Friday, May 22, 2020

"EFF's Guide to Digital Rights During the Pandemic" (Cindy Cohn), downloadable e-book

Electronic Frontier Foundation offers an e-book, “EFF’sGuide to Digital Rights During the Pandemic”, edited by Cindy Cohn.

The book (130 pages) may be downloaded free as a PDF, or into mobile or Kindle apps.

A donation is requested.  I did $65 and will get a T-shirt, too.

The book comprises five sections:  Surveillance, Free Speech, Government Transparency, Innovation, and Living More Online.

 The Surveillance section explains the difference between convention cell phone location tracing, and Bluetooth Low Energy Proximity Tracing, which is thought to be more reliable and is in development by Google and Apple.

It also discusses the risks of aggregate location data.

One problem is that people are not told in advance of the exact consequences of being identified in a contact tracing event, and as to what restrictions will be placed on them and what considerations (if any) are offered for their involuntary economic or job loss.

There are other ideas on the table for more compulsory monitoring, such as facial recognition (as China uses it) to amplify contact tracing, and even mandatory devices like wrist oximeters.  The sci-fi author in me wonders about Holter monitors as next (just kidding).

I would also add that in many cases manual contract tracers being added are working with their own home computers and connections, which sounds like a big security exposure.

The Free Speech section hammers, especially, the attempt by platforms, especially YouTube and Facebook, to stop “misinformation” out of fear that the platforms will cause people not to comply with stay-at-home orders.  Youtube, for example, has threatened to take down content that contradicts the World Health Organization which, as we found out, was wrong on many details and some newer independent channels (like Peak Prosperity) were actually more accurate.   Independent news sources tend to keep “the establishment” in check and perform important review and watchdog functions (as we found in early 2019 from the Covington Kids incident.)

The government surveillance section is more self-explanatory. I would add that many people have trouble grasping the abstract moral reasoning of why they should wear masks and stay home if they feel well, especially when guidance (especially on masks) was changed so abruptly right around the first of April.

On Innovation, the book advocates open access (looking back to Aaron Schwartz and some of the Ted Talks of Jack Andraka).  But also notes there are patent and trademark issues in the medical innovation community, with therapeutics and tests. Already law firms are writing papers (like in National Law Review, Trademark Blog, April 9, 2020) about this problem.

The “Living More Online” section discusses the lack of efficient broadband in poor or rural communities necessary for learning online.  It’s also important to consider whether the doing of everything online will strain networks and whether tech itself can keep up in a work from home environment.  The booklet mentions Telehealth possibilities “outside of HIPAA”.


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