7-28-11 Despite serious privacy concerns being voiced by both Democratic and Republican leaders and by thousands of digital rights activists using EFF's Action Center, this afternoon the House Judiciary Committee voted 19 to 10 to recommend passage of H.R. 1981. That bill contains a mandatory data retention provision that would require your Internet service providers to retain 12 months' worth of personal information that could be used to identify what web sites you visit and what content you post online. EFF had previously joined with 29 other civil liberties and consumer privacy groups in signing a letter to the Committee members that condemned the bill as a "direct assault on the privacy of Internet users."
EFF Senior Staff Attorney Kevin Bankston had this to say about today's vote:
The data retention mandate in this bill would treat every Internet user like a criminal and threaten the online privacy and free speech rights of every American, as lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have recognized. Requiring Internet companies to redesign and reconfigure their systems to facilitate government surveillance of Americans' expressive activities is simply un-American. Such a scheme would be as objectionable to our Founders as the requiring of licenses for printing presses or the banning of anonymous pamphlets. Today's vote is therefore very disappointing, but we are especially thankful to GOP Representatives Sensenbrenner, Issa and Chaffetz, who chose principle over party-line in opposing this dangerous tech mandate. We hope that bipartisan opposition will grow as the bill makes its way to the House floor and more lawmakers are educated about this anti-privacy, anti-free speech, anti-innovation proposal.
Please help us defeat this legislation before it is made law by contacting your Representative today.
Vague Anti-Stalking Law Threatens Protected Speech Online EFF Files Amicus Brief to Defend Free Speech on Social Networks
San Francisco - EFF filed a friend-of-the-court brief today urging a federal court to block the government's use of the federal anti-stalking law to prosecute a man for posting criticism of a public figure to Twitter.
At issue is a federal law originally enacted to criminalize traveling across state lines for the purpose of stalking. In 2005, the law was modified to make the "intentional infliction of emotional distress" by the use of "any interactive computer service" a crime. In this case, the government has presented the novel and dangerous theory that the use of a public communication service like Twitter to criticize a well-known individual can result in criminal liability based on the personal sensibilities of the person being criticized.
"Wielding the threat of criminal sanctions to punish the pointed, online criticism of public figures is not only bad policy, it is unconstitutional," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Matt Zimmerman. "While true threats can and should be opposed, public speech about prominent people must be vigorously protected."
In the brief, EFF argues that an indictment of a Twitter user pursuant to the federal anti-stalking statute violates the First Amendment, not only because the speech is protected, but also because the language of the statute is unconstitutionally vague.
"The idea that the government should police every inflammatory word spoken online chills freedom of speech and goes against decades of First Amendment case law," said EFF Staff Attorney Hanni Fakhoury. "The court must recognize social network users' right to speak freely online, even if that speech is unpopular or offensive to some."
For the full amicus brief in US v. Cassidy:
For more on this case:
Senior Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Electronic Frontier Foundation