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The FBI’s “Black Identity Extremists” Report and the Surveillance Reform Debate

FISA Section 702 is nearing its expiration, and Congress should reform the law to protect Americans from warrantless surveillance. While the push to reform this law has emphasized the danger this poses to the rights of all Americans, FBI access to 702 data poses particular risk to journalists, immigrant communities, human rights activists, and civil rights activists who likely communicate frequently with foreigners. A recent FBI report on “Black Identity Extremists” (BIEs) suggests that black civil rights activists will be targeted for surveillance, which will include the FBI leveraging its access to Section 702 data.

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Cloudflare Steps Up To Help Protect Elections with Project Athenian

It’s no exaggeration to say the US election ecosystem faces a number of challenges in the wake of the 2016 election cycle. We learned of new threats from disinformation campaigns, to attacks on state voter registration websites, to direct attacks on election officials themselves. While the philanthropic sector has been very active from grants to organizations to funding deep academic analysis of threats to the election system, the private sector has been slower to recognize the important role they can play to help better protect US elections. That is changing, particularly with the launch of Cloudflare’s Athenian Project, which will provide free-of-charge protection and content distribution for official election websites.

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Goodlatte’s Online Trafficking Bill Makes Key Improvements, But Risks to Free Speech Persist

The House Judiciary Committee will hold a markup on HR 1865, the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA). The Committee will consider an amendment to the original FOSTA in the form of a substitute bill offered by Chairman Goodlatte. This bill includes a number of improvements over both the original House bill and the SESTA bill in the Senate, and we appreciate the Committee’s diligent efforts to craft a more tailored legislative approach. But CDT remains concerned that increasing the risk of criminal charges and civil claims against website operators and other online intermediaries will result in overbroad censorship of constitutionally protected speech.  

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Tech Talk: Call Congress About Net Neutrality and Section 702

CDT’s Tech Talk is a podcast where we dish on tech and Internet policy, while also explaining what these policies mean to our daily lives. In this episode, we talk about two core CDT policy issues – preserving net neutrality and limiting government surveillance. Both are facing major challenges in the United States and we hear from CDT’s leads on each about the path ahead.

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Location Data: The More They Know

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Carpenter v. United States on November 29th. Carpenter centers on whether law enforcement needs a warrant to access 127 days of historic cell-site location information (CSLI). The case is important because of the great quantity of demands for location information now being made by law enforcement, because the location information that is sought is very revealing, and because law enforcement often obtains such data without obtaining a warrant, which increases the likelihood that sensitive location information about innocent people is collected. CDT argued strenuously that the Supreme Court should require law enforcement to get a warrant before accessing CSLI in its amicus brief in Carpenter v. United States. We hope the Supreme Court will agree.

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Civil Liberties Parliamentary Committee Opposes Mandatory Censorship Filter

On 20 November, the Civil Liberties (LIBE) Committee of the European Parliament adopted its Opinion on the DSM, focusing specifically on the upload filtering provision in Article 13, and recommending that the provision be narrowed to remove content monitoring obligations. As drafted, Article 13 would force internet intermediaries to use content identification technology to prevent users from uploading unlicensed copyrighted content.

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Automated “Extreme Vetting” Won’t Work and Will Be Discriminatory

Today, CDT joined 55 civil society groups, as well as leading computer and data science experts, to oppose the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) automated extreme vetting initiative. Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) plans to use automated technology and social media data to decide who gets deported or denied entry to the United States. This initiative is not only discriminatory but also technically infeasible.

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Security Research and the DMCA: The Copyright Office streamlines the exemption process

In late October, the Copyright Office announced that it plans to make it easier for people to fully use their lawfully purchased items, choose which mechanics work on their cars, and improve the security of software-enabled devices. Under current law, Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), it’s illegal to circumvent the technological protection measures (TPMs) that limit the use, modification, and repair of software. TPMs are ubiquitous; they’re in everything from smartphones to cars and coffee makers, acting as digital locks on the computer code within. And bypassing these locks can trigger criminal penalties, even with a good, non-infringing reason. However, the law also includes a process by which the Librarian of Congress and the Copyright Office can issue exemptions to this flat ban on circumvention. The triennial exemptions allow the bypassing of TPMs for certain non-infringing purposes, but these exemptions are only valid for three years.

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