Cindy Cohn is the Executive Director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. From 2000-2015 she served as EFF’s Legal Director as well as its General Counsel. Ms. Cohn first became involved with EFF in 1993, when EFF asked her to serve as the outside lead attorney in Bernstein v. Dept. of Justice, the successful First Amendment challenge to the U.S. export restrictions on cryptography.
The National Law Journal named Ms. Cohn one of 100 most influential lawyers in America in 2013, noting: "[I]f Big Brother is watching, he better look out for Cindy Cohn." She was also named in 2006 for "rushing to the barricades wherever freedom and civil liberties are at stake online." In 2007 the National Law Journal named her one of the 50 most influential women lawyers in America. In 2010 the Intellectual Property Section of the State Bar of California awarded her its Intellectual Property Vanguard Award and in 2012 the Northern California Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists awarded her the James Madison Freedom of Information Award.
Issues that Ms. Cohn currently handles
NSA Spying: Ms Cohn serves as counsel in Jewel v. NSA, and First Unitarian Church v. NSA, each seeking to stop the ongoing dragnet warrantless surveillance of millions of ordinary Americans. Ms. Cohn also served as coordinating counsel for over forty national class action lawsuits against the telecommunications carriers and the government seeking to stop the warrantless surveillance. EFF filed the first such case, Hepting v. AT&T, in 2006 against telecom giant AT&T for violating its customers' privacy.
In re National Security Letter: EFF represents service providers who have brought challenges the National Security Letter statute, which was dramatically expanded as part of the USA Patriot Act, including placing broad and permanent gag orders on providers. EFF previously represented the Internet Archive in a similar challenge in 2007, which was ended after the government withdrew the request and lifted the gag order.
CFAA Reform: Ms. Cohn works to reform the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act in light of the tragic death of Internet activist Aaron Swartz.
Surveillance technologies internationally: Ms. Cohn has worked to free up communications and other human-rights supportive technologies from U.S. government export control and to draw attention to the problems caused by the sale of U.S. surveillance technologies to repressive regimes around the world.
Ms. Cohn is a graduate of the University of Michigan Law School. She did her undergraduate studies at the University of Iowa and the London School of Economics. For 10 years prior to joining the EFF, she was a civil litigator in private practice handling technology- related cases. Before starting private practice, she worked for a year at the United Nations Centre for Human Rights in Geneva, Switzerland. Ms. Cohn also served as counsel to the plaintiffs in Bowoto v. Chevron, two lawsuits in San Francisco arising from Chevron's involvement in human rights abuses against environmental protesters in Nigeria. She also serves on the Board of Directors of the nonprofit the VerifiedVoting.org and the Verified Voting Foundation.
California Reader Privacy Act: Ms. Cohn and EFF co-sponsored this law, passed in 2011, that requires a court order for law enforcement to access reading records held by booksellers selling to California residents.
Google Book Search and Privacy: Ms. Cohn represented a coalition of authors and publishers—including best-sellers Michael Chabon, Jonathan Lethem, and technical author Bruce Schneier—in urging a federal judge to reject the proposed settlement in a lawsuit over Google Book Search, arguing that the sweeping agreement to digitize millions of books ignores critical privacy rights for readers and writers.
Electronic Voting: Ms. Cohn Coordinated national litigation strategy for electronic voting machines and assisted technologists and others who are concerned about the security and accountability of those. EFF's projects included assisting grassroots activists nationwide in considering and bringing legal challenges to insecure voting machines,filing amicus briefs in support of activists nationwide, including in litigation in Maryland, California, Texas, Ohio and New Jersey, assisting members of IEEE working groups, advising those engaged in the political and legal discussions on those issues, advising technologists who wished to do research in this area.
Anonymity or John Doe cases: Ms. Cohn has represented anonymous speakers in a variety of cases, including bringing In Re 2TheMart.com, which helped established core legal standards for protecting the identity of online speakers sought by civil subpoena.
Misuse of Copyright Infringement notices (DMCA 512(f)): Ms. Cohn argued the OPG v. Diebold case where e-voting machine manufacturer Diebold was held liable for sending out unfounded cease and desist notices to ISPs in an effort to stop public discussion of the flaws in its electronic voting machines evidenced in a published internal e-mail archive.
Sony BMG DRM case: Represented a national class action in suing Sony BMG for placing dangerous DRM on customers' computers, as well as raising claims about Sony BMG's overreaching EULA (end user license agreement).
Deeplinks Posts by Cindy
- Wikileaks today released documents that appear to describe software tools used by the CIA to break into the devices that we all use at home and work. While we are still reviewing the material, we have not seen any indications that the encryption of popular privacy apps such as Signal...
- Author Malcolm Gladwell recently name-checked the EFF in an article published in The New Yorker. Mr. Gladwell’s piece examines what he sees as the differences between whistle-blowers Edward Snowden and Daniel Ellsberg, and concludes that Snowden doesn’t deserve the respect (or apparently the...
- Many have contacted us with concerns about yesterday’s election results. At this critical moment, we want digital civil liberties supporters worldwide to feel confident that EFF remains steadfast in its mission and method: to use law and technology to champion civil liberties and provide a potent check against overreach. EFF...
- The Obama administration promised privacy protections for foreigners abroad, but PPD-28 fails to deliver those protections In early 2014, still reeling from global outrage over recently uncovered surveillance programs, President Barack Obama pledged to rein in the U.S. government’s spying and boost privacy protections for people in the U.S. and...
- We all know that the NSA uses word games to hide and downplay its activities. Words like "collect," "conversations," "communications," and even "surveillance" have suffered tortured definitions that create confusion rather than clarity. There’s another one to watch: "targeted" v. "mass" surveillance. Since 2008, the NSA has seized...
- Michael Ratner, a friend of EFF who dedicated his life as a human rights attorney to fighting for justice, passed away earlier today. Michael was a staunch defender of civil liberties, forging new pathways for using the court systems and advocacy to fight for justice. As the president emeritus of...