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Knowing “what the government is up to” is often the first step in ensuring that the government respects the civil liberties of its citizens. Transparency is especially important given the government’s increasingly secretive use of new technologies for law enforcement and national security purposes. From cell phone location tracking, the use of surveillance drones, secret interpretations of electronic surveillance law, and the expanding use of biometrics, EFF wants to hold the government accountable and uphold your digital rights.

To that aim, EFF’s transparency work is dedicated to using federal and state freedom of information laws, the courtroom, and our megaphone to shine light on government activities. 

One of the major tools we use is the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), a federal law that gives people the right to request information kept by federal government agencies. Our team of FOIA lawyers also submit requests on a variety of digital civil liberties issues and often take cases to court when we believe the government is unduly withholding information. But anyone can make a request under FOIA, and you can go here to learn how you can submit your own.

While emerging technologies give the government new tools that threaten citizen civil liberties, technology also has the potential to create a more democratic relationship between public institutions and the citizens they serve. Today, a broad range of new tools are allowing the public to more closely examine government and corporate entities and to hold them accountable for deception, censorship, and corruption. In addition to using freedom of information laws to shed light on government actions, EFF also wants to highlight technologies that help the transparency process —whether it’s making it easier to file and track FOIA requests, websites dedicated to whistleblowing, or open government initiatives that can improve access to information.

Transparency Highlights

FISC Orders on Illegal Government Surveillance

EFF has sued the Department of Justice (DOJ), demanding answers about illegal email and telephone call surveillance at the National Security Agency (NSA). The FISA Amendments Act (FAA) of 2008 gave the NSA expansive power to spy on Americans’ international email and telephone calls. However, last month, a government lawyer...
FOILIES

The Foilies 2018

Recognizing the Year’s Worst in Government Transparency Government transparency laws like the Freedom of Information Act exist to enforce the public’s right to inspect records so we can all figure out what the heck is being done in our name and with our tax dollars. But when a public agency...

Transparency Updates

Government Must Come Clean About Exports of American-Made Spying Tools

Stanford, California—On Wednesday, October 21, at 12:45 pm, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) will urge a federal appeals court to order the U.S. government to disclose information about its role in facilitating exports of American-made surveillance tools to foreign nations. The hearing is part of a Freedom of Information Act...
Transparency

EFF v. U.S. Department of Commerce

EFF filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) in 2012 seeking export license applications for "surreptitious listening equipment" submitted since 2006. This category of regulated technology is used primarily for wiretapping and EFF filed the lawsuit after the DOC released just two...
Security

Former Church Committee Staffers Tell Congress To Reassert Authority As 40th Anniversary of Church Committee Comes to Close

In light of this year's 40th anniversary of the Church Committee—legendary for exposing illegal mass domestic government surveillance during the 1960s and 1970s—the Wayne State University School of Law brought former Church Committee members together in Washington, D.C. to discuss how Congress can effectively oversee classified programs. The...

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