NPR News: Jimmy Fallon On The School Of ‚SNL‘ And His Tendency To Smile Too Much

Jimmy Fallon On The School Of ‚SNL‘ And His Tendency To Smile Too Much
As a kid, Fallon smiled even when he was in trouble: „There was a report card from kindergarten and the comment from the teacher was, ‚Jimmy smiles too much.‘ “ Originally broadcast Oct. 12, 2017.

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EFF: European Law Claims to Protect Consumers… By Blocking the Web

European Law Claims to Protect Consumers… By Blocking the Web

Last week the European Parliament passed a new Consumer Protection Regulation [PDF] that allows national consumer authorities to order ISPs, web hosts and domain registries to block or delete websites… all without a court order. The websites targeted are those that allegedly infringe European consumer law. But European consumer law has some perplexing provisions that have drawn ridicule, including a prohibition on children blowing up balloons unsupervised and a ban on excessively curvy bananas. Because of these, the range of websites that could be censored is both vast and uncertain.

The Consumer Protection Regulation provides in Article 8(3)(e) that consumer protection authorities must have the power:

where no other effective means are available to bring about the cessation or the prohibition of the infringement including by requesting a third party or other public authority to implement such measures, in order to prevent the risk of serious harm to the collective interests of consumers:

  • to remove content or restrict access to an online interface or to order the explicit display of a warning to consumers when accessing the online interface;
  • to order a hosting service provider to remove, disable or restrict the access to an online interface; or
  • where appropriate, order domain registries or registrars to delete a fully qualified domain name and allow the competent authority concerned to register it;

The risks of unelected public authorities being given the power to block websites was powerfully demonstrated in 2014, when the Australian company regulator ASIC accidentally blocked 250,000 websites in an attempt to block just a handful of sites alleged to be defrauding Australian consumers. 

This likelihood of unlawful overblocking is just one of the reasons that the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression and Opinion has underlined how web blocking often contravenes international human rights law. In a 2011 report [PDF], then Special Rapporteur Frank La Rue set out how extremely limited are the circumstances in which blocking of websites can be justified, noting that where:

the specific conditions that justify blocking are not established in law, or are provided by law but in an overly broad and vague manner, [this] risks content being blocked arbitrarily and excessively. … [E]ven where justification is provided, blocking measures constitute an unnecessary or disproportionate means to achieve the purported aim, as they are often not sufficiently targeted and render a wide range of content inaccessible beyond that which has been deemed illegal. Lastly, content is frequently blocked without the intervention of or possibility for review by a judicial or independent body.

This describes exactly what the new Consumer Protection Regulation will do. It hands over a power that should only be exercised, if at all, under the careful scrutiny of a judge in the most serious of cases, and allows it to be wielded at the whim of an unelected consumer protection agency. As explained by Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Julia Reda, who voted against the legislation, it sets the stage for the construction of a censorship infrastructure that could be misused for purposes that we cannot even anticipate, ranging from copyright enforcement through to censorship of political protest.

Regrettably, the Regulation is now law—and is required to be enforced by all European states. It is both ironic and tragic that a law intended to protect consumers actually poses such a dire threat to their right to freedom of expression.

Published November 23, 2017 at 01:41AM
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EFF: NSA Internet Surveillance Under Section 702 Violates the First Amendment

NSA Internet Surveillance Under Section 702 Violates the First Amendment

The First Amendment is too often overlooked in discussions of the National Security Agency’s vast surveillance authorities. But as Congress considers whether to reauthorize Section 702 of FISA this winter, we must remember that it’s not just our Fourth Amendment rights to privacy that are in the crosshairs, but also our First Amendment rights. These rights to anonymously speak, associate, access information, and engage in political activism are the bedrock of our democracy, and they’re endangered by the NSA’s pervasive surveillance.

The NSA uses Section 702 to justify ongoing programs to siphon off copies of vast amounts of our communications directly from the Internet backbone as well as require system-wide searches across the information collected by major Internet companies like Google, Facebook, and Apple. 

So how does the First Amendment come to apply to mass surveillance? To understand this, we need to begin with a little history of the civil rights movement. 

As part of the backlash to the Supreme Court’s ruling striking down segregation in schools, the Attorney General of Alabama, John Patterson, brought a lawsuit against a leading civil rights organization, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). The lawsuit alleged that the NAACP violated a state law requiring “foreign corporations” to file certain paperwork and get approval before practicing business in Alabama. The NAACP is a nonprofit membership organization; it didn’t file the paperwork because it believed it was exempt. While the NAACP fought the suit, the state issued a subpoena demanding detailed records from the NAACP, including membership lists and bank records. The NAACP refused to surrender its membership lists, fearing retaliatory consequences for its members. Because of this refusal, the court fined the NAACP $10,000, which after five days was raised to $100,000. The NAACP continued to fight the order for two years until the Supreme Court took up the issue, never surrendering its membership lists.

Ultimately the NAACP was vindicated. The Supreme Court recognized that the First Amendment protected the associational privacy interests of NAACP members. It directly recognized that freely associating for advocacy or other purposes is a fundamental right. It noted that state invasions of privacy could infringe on that right: “It is beyond debate that freedom to engage in association for the advancement of beliefs and ideas is an inseparable aspect of the „liberty“ assured by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, which embraces freedom of speech… Of course, it is immaterial whether the beliefs sought to be advanced by association pertain to political, economic, religious or cultural matters, and state action which may have the effect of curtailing the freedom to associate is subject to the closest scrutiny.”

The Supreme Court found that the “Inviolability of privacy in group association may in many circumstances be indispensable to preservation of freedom of association, particularly where a group espouses dissident beliefs.”

In short, we all have the right to engage in associate with one another and to join and communicate with political and religious groups free from government surveillance.

As our society has moved online, our associations have become digital in nature. Signing up for a membership or learning about an advocacy group often happens over a website or app. Members of modern political groups coordinate donations, activities, and information over social networks, email, and websites. When the NSA—either by itself or by working with corporate “partners”—collects the digital communications and browsing history of countless individuals, it’s also obtaining records of innocent Americans visiting activism websites, becoming members of advocacy groups, and coordinating social movements. EFF also raised this argument in our case against the mass telephone records collection by the NSA (substantially narrowed in 2015) First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles v NSA. 

The surveillance of our communications systems, and thereby the surveillance of our communications, infringes on the very rights of private assembly upheld by the Supreme Court in 1958. 

So while the Fourth Amendment concerns about 702 and mass surveillance are important, they are not the only problem created by the law. And as Alex Abdo, an attorney at the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, argues that when it comes to confronting government surveillance, we shouldn’t expect the Fourth Amendment alone to protect our First Amendment interests. He recently wrote that “The Fourth Amendment, unlike the First, is blind to the cumulative effects of invasions of privacy that are small in isolation but substantial in combination.”

Those cumulative effects are especially felt when it comes to the right to publish and access information freely. While the government may be forbidden from censoring online speakers and readers, the cumulative impact of pervasive digital surveillance has a chilling effect on online communities. The specter of government surveillance quells engagement in online forums, social networks, and blogs that discuss controversial, political, or unpopular positions. Knowing that the government is keeping a digital dossier of comments we leave online and articles we digitally share creates an environment in which speakers hesitate to engage in online political advocacy.

Readers also hesitate to visit websites that may be seen as out of favor with the government, whether that’s Al Jazeera or CNN or EFF’s own site, knowing that their visit may be recorded in a government database for years to come. 

The NSA’s digital surveillance of countless law-abiding Americans also indirectly affects another key First Amendment right: our right to assembly. Today’s modern protest movements are often organized and fueled by social media and digital communication, where activists coordinate across a wide range of physical locations. The NSA’s pervasive digital surveillance challenges our values as a society that respects and safeguards the right to plan and participate in protests and other political activity, rights which are themselves baked into the First Amendment.

The pervasive digital surveillance programs of the NSA chip away at the First Amendment protections that underpin our democracy. As Congress considers whether to reauthorize or reform Section 702 surveillance in the coming weeks, we urge them to remember that their choice will not just impact the privacy of Americans, it will have a profound impact on freedom of speech, association, and assembly protected by the First Amendment and ultimately, upon our democracy itself.

Contact Congress today to speak out against NSA surveillance.

Published November 22, 2017 at 09:54PM
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EFF: The Safest Conversation You’ll Have This Holiday

The Safest Conversation You’ll Have This Holiday

Do your friends and family rope you into providing tech support when you’re home for the holidays? Use this opportunity to be a digital security hero and rescue your family from tracking cookies, unencrypted disks, insecure chats, and recycled passwords.

Check out EFF’s Security Education Companion for ideas and inspiration. And remember: People learn by doing! Encourage friends and family members to walk through new security concepts and tools with you, and avoid the pitfalls of taking over their devices and doing it yourself.

  • Did a family member or friend get a fancy new phone, tablet, or computer? Are they worried about losing it or someone stealing it? Help give them peace of mind and keep other people out of their device: show them how to turn on full-disk encryption and password protection.

  • Help others find the software update feature on their operating systems and favorite browsers. Explain that it’s best security practice to regularly update their software, rather than dismissing the reminder box.

Keep in mind that security concepts and tools like these might be completely new to your friends and family. Be prepared to walk through the ideas slowly, and don’t be disappointed if someone is not quite ready to change their routine yet. There’s always next Thanksgiving!

Let EFF know how it went! Use the hashtags #TheSafestConversationYoullHaveThisHoliday or #BadgerYourFamily.

Published November 21, 2017 at 07:43PM
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EFF: The Senate’s Liberty Act Helps Close the “Backdoor”

The Senate’s Liberty Act Helps Close the “Backdoor”

Take the language of one NSA surveillance reauthorization bill and add a few strong reform proposals from another, and what do you get? A bill that helps protect Americans from the warrantless search of the content of their emails, text messages, and digital communications.

On November 17, Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Mike Lee (R-UT) introduced the USA Liberty Act (S. 2158) into the Senate. It is based on legislation of the same name introduced in October by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Ranking Member John Conyers (D-MI).                                                   

EFF supports this legislation and welcomes the additional protections included.

Both the House-side and Senate-side USA Liberty Act seek to reauthorize Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act, an NSA surveillance tool scheduled to expire at the end of this year. Section 702 permits the NSA to target electronic surveillance at non-U.S. persons located outside the United States. But when the NSA sweeps up emails and text messages of foreign targets, it predictably also collects messages written by U.S. persons. These communications are stored in NSA databases as well as those of other intelligence agencies, such as the FBI and CIA. When FBI agents search through Section 702-collected data in FBI systems—even when data belongs to U.S. persons—they do not obtain a warrant.

These unconstitutional searches of Americans’ communications, which skirt the Fourth Amendment requirement of a warrant, are called “backdoor” searches.

The Senate-side USA Liberty Act restricts these searches by borrowing an approach from a separate amendment made for the FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act of 2017, a second Section 702 reauthorization bill before the Senate. Though not identical in language, both the Senate-side USA Liberty Act and the amendment to the FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act place certain warrant requirements on backdoor searches.

According to the Senate-side USA Liberty Act, if government agents want to read Section 702-collected communications belonging to U.S. persons, they first need to obtain a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), which provides judicial oversight on Section 702 surveillance. The bill requires the FISC to approve warrants based on whether there is probable cause to believe that the requested Section 702-collected communications contain evidence of a crime, or concerns an “agent of a foreign power.”

Importantly, this backdoor search warrant requirement applies even if agents are searching for foreign intelligence information—a requirement not available in the House-side bill. That bill’s exception for foreign intelligence searches seriously undercuts the value of its warrant requirement.                            

Unfortunately, the Senate-side USA Liberty Act’s warrant requirement applies only to the content of communications, and does not also apply to metadata. According to the bill, government agents who want to access Section 702-collected data related to “dialing, routing, addressing, or signaling information” only need to obtain approval from the Attorney General and show the information is relevant to an investigation. While a warrant requirement is preferred, a relevance test and high-level review are significant improvements over current practice.

The Senate-side USA Liberty Act, like its House sibling, also codifies the end of “about” collection, a highly intrusive type of surveillance that the NSA voluntarily ended this year after receiving criticism from the FISC.  But where the House-side bill only ends this practice through 2023, the Senate-side bill ends it permanently.

The Senate-side bill has another improvement: it explicitly grants backdoor search protections to “persons reasonably believed to be located in the United States.” This means that foreign individuals inside the United States will have the same backdoor search protections on their communications and metadata as those offered to U.S. citizens and permanent residents. The Senate-side bill is rare in codifying these protections.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), the author of a separate, strong surveillance reform bill called the USA Rights Act—which also extends protections to foreigners inside the United States—praised Sens. Leahy and Lee, and their work.

“I applaud Senators Lee and Leahy for their proposal, which will create meaningful new protections for Americans’ rights, in particular by seriously addressing the problem of warrantless backdoor searches of Americans’ communications,” Wyden said. “While I believe the USA Rights Act represents the best solution to reforming Section 702 of FISA, the Lee-Leahy bill deserves full consideration by the U.S. Senate.”

We agree. 

Published November 22, 2017 at 02:36AM
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