EFF Press Releases

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Updated: 4 days 21 hours ago

EFF and Mozilla to Venmo: Clean Up Your Privacy Settings

Wed, 08/28/2019 - 11:39

San Francisco – The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and Mozilla have teamed up in an open letter to Venmo, telling the popular payment app to clean up its privacy settings, which leaves sensitive financial data exposed to the public.

Venmo is marketed as a way for friends to send and receive money, so people can easily split bills like restaurant checks or concert tickets. However, those transactions are public by default, which can reveal private details about who you spend time with and what you do with them. While users do have an option to hide their transactions if they dig into Venmo’s privacy settings, there is no way for users to hide their friend lists. That means that anyone can uncover who you pay regularly, creating a public record of your personal and professional community.

“Your bank doesn’t put details of your financial transactions into a public timeline, and Venmo shouldn’t either without your affirmative consent,” said EFF Associate Director of Research Gennie Gebhart. “Venmo is expanding, and becoming increasingly popular. As it grows, it should give its users the privacy they expect and deserve.”

EFF and Mozilla have both been concerned over Venmo’s policies for many months. EFF included Venmo in its Fix It Already campaign, which focuses on well-known problems and weaknesses in technology that, if fixed, could make a huge difference in people’s lives. And it was a Mozilla Fellow, researcher Hang Do Thi Duc, who demonstrated how public Venmo transactions laid bare users’ drug habits, fights with romantic partners, and more.

“Hang Do Thi Duc’s discoveries came as a shock to many Venmo users, proving that people do not expect the kind of public sharing that Venmo foists on them,” said EFF Tech Projects Director Jeremy Gillula. “It’s time for Venmo to show its commitment to its customers and make pro-privacy changes.”

For the full open letter:

Contact: Jeremy Gillula
Categories: Privacy

EFF Sues DHS To Uncover Information About Border Agents Using GPS Devices Without a Warrant To Track Vehicles

Tue, 08/27/2019 - 13:47

Washington, D.C.—The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) sued the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its component agencies today to obtain information about the agencies’ warrantless use of global positioning system (GPS) devices to track vehicles entering the U.S.

In 2012, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled in a landmark decision in U.S. v. Jones that such warrantless GPS tracking inside the U.S. is unconstitutional under the Fourth Amendment. When Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) disclosed in court filings in 2018 that they used GPS devices without a warrant at the border, the federal judge overseeing the case extended the Supreme Court’s ban to include such searches at the border. EFF’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit seeks to uncover information and provide the public with details about the agencies’ policies and procedures for warrantless GPS tracking.

In United States v. Ignjatov, a criminal case in California, the court found that the practice of allowing agents to use GPS devices without a warrant rose to the level of government misconduct because it clearly violated the Supreme Court’s 2012 decision. There, government agents in Port Huron, Michigan, placed GPS devices on a truck without a warrant, tracked it for nearly two days, and arrested the drivers in California­—thousands of miles from the border where they entered. The government provided evidence that both ICE and CBP had policies allowing agents to use GPS devices without a warrant, and also submitted a declaration from an ICE official who stated the agency believed the policy was consistent with the Jones decision.

“Once again, ICE and CBP prove themselves to be rogue agencies by conducting searches that violate the Fourth Amendment and ignore Supreme Court precedent,” said EFF Staff Attorney Saira Hussain. “Let’s be clear: the Constitution still applies at the border.

“The public deserves to know when these searches began, if they are still allowed, and how they work. Our lawsuit seeks to uncover this information and shine a light on this outrageous practice,” said Hussain.

In a separate case against U.S. immigration agencies over warrantless searches of travelers’ electronic devices at the border, EFF obtained documents and deposition testimony earlier this year revealing that CBP and ICE policies authorizing device searches were unconstitutionally broad and allowed government agencies to use the pretext of the border to make an end-run around the First and Fourth Amendments. EFF has asked a court to skip a trial and rule in favor of the 11 travelers who are plaintiffs.

For the FOIA complaint:

For more on border searches:

Contact: Saira Hussain
Categories: Privacy

Trailblazing Tech Scholar danah boyd, Groundbreaking Cyberpunk Author William Gibson, and Influential Surveillance Fighters Oakland Privacy Win EFF’s Pioneer Awards

Thu, 08/15/2019 - 17:18

San Francisco – The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is honored to announce the winners of its 2019 Pioneer Awards: trailblazing tech scholar danah boyd, groundbreaking cyberpunk author William Gibson, and the influential surveillance-fighting group Oakland Privacy. The ceremony will be held September 12th in San Francisco.

The keynote speaker for this year’s awards will be “Savage Builds” and Tested.com star—and all-around advocate for makers—Adam Savage. Tickets for the Pioneer Awards are $65 for current EFF members, or $75 for non-members.

danah boyd has consistently been one of the world’s smartest researchers, thinkers, and writers about how technology impacts society, especially for teens and young people. Currently, boyd is focused on detecting and mitigating vulnerabilities in sociotechnical systems. To better understand these vulnerabilities, boyd has been examining the challenges surrounding the 2020 U.S. CensusIn 2013, boyd created Data & Society, an independent nonprofit research institute that is committed to identifying thorny problems at the intersection of technology, culture, and community, and advances understanding of the implications of data technologies and automation. danah’s most recent books—“It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens” and “Participatory Culture in a Networked Age”—examine the intersection of everyday life and social media, and have helped families around the world navigate technologies like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram. In addition to her work as a partner researcher at Data & Society, boyd is also Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research and a Visiting Professor at New York University.

William Gibson coined the term “cyberspace.” Neuromancer, his first novel, won the Hugo Award, the Nebula Award, and the Philip K. Dick Award in 1984, and is a groundbreaking portrayal of an unforgiving high-tech future with heroes that are thoroughly flawed human beings who nonetheless resist corporate power by seizing the means of computation. His work presents an incisive look at how technology shapes identity, with sharp, prescient depictions of everything from reality TV to wearable computers. Gibson's canon includes such New York Times bestsellers as the Sprawl trilogy, the Bridge trilogy, the Blue Ant trilogy, and The Peripheral. Gibson’s newest novel, Agency, will be published in January of 2020.

Oakland Privacy is the group behind many influential anti-surveillance fights in Oakland, California and beyond. Oakland Privacy was born in 2013 when activists discovered a Homeland Security project called the Domain Awareness Center (DAC). DAC was meant to be an Oakland-wide surveillance gauntlet—with cameras, microphones, license plate readers—and a local data center to put it all together. But after Oakland Privacy led a ten-month campaign of opposition, the DAC was finally cancelled. Later, Oakland Privacy was one of the primary organizations behind the Oakland City Council’s creation of the first municipal privacy commission in the country, and then continued to be instrumental in bolstering opposition to surveillance around the San Francisco Bay Area and across the United States. For example, Oakland Privacy helped develop a comprehensive surveillance transparency regulatory law mandating use policies, civil rights impact reports, and annual audits, and pushed for its passage in multiple jurisdictions. The model is now in use in three Bay Area cities and other jurisdictions like Seattle, Nashville, and Cambridge, Massachusetts. Most recently, Oakland Privacy successfully worked to ban facial recognition in San Francisco and Oakland—two of the three cities in the country to enact such a ban.

The Pioneer Award winners will be awarded a “Barlow,” a statuette named after EFF’s late co-founder John Perry Barlow and the indelible mark he left on digital rights.

“John Perry Barlow knew that you had to visualize the future of technology—both the promise and the perils—in order to create the world we want. All of our winners this year have done just that,” said EFF Executive Director Cindy Cohn. “I’m so proud to be honoring these bold thinkers and brave activists.”

Awarded every year since 1992, EFF’s Pioneer Awards recognize the leaders who are extending freedom and innovation on the electronic frontier. Previous honorees have included Vint Cerf, Mitchell Baker and the Mozilla Foundation, Aaron Swartz, and Chelsea Manning.

Sponsors of the 2019 Pioneer Awards include Dropbox, O'Reilly Media, Matthew Prince, Medium, Ridder, Costa & Johnstone LLP, and Ron Reed.

For tickets and event details:

For more on the Pioneer Awards:

Contact: Press Contact: Rebecca Jeschke
Categories: Privacy