Stupid Patent of the Month: Telehealth Robots Say Goodbye

Before COVID-19, people living in rural and isolated areas urgently needed to access health care services remotely; now we all do. Thanks to decades of innovation in computing and telecommunications, more essential health care services are available electronically than ever before. But there’s no guarantee they will always be as accessible and affordable as they are today. Because the Patent Office keeps granting patents on old ways of using networked computers, it keeps gambling with the public’s future access to telehealth technology.  The term “telehealth” includes any way of using electronic information and telecommunications technology to provide or administer healthcare…

Even with Changes, the Revised PACT Act Will Lead to More Online Censorship

Among the dozens of bills introduced last Congress to amend a key internet law that protects online services and internet users, the Platform Accountability and Consumer Transparency Act (PACT Act) was perhaps the only serious attempt to tackle the problem of a handful of dominant online services hosting people’s expression online. Despite the PACT Act’s good intentions, EFF could not support the original version because it created a censorship regime by conditioning the legal protections of 47 U.S.C. § 230 (“Section 230”) on a platform’s ability to remove user-generated content that others claimed was unlawful. It also placed a number…

Dystopia Prime: Amazon Subjects Its Drivers to Biometric Surveillance

Some high-tech surveillance is so dangerous to privacy that companies must never deploy it against a person without their voluntary opt-in consent. It comes as little surprise that Amazon, the company that brought you Ring doorbell cameras and Rekognition face surveillance, has a tenuous understanding of both privacy and consent. Earlier this week, Motherboard revealed the company’s cruel “take it or leave” demand to its 75,000 delivery drivers: submit to biometric surveillance or lose your job. Amazon’s “Privacy Policy for Vehicle Camera Technology” states it may collect “face image and biometric information.” The company uses this information, among other things,…

Free as in Climbing: Rock Climber’s Open Data Project Threatened by Bogus Copyright Claims

Rock climbers have a tradition of sharing “beta”—helpful information about a route—with other climbers. Giving beta is both useful and a form of community-building within this popular sport. Given that strong tradition of sharing, we were disappointed to learn that the owners of an important community website, MountainProject.com, were abusing copyright to try to shut down another site OpenBeta.io. The good news is that OpenBeta’s creator is not backing down—and EFF is standing with him. Viet Nguyen, a climber and coder, created OpenBeta to bring open source software tools to the climbing community. He used Mountain Project, a website where…

Facebook’s Pitch to Congress: Section 230 for Me, But not for Thee

As Mark Zuckerberg tries to sell Congress on Facebook’s preferred method of amending the federal law that serves as a key pillar of the internet, lawmakers must see it for what it really is: a self-serving and cynical effort to cement the company’s dominance. In prepared testimony submitted to the U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee before a Thursday hearing, Zuckerberg proposes amending 47 U.S.C. § 230 (“Section 230”), the federal law that generally protects online services and users from liability for hosting user-generated content that others believe is unlawful. The vague and ill-defined proposal calls for lawmakers…

Statement on the Re-election of Richard Stallman to the FSF Board

We at EFF are profoundly disappointed to hear of the re-election of Richard Stallman to a leadership position at the Free Software Foundation, after a series of serious accusations of misconduct led to his resignation as president and board member of the FSF in 2019. We are also disappointed that this was done despite no discernible steps taken by him to be accountable for, much less make amends for, his past actions or those who have been harmed by them. Finally, we are also disturbed by the secretive process of his re-election, and how it was belatedly conveyed to FSF’s staff…

Petition EU to ban biometric mass surveillance practices

Civil society initiative for a ban on biometric mass surveillance practices We call on the European Commission to strictly regulate the use of biometric technologies in order to avoid undue interference with fundamental rights. In particular, we ask the Commission to prohibit, in law and in practice, indiscriminate or arbitrarily-targeted uses of biometrics which can lead to unlawful mass surveillance.

Facebook Treats Punk Rockers Like Crazy Conspiracy Theorists, Kicks Them Offline

Facebook announced last year that it would be banning followers of QAnon, the conspiracy theorists that allege that a cabal of satanic pedophiles is plotting against former U.S. president Donald Trump. It seemed like a case of good riddance to bad rubbish. Members of an Oakland-based punk rock band called Adrenochrome were taken completely by surprise when Facebook disabled their band page, along with all three of their personal accounts, as well as a page for a booking business run by the band’s singer, Gina Marie, and drummer Brianne. Marie had no reason to think that Facebook’s content moderation battle with QAnon…

Pasco County’s Sheriff Must End Its Targeted Child Harassment Program

In September 2020, the Tampa Bay Times revealed a destructive “data-driven” policing program run by the Pasco County, Florida Sheriff’s Office. The program is misleadingly called “Intelligence-Led Policing” (ILP), but in reality, it’s nothing more than targeted child harassment by police. Young people’s school grades and absences, minor infractions, and even instances where they are a victim of crime are used to inform a bogus rubric and point system, based on a formula that intends to “prevent future crimes”—essentially labeling youths as a potential future criminals. Below is a page from the ILP’s pseudoscientific manual. Once a juvenile is tagged with this label, police show up at…

Video Hearing Tuesday: EFF Tells California Lawmakers to Crack Down on License Plate Data Collection

SB 210 Would Require Data Destruction Within 24 Hours, Among Other Reforms Sacramento – On Tuesday, March 23, at 1:30 pm PT, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) will urge California senators to crack down on location tracking by passing SB 210, a bill that would require the destruction of automatically collected license plate data within 24 hours of collection, among other robust reforms. You can watch the hearing on the California Senate website. EFF is a co-sponsor of SB 210, which was introduced by State Sen. Scott Weiner earlier this year. The bill is aimed at combatting unbridled data collection…

EFF Joins Effort to Restrict Automated License Plate Readers in California

One year ago, the California State Auditor released a damning report on the use of automated license plate readers (ALPRs) by local law enforcement agencies that confirmed concerns EFF has raised for years. Police are using these camera systems to collect enormous amounts of sensitive data on Californians’ travel patterns. Yet they often haven’t followed the basic requirements of a 2015 state law, S.B. 34, passed to protect privacy and civil liberties from ALPRs. While the auditor only conducted a deep-dive into four jurisdictions—Los Angeles, Fresno, Sacramento County and Marin County—all were found to be noncompliant. Investigators concluded that the…

AT&T’s HBO Max Deal Was Never Free

When it launched HBO Max, it was discovered that usage of the service would not count against the data caps of AT&T customers, a practice known as “zero-rating.” This means that people on limited data plans could watch as much HBO Max content as they wished without incurring overage fees. AT&T just declared that it would stop this practice, citing California’s net neutrality law as a reason. No matter what spin the telecom giant offers, this does not mean something “free” was taken away. That deal was never free to begin with. It should be noted that net neutrality doesn’t prevent…

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