EFF sues to uncover US government demands to decrypt communications

The group says the USA Freedom Act compels the DOJ to publish significant decisions of the secret FISC court

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is suing the U.S. Department of Justice over its failure to disclose if Internet companies have been compelled to decrypt user data and communications.

The EFF action targets applications to and decisions by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), a Washington, D.C., based court that meets in secret to consider cases related to government surveillance and national security.

The court's decisions are classified, and Internet companies are prohibited from disclosing any details about warrants received as a result of arguments in front of the court.

The result is that little is known about the extent of the court's activities. In October, the EFF filed a freedom-of-information request seeking more information but, according to its lawsuit, the DOJ said it couldn't find any documents relating to the issue.

The EFF filed a second freedom-of-information request in March this year seeking significant decisions or opinions issued by the FISC, but the group says it so far hasn't received a satisfactory response. Those opinions must be declassified as part of surveillance reforms enacted in last year's USA Freedom Act, the EFF argues.

The lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in San Francisco, also argues the DOJ must disclose "if the government has ever sought or obtained an order from the FISC requiring third parties to provide technical assistance to carry out surveillance."

Widespread user concern about the reach of domestic Internet surveillance by U.S. intelligence agencies has led major Internet companies to begin publishing "transparency reports" that detail in broad terms the number of times they have been ordered to turn over data to law enforcement agencies.

Many have also included a so-called "warrant canary" stating the company has never received a warrant from the national security court. When the language is removed from the report, it can be assumed the company has received at least one such warrant.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Martyn Williams

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?