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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

Bringing Transparency to Patent Law

Much of EFF’s transparency work centers around government activities in the executive and legislative branches. But transparency in the courts is also important. That’s why yesterday we sent a letter to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit asking for greater free public access to orders issued by...
Transparency

The Foilies Round 3: Ridiculous Redactions and Records Errata

Government agencies sure love their black markers. For transparency activists, receiving overly redacted documents is a guilty pleasure. Sure, we'd all prefer to have the records unmarred by secrecy (except for narrow occasions, such as when the black-outs legitimately protect people's privacy), but sometimes those redactions are the first indication...
Transparency

The Foilies Round 2: Law Enforcement Accountability

Police practices came under intense public scrutiny in 2014, as citizens raised further questions about the use of mass surveillance technologies and deadly force. From Ferguson to New York City, from Alameda County to Tucson, watchdogs have sought records to hold law enforcement agencies accountable for abuses. As one might...
Transparency

Happy Sunshine Week: Introducing The Foilies, Round 1

Welcome once again to Sunshine Week! It’s that time of year when journalists, citizen watchdogs, community activists, data wizards, political gadflies, public-records litigators, and open-gov fanatics come together to champion the cause of transparency and commiserate over the obstacles we face everyday while chasing sunlight. A few weeks ago...

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