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Paul Merrell

Open Access Can't Wait. Pass FASTR Now. | Electronic Frontier Foundation - 0 views

  • When you pay for federally funded research, you should be allowed to read it. That’s the idea behind the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (S.1701, H.R.3427), which was recently reintroduced in both houses of Congress.

    FASTR was first introduced in 2013, and while it has strong support in both parties, it has never gained enough momentum to pass. We need to change that. Let’s tell Congress that passing an open access law should be a top priority.

  • Tell Congress: It’s time to move FASTR

    The proposal is pretty simple: Under FASTR, every federal agency that spends more than $100 million on grants for research would be required to adopt an open access policy. The bill gives each agency flexibility to implement an open access policy suited to the work it funds, so long as research is available to the public after an “embargo period” of a year or less.

    One of the major points of contention around FASTR is how long that embargo period should be. Last year, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee approved FASTR unanimously, but only after extending that embargo period from six months to 12, putting FASTR in line with the 2013 White House open access memo. That’s the version that was recently reintroduced in the Senate.  The House bill, by contrast, sets the embargo period at six months.

    EFF supports a shorter period. Part of what’s important about open access is that it democratizes knowledge: when research is available to the public, you don’t need expensive journal subscriptions or paid access to academic databases in order to read it. A citizen scientist can use and build on the same body of knowledge as someone with institutional connections. But in the fast-moving world of scientific research, 12 months is an eternity.

    A shorter embargo is far from a radical proposition, especially in 2017. The landscape for academic publishing is very different from what it was when FASTR was first introduced, thanks in larger part to nongovernmental funders who already enforce open access mandates.

  • Just last year, the Gates Foundation made headlines when it dropped the embargo period from its policy entirely, requiring that research be published openly immediately. After a brief standoff, major publishers began to accommodate Gates’ requirements. As a result, we finally have public confirmation of what we’ve always known: open access mandates don’t put publishers out of business; they push them to modernize their business models. Imagine how a strong open access mandate for government-funded research—with a requirement that that research be licensed openly—could transform publishing.

    FASTR may not be that law, but it’s a huge step in the right direction, and it’s the best option on the table today. Let’s urge Congress to pass a version of FASTR with an embargo period of six months or less, and then use it as a foundation for stronger open access in the future.

Paul Merrell

EFF to Court: Don't Undermine Legal Protections for Online Platforms that Enable Free S... - 0 views

  • EFF filed a brief in federal court arguing that a lower court’s ruling jeopardizes the online platforms that make the Internet a robust platform for users’ free speech.

    The brief, filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, argues that 47 U.S.C. § 230, enacted as part of the Communications Decency Act (known simply as “Section 230”) broadly protects online platforms, including review websites, when they aggregate or otherwise edit users’ posts.

    Generally, Section 230 provides legal immunity for online intermediaries that host or republish speech by protecting them against a range of laws that might otherwise be used to hold them legally responsible for what others say and do.

    Section 230’s immunity directly led to the development of the platforms everyone uses today, allowing people to upload videos to their favorite platforms such as YouTube, as well as leave reviews on Amazon or Yelp. It also incentivizes the creation of new platforms that can host users’ content, leading to more innovation that enables the robust free speech found online.

    The lower court’s decision in Consumer Cellular v. ConsumerAffairs.com, however, threatens to undermine the broad protections of Section 230, EFF’s brief argues.

  • In the case, Consumer Cellular alleged, among other things, that ConsumerAffairs.com should be held liable for aggregating negative reviews about its business into a star rating. It also alleged that ConsumerAffairs.com edited or otherwise deleted certain reviews of Consumer Cellular in bad faith.

    Courts and the text of Section 230, however, plainly allow platforms to edit or aggregate user-generated content into summaries or star ratings without incurring legal liability, EFF’s brief argues. It goes on: “And any function protected by Section 230 remains so regardless of the publisher’s intent.”

    By allowing Consumer Cellular’s claims against ConsumerAffairs.com to proceed, the lower court seriously undercut Section 230’s legal immunity for online platforms. If the decision is allowed to stand, EFF’s brief argues, then platforms may take steps to further censor or otherwise restrict user content out of fear of being held liable.

    That outcome, EFF warns, could seriously diminish the Internet’s ability to serve as a diverse forum for free speech.

    The Internet it is constructed of and depends upon intermediaries. The many varied online intermediary platforms, including Twitter, Reddit, YouTube, and Instagram, all give a single person, with minimal resources, almost anywhere in the world the ability to communicate with the rest of the world. Without intermediaries, that speaker would need technical skill and money that most people lack to disseminate their message. If our legal system fails to robustly protect intermediaries, it fails to protect free speech online.

Paul Merrell

Panopticlick - 0 views

  • When you visit a website, online trackers and the site itself may be able to identify you – even if you’ve installed software to protect yourself. It’s possible to configure your browser to thwart tracking, but many people don’t know how.

    Panopticlick will analyze how well your browser and add-ons protect you against online tracking techniques. We’ll also see if your system is uniquely configured—and thus identifiable—even if you are using privacy-protective software.

  • Only anonymous data will be collected through this site.

    Panopticlick is a research project of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Learn more

Paul Merrell

USA Freedom Act Passes: What We Celebrate, What We Mourn, and Where We Go From Here | E... - 0 views

  • The Senate passed the USA Freedom Act today by 67-32, marking the first time in over thirty years that both houses of Congress have approved a bill placing real restrictions and oversight on the National Security Agency’s surveillance powers. The weakening amendments to the legislation proposed by NSA defender Senate Majority Mitch McConnell were defeated, and we have every reason to believe that President Obama will sign USA Freedom into law. Technology users everywhere should celebrate, knowing that the NSA will be a little more hampered in its surveillance overreach, and both the NSA and the FISA court will be more transparent and accountable than it was before the USA Freedom Act.

    It’s no secret that we wanted more. In the wake of the damning evidence of surveillance abuses disclosed by Edward Snowden, Congress had an opportunity to champion comprehensive surveillance reform and undertake a thorough investigation, like it did with the Church Committee. Congress could have tried to completely end mass surveillance and taken numerous other steps to rein in the NSA and FBI. This bill was the result of compromise and strong leadership by Sens. Patrick Leahy and Mike Lee and Reps. Robert Goodlatte, Jim Sensenbrenner, and John Conyers. It’s not the bill EFF would have written, and in light of the

Paul Merrell

Detekt Is Free Software That Spots Computer Spyware - Businessweek - 0 views

  • For more than two years, researchers and rights activists have tracked the proliferation and abuse of computer spyware that can watch people in their homes and intercept their e-mails. Now they’ve built a tool that can help the targets protect themselves.

    The free, downloadable software, called Detekt, searches computers for the presence of malicious programs that have been built to evade detection. The spyware ranges from government-grade products used by intelligence and police agencies to hacker staples known as RATs—remote administration tools. Detekt, which was developed by security researcher Claudio Guarnieri, is being released in a partnership with advocacy groups Amnesty International, Digitale Gesellschaft, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and Privacy International.

    Guarnieri says his tool finds hidden spy programs by seeking unique patterns on computers that indicate a specific malware is running. He warns users not to expect his program (which is available only for Windows machines) to find all spyware, and notes that the release of Detekt could spur malware developers to further cloak their code.

Paul Merrell

Cell Phone Guide For US Protesters, Updated 2014 Edition | Electronic Frontier Foundation - 0 views

  • With major protests in the news again, we decided it's time to update our cell phone guide for protestors. A lot has changed since we last published this report in 2011, for better and for worse. On the one hand, we've learned more about the massive volume of law enforcement requests for cell phone—ranging from location information to actual content—and widespread use of dedicated cell phone surveillance technologies. On the other hand, strong Supreme Court opinions have eliminated any ambiguity about the unconstitutionality of warrantless searches of phones incident to arrest, and a growing national consensus says location data, too, is private.

    Protesters want to be able to communicate, to document the protests, and to share photos and video with the world. So they'll be carrying phones, and they'll face a complex set of considerations about the privacy of the data those phones hold. We hope this guide can help answer some questions about how to best protect that data, and what rights protesters have in the face of police demands.

Paul Merrell

New open-source router firmware opens your Wi-Fi network to strangers | Ars Technica - 0 views

  • We’ve often heard security folks explain their belief that one of the best ways to protect Web privacy and security on one's home turf is to lock down one's private Wi-Fi network with a strong password. But a coalition of advocacy organizations is calling such conventional wisdom into question.

    Members of the “Open Wireless Movement,” including the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), Free Press, Mozilla, and Fight for the Future are advocating that we open up our Wi-Fi private networks (or at least a small slice of our available bandwidth) to strangers. They claim that such a random act of kindness can actually make us safer online while simultaneously facilitating a better allocation of finite broadband resources.

    The OpenWireless.org website explains the group’s initiative. “We are aiming to build technologies that would make it easy for Internet subscribers to portion off their wireless networks for guests and the public while maintaining security, protecting privacy, and preserving quality of access," its mission statement reads. "And we are working to debunk myths (and confront truths) about open wireless while creating technologies and legal precedent to ensure it is safe, private, and legal to open your network.”

  • One such technology, which EFF plans to unveil at the Hackers on Planet Earth (HOPE X) conference next month, is open-sourced router firmware called Open Wireless Router. This firmware would enable individuals to share a portion of their Wi-Fi networks with anyone nearby, password-free, as Adi Kamdar, an EFF activist, told Ars on Friday.

    Home network sharing tools are not new, and the EFF has been touting the benefits of open-sourcing Web connections for years, but Kamdar believes this new tool marks the second phase in the open wireless initiative. Unlike previous tools, he claims, EFF’s software will be free for all, will not require any sort of registration, and will actually make surfing the Web safer and more efficient.

  • Kamdar said that the new firmware utilizes smart technologies that prioritize the network owner's traffic over others', so good samaritans won't have to wait for Netflix to load because of strangers using their home networks. What's more, he said, "every connection is walled off from all other connections," so as to decrease the risk of unwanted snooping.

    Additionally, EFF hopes that opening one’s Wi-Fi network will, in the long run, make it more difficult to tie an IP address to an individual.

    “From a legal perspective, we have been trying to tackle this idea that law enforcement and certain bad plaintiffs have been pushing, that your IP address is tied to your identity. Your identity is not your IP address. You shouldn't be targeted by a copyright troll just because they know your IP address," said Kamdar.

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  • While the EFF firmware will initially be compatible with only one specific router, the organization would like to eventually make it compatible with other routers and even, perhaps, develop its own router. “We noticed that router software, in general, is pretty insecure and inefficient," Kamdar said. “There are a few major players in the router space. Even though various flaws have been exposed, there have not been many fixes.”
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