United States v. Microsoft

January 18, 2018

The Reporters Committee and 40 media organizations submitted an amici brief in support of Microsoft in a case before the U.S. Supreme Court addressing whether the government can use a search warrant to obtain data stored by Microsoft overseas. The brief urges the Court to consider how its ruling in this case could impact journalists, emphasizing that cloud-based products and email are critical to journalists and that effective newsgathering relies on the security of these tools. The brief also argues that allowing the U.S. government to use a warrant to obtain data stored anywhere in the world could embolden countries that are hostile toward the news media to demand access to electronic information belonging to journalists.

American pursues lawsuit over Ethiopian spyware, while proposal to regulate dual-use technologies needs comments by security researchers

Jenn Henrichsen | Commentary | July 15, 2015
July 15, 2015

On July 14, the Electronic Frontier Foundation urged a federal court to allow an Ethiopian-born naturalized U.S. citizen who works with journalists to proceed with his lawsuit against the Ethiopian government for allegedly infecting his computer with spyware.

The spyware relayed copies of his electronic activity – including Skype calls, Internet searches and emails – to the Ethiopian government through an intrusion and surveillance program, developed by the company Gamma Group, known as FinSpy, according to the suit.

Online attacks against media websites are increasing and costly

Jenn Henrichsen | Commentary | April 10, 2015
April 10, 2015

Wednesday’s attacks on the public service television network TV5Monde by attackers claiming allegiance to the Islamic State were unprecedented in terms of scale and visibility, with more than 11 channels as well as TV5Monde’s website and social media accounts compromised.

The attacks underscore the need for more news organizations to implement and update their digital security defenses against attackers seeking to embarrass and spread propaganda. Although it is currently unclear how the perpetrators penetrated the network, it shows just how vulnerable media networks can be to this scale of attack.

Keylogging in the newsroom

Jenn Henrichsen | Commentary | April 2, 2015
April 2, 2015

In late February, a reporter for the German daily newspaper Die Tageszeitung (Taz) was suspected of installing a device that monitored and recorded the communications of fellow employees for more than a year.

The journalist, Sebastian Heiser, is facing possible legal action for his alleged monitoring and recording of 16 fellow employee accounts with a hardware-based keylogger found on a USB device that he had plugged in to a newsroom computer.

Heiser reportedly said upon his removal from the newsroom that he was unaware that the USB device had a keylogger program, but he has not responded to interview requests from media organizations to explain further.

So what exactly is a keylogger and should newsrooms be worried?

Tech companies' announcement of new encryption policies prompts pushback from law enforcement

Hannah Bloch-Wehba | Newsgathering | Commentary | October 21, 2014
October 21, 2014

Last month, Google and Apple both announced that their next mobile operating systems would encrypt user data by default. Both Google and Apple also noted that the new forms of encryption would make it impossible for the companies to "unlock" encrypted phones, including in order to comply with lawful search warrants. These announcements have prompted officials to express concern about the risk that encryption will interfere with government's ability to investigate crime.

10th Circuit reverses dismissal of 'Dateline' defamation case

Bradleigh Chance | Libel | News | July 14, 2014
July 14, 2014

Last week the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals determined that while NBCUniversal reporters did not violate anyone’s Fourth Amendment rights creating the 2008 Dateline segment titled “Tricks of the Trade,” a lower court will have to review the originally dismissed defamation claims made by an insurance broker featured in the piece.

Tyrone M. Clark and his company, Brokers’ Choice of America, initially sued NBC over video clips recorded with a hidden camera by Dateline crew members during an insurance brokers’ seminar in Colorado located on BCA property.

The reporters worked with Alabama law enforcement to gain access to the event since it was only open to licensed insurance agents, which Clark and BCA claimed to be a Fourth Amendment violation of the company’s right against unreasonable searches and seizures.

European court rules Google must remove links at user's request

Cindy Gierhart | Prior Restraints | News | May 13, 2014
May 13, 2014

The Court of Justice of the European Union ruled today that Google and other search engines must remove certain links if users complain – even if the information is true and lawfully posted. The ruling is grounded in what is known as an individual’s “right to be forgotten.”

While the ruling will likely have no direct effect on Internet searches within the United States, its implications will be felt around the world.

Tech companies call on government to end bulk data collection and reform other surveillance policies

Jamie Schuman | Secret Courts | News | December 9, 2013
December 9, 2013

Eight leading technology companies called on the U.S. government Monday to end bulk data collection of Internet communications and to lead a worldwide effort to implement other reforms to surveillance policies.

The groups – AOL, Apple, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Twitter and Yahoo – detailed five proposed reforms on a website and in a letter to President Obama and the U.S. Congress. They want courts that review surveillance policies to use a clear legal framework, have adversarial proceedings and publicize big decisions. They also are asking that governments limit their authority to collect data to specific, known users; allow companies to publish the number and nature of demands for records; respect the free flow of information across borders; and work to avoid conflicts amongst nations in policies that govern data requests.

Ninth Circuit to live stream oral arguments

Latara Appleby | Secret Courts | News | December 4, 2013
December 4, 2013

The U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco (9th Cir.) will begin live streaming proceedings on Monday. It will be the first federal court of appeals to do so, according to the Los Angeles Times.

All en banc rulings, which consist of the chief judge and 10 jurists, will be streamed. The first case it will show deals with whether or not law enforcement can collect DNA when they arrest someone.

The 9th Circuit is one of only two federal appellate courts that allow news media cameras in the courtroom. It consists of nine western states and two Pacific island jurisdictions.

Federal judge orders unsealing of documents in ongoing Apple-Samsung patent litigation

Raymond Baldino | Secret Courts | News | July 20, 2012
July 20, 2012

A California federal court has ordered documents in a legal battle over smart phones and tablets unsealed -- a departure from the marked increase in the number of civil cases completely or partially sealed in courts nationwide.