In our 716 issue:
Increasingly frequent and invasive searches at the U.S. border have raised questions for those of us who want to protect the private data on our computers, phones, and other digital devices. In response, EFF has released a guide to give travelers the facts they need in order to prepare for border crossings while protecting their digital information.
“Digital Privacy at the U.S. Border” helps everyone do a risk assessment, evaluating personal factors like immigration status, travel history, and the sensitivity of the data you are carrying. Assessing your risk factors helps you choose a path to proactively protect yourself, which might mean leaving some devices at home, moving some information off of your devices and into the cloud, or using encryption. In addition to the full report, EFF has also created a pocket guide for helping people concerned with data protection.
According to EFF Senior Staff Attorney Adam Schwartz, “The border is not a Constitution-free zone, but sometimes the rules are less protective of travelers and some border agents can be aggressive." Schwartz called for "clearer legal protections for everyone, but in the meantime, our report and pocket guides aim to put more power back into the hands of travelers.”
A federal court held in a recent ruling that foreign governments are free to spy on, injure, or even kill Americans in their own homes--so long as they do so by remote control.
The decision comes in a case about a U.S. citizen whose family home computer was attacked by malware that captured and then sent his every keystroke and Skype call to a server controlled by the Ethiopian government, likely in response to his political activity in favor of democratic reforms in Ethiopia.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that the citizen had no legal remedy against Ethiopia for this attack, despite the fact that he was wiretapped at home in Maryland. The court held that, because the Ethiopian government hatched its plan in Ethiopia and its agents launched the attack that occurred in Maryland from outside the U.S., a law called the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act prevented U.S. courts from even hearing the case.
Under this decision, you have no recourse under law if a foreign government hacks into your car and drives it off the road, targets you for a drone strike, or even sends a virus to your pacemaker, as long as the government planned the attack on foreign soil.
If Congress moves ahead with plans to repeal the FCC's broadband privacy rules, your ISP will be able to do more and creepier things to you when you go online.
In addition to selling information about what you do and who you talk to online--which is already creepy enough--your ISP would also be able to hijack your searches so that you go directly to certain websites instead of seeing your search results. Your ISP would also be able to use new ways to track your every move online to place targeted ads in front of you. This could include injecting ads into your traffic based on your browsing history and injecting undetectable, undeletable tracking cookies in all of your HTTP traffic. It could also result in mobile carriers pre-installing software on your phone to track your Internet activity.
ISPs are telling Congress that this move won't really affect consumers, but we know that's not true. Congress repealing these privacy rules would leave Internet users with no protection at the federal level from the creepy things their ISPs want to do to them.
Call your lawmakers today to tell them to oppose this effort to kill the FCC's privacy rules.
The Supreme Court's Dissapointing Diaper Patent Ruling
The U.S. Supreme Court recently issued a disappointing ruling in a case over a patent on adult diapers that makes it easier for patent trolls to bring lawsuits long after the alleged infringement supposedly started. The 7-1 decision will allow trolls to sit around while others independently develop and build technology. The troll can then jump out from under the bridge and demand payment for work it had nothing to do with.
EFF Presents the 2017 Foilies
In honor of Sunshine Week earlier this month, EFF compiled the third-annual "Foilies," our anti-awards identifying the times when access to information has been stymied or when government agencies have responded in the most absurd ways to records requests. Highlights include current Vice President Mike Pence's use of a private AOL email account to conduct official business as Indiana governor, the Public Health Agency of Canada's use of tape and paper to redact information in documents sent to a journalists, and a local California police department's tactic of spreading fake news.
Don't Let Big Pharma, Big Content Control Domain Seizures
Domain seizure by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement is already a messy and imperfect system. Take, for example, the recent seizure of vicodin.com despite the fact that it belongs to the manufacturer and registered trademark holder for Vicodin. But domain seizure by private companies, a plan being pushed by Big Pharma and Big Content, will likely result in the number of mistaken domain seizure skyrocketing, and victims will likely have even less recourse than they have against a government seizure.
Payment Processors Acting as Online Censors
Adult social network FetLife has lost its ability to process credit card payments in the latest attempt from payment processors to censor sites when they dislike those sites' constitutionally protected speech. The ban appears to have come down from one of the credit card networks, which shut down both of the merchant accounts that FetLife used to process payments, justifying this to one merchant with complaints about "blood, needles, and vampirism" on the website, and to the other with the vague explanation of "illegal or immoral reasons".
Maryland Moves to Reclaim University Innovation from Trolls
Maryland is considering legislation that would keep public universities from selling or licensing their patents to patent assertion entities whose sole business model is threatening other innovators with patent lawsuits. The bill being considered in Maryland is modeled after draft legislation written as part of Reclaim Invention, a campaign from EFF and partner organizations to encourage universities across the country to commit to adopting patent policies that advance the public good.
California Bill Would Keep Kids Online
Youth in California's juvenile detention and foster care programs should have secure and supervised access to the Internet. That's why EFF is supporting a new state bill to establish that youth in custody have a right to “reasonable access to computer technology and the Internet for the purposes of education and maintaining contact with family and supportive adults" and to establish the right of youth in foster care to have access to computers and the Internet.
Trump Administration Enacts Device Ban on Planes
The Trump administration has prohibited passengers traveling on direct inbound flights from airports in 10 Muslim-majority countries from carrying on devices larger than a cell phone.
Twitter Sees Increase in Government Requests for Data
In its newest transparency report, Twitter said it saw a 7 percent increase in government requests for data during the second half of 2016.
Google, Jigsaw Offer Cyber Defense Tools to Election Groups
Google and sister company Jigsaw are expanding their free cyber defense toolkit to civic groups and election organizers in the wake of recent high profile hacks, including the Democratic National Committee's data breach during the 2016 election.
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Editor: Kate Tummarello, Policy Analyst
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