Ask Me Anything - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)

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AndrewFreedman

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Oct 3, 2014
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Tom's Community Ask Me Anything – Electronic Frontier Foundation
Many of our AMA's have been with OEM's. They're great! They make cool stuff! But this time we're doing something different, allowing our community to discuss news and policy with experts. It's a chance to get educated and discuss some of the most important issues in IT and consumer tech today.

Tom’s Hardware and Tom's Guide are proud to announce our latest installment of ASK ME ANYTHING.

On Wednesday, March 4th, we’ll be hosting the next in a series of Tom’s Community Ask Me Anythings with our wonderful guests from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). They'll be answering all of your in-depth questions posed by you, our audience.

The EFF is a 501(c)(3) non-profit group that advocates for digital rights.

This thread will be unlocked, open and live for 24 hours starting at 12:00 p.m. eastern on March 4th, and questions will be moderated and supervised by Tom’s Hardware Senior Community Manager, Joe Pishgar, and a full team of Senior Moderators.


(Image via EFF)

Ask Me Anything Rules
• All Rules of Conduct apply.
• Keep questions direct and to the point.
• Avoid opinion bias.
• Be respectful of our guests, no insults, no leading questions.
• Do not post duplicate questions or repost your question multiple times.
• Not all questions may be answered. Questions may not be answered in the order in which they are received or posted.

To reiterate: No opinion bias, insults, leading questions, or breaking the Rules of Conduct. Breaking these rules may result in a one-day ban.
Only registered users will be able to ask questions, so if you haven’t yet, be sure to register now for your chance to participate!

The official representatives will reply periodically over the time the AMA is active using recognized, verified accounts.

Please join us on this date to throw your questions into the mix and ask the EFF questions. Curious about anything from Net Neutrality to surveillance? Now's your chance to shine!

What: Ask Me Anything – Electronic Frontier Foundation
When: Wednesday, March 4th, 12:00 p.m. EST
Where: This thread! Keep it locked!

Our Guests from the EFF are:

• Nate Cardozo, Staff Attorney (username: natecardozo)
• Parker Higgins, Director of Copyright Activism (username: xor_eff)
• Nadia Kayyali, Activist (username: Nadia_K)
• Andrew Crocker, Legal Fellow (username: AndrewEFF)
• Jeremy Gillula, Staff Technologist (username: jgillula)
• Joseph Bonneau, Technology Fellow (username: jcbeff)

NOTE: The AMA is now closed.
 

Lutfij

Splendid
Moderator
Super excited to be here. On that note - welcome to Tom's Hardware and Tom's Guide EFF gang ;) it's a pleasure to have you entertain our viewers and their questions!

Hope you all are good?
 
Jan 7, 2015
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There are a ton of tools out there for surveillance, so it's easy for us laypeople to see them and get confused. What tools do you recommend as a baseline? The most basic stuff that even a child could set up?
 

jpishgar

VP, Global Community
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Jan 5, 2010
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Usually don't chime in with my own questions on our AMAs, but I'm dying to ask.

Do you guys have any numbers on how much total is being spent to lobby Congress on behalf of our digital rights? And how much is being spent by the opposition?

-JP
 

AndrewEFF

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Jan 30, 2015
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From our perspective at EFF, the fire of debate about surveillance on the Internet never went out (
 
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How worried should we be that we're still waiting on the full details about the Net Neutrality ruling from the FCC? What's the best and worst case scenarios about what's in there? If the public doesn't like it, is there a chance for it to change?
 

jcbeff

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Feb 13, 2015
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Great question, assuming you mean tools to counter surveillance and not perform it ;-)

Unfortunately there are indeed quite a lot of tools to protect from surveillance, some are hard to use and some are frankly snake oil that won't protect you. EFF has worked to put out clear information on what you can do to defend against surveilance in a few ways:

  • The Surveillance Self-Defense Guide has a list of recommended tools and tutorials on how to use them.
    The Encrypt The Web and Who Has Your Back? reports highlights which large companies are doing the most to protect their users from surveillance.
    The Secure Messaging Scorecard highlights which messaging tools are aiming for a higher level of security for your communications. We'll be working this year to make this more detailed and have stronger recommendations of the best tools for secure comms.
To sum it up though, I would say Tor (via the Tor Browser Bundle) is an essential tool for anonymous web browsing and clients supporting either PGP (email) or OTR (chat) remain the best options for secure communications. The SSD has some installation instructions for those tools. None of them are close to the "A child can install them" level yet and this is a major problem, although a lot of smart people are working on improving that!
 

JGillula

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Jan 30, 2015
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We're not very worried. We've been told the rules themselves are only 8 pages or so (the other 300 pages that keep being mentioned in the press basically describe how the FCC came to the conclusion it did, and provides some interpretive context for the rules). We've seen fact sheets about the rules that are 4 pages, so it's not like they could stuff a lot of surprises in there beyond what they've already described.

As for best/worst-case scenarios, I think the best case is that there aren't any surprises, and that the general conduct rule (which we've expressed concerns about) is actually much more specific and precise than we've been led to believe. The worst-case is the opposite--that it's just as vague as we suspect, and will give the FCC leeway to pursue practices beyond what's necessary to ensure net neutrality.

As for any change, the public could always ask the FCC to reconsider the rules or to modify them via the normal rule-making process. (And of course, if there's something really egregious in there, they could always be challenged in court.)
 

moclyop

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Feb 12, 2015
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I'm interested in the patent issue - it seems to be a problem that one person can patent for profit and not for innovation. Does it go further than that? I've looked at the whitepaper and not sure I understand the greater details.
 

AndrewEFF

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Jan 30, 2015
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Wow, Take 2, without the emoji and lame Smiths reference. We at EFF hope the surveillance debate is stays active. It's great that CJFE launched this archive, and there are others, including one hosted by EFF itself: https://www.eff.org/nsa-spying/nsadocs. It's important to have these archives as a historical record, but there's also important work by journalists explaining what's in the documents. In EFF's archive, we always link to the news story originally associated with the documents, so there's context in that sense at least.
 

JGillula

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Jan 30, 2015
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Hey EFF, I'm in [insert legal situation here]. Can you offer me legal advice?

DISCLAIMER: Yes we planted this question, but we figured we were gonna get it eventually. Plus the answer will be useful if you really do want legal advice from us!
 

AndrewEFF

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Jan 30, 2015
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Good question, Jeremy! Answer: NO. Some of us are lawyers, but we're not your lawyers. These answers don't constitute legal advice. If you have a legal question you think we can help with, please consult our Legal Assistance page (https://www.eff.org/pages/legal-assistance) and then send an email to the intake address listed on that page. We answer emails promptly, and we do our best to help.
 

rolloverads

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Feb 11, 2015
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Would the EFF assist Edward Snowden if he decided to come back to the US but had to face trial? If so, how? If not, why not?
 

Nadia_K

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Feb 12, 2015
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That's a great question. It's not something that we've spent much time tracking, though the numbers may be out there. However, it would require some digging, especially since lobbying groups need to disclose generally what issues they're working on, but the data isn't broken down to how much per individual issue. For example, you might know that Lockheed Martin is spending X much to lobby congress, but that's going to be across many issues, some of which are likely not relevant.
 

peppermint556

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Feb 11, 2015
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What issues in digital rights should we be thinking about but may have taken the backburner due to surveillance and net neutrality?
 
Mar 4, 2015
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EFF,

By my count EFF took on 1 case (EFF v. NSA) and spent a total of 10 minutes in court (Smith v. Obama) for the entire year of 2014. EFF spent the year of 2014, primarily blogging commentary on national news stories, which is not legal advise. The legal documents EFF does spend most of it time filing, are public opinion Amicus Briefs. At that, a measly 7 Amicus Briefs were filed for new cases in 2014.

Can you help me understand why EFF spent such little time inside of a court room for the year of 2014? Do I have a misunderstanding of the EFF's mission? I thought the EFF was supposed to be an organization that protected our digital rights in the courtroom. All I have seen from the EFF in the past year has been drumming for donations, blogging, cheerleading, and foot stomping.

Can we expect to see EFF take on more legal cases, and spend more time in a courtroom, actively fighting for digital rights, in 2015? There certainly seems to be no shortages of legal challenges to take on.

-Long time EFF supporter
 

JGillula

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Jan 30, 2015
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I bet each EFF staffer is going to have a different answer to this one. To me, big ones are mobile privacy (both in terms of mobile device location tracking and in terms of just general privacy concerns with mobile apps) and third-party tracking/privacy in general.

I'm also keeping an eye on the horizon for how digital rights will affect the Internet of Things and vice versa. ("What if I want to hack my Nest thermostat to be more awesome? Does it have DRM?" "Do the cops need a warrant to get data from my Nest thermostat?")

Oh, and just DRM in general is terrible and should be eradicated.
 

xor_eff

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Feb 12, 2015
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That is one problem, though the "one person troll" model is really only the tip of the iceberg. We've seen new companies that collect bad and vague patents, and manufacture nothing but litigation. That makes the entire climate around innovation really difficult, because there's no way to know whether the thing you're making is going to be targeted by some troll—and as a result, bigger companies have stockpiled patents that they can use against each other and trolls if it comes to it. All in all, it's added a huge amount of legal overhead to the business of innovation, which is bad for everybody.

In the whitepaper you're describing, "Defend Innovation," we go into details about the various problems and what kinds of fixes are necessary to solve them. Our report is pretty readable, but the problem is kind of arcane and in the weeds, which is sort of the point! We're working to get those fixes in place so that, unless you've got a burning desire to learn about patent policy, you can worry less about that and more about making stuff.
 

peppermint556

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Feb 11, 2015
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I'm willing to hear from more! :D
 
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