Tag: electronic frontier foundation

US Newspaper Association loses the plot again

King CanuteThe newspaper editors in Mahogany Row are showing that they have completely lost their grip on “new technology” by issuing writs trying to shut down advert-blocking software.

Taking a page from the movie industry, they have decided that the only way to defeat new technology is to stand Canute-like against the rising tide. Karmically being done over by the same forces they unleashed on the printers and journalists who in the 1980s they called dinosaurs.

According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Newspaper Association of America filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission last week, asking the agency to ban a variety of functions, including “evading metered subscription systems and paywalls,” and ad substitution.

The NAA also called into question new business models that aim to replace online advertising. Newspapers are concerned about the effects that ad-blockers may have on their revenues and their ability to understand and market to their readership.

However if it gets its way the NAA would kill off important and widely used privacy software, like Tor and EFF’s own Privacy Badger, and chip away at Internet users’ ability to control their own browsing experience.

NAA wants an end to all software that enables users to evade metered subscription systems and paywalls. It also wants all users to reveal to them all their personal details so that they can make a bit of cash from thumping them with lots of adverts.

The NAA says that publishers allow readers to sample high-quality content on a limited basis (e.g., 10 articles per month) and then present the reader with a subscription offer (either for digital-only or print-bundled plans).

“Some ad-blockers evade metered subscription services and paywalls by preventing publishers from identifying repeat visitors and making offers to consumers about their subscription services . . . By preventing publishers from identifying repeat visitors and making these offers to them, content blockers harm consumers.”

But this is where the NAA has lost the plot and clearly do not understand the way the technology is leading. Outlawing privacy-enhancing software simply because it might interfere with the operation of some newspapers’ metered paywalls would be profoundly anti-consumer.

 

EFF wants to make jailbreaking legal

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has asked the US Copyright Office to make it legal to jailbreak consumer electronic devices, including smartphones, tablets, and video game consoles.

It wants to see gaining root access to a device removed from being prohibited by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

The request follows the EFF court victory in July last year which made the jailbreaking of Apple’s iPhone and iOS platform legal. Now, the EFF wants to make jailbreaking legal on all devices.

According to a statement from EFF Senior Staff Attorney Marcia Hofmann, technology has evolved over the last three years, so it’s important to expand these exemptions to cover the real-world uses of smartphones, tablets, video game consoles, DVDs, and video downloads.

She said if the US were to protect the jailbreaking of all consumer electronic devices, the rest of the industry would be subject to the same ruling that Apple already adheres to.

Under the rules it is legal to jailbreak the iPhone, but Apple still has the right to combat jailbreakers with its company actions and warranty policies. It means that you can’t go to prison for jailbreaking, but Cupertino can refuse you customer support and get sniffy when it mentions your name in polite company.

Hofmann said that DMCA is supposed to block copyright infringement. But instead it can be misused to threaten creators, innovators, and consumers, discouraging them from making full and fair use of their own property.

EFF Intellectual Property Director Corynne McSherry added that hobbyists and tinkerers who want to modify their phones or video game consoles to run software programs of their choice deserve protection under the law. 

WSJ and Al-Jazeera whistleblowing sites can grass you up

When Wikileaks broke some great stories thanks to whistleblowers giving it information, news outfits Al-Jazeera and the Wall Street Journal set up copycat sites which they claimed would do the same thing.

However human rights group the Electronic Frontier Foundation has ripped into the pair of them for giving hollow promisies.

The EFF said that the Al-Jazeera Transparency Unit (AJTU) was supposed to “allow Al-Jazeera’s supporters to shine light on notable and noteworthy government and corporate activities which might otherwise go unreported.” It promised that “files will be uploaded and stored on our secure servers” and that materials “are encrypted while they are transmitted to us, and they remain encrypted on our servers.”

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) set up SafeHouse which was touted as a “secure uploading system” with “separate servers,” two layers of encryption, and a policy of discarding information about uploaders “as quickly as possible.”

But EFF said that legally both sites were on shaky ground and their Terms of Service indicate that whistleblowers are hardly going to be protected.

The AJTU said it will be allowed to “share personally identifiable information in response to a law enforcement agency’s request, or where we believe it is necessary.” SafeHouse has the right “to disclose any information about you to law enforcement authorities” without notice.

In the case of the WSJ, it reserves the right to disclose information to any “requesting third party,” not only to comply with the law but also to “protect the property or rights of Dow Jones or any affiliated companies” or to “safeguard the interests of others.”

Basically both outfits are saying that they can grass you up. You might has well have sent all your whistleblowing in an anonymous email.

As the EFF points out, whistleblowing threatens “the interests of others” so therefore refusing to defend the whistleblowers against types makes your whistleblowing site pretty pointless.

SafeHouse tells whistleblowers that they have have to give them ownership of the material and promise that it doesn’t “infringe upon or violate the right of privacy or right of publicity of, or constitute a libel or slander against, or violate any common law or any other right of, any person or entity.”

Clearly they have not really thought what whistleblowing is. Even if material is not nicked, most of the time a whistleblower is violating someone’s rights.

SafeHouse tells the whistleblowers that they have to agree that the WSJ can transfer the material to any country where Dow Jones does business. So if the material is stored in a country with more intense internet monitoring it could be forced to give the government the name and the address of the whistleblower, the EFF said.

The security of SafeHouse is dubious anyway. Before you send your files you have to ask permission to use it. The WSJ knows exactly who you are and what you are submitting.

AJTU said it had no obligation to maintain the confidentiality of any information, in whatever form, contained in any submission. The AJTU’s website by default plants a trackable cookie on your web browser which allows them “to provide restricted information to third parties.”

The EFF added that the websites are misleading and are dangerous for whistle blowers to use. 

Apple owns your soul, warns human rights group

The Electronic Frontier Foundation   is warning that Apple’s iPhone Developer Program License Agreement is a demonic pact that basically gives your soul to Jobs’ Mob. 

The outfit had its lawyers give the Agreement the once over and thinks that people would be crazy to sign it. The agreement is not supposed to be made public, which is a sure sign that something is wrong with it.

Fortunately  NASA wrote an app for the iPhone and the the EFF was able to use the Freedom of Information Act to ask the space agency for a copy of the license agreement dated March 17, 2009.

Apple insists that the agreement “prohibits developers, including government agencies such as NASA, from making any ‘public statements’ about the terms of the Agreement.”   So it prevents developers telling the world+dog how bad it is.

Another section makes it clear that if you use the iPhone SDK to develop your app, you can’t sell it anywhere but Apple’s own App Store.  This means that if your App gets rejected by Jobs’ Mob you are not allowed to  distribute it through Cydia or Rock Your Phone.

Other dodgy clauses seem to prevent  developers from tinkering with any Apple software or technology or ‘enabling others to do so.’  This stops iPhone developers from making iPods work with open source software.

The best clause is that  Apple can “revoke the digital certificate of any of Your Applications at any time. This means that Apple essentially has a “kill switch” built into the App Store and they can remove your app from it at any time.  It just depends on Steve Jobs’ mood.

You do have the option to sue Apple if it does anything evil or illegal to you but the maximum you are  allowed to sue them for is $50 dollars.    Which can buy you a whole latte in a Cupertino Starbucks

You can see the secret agreement here and if you are dumb enough to sign it there is a property we would like to sell you here