Eric Holder's terrible tech-liberties record


The outgoing Attorney General presided over groundbreaking changes in civil liberties in the physical world but was a disaster when it comes to freedom in the world's nervous system: the Internet.

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Secret Law is Not Law

The Electronic Frontier Foundation's Cindy Cohn is on fire: "Let’s be clear: Under international human rights law, secret “law” doesn’t even qualify as 'law' at all."

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Ferguson's "free speech zone" is a padlocked no-man's-land


Man arrested for briefly failing to keep moving #Ferguson/Jon Swaine/@jonswaine

The ACLU was denied an emergency injunction against Ferguson's cops' illegal "no standing on the sidewalk" rule because Ferguson promised to erect a "free speech zone," but the only thing on that site is a fenced-off, locked-up pen that no one is allowed to use.

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EFF guide to cell phone use for US protesters

It's a timely update to their 2011 edition, incorporating new Supreme Court precedents that give additional protection to protesters who face arrest while video-recording or otherwise documenting protests -- required reading in a world of #Ferguson.

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Bust card: Constitutionally protected smartphone edition

Now that the Supreme Court has ruled that warrantless smartphone searches are unconstitutional, here's a bust-card for you to print, carry, and commit to memory so that you'll have it to hand when John Law wants to muscle his way into your mobile life.

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Nominate for the EFF Pioneer Award

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has opened the nominations for the 2014 Pioneer Award, which celebrates people who have contributed substantially to the health, growth, accessibility, or freedom of computer-based communications. Anyone can nominate, and the winners will be chosen by an independent and august jury. I am enduringly proud to have received the Pioneer Award, along with such luminaries as Limor "Lady Ada" Fried, Bruce Shneier, Bunnie Huang and Aaron Swartz.

HOPE X conference: Dissent in NYC


Emmanuel from 2600 writes, "It should come as no surprise that dissent is playing a prominent role at the HOPE X conference this July in New York. So many technological developments of late involve standing up to authority and questioning the status quo. Whether it's using social media to organize people into doing something worthwhile, exposing security holes in the face of threats and lawsuits, becoming a whistleblower by using the information and technology we have access to, or just getting the word out about the latest laws, restrictions, and threats to our freedom and privacy, a lot of what we talk about constitutes one form or another of dissent. And it feels pretty good and healthy to speak out and share knowledge."

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Crowdfunding £12,000 to fight mandatory UK Internet filters

Jim Killock from the UK Open Rights Group sez, "Recently the British Government, with the help of conservative religious lobby groups, has persuaded ISPs to introduce an internet filter across the UK. Open Rights Group needs your help to challenge this. We want to make people aware that filters don't work, are dangerous for internet freedom and could give parents a false sense of security when it comes to their children's use of the internet.

"To get this message across we want to produce a high-quality, funny film that will re-start the debate about why filters are a bad idea. It will cost us £12,000 to get this campaign off the ground. We need to show people that filters censor the internet. Most of all, we need to tell politicians like Claire Perry that they have to stop blaming the internet for society's problems.

"Filters don't work. Help us to fight them."

Internet filters are a weak spot in the UK government's expanding censorship programme, and ripe for disruption through pointed satire. I contributed.

Stop UK Internet Censorship

(Disclosure: I co-founded the Open Rights Group and volunteer on its advisory board)

EFF seeks student activists for campus network


The Electronic Frontier Foundation is launching a major campus organizing initiative and is looking to build a network of trusted campus activists to work with. They're sending staffers on a road-trip to speak at universities and colleges and want to hear from you. They've released a set of community organizing tools to help you get started.

There are plenty of ways to take part, no matter how much organizing experience you have.

* Start a group: Talk to friends and community members to gauge who else in your network is interested in digital freedom. Form a group that can discuss the issues and plan ways of advocating for your rights. For some tips on getting started, check out our guide on how to build a coalition on campus and in your community.

* Bring digital rights to an existing group: These issues are everybody's issues, no matter where on the political spectrum you lie. You can work with existing political, civil liberties, activist, and computer-related groups and urge members to take on a digital rights campaign.

* Organize an event: We have plenty of suggestions for events you can throw, from film screenings to rallies, parties to speaker series.

* Let your voice be heard: We are all part of the digital rights movement together, and your voice is as important as ours. Learn how to coordinate with local and national campaigns, and amplify your message by reading our tips on engaging with the press.

While many student groups and local community organizations are working on surveillance reform in light of the recent disclosures about massive government spying, it’s not only the NSA that we’re fighting: we’re demanding open access to publicly funded research; we’re fighting to protect the future of innovation from patent trolls; we’re urging companies and institutions to deploy encryption; we're defending the rights of coders and protecting the free speech rights of bloggers worldwide—the list goes on.

EFF is Expanding into Student and Community Organizing, and We Need Your Help

Infographic: EFF's Freedom of Information Act files


Hugh from the Electronic Frontier Foundation sez, "Sunshine Week may be just seven days in March, but fighting for government transparency is a year-round mission for the Electronic Frontier Foundation. In fact, it's not unusual for litigation over public records to drag on for years upon years. To help make sense of it all, here's a handy infographic illustrating EFF's current Freedom of Information Act caseload." (Thanks, Hugh!)

Tim Berners-Lee calls for Web "Magna Carta" - does the "Web we want" have DRM in it?


The Web is 25 today, and its inventor, Tim Berners-Lee, has called for a "Magna Carta" for the Web, through which the people of the world will articulate how they want to curtail their governments' adversarial attacks on Internet freedom. Berners-Lee is particularly concerned with the Edward Snowden revelations about mass surveillance and systematic government sabotage of Internet security.

I'm delighted to see Berners-Lee tackling this. Everything we do today involves the Web and everything we do tomorrow will require it; getting Web policy right is the first step to getting everything else right.

I hope that this also signals a re-think of Berners-Lee's endorsement of the idea of standardizing "digital rights management" technology for Web browsers through the W3C. The majority of the Web's users live in a country in which it is illegal to report on vulnerabilities in DRM, because doing so might help to defeat the DRM's locks. The standardization of DRM in the deep structures of the Web means that our browsers will become reservoirs of long-lived, critical bugs that can be used to attack Web users -- just as Web users are massively expanding the activities that are mediated through their browsers.

If we are to have a Web that is fit for a free and fair world, it must be a Web where researchers are free to warn users about defects in their tools. We wouldn't countenance a rule that banned engineers from telling you if your house was structurally unsound. By standardizing DRM in browsers, the W3C is setting in place rules that will make it virtually impossible to know if your digital infrastructure is stable and secure.

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Edward Snowden to speak at SXSW


The ACLU and SXSW will host a video chat with Edward Snowden on Monday, during the day's civil-liberties-focused program track. I'll be speaking immediately before Snowden, with Barton Gellman, and we will be staying for the Snowden event. Snowden will be interviewed by ACLU technologist Christopher Soghoian, and the event is moderated by the ACLU's Ben Wizner. I hope to see you there -- it's why I'm flying to Austin.

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Video from a dystopian future: how location data can be abused

The ACLU has produced a video based on its Meet Jack. Or, What The Government Could Do With All That Location Data slide presentation from 2013. It's a chilling and sometimes funny look at the way that location data can be used to compromise you in ways large and small. As Josh from the ACLU notes, "It's especially interesting after the news yesterday about the DHS plan for a national license plate location history database (which got scrapped after it was exposed)."

Meet Jack. Or, What The Government Could Do With That Location Data (Thanks, Josh!)

Bruce Sterling on making the Internet safe for freedom and art

Bruce Sterling's keynote at the Transmediale conference in Berlin is one of his best-ever outings (and I say that as a person who dropped out of university and totally upended his life after reading a transcript of one of Bruce's speeches). Sterling addresses the bankruptcy of tech giants, who have morphed themselves into intrusive presences that carry water for the surveillance industry, and lays out a credible case for a future where they are forgotten footnotes in our history.

In particular, I was impressed by this speech because it corrected some serious errors from Sterling's essay "The Ecuadorian Library," which, as Danny O'Brien pointed out completely misattributed a kind of optimistic naivete to technology activists past and present.

In this speech, Sterling revisits the origins and ongoing reality of the project to remake technology as a force for freedom, and corrects the record. As Sterling says, John Perry Barlow didn't write the Declaration of Independence of Cyberspace because he thought the cops couldn't or wouldn't try to take over the Internet: he wrote it because the cops were trying to take it over, and he was "shouting through a megaphone" at them.

There's a species of bottom-feeding contrarian that has sprung up in this century to decry the Internet as a system of oppression. Most of these men are people with some passing connection to the entertainment industry, which has spent the past 20 years demanding systems of Internet censorship and surveillance to help with copyright enforcement. These critics -- who get a lot of press from the news-media, who love mud-slinging as much as they fear disruptive technology -- have somehow hit upon groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Free Software Foundation as villains in their narratives. Nevermind the fact that the cause of Internet freedom (which includes a fair deal in copyright, because the Internet is a machine for copying) has always been central to these groups' missions, and that they've championed Internet freedom because they were frightened of how the net could be used to surveil and control us, not because they were blind to that possibility.

This talk demolishes that streak of revisionism, and furthermore advances an agenda for a technologically adept arts-practice. It is a marvel of rhetoric and a tonic for those of us who are heartily sick of the trolls.

Bruce Sterling / transmediale 2014 afterglow Opening Ceremony (via Futurismic)

Help ORG fund a legal director!

Ed from the UK Open Rights Group writes, "In the next month Open Rights Group will be recruiting a Legal Director to help us intervene in crucial digital rights court cases and bring real legal expertise to our work. We can't let government and big web companies go unchallenged in the courts. We already have the funding to take on a part-time Legal Director. But to bring in a full-time experienced lawyer who can drive ambitious legal projects we're relying on lots of new supporters joining ORG."

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