EFF Sues The Gov't, Demanding Proof That It Needs To Put Wiretap Backdoors Into All Communications

from the where's-the-proof dept

About a month ago, news broke that the feds were going to push for new legislation that would require wiretapping backdoors be put into all forms of internet communications. This is a bad idea for any number of reasons -- including the fact that this would make it much easier for others to spy on the communications of Americans. However, all indications are that the feds (especially the NSA, who wants to pretend they're "protecting" Americans from security issues, while really just wanting to spy on more Americans) are going to push forward anyway.

Part of the justification for the push for such wiretapping mandates is that new technology has made it much more difficult for law enforcement to to intercept necessary information. So the EFF made a simple request: prove it. It filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the evidence that new technologies were actually hindering law enforcement. However, the US government apparently ignored the request, leading the EFF to sue the government over its failure to respond to the request.
"The sweeping changes the government is proposing, to require 'back doors' into all private communications technologies, would have enormous privacy and security ramifications for American Internet users," said EFF Staff Attorney Jennifer Lynch. "Any meaningful debate must be based on the information we're seeking in the FOIA requests, so the government's failure to comply in a timely manner is troubling."


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    :Lobo Santo (profile), Nov 1st, 2010 @ 11:09am

    Too broke

    Thank goodness somebody is doing something. Wish I could afford to donate to the EFF.

     

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  2.  
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    Steak, Nov 1st, 2010 @ 11:18am

    EFF

    I donated $100 to the EFF in 2007. They never sent me my T-shirt (still waiting).

    Anyway, kudos to the EFF again for fighting the good fights. I'm just ashamed of our government for so quickly stamping out EFF's battle against AT&T for their horribly justified phone-tapping scheme. Obama's "more open" government thus far has been every bit as bad as Bush's, but maybe we'll see some light at the end of the tunnel.

     

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  3.  
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    Hephaestus (profile), Nov 1st, 2010 @ 11:24am

    Also ....

    The Department of Homeland Security singled out EFF, along with other activist groups and media representatives such as the ACLU, EPIC, Human Rights Watch, AP, etc, for an extra layer of review on its FOIA requests.

    It seems like the government is attempting to alter the outcome of certain policies by preventing the news and information from getting out until it is to late and the policy has been implemented. open governmnet anyone, or beginnings of a police state.

    JMHO David

     

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  4.  
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    Simon, Nov 1st, 2010 @ 11:31am

    Ridiculous legislation

    If they make this law, it's not going to undo the technology that already exists. All it does is kill the privacy of law abiding citizens.

     

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  5.  
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    Hephaestus (profile), Nov 1st, 2010 @ 11:31am

    Re: EFF

    "Obama's "more open" government thus far has been every bit as bad as Bush's, but maybe we'll see some light at the end of the tunnel."

    Actually the worse things get for him, the more hostle people are towards him, and the worse his approval rating gets, the less open the governmnet will become. Its the nature of the beast. Also his decisions will begin getting worse as his approval rating tanks and things go poorly.

     

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  6.  
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    Free Capitalist (profile), Nov 1st, 2010 @ 11:53am

    Two Words for the FBI

    Traffic Forensics

    If they haven't learned already, as they were educated 15 years ago, then we need to replace the FBI with a new bureau capable of conducting criminal investigations in a well-populated world.

     

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  7.  
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    The Mighty Buzzard (profile), Nov 1st, 2010 @ 12:03pm

    Re: EFF

    Actually, I consider Obama worse than Bush on transparency. At least when Bush was being opaque on an issue, he didn't try to tell you about how amazing the new transparency on that issue was while refusing to release any information.

     

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  8.  
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    Berenerd (profile), Nov 1st, 2010 @ 12:03pm

    Just like gun laws...

    the only people who will have security from being spied apon will be the people who the government actually want to spy on. (The only people with the guns are the ones who shouldn't have them to begin with)

     

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  9.  
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    TtfnJohn (profile), Nov 1st, 2010 @ 12:07pm

    Re: Also ....

    You are surprised????

    Exhibit #1 ACTA

    I'll leave you to fill in the rest.

    If we look at Canada is pretty much the same groups and on the let's keep it all secret end there's the RCMP and other security agents. The people they're trying to hide it from are the same or our version of them.

    And no, it doesn't matter if the government of the day is left or right of centre. Governments just love secrecy as do the bureaucrats. After all, it means not having to answer embarrassing questions.

     

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  10.  
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    Jim L, Nov 1st, 2010 @ 12:08pm

    back doors

    Insecurity aside, I wonder how this would affect open source. The back doors couldn't be hidden and then easily removed by almost anyone.

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2010 @ 12:11pm

    Re: EFF

    I got my t-shirt! I'm sorry you missed yours.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2010 @ 12:20pm

    Re: Ridiculous legislation

    All it does is kill the privacy of law abiding citizens.

    Oddly enough that's not the worst part of such legislation. The privacy issue is appalling all by itself but in actual fact such legislation will have exactly the opposite effect on security than the stated intention.
    The worst bit will be apparant when it turns out that putting a known vulnerability deliberately into things takes about a week for dozens of exploits to be readily available and the resultant security flaw now in every communication system cannot be patched due to law and so every communication is now vulnerable to a greater or lesser degree.

    I say stated intention because clearly it's not the real intention - you;d think there are 1 or 2 security proffessionals in the public sector who can point out what a hash this kind of thing is after all.

     

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  13.  
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    Free Capitalist (profile), Nov 1st, 2010 @ 12:24pm

    Re: back doors

    The back doors couldn't be hidden and then easily removed by almost anyone.

    Don't forget how easily exploited an open source backdoor might be. Doesn't matter though, a backdoor, closed or open source, will be exploited.

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2010 @ 12:28pm

    Re: Just like gun laws...

    Isn't more like: those who you want to spy on will use the unmodified encryption anyways (criminals will have illegal guns anyways). More to the point: people who want to secure themselves from spying (violence) would not have the means to protect themselves.

     

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  15.  
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    PopeHilarius (profile), Nov 1st, 2010 @ 12:33pm

    Re: Just like gun laws...

    I thought of the comparison to gun laws immediately as well. But there is a crucial difference- the irony of your statement, "the only people who will have security from being spied apon will be the people who the government actually want to spy on", depends on the assumption of who the government actually wants to spy on.

    I think something less pithy, but more accurate would be: 'The only people who will have security from being spied on will be the people who the government purports to want to spy on.' Because the people they really want to spy on is who they will be able to spy on: mostly everyone.

    I'm not a pessimist though. In a police state, this is just something the government does. But in our glorious democracy, even the NSA is reduced to badgering the intractable gridlock that is Congress for legislation that it wants. They may get their proposal passed, but it'll take years, include a rider for Ohio farm subsidies, and end up applying only to Palm Pilots and Yahoo Messenger.

     

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  16.  
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    Rich, Nov 1st, 2010 @ 12:37pm

    Re: Re: EFF

    I completely agree, and I voted for him!

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2010 @ 12:47pm

    heres an idea

    maybe instead of treating the populace as enemy combatants you treat them with respect and kindness....
    naaa lets just fuck em all....

     

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  18.  
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    Hephaestus (profile), Nov 1st, 2010 @ 1:05pm

    Re: Re: Also ....

    ACTA ... LOL I hope it does get passed into law. It will be about as workable as the drug war or prohibition. Looking at the file sharing and infringement stats from spain, south korea, and several other nations. It will make about 85% of the population criminals worthy of a jail sentence, loosing their internet connection, and-or a hefty fine.

    Speaking of this wiretapping backdoor ... one wonders if perhaps this is something hollywood has a hand in to find all file sharers. If they do its probably in some small way.

     

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  19.  
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    senshikaze (profile), Nov 1st, 2010 @ 1:11pm

    Re: back doors

    My guess is that open source repositories will all be based outside the US and it will be much like the reverse of cryptology from last decade (it was/is illegal to export encryption technologies because of some asinine 1950's law). This time they will be based out of other countries and the people running the server will turn a blind eye to americans downloading the code and binaries.

     

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  20.  
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    Jeremy7600 (profile), Nov 1st, 2010 @ 1:28pm

    Re: Too broke

    You can donate as little as $5 or $10. I did $10 a few months back, and soon I will donate $10 (or more) per month.

     

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  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2010 @ 1:29pm

    Re: Re: Re: Also ....

    the war on drugs is a license to print money.

    this is another license to print more money and make more criminals.


    You cannot rule over innocent men.

     

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  22.  
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    Eugene (profile), Nov 1st, 2010 @ 1:38pm

    Re: Re: Re: Also ....

    lol, yeah half the planet will have to be put in Internet Time Out. Entire countries-worth of people would vanish from the web. :D

     

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  23.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2010 @ 2:14pm

    Re: Re: Just like gun laws...

    More to the point: people who want to secure themselves from spying (violence) would not have the means to protect themselves.

    Yes... except it's kinda difficult to shoot yourself with your own encryption :-) Unlike guns, where as I understand it a large percentage if not the marjority of firearms injuries in the States are from the owner's own weapons, very few organisations lose access to their own security.
    Perhaps it's like allowing the sale of bullet proof vests and marketing them as bullet proof vests but making the main chest plate from drink cans rather than ballistic plate...... You think you're bullet proof - until you're dead.

     

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  24.  
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    Richard (profile), Nov 1st, 2010 @ 2:26pm

    Re: Re: Re: Just like gun laws...

    Yes... except it's kinda difficult to shoot yourself with your own encryption :-)

    Fairly easy to encrypt your data and then lose the key....

     

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  25.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2010 @ 2:28pm

    Re: Too broke

    Did you try donating a dollar?

     

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  26.  
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    crade (profile), Nov 1st, 2010 @ 3:23pm

    Re: Re: EFF

    Isn't this a political step up?
    First: Don't care about it at all,
    second: Recognize you will get votes by pretending you will do something about it,
    third: get more votes by pointing out the other guy was pretending and you actually do something about it (but screw it up),
    forth: Fix the screw up, but only back to how they started and get a bunch of flak for not fixing em better,
    fifth: Don't care about it at all

     

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  27.  
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    Jake, Nov 1st, 2010 @ 6:20pm

    Re: Re: Just like gun laws...

    The analogy falters when you consider that nearly all illegally-owned firearms have been stolen from someone who did purchase them legally. Reducing the number of opportunities for some fuckwit to stick a .45 under his pillow where someone can stroll off with it if they break in while he's not in actually makes some kind of sense. (NB: I'm not in favour of an outright ban, but if the government doesn't try and stand between firearms and people too dumb to be trusted with them then nobody else will.)

     

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  28.  
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    Jokester, Nov 1st, 2010 @ 6:39pm

    competition.

    All this would do is ensure that the world looks to non US based companies for their messaging needs.
    The next natural step for the crybabies that cant spy on you would be to outlaw 'foreign' messaging applications, and the US would lose part of a fairly large worldwide industry.

     

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  29.  
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    Anonymous, Nov 1st, 2010 @ 8:05pm

    I hope they do this, I cant wait to exploit it.

     

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  30.  
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    Chris in Utah (profile), Nov 1st, 2010 @ 9:13pm

    Re: Re: Re: Just like gun laws...

    im not in favour of an outright ban, but if the government doesn't try and stand between firearms and people too dumb to be trusted with them then nobody else will.

    It's comments like that that keep government in you business rather than out of it. Let Darwinism handle the "too dumb".

    Side note here. Open carry ANYwhere solves the pillow problem, but hey security vs freedom right?

     

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  31.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 2:01am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Just like gun laws...

    Not quite sure how this got onto gun law.... but the 2 are hardly analogous except as a tenuous metaphor. Using communication encryption and security yourself doesn't harm anyone else it's intent is defensive.
    And yes I'm sure someone is going to argue you can use encryption to encode a terrorist attack message, but that's the message not the computer encryption - you could remove the computer encryption and the message might be "The ptarmigan flies south in winter", for which semaphore is still secure.
    Please don't do the "guns don't kill people, people do" thing either. The intent of encryption is defensive -someone attacks it and it sits there like a brick wall, it's rather rare for encryption to attack you back. A firearm, is by neccessity offensive - even if you don't use it until soemone attacks you the only possible use of it is to attack him back.

    I'm not a gun control nut - I rather like the things actually, they're fun - but control of things directly dangerous to other people is exactly what government should concern themselves with (with hopefully as light a touch as possible).
    But it's a dangerous analogy to compare guns to encryption and computer security and is exactly the sort of thing governments will hang their hat on as an excuse for ludicrous controls over why "law abiding people" shouldn't need it.

    I'll leave you with a thought on guns:
    if you combine the populations of Great Britain, France, Germany, Japan, Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark, and Australia, youll get a population roughly the size of the United States. We had 32,000 gun deaths last year. They had 112. You think its because Americans are more homicidal by nature or do you think its because those guys have gun control laws?
    - Toby Zeigler, The West Wing by Aaron Sorkin

     

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  32.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 5:10am

    The govt is too incompetent and cowardly to stop real criminals that they have nothing better to do than to use this to harass perfectly civil citizens who only break arbitrary and capricious laws that hurt no one.

    It's like cops who stop people that break speed limit laws. The govt can't stop real criminals so they set arbitrarily low speed limits and go after victimless criminals in an effort to collect money and claim that they're doing something constructive. Then our mainstream media paints people who speed as really bad people that need to be stopped. There is little to no evidence that these speed limits save lives or reduce accident rates. Heck, the autobahn has no speed limits in some places and their accident and fatality rates are much lower than that of many U.S. states. When you have ridiculously slow speed limits on roads designed to go faster, what do you expect?

     

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  33.  
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    Lonzo5, Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 6:11am

    missing the point

    When Obama promised "more open government" he was referring to the misleading notion that WE are the government, and should therefore be subject to greater transparency and scrutiny.

     

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  34.  
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    Chris in Utah (profile), Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 6:39am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Just like gun laws...

    "Are we at last brought to such humiliating and debasing degradation, that we cannot be trusted with arms for our defense? Where is the difference between having our arms in possession and under our direction and having them under the management of Congress? If our defense be the real object of having those arms, in whose hands can they be trusted with more propriety, or equal safety to us, as in our own hands?"
    Patrick Henry

    "This year will go down in history. For the first time, a civilized nation has full gun registration. Our streets will be safer, our police more efficient, and the world will follow our lead into the future!"
    Adolph Hitler
    Chancellor, Germany, 1933

    Correlation =/ Causality

     

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  35.  
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    Hephaestus (profile), Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 6:51am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Also ....

    My question is ... what do you do about e-mail? or web based applications you need for work? Or if you use skype for your phone needs?

     

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  36.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 9:30am

    Don't panic. It won't happen. You think the banks will allow anyone to mess up with secure transactions? No way. Do I have to remind you they own the government? I thought so. That means SSL will still be as secure as it is today. Just use a VPN.

    Worse case scenario? Google Tor project.

     

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  37.  
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    Justin T., Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 12:52pm

    EFF!

    Thank You EFF! :)

     

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  38.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 3rd, 2010 @ 4:00am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Just like gun laws...

    Correlation =/ Causality

    Never said it was.... the gun thing was more or less peripheral to my argument that it's not a good metaphor for encryption and security, which is more of a bullet proof vest than a gun.

    Though on the other hand, was Hitler actually wrong there? I don't know the answer, but I wonder how many "accidental" gun deaths there were in that period.
    It's also true that you don't kill too many people pointing at them and shouting "BANG!", causal link? Maybe not, but I'll take my chances.

     

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  39.  
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    mhenriday (profile), Nov 3rd, 2010 @ 10:04am

    Land of the free,

    home of the brave. Of course, things are bound to improve, now that those freedom-loving Republicans (in addition to such figures as Richard Bruce Cheney and George Walker Bush, Joseph Raymond McCarthy comes to mind) have taken over control of the US House of Representatives....

    Henri

     

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  40.  
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    FreeBooteR, Dec 2nd, 2010 @ 10:16pm

    The back doors will only be for the sheep who use Apple or Microsoft tech. The free software people will just carry on their merry way, as nobody will add it in. They can try to outlaw free software, but it will just increase it's popularity.

    Confusion to the control freaks!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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