Electronic Frontier Foundation.
Issue #735 updates.
June 12, 2018.

Who Has Your Back When It Comes to Government Censorship? - EFFector 31.9

Top Features

Who Has Your Back? Censorship Edition 2018

Given policymakers' and the public's intense focus on cracking down on speech they consider undesirable, this year's Who Has Your Back report features substantially redesigned categories and criteria. Since the Electronic Frontier Foundation began publishing Who Has Your Back in 2011, it has generally focused on the practices of major consumer-facing Internet companies regarding government requests to produce user data. This year, we shift our focus to companies' responses to government requests to take down user content and suspend user accounts.

For our 2018 report, we assess companies' policies against five all-new criteria:

Transparency in reporting government takedown requests based on legal requests
Transparency in reporting government takedown requests based on requests alleging platform policy violations
Providing meaningful notice to users of every content takedown and account suspension
Providing users with an appeals process to dispute takedowns and suspensions
Limiting the geographic scope of takedowns when possible

Three platforms—the Apple App Store, Google Play Store, and YouTube—earned stars in all five of these categories. And three more—Medium, Reddit, and WordPress.com—earned stars in all but the notice category, which proved the most challenging category for the companies we assessed. Some companies fell notably short overall; Facebook's and Instagram's policies in particular lagged behind comparable tech companies and social networks. However, it's clear that public pressure is resulting in real change in corporate policy and practice. We look forward to more long-term improvements across the industry in future years as companies take steps to be more accountable to their users and those users' right to freedom of expression.

EFF and 23 Civil Liberties Organizations Demand Transparency on NSA Domestic Phone Record Surveillance

Two dozen civil liberties organizations, including EFF and the ACLU, have urged Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats to report—as required by law—statistics that could help clear up just how many individuals are burdened by broad NSA surveillance of domestic telephone records. These records show who is calling whom and when, but not the content of the calls.

These numbers are crucial to understanding how the NSA conducts this highly sensitive surveillance under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, as amended by the USA Freedom Act of 2015. Under the earlier version of this surveillance program, the NSA collected details of nearly every single American's phone calls. With the NSA’s domestic phone record surveillance powers scheduled to expire in 2019, Congress and the public deserve to know the truth before any legislative attempts to reauthorize the program.

Despite this, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) has failed to report these statistics in its past three annual transparency reports.

The civil liberties groups also signed a letter to Reps. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Jerry Nadler (D-NY), the Chair and Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, warning about the NSA’s continued failure to comply with the law mandating disclosure of this data.

EFF Updates

Email Privacy Act Comes Back, Hopefully to Stay

The House of Representatives passed a bill this week called the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which authorizes the nation’s military and defense programs. Earlier in the week, scores of Representatives offered amendments to this must-pass bill in hopes of ensuring that their ideas get a chance to become law.

Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-KS) used this opportunity to include as an amendment the Email Privacy Act, a piece of legislation long-favored by EFF. The Email Privacy Act would codify the rule announced by the Sixth Circuit—and now followed by providers nationwide—that requires government agents to first obtain a probable cause warrant when seeking the content of communications stored by companies like Google, Facebook, Slack, Dropbox, and Microsoft.

On Thursday night, the House approved the NDAA—including the amendment with the Email Privacy Act—in a 351-66 vote. We applaud the House’s inclusion of this important statutory language.

What to Watch for in an Internet Without Net Neutrality (And How To Stop It)

On Monday, June 11, the FCC's rollback of net neutrality rules went into effect, but don't expect the Internet to change overnight.

You can look forward to an Internet that's slower when you're trying to visit less popular sites, and where online services get a bit more expensive because they have to pay protection money to the ISPs. It will be harder for new companies to come in and compete with the ones that paid for fast lanes, and the nonprofit information resources on the web will be harder to use.

It's not going to be a flashy apocalypse; it will be a slow decline into the Internet of ISP gatekeeping, and you probably won't even know what neat services and helpful resources you're missing. And one day, when the ISPs are secure in their victory, they'll test the waters and see if you'll pay extra to access anything that's not Facebook, or Comcast's video platform, or AT&T's paying partners.


Cryptoparty Hosted by Cypurr

Being able to communicate safely and privately with friends and family is part of the foundation of all our lives, so it's also a key skill for using the Internet. This month's cryptoparty will go over easy ways to talk, chat, and email securely online. It's always good to review the tools and habits that our digital security depend on, especially with the recent Signal Desktop flaws and the e-Fail email exploits.

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