TF's Latest

The Net neutrality debate rages on, Comcast announced plans to buy Time Warner Cable, and Congress gets closer to finally protecting Americans’ privacy from warrantless snooping.

IP Transition Video

Watch the full video from Public Knowledge's event, “The Next Steps in Promoting the Values of the IP Transition," featuring TF's Berin Szoka and other top experts.

Vanishing Rights

Outdated privacy laws are letting your rights slowly vanish — protect your privacy in the digital age by supporting ECPA reform!

“Big Data” Inquiry Should Study Economics & Free Speech: TF urges reform of blanket surveillance and FTC processes

Yesterday, TechFreedom submitted comments urging the White House to apply economic thinking to its inquiry into “Big Data,” also pointing out that the worst abuses of data come not from the private sector, but government. The comments were in response to a request by the Office of Science and Technology Policy.

“On the benefits of Big Data, we urge OSTP to keep in mind two cautions. First, Big Data is merely another trend in an ongoing process of disruptive innovation that has characterized the Digital Revolution. Second, cost-benefit analyses generally, and especially in advance of evolving technologies, tend to operate in aggregates which can be useful for providing directional indications of future trade-offs, but should not be mistaken for anything more than that,” writes TF President Berin Szoka.

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TF, CDT, and 40 others tell Congress what real NSA reform should look like

The White House has expressed support for reining in the NSA’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone records, but with multiple bills in Congress it’s uncertain which specific reforms will be included in the debate moving forward. To ensure whichever NSA reform bill advances is as strong as possible, TechFreedom and 41 other nonprofits and businesses have sent a joint letter to key policymakers outlining what any bill aiming to reform bulk surveillance should include.

Read the text below, and see the full letter for the list of signatories and recipients:

We the undersigned are writing to express support for ending the government’s bulk collection of data about individuals. We strongly urge swift markup and passage of the USA FREEDOM Act (H.R.3361), which would enact appropriate surveillance reforms without sacrificing national
security. This letter focuses on bulk collection, but overbroad NSA surveillance raises many more privacy and security issues that Congress and the Administration should address.

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TF’s Latest: IP Transition & FTC reform events Tuesday, Net Neutrality, #ComcastTWC & more

It’s been a busy year for tech policy: the Net neutrality debate rages on, Comcast announced plans to buy Time Warner Cable, and, while Congress dawdles on reining in the NSA, it’s getting closer to finally protecting Americans’ privacy from warrantless snooping by law enforcement. But first, check out these two back-to-back events coming up tomorrow (Tuesday, 3/11):

#IPTransition: The Next Steps in Promoting the Values of the IP Transition
Telephone companies want to upgrade to Internet Protocol (IP), saving billions that can be invested in faster broadband service. Now that the FCC has approved AT&T proposal for trials, the discussion has shifted to what’s next. AT&T has agreed, in principle, with Public Knowledge’s proposal for five values that should guide the IP transition, but what do they really mean? And how should they be implemented? Join PK tomorrow (3/11) on the Hill at 10:30am a.m. for a briefing including TF’s Berin Szoka. RSVP today (no livestream) and follow the conversation on Twitter.

#FTCProcess: Should the FTC Be Both Prosecutor and Judge?
At 9:30 a.m., the Washington Legal Foundation will host a panel on how the FTC uses its administrative litigation process as an alternative to suing in court. It’s bad enough that the FTC always wins. This cumbersome process also discourages companies from litigating at all, thus allowing the FTC to build what it calls a “common law” of unadjudicated settlements. Either way, the agency’s ability to operate outside the courts means there’s little check on the FTC’s discretion in regulating privacy, data security, novel competition theories, patents, and more. RSVP today to attend or watch the livestream. (If you’re really feeling dedicated, you can watch this event on the House Wi-Fi network, then go right to the PK event at 10:30).

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Overshadowed by NSA surveillance, ECPA reform still making progress

The mass surveillance of American citizens by the NSA has been the leading technology policy story for months, and rightly so. But there are other important reforms in the works, like updating the Electronics Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) to stop warrantless searches of Americans’ emails and data stored in the cloud. TF’s Berin Szoka talked about the issue with The Hill:

The focus on the activities of the NSA shifted Congress’s focus from law enforcement access to national security, shunting the email issue aside.

Email privacy reform “doesn’t have that direct connection to the NSA issue the way a bill like the USA Freedom Act does,” Stanley said, referring to legislation from Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) and Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) that would scale back the government’s sweeping surveillance programs.

While the debate over NSA surveillance has largely increased awareness about digital privacy concerns, it has also taken attention away from the specifics of email privacy reform.

The intricacies of requiring warrants for stored emails are “not as widely understood as the threats from the NSA,” said Berin Szoka, president of TechFreedom.

“Everyone has been so focused on the NSA,” he said. “That’s the story.”

Read the full article, and help ECPA reform pass the House!

Action Alert: Help push ECPA reform over the finish line!

Tell Congress: end warrantless email searches! Use the tools at VanishingRights.com to ask your representative to co-sponsor the Email Privacy Act (HR 1852).

You know the outdated Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) needs to be reformed. Written in 1986, back when we were concerned about landline voice calls instead of cloud storage and cell phone location data, it contains loopholes that law enforcement has exploited to conduct warrantless searches of Americans’ emails and other digital papers and effects.

There’s a massive movement to fix this and ensure our Fourth Amendment rights are respected in the digital world. Last December, over 100,000 people signed our coalition’s We the People petition for ECPA reform, requiring a White House response. We’re still waiting for them to reply, but Congress heard us loud and clear, and the Email Privacy Act (HR 1852) — which would make law enforcement get warrants for searches of data in the cloud — has a whopping 180 co-sponsors!

But that’s not enough. We need 218 votes to pass the House, so we’re shooting for 218 sponsors to guarantee its passage. If you want to stop warrantless searches of your emails, go to VanishingRights.com to see if your representative is a sponsor — if they’re not, ask them to be, and if they are, thank them! We can win this fight, but only if we show that the public is behind reform. Act now!

See our handy infographic to learn more about what’s wrong with ECPA, and how we can fix it.

TechFreedom’s Latest: Net Neutrality, NSA Reform, 23andMe, & More

TechFreedom is starting 2014 strong. We’ve had our hands full with some of the biggest technology policy news in years: In the same week, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals threw out most of the FCC’s Net Neutrality regulations, and President Obama took a few (cautious) steps towards reforming mass surveillance. We’ve also had some big victories on other issues, and have a lot of exciting stuff coming up soon!

Whatever Doesn’t Kill the FCC Makes it Stronger
Last week, the D.C. Circuit Court struck down the major provisions of the FCC’s Open Internet Order, commonly referred to as Net Neutrality. Initially, most pundits viewed it as a major blow to the open Internet, declaring “Net Neutrality is dead” and that we will now see “the end of the Internet as we know it.” We’ve always been skeptical of such claims, but this time, we were the first to explain what the decision really meant: the ruling actually increased the powers of the FCC and state governments over the Internet. That concern is now gaining serious traction.

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TechFreedom’s Latest

  • Event tomorrow: 100th Anniversary of Kingsbury Commitment: Join us Thursday, December 19 at our Capitol Hill HQ to hear Republican FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai speak on the 100th anniversary of the Kingsbury Commitment, AT&T’s negotiated settlement of antitrust charges brought by the Department of Justice that gave AT&T a legal monopoly in most of the U.S. in exchange for a commitment to provide universal service.
  • FTC: Technology & Reform Project: The Federal Trade Commission enforces the antitrust and consumer protection laws. On privacy, data security, the Internet of Things. It’s fast becoming the Federal Technology Commission. We think it’s a better regulator of broadband and telecom, too. And unlike the FCC, we think it can be fixed! So with the FTC now in its 100th year, TechFreedom & the International Center for Law & Economics have launched the “FTC: Technology & Reform Project.” Check out our first report laying out the big questions about the agency. Specific recommendations will follow in 2014!

  • Email Privacy (ECPA Reform) Campaign: While the FTC tries to impose European-style “privacy” rules on Internet innovation and advertising, we’re focused on the real problem: government. That starts by making sure the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) actually protects your email from law enforcement snooping, the way the Fourth Amendment would if activist courts hadn’t screwed up search and seizure doctrine in the 1960s and 70s.
    We got over 107,000 signatures on a “We the People” petition to reform ECPA, requiring the White House to write an official response. We’re optimistic they’ll endorse bipartisan reforms. 
    We played a leading role in the coalition, especially in organizing the Right, including publishing an op-ed in RedState.

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Digital 4th Coalition Comments on ECPA White House Petition Surpassing 100,000 Signatures

The Digital 4th Coalition, of which TechFreedom is a proud member, reflects on the successful campaign to get the White House on the record on ECPA reform:

The Digital 4th coalition, members of Digital Due Process and other partners announced the White House petition to reform America’s online privacy laws surpassed 100,000 signatures, garnering support from citizens across the country to keep the government out of online communications. Joined by privacy groups, technology companies, entrepreneurs, advocates and many others, the petition calls on the White House to support updating the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) without civil agency carve outs and make it clear that government agents cannot read citizens’ email without a warrant.

"Today marks the beginning of the end of law enforcement’s ability to read Americans’ emails without a warrant. With growing support for reform in both parties, a clear expression of support from the Administration should be all it takes to finally pass ECPA reform. That victory will be the first towards a longer fight to limit law enforcement’s ability to track our mobile devices and to rein in unconstitutional surveillance by national security agencies," said Berin Szoka, President of TechFreedom.

Read the full release, including statements from other coalition members, here.

Petition to reform ECPA passes 100,000 signatures, requiring the White House to respond

The We the People petition to reform ECPA and end warrantless email searches just received its 100,000th signature! In addition to being a stunning demonstration of Americans’ concern for their privacy rights, this victory means that the White House is now required to write a response.

As TF President Berin Szoka pointed out yesterday in RedState:

If the petition makes it to 100,000 signatures, the White House has to reply. So far, President Obama has been silent on the issue, but we think that, if he’s forced to take a stance, he’ll throw his weight behind reform. Getting ECPA reform passed would be a huge win for privacy, and would also show that the privacy movement can actually win in Congress. Fixing ECPA isn’t a substitute for stopping blanket NSA surveillance, but it can actually happen this Congress — and it it would be the first major victory in a long fight to end unconstitutional mass surveillance.

This is a huge day for the privacy movement, and what we hope is the first major win in the larger battle against unconstitutional mass surveillance. And in addition to the 100,000+ Americans who demanded ECPA reform, we’d like to thank the Center for Democracy and Technology and the dozens of other organizations that worked to support the petition.

So pat yourselves on the back, and if you haven’t yet, check out our infographic on why ECPA needs reform in the first place.

Protecting Email Privacy is First Step to Ending Unconstitutional Mass Surveillance

With only one day left for the White House petition to reform ECPA, TF President Berin Szoka took to RedState to illustrate just how important this fight is in the larger battle against mass surveillance:

ECPA reform would restore a core constitutional principle: with narrow exceptions for emergencies, law enforcement should have to get a warrant for searches and seizures. This privacy protection should have extended to online files just as it does to files on your computer, but an activist Supreme Court in the 1960s mucked up the law by holding that the Fourth Amendment doesn’t apply to files held by third parties — like cloud email providers.

It may seem unfair that this is the first step in the surveillance battle. After all, ECPA is a complicated, arcane issue that’s gotten only a fraction of the attention the NSA has. But hey, politics ain’t fair. It’s all about optics. Momentum is critical.

Read the full article here, and sign the petition to demand an end to warrantless email searches!

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