At the end of every year, we look back at the last 12 months and evaluate what has changed for the better (and worse) for digital rights. While we can be frustrated—hello ongoing attacks on encryption—overall it's always an exhilarating reminder of just how far we've come since EFF was founded over 33 years ago. Just the scale alone it's breathtaking. Digital rights started as a niche, future-focused issue that we would struggle to explain to nontechnical people; now it's deeply embedded into all of our lives.
The legislative, court, and agency fights around the world this year also helped us see and articulate a common thread: the need for a "privacy first" approach to laws and technology innovation. As we wrote in a new white paper aptly entitled "Privacy First: A Better Way to Address Online Harms," many of the ills of today’s internet have a single thing in common, and it is that they are built on a business model of corporate surveillance and behavioral advertising. Addressing that problem could help us make great strides in a range of issues, and avoid many of the the terrible likely impacts of many of today's proposed "solutions."
Instead of considering proposals that would censor speech and put children's access to internet resources at the whims of state attorneys general, we could be targeting the root cause of the concern: internet companies' collection, storage, sales, and use of our personal information and activities to feed their algorithms and ad services. Police go straight to tech companies for your data or the data on everyone who was near a certain location. And that's when they even bother with a court-overseen process, rather than simply issuing a subpoena, showing up and demanding it, or buying data from data brokers. If we restricted what data tech companies could keep and for how long, we could also tackle this problem at the source. Instead of unconstitutional link taxes to save local journalism, laws that attack behavioral advertising--built on collection of data--would break the ad and data monopoly that put journalists at the mercy of Big Tech in the first place.
Concerns about what is feeding AI, social media algorithms, government spying (either your own or another country's), online harassment, getting access to healthcare--so much can be better protected if we address privacy first. EFF knows this, and it's why, in 2023, we did things like launch the Tor University Challenge, urge the Supreme Court to recognize that the Fifth Amendment protects you from being forced to give your phone's passcode to police, and work to fix the dangerously flawed UN Cybercrime Treaty. Most recently, we celebrated Google's decision to limit the data collected and kept in its "Location History" as a potentially huge step to prevent geofence warrants that use Google's storehouse of location data to conduct massive, unconstitutional searches sweeping in many innocent bystanders.
Of course, as much as individuals need more privacy, we also need more transparency, especially from our governments and the big corporations that rule so much of our digital lives. That's why EFF urged the Supreme Court to overturn an order preventing Twitter—now X—from publishing a transparency report with data about what, exactly, government agents have asked the company for. It's why we won an important victory in keeping laws and regulations online and accessible. And it's why we defended the Internet Archive from an attack by major publishers seeking to cripple libraries' ability to give the rest of us access to knowledge into the digital age.
All of that barely scratches the surface of what we've been doing this year. But none of it would be possible without the strong partnership of our members, supporters, and all of you who stood up and took action to build a better future.
EFF has an annual tradition of writing several blog posts on what we’ve accomplished this year, what we’ve learned, and where we have more to do. We will update this page with new stories about digital rights in 2023 every day between now and the new year.
- Surveillance and the U.S.-Mexico Border
- The Great Interoperability Convergence
- EFF Continues Fight Against Unconstitutional Geofence and Keyword Search Warrants
- Electronic Frontier Alliance Comes Back Strong
- Artificial Intelligence and Policing
- Sketchy and Dangerous Android Children’s Tablets and TV Set-Top Boxes
- Corporate Spy Tech and Inequality
- Protecting Encryption And Privacy In The US
- The Last Mile of Encrypting the Web
- Recent Surveillance Revelations, Enduring Latin American Issues
- Surveillance Self-Defense
- EFF Membership
- International Threats to Freedom of Expression
- The U.S. Supreme Court’s Busy Year of Free Speech and Tech Cases
- Equitable Access to the Law Got Stronger
- The Atlas of Surveillance Hits Major Milestones
- Kids Online Safety Shouldn’t Require Massive Online Censorship and Surveillance
- Protecting Students from Faulty Software and Legislation
- In the Trenches of Broadband Policy
- Fighting For Your Digital Rights Across the Country
- First, Let’s Talk About Consumer Privacy
- States Attack Young People’s Constitutional Right to Use Social Media
- Fighting European Threats to Encryption
- Taking Back the Web with Decentralization
- How To Fight Bad Patents
- Google’s Corporate Paternalism in The Browser
- Digital Rights for LGBTQ+ People