This weekend, people in at least 16 cities around the world will take part in hackathons in memory of Aaron Swartz, the free software developer, writer, and activist. Aaron took his own life earlier this year after nearly two years of unjust prosecution under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA).
In the wake of Aaron's death, EFF has dedicated itself to reforming the CFAA, and also to causes that were important to him, like open access to academic research. We've outlined the core areas of the computer crime that most urgently need change, and applaud Representative Zoe Lofgren for introducing Aaron's Law as a partial solution this summer.
People taking part in the hackathons will work on projects that Aaron started, contributed to, or that continue in the spirit of his activism. Most of these projects focus on public transparency or personal privacy in the service of free speech. Many of the events are aimed at both technical and nontechnical participants.
The San Francisco event's kickoff will be held at the Internet Archive and will feature speeches by EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn and others. RSVPs for that event are open. After the kickoff, the event will move to Noisebridge, a San Francisco hackerspace.
These organized hackathons come just a few weeks after last month's major new release of an anonymous document submission platform for journalism organizations called SecureDrop, on which Aaron was a founding developer. An earlier version of the platform, then called DeadDrop, was installed earlier this year at the New Yorker. The open-source software project has since been the subject of a thorough security audit and multiple code improvements, culminating in this latest release.
The new version is supported and released by the Freedom of the Press Foundation1, which has also committed to helping media organizations to install and configure the system. Any press outlet that has a working setup will be able to receive documents and files from sources that can remain anonymous—even to the journalists using those documents. Forbes recently installed the first upgraded version of SecureDrop.
Aaron's work in this and other areas undoubtedly advanced the causes that EFF works on—that's one reason we honored his contributions this year by granting him a posthumous Pioneer Award. It's encouraging to see events like these hackathons that give people the opportunity to continue that work together.
- 1. Freedom of the Press Foundation is a client of EFF, and its executive director Trevor Timm is also an EFF activist. EFF Activism Director Rainey Reitman serves on the Freedom of the Press Foundation Board, alongside EFF co-founder John Perry Barlow and others.