Search & Research: EFF

The Electronic Frontier Foundation

The red and black logo of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, whose motto is, "Defending Your Rights in the Digital World"

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is a nonprofit, public interest law firm that has been working for people’s online rights and civil liberties since 1990. Primarily, they focus on privacy, the freedom of speech, expression, and association, and consumer rights to intellectual property (such as fair use). According to EFF, they “work to ensure that rights and freedoms are enhanced and protected as our use of technology grows.” To accomplish their work, EFF analyzes policies, promotes grassroots activism and technology development, and pursues “impact litigation.”

6 icons that represent the 6 major areas in which the EFF works
EFF advocates for free speech, fair use, the rights of innovators, individual privacy, protection of digital freedoms internationally, and government transparency.

Major EFF Initiatives

This article provides a succinct overview of the EFF’s major initiatives.

  1. Transparency Project. EFF’s transparency project seeks to ensure that the government doesn’t overstep its bounds, and that civil liberties of citizens are protected. In a post-9/11 world, government surveillance is increasingly a concern. EFF lawyers use the Freedom of Information Act to request relevant information and keep the government accountable.
  2. Litigation for Equal Rights/Fairer Laws. EFF frequently uses litigation to push back against legislation that violate digital freedoms. This link shows all of EFF court cases.
  3. Technology Research and Development. EFF is working to develop technological projects that protect freedom and privacy online, like HTTPS Everywhere, MyTube, and Switzerland.
  4. Codifying Digital Free Speech. EFF seeks to protect the free speech of bloggers and coders and prevent censorship. According to EFF, when you go online, your freedoms should come along with you. That becomes particularly important when talking about online free speech, expression, and association.
  5. Protecting Privacy. New technology makes invasion of privacy even easier than it was in the past. EFF works to protect digital privacy, including litigation against NSA spying, protection of medical privacy, and transparency in drone surveillance (among many other projects).
  6. Open Wireless Movement. EFF and a coalition of other organizations have launched the Open Wireless Movement and are “working on new technologies and best practices that will allow individuals, businesses, and community organizations to open up their wireless networks—while not sacrificing privacy, security, and quality.”

This is just a snapshot of the work that EFF does. Go here and click through the icons at the top, and you’ll get a better idea of the depth and breadth of the EFF’s work in protecting digital freedom. EFF’s work is all about how citizens interact with the digital world, which makes the connections to this class (digital citizenship) fairly evident. EFF addresses fair use and intellectual property (which we discussed extensively as part of Collection 3), as well as things like internet privacy, which also seems to be a recurring theme/point of discussion throughout the class to this point. EFF invites participation and depends on membership/donations, so if you believe in EFF’s mission and activities, EFF gives you an opportunity to practically exercise digital citizenship.

For more research…

  • This article from The Guardian, posted on July 21, 2016, explores one of the EFF’s contemporary court cases. The EFF recently filed a lawsuit against the US government, claiming that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act is unconstitutional. Particularly, EFF is arguing that rule 1201, which relates to Digital Rights Management, is unlawful. (Digital rights management makes it illegal to break a access control on copyrighted material). The lawsuit could take years to be decided, but a decision in EFF’s favor would be a significant change in copyright and intellectual property law.
  • In this 2011 podcast, Mari Frank, attorney and privacy consultant, interviews Lee Tien. Lee Tien is a Senior Staff Attorney for the EFF, specializing in the Freedom of Information Act and internet privacy. In this podcast, Tien discusses EFF’s work in protecting privacy online, and discusses the flow of personal information from business to government.
  • This blog post provides a succinct overview of the EFF’s mission, and identifies 7 of the “top” initiatives/programs undertaken by EFF. Because EFF’s work is so extensive, this post is useful because it simply highlights a few of the EFF’s most interesting projects.
  • In this video clip, Stephen Colbert interviews Cindy Cohn, who is now the Executive Director of EFF. Previously, she served as EFF’s Legal Director and General Counsel. In 2013, Cohn was named one of the 100 most influential lawyers in America. Despite Colbert’s shenanigans, Cohn manages to discuss a few off EFF’s key issues in the interview, such as net neutrality, fair use, and freedom of speech online.
  • This article in the Washington Post describes the immediate impact of the Snowden on EFF’s work, and the relationship between EFF and Washington. The article explains: “Having started as a public interest law firm and dabbled in lobbying, EFF in San Francisco evolved into something more like a civil liberties think tank that happened to employ teams of crack technologists and grass-roots political activists.” It outlines the culture, mission, and values of EFF, and describes some of its primary techniques EFF uses to accomplish its goals (such as impact litigation).

One thought on “Search & Research: EFF

  1. Chris Lott says:

    What are your subjective thoughts about the EFF and its work? Given how politicized WikiLeaks has become and how so many organizations fall into these kinds of traps who are (or ostensibly start out as) apolitical in the sense of allegiance to the 2-4 major US political parties…has EFF stayed the course?

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