In our 671st issue:
EFF is pleased to announce Let's Encrypt, a new certificate authority (CA) initiative that we have put together with Mozilla, Cisco, Akamai, IdenTrust, and researchers at the University of Michigan. Let's Encrypt aims to clear the remaining roadblocks to transition the Web from HTTP to HTTPS. With a launch scheduled for summer 2015, the Let's Encrypt CA will automatically issue and manage free certificates for any website that needs them. Switching a webserver from HTTP to HTTPS with this CA will be as easy as issuing one command, or clicking one button.
When state officials seek to censor online speech, they're going to use the quickest and easiest method available. For many, copyright takedown notices do the trick. And unfortunately, after years of lobbying and increasing pressure from content industries on policymakers and tech companies, sending copyright notices to take media offline is easier than ever.
EFF has filed an amicus brief at the Federal Circuit urging it to confirm that U.S. Patent No. 6,585,516 improperly claims ineligible abstract ideas. In the brief, we argue that the patent on using picture menus stored in a database to create meals should never have been granted in the first place. But more importantly, EFF argues that the Federal Circuit should confirm that quick, early decisions as to patent eligibility are vital to clearing our system of bad patents.
Bay Area Internet Users Take the Net Neutrality Fight to City Hall
"We want information to flow like water," protesters yelled outside San Francisco City Hall in the pouring rain last month, rallying in support of keeping the Internet open. The rally was in advance of a public forum inside City Hall on the looming net neutrality debate. The San Francisco Bay Area has been one of the most vocal places in the nation in the fight for net neutrality, and there's a reason: Internet openness is crucial to the path-breaking artists, technologies, and businesses that thrive in this state.
What Makes a Good Security Audit?
EFF recently began a new Campaign for Secure & Usable Crypto, with the aim of encouraging the creation and use of tools and protocols that not only offer genuinely secure messaging, but are also usable in practice by those vulnerable to surveillance and not necessarily sophisticated computer users. One crucial aspect of this campaign is code auditing, which is an essential element of the software development process. But what makes a good security audit?
Censoring the Web Isn't the Solution to Terrorism or Counterfeiting. It's the Problem
In politics, as with Internet memes, ideas don't spread because they are good—they spread because they are good at spreading. One of the most virulent ideas in Internet regulation in recent years has been the idea that if a social problem manifests on the Web, the best thing that you can do to address that problem is to censor the Web. It's an attractive idea because if you don't think too hard, it appears to be a political no-brainer. Except of course that it isn't.
EFF Joins Amicus Brief in Support of Student Speech on Social Media
EFF has joined an amicus brief in support of a college student who was expelled from school for comments he made on Facebook. Craig Keefe was a nursing student at a public college in Minnesota when he posted several comments on his Facebook profile expressing frustration about certain aspects of the nursing program, including what he considered to be favoritism of female students. Keefe's Facebook comments were brought to the attention of school administrators, who expelled him and concluded that the comments constituted "behavior unbecoming of the profession and transgression of professional boundaries."
Stupid Patent of the Month: Who Wants to Buy Teamwork From Penn State?
Ever wanted to own the latest in "teamwork" technology? Well, you're in luck. On December 8, Penn State is holding a large patent auction, and one of the items is U.S. Patent 8,442,839. This patent purports to describe an improved collaborative "decision-making process." As well as being a good example of a silly patent, this month's winner highlights concerns with universities trying to monetize their patent portfolio. Why would a university, which presumably has a mission of promoting knowledge and innovation, sell an unsuccessful patent that has no value except to a troll?
Variety: CITIZENFOUR and The Internet's Own Boy on Oscar Shortlist
Two of EFF's favorite documentaries--Laura Poitras' "CITIZENFOUR" on Edward Snowden and his NSA revelations, and Brian Knappenberger's "The Internet's Own Boy" about the life of Aaron Swartz--have been shortlisted for an Academy Award.
OpenSource.com's Holiday Gift Guide
It's December already! OpenSource.com has put together a list of 14 open source gifts for the hackers and geeks in your life.
Invention Secrecy Orders Reach a 20 Year High
As of the end of the 2014 fiscal year, there are 5,520 invention secrecy orders in effect, according to statistics released by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office under the Freedom of Information Act. That's the highest such number since 1994.
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Our members make it possible for EFF to bring legal and technological expertise into crucial battles about online rights. Whether defending free speech online or challenging unconstitutional surveillance, your participation makes a difference. Every donation gives technology users who value freedom online a stronger voice and more formidable advocate.
Please consider becoming an EFF member today.
Editor: Parker Higgins, Activist
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Job Opening: Front-End Web Developer/Designer
EFF is seeking a full-time front-end developer and designer to build web applications that protect and promote civil liberties in the digital world. The Front-End Developer / Designer will be responsible for creating new activism campaign sites and web projects, designing and implementing user interfaces, designing mobile apps, improving EFF's existing websites, and ensuring high quality user experience across all of EFF's online projects. We'll also be counting on your creative ideas for future web projects.
Job Opening: Web Developer
We're also seeking a full-time programmer to build web applications that protect and promote civil liberties in the digital world. The Web Developer will be responsible for creating new activism campaign sites and web projects, developing mobile apps, improving EFF's existing websites, enhancing our free software system for delivering messages to Congress, writing code to integrate with our CRM, and making sure things scale when our campaigns go viral. We'll also be counting on your creative ideas for future web projects.
EFF at WIPO SCCR 29
The World Intellectual Property Organization holds the 29th meeting of its Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights this month. EFF will be advocating for user rights in relation to a proposed new Broadcasting Treaty, and possible new instruments on copyright limitations and exceptions.
December 8-12, 2014
Oral Argument in Smith v. Obama
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Seattle will hear oral argument in Smith v. Obama, a case challenging the government's bulk collection of the telephone records of millions of innocent Americans. Anna Smith, an Idaho neonatal nurse and Verizon customer, argued that the program violated her First and Fourth Amendment rights by collecting a wealth of detail about her associations. With the case now on appeal, EFF and the ACLU have joined Mrs. Smith's legal defense.
December 8, 2014
Speakeasy: Sao Paulo
Join the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Panoptykon Foundation for a drink or a bite in Sao Paulo! Raise a glass with us and discover the latest work protecting digital innovation, privacy, and free speech, and learn more about the continuing fight to defend your freedom online with Panoptykon Foundation President Katarzyna Szymielewicz and EFF International Rights Director Katitza Rodriguez.
December 9, 2014
Sao Paulo, Brazil
Understanding New Surveillance Tools
EFF Staff Attorney Hanni Fakhoury will be discussing cell phone surveillance at the Arizona Attorneys for Criminal Justice annual Winter Seminar.
January 9, 2014