From John Oliver quizzing Edward Snowden on whether the NSA is collecting our "dick pics" to EFF’s legal team obliterating the patent that was used to go after podcaster Adam Carolla, digital rights issues have been in the public spotlight this year. For the most part, 2015 found us winning hard-fought battles to advance our freedoms online.
We had an important, if substantively small victory with the passage of the USA Freedom Act, an imperfect bill that was nonetheless the first significant reform on NSA surveillance in more than 30 years. The bill was the culmination of more than two years of work in the wake of the Snowden revelations. We also saw Internet users joining forces to advocate for real net neutrality, and the FCC finally adopted rules that brought us closer to the open Internet that a real democracy demands. In California, CalECPA—which Wired dubbed the "nation’s best digital privacy law"—was signed into law, after years of efforts by the EFF community. We also busted the podcasting patent, and saw more strides toward software patent reform.
We will also remember 2015 as a turning point in our efforts to encrypt the entire Web, as EFF and our partners rolled out our most ambitious technological project to date: Let’s Encrypt. Let’s Encrypt is designed to put HTTPS in the hands of the people, creating a pathway for website administrators to obtain certificates and enable encryption painlessly and at no cost.
But it’s not all roses and sunshine.
For all our achievements in the past 12 months, we will also remember this as a year of struggle. Liberty suffered a terrible blow in the eleventh hour, when Congress added a privacy-undermining cybersecurity bill (CISA) to the budget package. Congress passed a Fast Track bill, which could make it more difficult for us to defeat the Trans Pacific Partnership when it comes for a vote.
We’re fighting a heated battle with certain members of the intelligence community who want to exploit tragedies in order to push their agenda of undermining encryption. EFF is gathering privacy advocates, cryptography experts, and everyday Internet users who care about the Web to speak out in defense of secure technology we can rely on.
2016 brings opportunity. With the sunset of a key provision of the FISA Amendments Act looming in 2017, this is a year we can force our elected officials in Congress to bring more transparency leading to a bill that will end mass surveillance of the Internet. This is also a year when we are ready to push forward significant reform of software patents, and when we’ve got one last opportunity to stop the Trans Pacific Partnership before it ratchets up intellectual property enforcement worldwide.
It’s not going to be easy. As technology adoption has increased, so too have efforts to use tech for censorship and surveillance. But the movement of politically aware technology users is growing exponentially, fueled by the work of investigative journalists, civic-minded software developers, grassroots activists, and many others. Together, we’re building the movement that will dismantle the surveillance state and ensure that the technology of tomorrow is trustworthy and accountable to users.
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Below you can find a series of articles revisiting watershed moments in 2015. Check back soon; we’ll keep adding more articles till the New Year. You also can follow our series by subscribing to EFF on Twitter, Facebook, or Google Plus.