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.
Responsibility Deflected, the CLOUD Act Passes
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.
EFF Helps Conservation Organization Stand Up To Mining Company
"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.”
Catalog of Missing Devices: Physics Barbie
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.
Lucy Parsons Labs Defends Transparency in Chicago
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.
Senator Wyden Asks NSA Director Nominee the Right Questions
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.
E-Carceration: Trading Physical for Virtual Prisons
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.
How to Turn Off Location Services on Your Smartphone
Turn off your phone’s location services for ANY app that doesn’t seem like it should need them. (Consumer Reports)
How a New Senate Bill Will Screw Over Sex Workers
When platforms over-censor their users, marginalized communities are often silenced disproportionately. (Rolling Stone)
Craigslist personals, some subreddits disappear after FOSTA passage
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)
Quitting Facebook might be harder than you think
We must demand better privacy practices from social media platforms rather than suggest people simply delete Facebook. (Marketplace)
Experts Call Facebook's Latest Controversy a Social Media 'Breach of Trust'
Facebook's sharing of user data was how the business model was supposed to work. (Threatpost)
Board Bill 66 puts police surveillance under public scrutiny
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)
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Editor: Nathan Sheard, Grassroots Advocacy Organizer
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