The Trump presidency starts Friday. Here is the Electronic Frontier Foundation's agenda.
In a matter of days, the United States will enter a new era.
On Friday, President Elect Donald J. Trump will swear the oath of office, pledging to uphold the Constitution. But as EFF has learned in the course of defending our fundamental rights over four American presidencies, our civil liberties need an independent defense force. Free speech and the rights to privacy, transparency, and innovation won’t survive on their own—we’re here to ensure that government is held accountable and in check.
Technological progress does not wait for politicians to catch up, and new tools can quickly be misused by aggressive governments. The next four years will be characterized by rapid developments in the fields of artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles, virtual and augmented reality, connected homes, and smart cities. We welcome innovation, but we also expect to see an explosion of surveillance technologies designed to take advantage of our connected world to spy on all of us and our devices, all the time. That data will be used not only to target individuals but to project and manipulate social behavior. What will our digital rights look like during these uncertain and evolving times? Will our current rights remain intact when the baton is passed on once again?
Make no mistake: privacy, liberty, and accountability are not partisan issues.
We’ve seen digital rights come under threat no matter which party controls the Oval Office. In 1995, we sued President Bill Clinton’s Department of Justice to overturn unconstitutional export restrictions on encryption. We sued President George W. Bush over illegal domestic surveillance. We sued the Obama administration for mass surveillance of digital communications. And we expect to file new lawsuits in the next four years. Now, more than ever, we will fiercely resist any legislation, policy, regulation, ruling, or prosecution that would impinge on our civil liberties.
The first 100 days will set the tone for the rest of Mr. Trump’s time in office. The transition team has laid out what they hope to accomplish over this period. Some of the things he and his team said have us preparing for the worst. Based on statements about surveillance, net neutrality, and press freedom, we anticipate attempts to undercut many of the hard-won protections for technology users and thwart efforts to reform broken laws.
But priorities tend to change, sometimes rather quickly. As Mr. Trump’s appointees assume control of every federal agency, and as Congress settles on its balance of power, the new government’s agenda will crystalize.
Today, EFF lays out how we will fight for your rights over those first 100 Days.
1. We will continue to defend digital rights in court.
If the Trump administration seeks to undermine the constitutional rights of technology users, our litigation team stands ready to go to court. We’ve fought wrongful surveillance and censorship orders for 26 years, and our decades of experience make us uniquely suited to challenge unconstitutional laws and executive orders. We’ve successfully fought for the ability of online service providers to reveal the existence of national security letters and forced the release of secret opinions from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. We’ll also continue the legal challenges already underway: all 11 of EFF’s active cases against federal agencies will be inherited by the 45th president’s administration.
2. We will test and leverage the Freedom of Information Act.
EFF has a long history of using FOIA requests and lawsuits to force transparency on our secretive government, and we intend to wield this tool from the earliest days of Trump’s presidency.
On day one, we will begin filing requests with the goal of assessing how his agencies will carry out the law and the new modest reforms passed by Congress last session. Over time, we will be demanding transparency from agencies within the Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security, and the intelligence community on a variety of issues, but especially on surveillance technology, litigating whenever necessary.
3. We will hold Silicon Valley accountable.
From the boardroom executives to the server-room sysadmins, tech companies need to decide whether they’ll defend their users when the government comes knocking. EFF is sending a message: if you stand up for your users, then we’ll stand up for you. That’s why we began the year with a full-page ad in Wired magazine and a series of recommendations for the technology community. We plan to keep the pressure on tech companies—in public and through direct meetings. We will also keep building tools that will empower technology users to hold companies to account, and we will build and explore alternatives to a centralized, surveillance-friendly, Internet.
4. We will reach out to targeted communities to enhance their security and legal capabilities.
With the arrival of the Trump administration, we are going to dedicate more resources to help those most at risk. We will be providing even more free or at-cost security trainings to groups who may be subjected to increased surveillance under the Trump administration. We’re reaching out to a wide range of activists, Muslim communities, immigrant communities, lawyers, security educators and others. We also will be working to support security educators. While it is impossible to provide trainings to everyone, we will reach out to groups that could significantly benefit. These trainings can help ensure those who dissent are better protected from surveillance.
Many of these groups worry about just how bad it could get if the surveillance apparatus of America’s intelligence services are turned further inward onto domestic political groups. EFF has spent many years working across the world to help activists and dissidents in countries with repressive regimes, from Iran to Russia to China to Ethiopia to Vietnam to Kazakhstan, as well as advise those who might have already been targeted abroad by the United States. We have helped with advice, tools, exposés, and we have learned much from our partners. We are prepared to bring that knowledge home—while continuing to defend the rest of the world from the excesses of the American surveillance state.
We are also reaching out to organizations to provide our specialized legal expertise in defending free speech, surveillance, and privacy, building new relationships and deepening old ones. When their digital rights are threatened, we will stand up for them in court to challenge invasive policies and laws.
5. We will work on creating new security education materials.
Surveillance Self Defense has been our flagship security-training tool, providing in-depth, step-by-step guides to threat modeling, understanding different types of encryption, choosing tools that are right for you, and understanding their limitations. We will be expanding, updating, and sharpening these guides in the coming months, including better helping trainers and those in our tech-savvy community who are seeking to digitally protect friends or loved ones. And of course, we will continue to translate SSD into nearly a dozen languages, so that our message reaches people in need, no matter where they are or what language they speak.
6. We will work with the California legislature to resist federal government overreach.
California has never been in a stronger position to protect the rights of its citizens and residents. The governor and the legislature have drawn a line in the sand on a number of issues, including digital privacy. Right out of the gate, Senate President pro Tem Kevin de León introduced S.B. 54, the California Values Act, which would restrict how data collected by law enforcement is shared with the federal government in order to counter mass deportations, the creation of Muslim registries, and efforts to monitor the public. The bill would also require every state agency to review its confidentiality policies and only collect the bare minimum of information required to carry out its duties. EFF will work with a coalition of justice and community organizations to strengthen this bill, as well as other measures that the legislature may introduce. As the center of the global technology industry, we can also work here for legal changes that can improve user privacy in tech produced by California-based companies, no matter where in the world those users live.
7. We will build the ground game in Washington, D.C.
EFF has redoubled its effort to bring our expertise to Capitol Hill, with a larger team dedicated to knocking on doors in the halls of Congress. Since the election, we’ve connected with dozens of Congressional offices, advocating for our supporters and offering practical instruction on digital privacy. We’re talking to our returning bipartisan allies, among them Sens. Ron Wyden and Rand Paul, who have already distinguished themselves by asking direct questions about mass surveillance from Trump’s nominees. We are also meeting with returning members of Congress whose perspectives on civil liberties and digital privacy may have shifted over the course of tumultuous 2016. There are seven new senators to reach out to as well, including Sen. Kamala Harris, who represents California where EFF is based, and who has been appointed to two committees key to our issues: Homeland Security and Intelligence.
8. We will lead a campaign to end mass surveillance under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act.
Regardless of who occupies the White House, mass surveillance of Internet communications is unconstitutional. We are hopeful that even those who defended government surveillance under President Obama will rethink the wide set of surveillance tools that will be handed to the incoming Trump administration. As always, we will fight to protect users’ privacy from government surveillance, including by supporting a warrant requirement for emails, pushing back on new government hacking powers, and calling for a sunset to national security surveillance authorities.
Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act—one of the legal authorities used to justify the sweeping and warrantless Internet surveillance exposed by former government contractor Edward Snowden—is set to expire at the end of 2017. We are ready to fight alongside principled lawmakers to end this mass surveillance.
9. We will defend a free and open Internet.
There’s ample reason to believe that Mr. Trump and his appointees, backed by members of Congress, will attempt to dismantle hard-fought net neutrality victories. With new membership, we are expecting the Federal Communications Commission to actively seek ways to roll back consumer privacy rights and allow Internet service providers to stealthily harvest your data so it can be packaged and resold to third parties without your permission. We are prepared to fight efforts to undo the Open Internet Order and allow cable and telephone companies to dictate the future of the Internet. We will continue to play a major role in building the movement to oppose any efforts to undermine Internet freedom in Congress, the Executive Branch, and in the courts.
10. We will cultivate a grassroots movement to defend digital rights in all 50 states.
We are planting seeds to grow dissent at the local level by encouraging and supporting movements to resist surveillance and censorship and to promote a free and open Internet in their own communities. Having launched nine months ago, the Electronic Frontier Alliance already has recruited more than 40 local organizations from over 15 states, which is a solid start toward our long-term goal to identify a group representing the alliance in every state in the country. While we won’t have groups in every state within the first 100 days, we will prioritize expanding into new areas, including in the southern states, such as North Carolina, Georgia, and Texas. We are also committed to working across parties (and not just Republicans and Democrats) to ensure freedom of speech and your right to privacy both to protect you and defend our democracy.