking protection, tab audio indicators, and background link opening on Android. The new private browsing mode goes further than just not saving your browsing history (read: porn sites) — the added tracking protection means Firefox also blocks website elements (ads, analytics trackers, and social share buttons) that could track you while you're surfing the web, and it works on all four platforms. The feature is almost like a built-in ad blocker, though it's really closer to browser add-ons like Ghostery and Privacy Badger because ads that don't track you are allowed through.

EFF Asks Appeals Court To "Shut Down the Eastern District of Texas" ( 67

An anonymous reader writes: The Electronic Frontier Foundation and Public Knowledge have asked a federal appeals court to make big changes to the rules governing venue in patent cases. The two public interest groups are seeking to file an amicus brief (PDF) which attacks the Eastern District of Texas as being one of the "most notorious situations of forum shopping in recent history." This district has made quite a few appearances on Slashdot; this is one of my favorites.

Full Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement Intellectual Property Chapter Analyzed ( 109

Dangerous_Minds writes: Freezenet seems to be the first website to publish a full run-down of the final draft of the Intellectual Property chapter in the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The leak was published on Wikileaks earlier. The analysis seems to confirm what the EFF has said, saying that the chapter "confirms our worst fears about the agreement, and dashes the few hopes that we held out that its most onerous provisions wouldn't survive to the end of the negotiations." The analysis focuses mainly on copyright enforcement on the Internet and the impact the chapter would have on personal devices, VPN services, and ISPs. One noteworthy find by Freezenet is the inclusion of a "TPP Commission" which would decide when different countries are supposed to meet outside of the 10-year cycle, discussing "market circumstances" of "the development of new pharmaceutical products." What other roles the TPP Commission takes on is unclear given that it is not mentioned anywhere else in the chapter.

DRM In JPEGs? ( 301

JustAnotherOldGuy writes: Adding DRM to JPEG files is being considered by the Joint Photographic Expert Group (JPEG), which oversees the JPEG format. The JPEG met in Brussels today to discuss adding DRM to its format, so there would be images that could force your computer to stop you from uploading pictures to Pinterest or social media. The EFF attended the group's meeting to tell JPEG committee members why that would be a bad idea. Their presentation(PDF) explains why cryptographers don't believe that DRM works, points out how DRM can infringe on the user's legal rights over a copyright work (such as fair use and quotation), and warns how it places security researchers at legal risk as well as making standardization more difficult. It doesn't even help to preserve the value of copyright works, since DRM-protected works and devices are less valued by users.

EFF: the Final Leaked TPP Text Is All That We Feared ( 399

An anonymous reader writes: Wikileaks has released the finalized Intellectual Property text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which international negotiators agreed upon a few days ago. Unfortunately, it contains many of the consumer-hostile provisions that so many organizations spoke out against beforehand. This includes the extension of the copyright term to life plus 70 years, and a ban on the circumvention of DRM. The EFF says, "If you dig deeper, you'll notice that all of the provisions that recognize the rights of the public are non-binding, whereas almost everything that benefits rightsholders is binding. That paragraph on the public domain, for example, used to be much stronger in the first leaked draft, with specific obligations to identify, preserve and promote access to public domain material. All of that has now been lost in favor of a feeble, feel-good platitude that imposes no concrete obligations on the TPP parties whatsoever." The EFF walks us through all the other awful provisions as well — it's quite a lengthy analysis.

US Government Will Not Force Companies To Decode Encrypted Data... For Now ( 110

Mark Wilson writes: The Obama administration has announced it will not require companies to decrypt encrypted messages for law enforcement agencies. This is being hailed as a "partial victory" by the Electronic Frontier Foundation; partial because, as reported by the Washington Post, the government "will not — for now — call for [such] legislation." This means companies will not be forced to build backdoors into their products, but there is no guarantee it won't happen further down the line. The government wants to continue talks with the technology industry to find a solution, but leaving things in limbo for the time being will create a sense of unease on both sides of the debate. The EFF has also compiled a report showing where the major tech companies stand on encryption.

SIgn Of the Times: Calif. Privacy Protections Signed Into Law 41

The EFF reports a spot of bright news from California: Governor Jerry Brown today signed into law the California Electronic Communications Privacy Act. CalECPA, says the organization, "protects Californians by requiring a warrant for digital records, including emails and texts, as well as a user's geographical location. These protections apply not only to your devices, but to online services that store your data. Only two other states have so far offered these protections: Maine and Utah." The ACLU provides a fact sheet (PDF) about what the bill entails, which says: SB 178 will ensure that, in most cases, the police must obtain a warrant from a judge before accessing a person's private information, including data from personal electronic devices, email, digital documents, text messages, and location information. The bill also includes thoughtful exceptions to ensure that law enforcement can continue to effectively and efficiently protect public safety in emergency situations. Notice and enforcement provisions in the bill provide proper transparency and judicial oversight to ensure that the law is followed.
Electronic Frontier Foundation

EFF Joins Nameless Coalition and Demands Facebook Kills Its Real Names Policy 232

Mark Wilson writes: Facebook has seen heavy criticism for its real names (or 'authentic identities' as they are known to the social network) policy. Over the last year, all manner of rights groups and advocates have tried to convince Facebook to allow users to drop their real name in favor of a pseudonym if they want. Now the Electronic Frontier Foundation is part of the 74-member strong Nameless Coalition and has written to Facebook demanding a rethink on the ground of safety, privacy, and equality. This is far from being the first time Facebook has been called on to allow the use of 'fake names', and the latest letter is signed by LGBT groups, freedom advocates, privacy supporters, and feminist organizations.
Electronic Frontier Foundation

EFF: DMCA Hinders Exposing More Software Cheats Like Volkswagen's 166

ideonexus writes: Automakers have argued that the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act makes it unlawful for researchers to review the code controlling their vehicles without the manufacturer's permission, making it extremely difficult to expose software cheats like the one Volkswagen used to fake emissions tests. Arguing that this obfuscation of code goes so far as to endanger lives at times, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) maintains that, "When you entrust your health, safety, or privacy to a device, the law shouldn't punish you for trying to understand how that device works and whether it is trustworthy."

How the Car Industry Has Hidden Its Software Behind the DMCA 126

Lucas123 writes: The DCMA has allowed carmakers to keep third parties from looking at the code in their electronic control modules. The effect has been that independent researchers are wary of probing vehicle code, which may have lead companies like Volkswagen to get away with cheating emissions tests far longer than necessary. In a July letter to the U.S. Copyright Office, the Environmental Protection Agency expressed its own concern of the protection provided by the DMCA to carmakers, saying it's "difficult for anyone other than the vehicle manufacturer to obtain access to the software." Kit Walsh, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said the legal uncertainly created by the DMCA "makes it easier for manufacturers to conceal intentional wrongdoing. The EFF has petitioned the U.S. Copyright Office for an exemption to the DMCA for embedded vehicle code so that independent research can be performed on electronic control modules (ECMs), which run a myriad of systems, including emissions. Eben Moglen was right.
United States

EU May Forbid the Transfer of Personal Data To the US 202

An anonymous reader writes: As the Snowden revelations have shown, personal data stored in the United States of America is not protected from the US government, be it through warrantless eavesdropping or national security letters. In light of this, the general attorney for the Court of Justice of the European Union has just issued an opinion requiring the US to be removed from the list of "safe harbors", where the transfer of personal data of European citizens is permitted. If the court follows his opinion, the change will have deep impact in the operations of large transnational Internet companies, between a US government that wants to keep on spying, and European authorities that will punish them if they let it happen.

New FCC Rules Could Ban WiFi Router Firmware Modification 242

An anonymous reader writes: Hackaday reports that the FCC is introducing new rules which ban firmware modifications for the radio systems in WiFi routers and other wireless devices operating in the 5 GHz range. The vast majority of routers are manufactured as System on Chip devices, with the radio module and CPU integrated in a single package. The new rules have the potential to effectively ban the installation of proven Open Source firmware on any WiFi router.

ThinkPenguin, the EFF, FSF, Software Freedom Law Center, Software Freedom Conservancy, OpenWRT, LibreCMC, Qualcomm, and others have created the SaveWiFi campaign, providing instructions on how to submit a formal complaint to the FCC regarding this proposed rule. The comment period is closing on September 8, 2015. Leave a comment for the FCC.
Electronic Frontier Foundation

EFF Releases Privacy Badger, an Addon That Algorithmically Blocks Online Trackers 136

New submitter zfc writes: Online tracking has become a pervasive invisible reality of the modern web. Most sites you load are likely to be full of ads, tracking pixels, social media share buttons, and other invisible trackers all harvesting data about your web browsing. These trackers use cookies and other methods to read unique IDs associated with your browser, the result being that they record all the sites you visit as you browse around the internet. This sort of tracking is invisible to most web users, meaning they never get the option to agree to or opt-out of it. Today the EFF has launched the 1.0 version of Privacy Badger, an extension designed to prevent these trackers from accessing unique info about you and your browsing.

TPP Copyright Chapter Leaks: Website Blocking, New Criminal Rules On the Way 258

An anonymous reader writes: Knowledge Ecology International (KEI) [Wednesday] morning released the May 2015 draft of the copyright provisions in the Trans Pacific Partnership (copyright, ISP annex, enforcement). The leak appears to be the same version that was covered by the EFF and other media outlets earlier this summer. Michael Geist unpacks the leaked documents, noting the treaty includes anti-circumvention rules that extend beyond the WIPO Internet treaties, new criminal rules, the extension of copyright term for countries like Canada and Japan, increased border measures, mandatory statutory damages in all countries, and expanding ISP liability rules, including the prospect of website blocking for Canada.
Electronic Frontier Foundation

EFF and MuckRock Need Your Help Tracking Biometric Surveillance 19

v3rgEz writes: Police departments are increasingly tracking your face, your fingerprints, your tattoos — and even your DNA. The Electronic Frontier Foundation and MuckRock are working to uncover how local agencies are tracking you and bring some much-needed transparency to the murky world of biometric surveillance through a free public records audit: Just put in some basic information about an agency near you, and they'll publicly file a request to see what vendors your city is using, how they protect your privacy, and more.