Today in History – June 22

Today in History – June 22

EFF: This Wednesday, an EU committee voted to break the Internet: this Sunday, Berliners take to the streets to say NO!

This Wednesday, an EU committee voted to break the Internet: this Sunday, Berliners take to the streets to say NO!

On Wednesday, the Legislative Committee of the European Union narrowly voted to keep the two most controversial internet censorship and surveillance proposals in European history in the upcoming revision to the Copyright Directive — as soon as July Fourth, the whole European Parliament could vote to make this the law of 28 EU member-states.

The two proposals were Article 11 (the link tax), which bans linking to news articles without paying for a license from each news-site you want to link to; and Article 13 (the copyright filters), requiring that everything that Europeans post be checked first for potential copyright infringements and censored if an algorithm decides that your expression might breach someone’s copyright.

These proposals were voted through even though experts agree that they will be catastrophic for free speech and competition, raising the table-stakes for new internet companies by hundreds of millions of euros, meaning that the US-based Big Tech giants will enjoy permanent rule over the European internet. Not only did the UN’s special rapporteur on freedom of expression publicly condemn the proposal; so did more than 70 of the internet’s leading luminaries, including the co-creators of the World Wide Web, Wikipedia, and TCP.

We have mere days to head this off: the German Pirate Party has called for protests in Berlin this Sunday, June 24 at 11:45h outside European House Unter den Linden 78, 10117 Berlin. They’ll march on the headquarters of Axel-Springer, a publisher that lobbied relentlessly for these proposals.

If you use the Internet to communicate, organize, and educate it’s time to speak out. Show up, stand up, because the Internet needs you!

Published June 22, 2018 at 01:14AM

EFF: Corruption at the Assembly Committee Gutted California’s Net Neutrality

Corruption at the Assembly Committee Gutted California’s Net Neutrality

In the morning before S.B. 822 was to get its first hearing in front of a California Assembly committee before the cameras were on to catch it, the Chair of the Assembly Committee on Communications and Conveyance introduced and got a vote on amendments that substantially weakened the net neutrality provisions of S.B. 822. EFF received word that was his intent and we were disappointed he would carry out such a bait and switch on behalf of AT&T and Comcast.

Chair Miguel Santiago, along with seven other Assembly members both Republican and Democratic voted for those amendments. Amendments proposed at 10 pm the night before the hearing. And voted on before the bill was heard and before the bill’s author, State Sen. Scott Wiener, could argue against them. Or before the witnesses and Wiener could argue for the bill as written.

This comes after the committee chair refused a move to join S.B. 822 and S.B. 460 so that there was a single net neutrality package rather than two bills. That proposal was rejected in favor of new amendments that stripped net neutrality protections right out including provisions that banned discriminatory zero rating that hurt low income Internet users.

Assemblymembers Quirk-Silva, Kamalger Dove, Holden, and Low were abstained or absent while the remaining Democratic and Republican Assembly Members joined together to vote in hostile amendments that gutted a whole array of consumer protections of the bill.

Here are just some of the things they green-lighted with their amendment:

  • AT&T can continue to violate net neutrality under its zero rating program and will have even more power to discriminate over the internet with its ownership of Time Warner.
  • Comcast can create arbitrary charges on all websites and services simply for the privilege of connecting to Comcast customers. A practice that has been banned under federal law for years.
  • Comcast will be free to engage in past abuses over the interconnection market that resulted in consumer access to video services being slowed down arbitrarily in exchange for extortion fees.

 The result is, no matter what, not net neutrality.

Giant ISPs like AT&T and Comcast have worked overtime to defeat this bill, including donating a lot of money. Between the money, the disingenuous arguments of the telecoms, and the manipulated process that forced the hostile amendments into the bill, what happened this week shows just what giant corporations can accomplish with willing legislators. But that does not mean the net neutrality battle is over in California. Everyone, including Californians, deserves access to a free and open Internet. As the bill moves forward EFF will continue to support the work of Senator Scott Wiener who has vowed to fight on.

Published June 20, 2018 at 10:46PM

EFF: Victory: California Overhauls Police Database Oversight Procedures in Wake of EFF Investigations

Victory: California Overhauls Police Database Oversight Procedures in Wake of EFF Investigations

New Data Shows Law Enforcement Abused Network 143 Times in 2017

San Francisco – Responding to years of investigations and pressure from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the California Attorney General’s Office has overhauled and improved its oversight of law enforcement access to a computer network containing the sensitive personal data of millions of state residents, which police abused 143 times in 2017.

The new policies and data will be presented at a regular oversight meeting on Thursday, June 21, 2018 at the Folsom City Council Chambers.

EFF has been investigating abuse of the California Law Enforcement Telecommunication System (CLETS)—the computer network that connects criminal record and DMV data with local and federal agencies across the state—since 2015. Law enforcement personnel access this data more than 2.8 million times daily.

EFF’s research found that misuse of this system was rampant. Examples include officers accessing confidential data for domestic disputes and running background checks on online dates. One particularly egregious case involved an officer who allegedly planned to hand sensitive information on witnesses to the family member of a convicted murderer.

Not only did the Attorney General’s CLETS Advisory Committee fail to hold these agencies accountable, in many cases it failed to enforce requirements that agencies disclose misuse investigations at all. As a result, the Attorney General has not maintained reliable data on misuse.

Earlier this month, the Attorney General’s office began implementing several changes to their oversight of law enforcement agencies, including stiffer penalties when agencies fail to report misuse. The agency also directed a team to bring several hundred delinquent agencies into compliance with misuse disclosure requirements.

“Accountability starts with good data, and so it’s a great start for the Attorney General’s office to give better instructions to law enforcement agencies and to use the enforcement mechanism to ensure disclosure of database abuse,” EFF Senior Investigative Researcher Dave Maass said. “But this should only be the first step. We will be watching closely to see if the Attorney General actually follows through on his threats to sanction agencies who sweep CLETS abuse under the carpet.”

EFF hopes that accurate data on misuse of CLETS will lead to investigations and accountability for any agency that fails to adequately protect people’s privacy. In addition, EFF is calling on the California Attorney General’s office to tighten its scrutiny of federal agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security, to ensure that they not abusing CLETS for immigration enforcement.

“The California Attorney General is finally taking police database abuse seriously,” EFF Staff Attorney Aaron Mackey said. “It’s great that we will finally have good aggregate data on misuse. Now law enforcement needs to follow up on any improper behavior with thorough investigations.”

For deeper analysis and links to the records:

Senior Investigative Researcher
Staff Attorney

Published June 20, 2018 at 09:04PM

EFF: The California Attorney General’s Office Says It’s Finally Taking Database Abuse Seriously—But Time Will Tell

The California Attorney General’s Office Says It’s Finally Taking Database Abuse Seriously—But Time Will Tell

In 2017, 22 law enforcement employees across California lost or left their jobs after abusing the computer network that grants police access to criminal histories and drivers‘ records, according to new data compiled by the California Attorney General’s office. The records obtained by EFF show a total of 143 violations of database rules—the equivalent of an invasion of privacy every two and half days. 

These numbers represent the first comprehensive accounting of misuse of the California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System (CLETS). While the acronym is not well known by the public, everyone with a driver’s license or criminal record has information accessible through CLETS. Police and other public safety employees access this sensitive information approximately 2.8 million times a day during the regular course of business.

For the last three years, EFF has exposed widespread misuse of CLETS, raising alarms about oversight deficiencies in the Attorney General’s office and its CLETS Advisory Committee. Among our findings: the Attorney General had lapsed in enforcing requirements that agencies who subscribe to CLETS report annually how may times they investigated misuse and what the outcomes were of the investigations. 

In response to EFF’s concerns, the Attorney General’s office issued new rules and cracked down on agencies that failed to report their misuse.

“The California Department of Justice, in response to increasingly low submissions of misuse reporting by subscribing agencies, will be instituting changes to reporting to achieve 100 percent reporting of CLETS misuse,” California Justice Information Services Division Chief Joe Dominic wrote in a directive submitted to more than 1,200 law enforcement agencies. “The DOJ considers the failure to report CLETS misuse a serious matter and will proactively enforce this requirement.”

 In 2017, only 704 agencies disclosed these records—approximately 53% compliance. Following an overhaul of the oversight system, in 2018 the Attorney General gathered information from 1,285 agencies—98 percent compliance.

KINGS 14 0
KERN 4 0
YOLO 2 0
LAKE 1 0
NAPA 1 0

While specific information about the nature of the violations is not recorded, the Attorney General has outlined a variety of behaviors that would qualify as misuse. These include querying the database for personal reasons, searching data on celebrities, sharing passwords or access, providing information to unauthorized third parties, and researching a firearm the officer intends to purchase.

CADOJ also updated its rules around accessing CLETS, known as “Policies, Practices and Procedures” manual, which warns agencies that failure to report misuse will be “subject to sanctions, up to and including, removal of CLETS service.” In addition, CADOJ will now require agencies who initially report the outcome of a misuse investigation as “pending” to update CADOJ when the investigation is completed. The PPP also now clearly states that any violation of CLETS policies will face discipline, including suspension or termination, and potential criminal prosecution.

According to the misuse data, law enforcement agencies reported that the 143 misuse cases resulted in 9 terminations, 13 resignations, and 18 suspensions. Four cases rose to the level of charge for misdemeanors or infractions. Unfortunately, 53 violations resulted in no action being taken at all. 

Notable among the records is the Los Angeles Police Department, which had failed to file misuse reports year after year with impunity. In 2017, LAPD reported three investigations, two of which resulted in no action being taken, while a third resulted in the suspension and resignation of an employee.

The special investigation unit in the Kings County Human Services Agency—which is charged with protecting at-risk families—raked up the most misuses: 13 cases in which the result was not disclosed. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office reported 6 misuses cases, all of which resulted in suspensions. The Riverside County Sheriff’s Department also saw four resignations in the wake of misuse investigations. 

EFF applauds the Attorney General and the California Department of Justice officials who pushed law enforcement agencies to finally report misuse. We appreciate their hard work in ensuring the data is as complete as possible and that agencies are given clear instructions on how to report misuse. 

At the same time, it’s unclear whether the Attorney General or the CLETS Advisory Committee will follow up on the reports of widespread misuse in particular agencies or discipline those involved. Now that they have data, EFF urges these bodies to independently investigate these cases and hold public hearings on their findings. In addition, EFF urges the Attorney General to independently investigate access to CLETS by federal agencies to ensure they are not violating state law by accessing non-criminal records for immigration enforcement.

EFF is releasing the Attorney General’s spreadsheet of misuse and the misuse reporting forms for more than 1,200 agencies. Local news organizations may find untold stories about police misconduct in this data, and we urge reporters to call these law enforcement agencies to find out more about the nature of this misconduct.

CLETS Misuse Reporting Data (XLSX)

CLETS Misuse Reporting Forms (DocumentCloud)

CLETS Misuse Reporting Forms Bookmarked by County (Document-Cloud 150mb PDF)

Note: DocumentCloud links are subject to that organization’s Privacy Policy

Published June 20, 2018 at 09:03PM