Tag: eff

EFF sues Aussie patent troll

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has sued an Australian patent troll which it previously awarded the  “Stupid Patent of the Month: Storage Cabinets on a Computer.”

Last year Global Equity Management (SA) Pty. Ltd. (GEMSA), managed to get an Australian court to order EFF to remove the post, but the EFF told the court to sod off.

In January 2017, Pasha Mehr, an attorney representing GEMSA, further demanded that the article be removed and that EFF pay $750,000. EFF still did not comply.

Instead it filed in federal court in San Francisco on Wednesday, and asks that the American court declare the Australian ruling unenforceable in the US, because the Australian ruling runs afoul of free speech protections granted under the United States Constitution.

GEMSA attorneys have threatened to take this Australian court order to American search engine companies to deindex the blog post, making the post harder to find online.

The EFF’s Stupid Patent of the Month campaign began back in August of 2014.  GEMSA won the title with US Patent No. 6,690,400 (the ’400 patent), claims the idea of using “virtual cabinets” to graphically represent data storage and organisation.

GEMSA is incorporated in Australia and appears to have no business other than patent litigation. The patent began its life with a company called Flash VOS. This company once offered a product that allowed users to run multiple operating systems on personal computers with x86-compatible processors.

In the past year, GEMSA has sued dozens of companies, ranging from Airbnb to Zillow. In each case, it makes the assertion that the defendant’s website infringes the ’400 patent. For example, it simply states that “AIRBNB maintains, controls and/or operates a website with a graphical user interface (“GUI”) at www.airbnb.com that infringes one or more claims of the ‘400 patent”.

In his initial letter to EFF dated August 26, 2016, Mehr dubbed the blog post as “defamatory, false, and malicious slander”.

By October 2016, GEMSA’s director, Schumann Rafizadeh said that if the article was not immediately removed from EFF.ORG, and the defendant otherwise publishes or broadcasts the statements, GEMSA will sustain irreparable damage to its reputation and credibility.

The article’s continued publication and circulation through various common web search engines and other such websites is continuing to damage the reputation and credibility of GEMSA, which it critically relies upon for its negotiations and ongoing discussions for the licensing arrangements and our Intellectual Property (IP), including the referenced patent.

In other words ,if EFF says it is just a patent troll it might make it harder to squeeze money from other companies. Indeed, in a second affidavit, Rafizadeh admitted that its business and legal tactics were meeting some resistance for the first time. US Defendants have joined and instated two lnterparte Proceedings against GEMSA in the United States.

As EFF has made no appearance before an Australian court, GEMSA was likely able to be granted the default judgement against the organization—the removal of the purportedly offending blog post. Six months later, the EFF post remains.

Google illegally spying on kids claims EFF

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has moaned to the US watchdog the FTC claiming Google is collecting and data mining school children’s personal information, including their internet searches.

The EFF looked at Google’s Chromebook and Google Apps for Education (GAFE) which is a suite of educational cloud-based software programs used in many schools across the country by students as young as seven.

While Google does not use student data for targeted advertising within a subset of Google sites, EFF found that Google’s “Sync” feature for the Chrome browser is enabled by default on Chromebooks sold to schools.

This means that Google can track, store on its servers, and data mine for non-advertising purposes. It records of every internet site students visit, every search term they use, the results they click on, videos they look for and watch on YouTube, and their saved passwords, the EFF claimed.

Google doesn’t first obtain permission from students or their parents and since some schools require students to use Chromebooks, many parents are unable to prevent Google’s data collection.

EFF Staff Attorney Nate Cardozo said that Google’s practices fly in the face of commitments made when it signed the Student Privacy Pledge, a legally enforceable document whereby companies promise to refrain from collecting, using, or sharing students’ personal information except when needed for legitimate educational purposes or if parents provide permission.

“Despite publicly promising not to, Google mines students’ browsing data and other information, and uses it for the company’s own purposes. Making such promises and failing to live up to them is a violation of FTC rules against unfair and deceptive business practices,” he said.

“Minors shouldn’t be tracked or used as guinea pigs, with their data treated as a profit centre. If Google wants to use students’ data to ‘improve Google products,’ then it needs to get express consent from parents.”

Google promised the EFF that it will soon disable a setting on school Chromebooks that allows Chrome Sync data, such as browsing history, to be shared with other Google services.

While that is a small step in the right direction, it doesn’t go nearly far enough to correct the violations of the Student Privacy Pledge currently inherent in Chromebooks being distributed to schools.

Carmakers use copyright to hide emission cheating software

b299405f6eafe0ac98ce9d9405a17663 (1)Carmakers are using the US copyright laws to cheat US emission laws, claiming that allowing independent researchers to look under the car bonnets breaks the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation [EFF] claims that researchers could have uncovered Volkswagen emissions cheat sooner if the carmaker had not hidden behind the DMCA.

Writing in its bog the EFF said that carmakers argue that it’s unlawful for independent researchers to look at the code that controls vehicles without the manufacturer’s permission.

Apparently they use the DMCA to prevent competition in the markets for add-on technologies and repair tools. But it also makes it harder for watchdogs to find safety or security issues, such as faulty code that can lead to unintended acceleration or vulnerabilities that let an attacker take over your car.

As a test the EFF asked the Librarian of Congress to grant an exemption to the DMCA to make it crystal clear that independent research on vehicle software doesn’t violate copyright law. This was opposed by the manufacturers who claimed that individuals would use the to violate emissions laws. Ironically the Environmental Protection Agency supported the manufacturers because it was worried that individual users would doctor their cars to cheat car tests.

What the EFF, and we guess the EPA did not know at the time Volkswagen had already programmed its entire fleet of vehicles to conceal how much pollution they generated using that code.

This code was shielded from watchdogs’ investigation by the anti-circumvention provision of the DMCA.

“When you entrust your health, safety, or privacy to a device, the law shouldn’t punish you for trying to understand how that device works and whether it is trustworthy. We hope the Copyright Office and the Librarian of Congress agree when they rule on our exemptions next month,”  the EFF said.


Cisco kid gets all slow on the draw

Industry bellwether and network bits supplier also known as Cisco surprised the cocaine nose jobs of Wall Street by posting a shallower-than-expected 5.5 percent drop in quarterly revenue.

It was not as bad as it could have been because demand in regions like the United States and Northern Europe picked up and helped offset sluggish sales in emerging markets.

The company posted gross margins of 62.7 percent in its fiscal third quarter, up from 53.3 percent in the previous quarter and above guidance of 61 to 62 percent.

Cisco has been suffering as its server business faced competition from so-called software-defined networks (SDN) , which offer software that can run on cheap hardware. It has been saved by its Nexus 9000 switches, which can adapt to flows in workloads brought on by cloud computing, and big data.

Nexus 9000 grew to a user base of 175 customers, up from 20 customers last quarter.

Analysts shrugged and said that it was about as solid of a quarter as you can expect with some good margins.

Product orders in the US rose seven percent from one year ago, with enterprise and commercial orders rising more than 10 percent. Order strength in northern Europe was up four percent year-over-year.

The problems were in emerging markets where Cisco has been facings increased competition. Generally orders fell seven percent, with Brazil down 27 percent and Russia down 28 percent.

Cisco’s Chief Executive Officer John Chambers predicted a gross margin of 62.7 percent for the fourth quarter. Cisco had a net profit of $2.2 billion in the fiscal third quarter, down from $2.5 billion in the year-ago quarter.

The company increased its cash dividend in the third quarter to $0.19 per common share.

Cisco reported revenue of $11.5 billion, down from $12.2 billion a year earlier. Wall Street on average had expected $11.36 billion. 

Cisco accused of human rights abuses

The EFF has asked a US court to allow Cisco to be sued for its role in contributing to human rights abuses against the Falun Gong religious minority in China.

For those who came in late, China has been particularly nasty to the Falun Gong religion and arrested, tortured and killed some of its followers. These human rights violations have been well-documented by the UN, the US State Department and were possible thanks to China’s use of sophisticated surveillance technologies.

An EFF spokesman said that technology is the result of some hard work on the part of Cisco which purposefully customised its general purpose router technology to allow the Chinese government to identify, track, and detain Falun Gong members.

This included the building of a library of carefully analysed patterns of Falun Gong Internet activity that enable the Chinese government to identify Falun Gong Internet users. There was also a log/alert systems that provide the Chinese government with real time monitoring and notification based on Falun Gong Internet traffic patterns and software for storing data profiles on individual Falun Gong practitioners for use during interrogation.

Cisco was involved in the creation of software for categorizing individual Falun Gong practitioners by their likely susceptibility to different methods of “forced conversion,” the EFF claims.

The EFF claims to have evidence that the highly advanced video and image analyzers that Cisco marketed as the “only product capable of recognizing over 90 per cent of Falun Gong pictorial information”.

This allowed the creation of a nationwide video surveillance system which enabled the Chinese government to identify and detain Falun Gong practitioners.

The suit also alleges that Cisco not only knew that its customizations would be used to repress the Falun Gong, but actively marketed, sold, and supported the technologies anyway.

The EFF lawyers have their work cut out. Another case, also involving Cisco from last year decided that a tech company could not be held accountable when governments misuse general use products for nefarious purposes.

However it argues that the allegations here are that Cisco has done far more than sell standard router technology and services to the Chinese authorities and that they customised the gear. 

DRM could drive you around the bend

Moves by Renault to install a battery with digital rights management (DRM) restrictions that can remotely prevent the battery from charging have been slammed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

The new Renault Zoe comes with a “feature” which locks the owner into a contract with a battery maker which is enforced by a DRM within the car’s computer.

This also lets Renault use the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) to stop people tinkering with the car software so they can install a battery of their choice. All this means, you will not be allowed to fix your car without permission and only with official parts. You cannot jailbreak the car.

In a statement, the EFF said that DRM has led to users losing altogether the ability to watch, listen to, read, or play media that can’t be “authenticated.” Video games with online components now routinely reach an end-of-life period where the company providing the authentication decides it’s no longer worth it to operate the servers.

This could mean that Renault decides that it’s not cost-effective anymore to verify new batteries and leaving car owners without a car. This is assuming that the DRM works and does not cause some failure further down the line. 

EFF calls for war on patent trolls

Civil rights group the EFF is whipping up a mob armed with pitchforks and torches to purge patent trolls from under the bridges of the IT industry.

The EFF’s mob includes a rabid priest, the Application Developers Alliance, Ask Patents, Engelberg Centre on Innovation Law & Policy at NYU School of Law, Engine Advocacy, Public Knowledge, PUBPAT, and the Samuelson Law, Technology and Public Policy Clinic at Berkeley Law. We made the bit about the rabid priest up.

In a statement, the outfit said it was leading a group of organisations and law schools to launch a new online resource called Trolling Effects.

The big idea is that it will crowdsource data, including demand letters, with the goal of enabling people to tell patent trolls to go forth and multiply.

EFF Activist Adi Kamdar said patent trolls will no longer be able to hide under a cloak of legal darkness.

“Trolling Effects will shine a light on companies that abuse the patent system to shake down innovators,” Kamdar said.

Patent trolls use the threat of expensive and lengthy patent litigation to extort settlements from innovators large and small. Since the majority of these threats never become lawsuits, most of the threatening letters never show up in public dockets.

Trolling Effects aims to provide transparency and allow demand-letter recipients to post the documents online, find letters received by others, and research who is really behind the threats.

The site also features comprehensive guides to the patent system and a blueprint for patent reform. Journalists, academics, and policy makers will find the site a resource for researching the patent system.

Kamdar said there was a difference between a company that asserts their patents in order to protect a product and a company that does so solely to extort money through threats of litigation.

Since there is a chance that the claim you’ve received is legitimate, Trolling Effects will come in handy.

“You can search our database by sender or patent number to see if there have been any claims similar to yours. Trolls distribute their patents among a network of shell companies in order to deliberately make it difficult to track who owns what,” he said. 

Apple's autocorrect ignores words it doesn't like

Fruity themed cargo cult Apple has issued a fatwah on words which might anger the Christian right.

Apple’s autocorrect is purged from words such as “abortion”, “virginity”, “rape”, “bullet” and “ammo”. If you misspell any one of these words on an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch running the latest iOS operating system, Apple refuses to suggest the correct word.

According to the Daily Beast, a test for different misspellings for roughly 250,000 words showed strange bias from Apple.

“For example, if a user types ‘abortiom’ with an ‘m’ instead of an ‘n’, the software won’t suggest a correction, as it would with nearly 150,000 other words,” the Daily Beast wrote.

It caused problems in the US where Apple fanboys are allowed to be reporters and found that they could not write stories about abortion clinics because Apple would not let them spell it correctly.

At the same time, Apple is tightening up its list of non-words. Some autocorrects were accurately corrected under older versions of iOS.

Jillian York, the director for international freedom of expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, was not surprised at all, dubbing Apple one of the most censorious companies.

Apple refused to take part in the Global Network Initiative, a nonprofit partnership between tech giants, and a number of human-rights groups and other organisations advocating for free expression online. 

EFF growls at DRM in HTML 5

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) watchdog has formally growled at the inclusion of digital rights management (DRM) in HTML5.

The activist group argued that a draft proposal from the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) could stymie web innovation and block access to content for people across the globe.

The W3C’s HTML working group is creating a technical standard for HTML5, an upcoming revision to the computer language that creates web pages and otherwise displays content online.

The working group has accepted a draft that includes discussion of Encrypted Media Extensions (EME), which will hard-wire the requirements of DRM vendors into the HTML standard.

EFF international director Danny O’Brien said that the proposal stands apart from all other aspects of HTML standardisation because it defines a new ‘black box’ for the entertainment industry. This black box is fenced off from control by the browser and end-user.

“While this plan might soothe Hollywood content providers who are scared of technological evolution, it could also create serious impediments to interoperability and access for all,” O’Brien said.

DRM always fails to protect media while dragging in legal mandates that throttle free speech. It also ends up locking down technology, and violating property rights by seizing control of personal computers from their owners.

Accepting EME could lead to other rights holders demanding the same privileges as Hollywood, leading to a web where images and pages cannot be saved or searched and ads cannot be blocked, O’Brien said.

EFF filed this objection as its first act as a full member of W3C. EFF’s goal is to broaden the discussion of the consequences of accepting DRM-based proposals like EME for the future of the web.

O’Brien said that the W3C needs to develop a policy regarding DRM and similar proposals, or risk having its own work and the future of the web become buried in the demands of businesses that would rather it never existed in the first place. 

Copyright troll uses "gay marriage" defence

If you want to know the standard of legal arguments among the copyright patent trolls, you need look no further than the Prenda case in Georgia.

The copyright troll Prenda was about to face the music when its antics were ruled illegal by Californian judge Otis Wright. Wright demanded that a copy of his ruling be submitted in every other case involving Prenda.

According to TechDirtPrenda lawyers operating in the Northern District of Georgia refused to do so. In the end the defendant, Rajesh Patel, and his lawyer, Blair Chintella, submitted judge Wright’s ruling themselves to the court in the case.

Prenda’s local counsel in Georgia, Jacques Nazaire, attempted to counter this with one of the most ridiculous filings seen by legal experts.

It argues that the court should not allow Judge Wright’s order to be entered into the docket because California recognises gay marriage and Georgia doesn’t.

The reasoning is this. The ruling was made by a Californian judge and everyone knows they are all suspect because they allow gay marriage. This court is in Georgia where men are men and all sleep with women. Therefore Prenda has the right to screw over anyone it thinks illegally downloaded a movie using whatever dodgy tactics it likes. QED your honour.

Just to make sure that the Georgia judge throws out the ruling, Prenda points out that California has different immigration rules.

What Prenda appears to be hoping, in its appeal to knee jerk right wing reactionary politics, is that the Georgia judge will froth at the mouth and ignore the fact that the Californian ruling is not precedential. It is a flat out misconduct case against Prenda including potential racketeering and tax evasion claims.