Peter Eckersley joined EFF as a staff technologist in 2006, and worked at EFF for over a dozen years, eventually holding the role of EFF’s Chief Computer Scientist. Peter was instrumental in implementing the vision of what a public interest technologist could be—not only as an advisor that ensured EFF’s legal and activist work was technically smart and correct, but as a builder of technologies that spur more security and freedom online, while ensuring that the internet serves everyone.
Peter played a central role in many groundbreaking projects to create free, open source tools that protect the privacy of users’ internet experience by encrypting communications between web servers and users. Peter’s work at EFF included privacy and security projects such as Panopticlick, HTTPS Everywhere, Switzerland, Certbot, Privacy Badger, the SSL Observatory, and Let’s Encrypt. Let’s Encrypt fostered the web’s transition from non-secure HTTP connections to the more secure HTTPS, so websites could offer secure connections to their users and protect them from network-based threats. By 2017 it had issued 100 million certificates; by 2021, about 90% of all web page visits use HTTPS. As of today it has issued over a billion certificates to over 280 million websites. Peter left EFF in 2018 and founded AI Objectives Institute, to focus on studying and calling attention to the malicious use of artificial intelligence and machine learning.
Peter was a recognizable figure throughout San Francisco—he had a unique fashion sense, with regularly rolled up pants and striped socks (one year we made special red EFF-logo socks for the entire staff to honor his style), and he was well known as a cycling advocate who made sure bike parking at the EFF office was secure and useful. He had the gift of being able to widen the aperture of any problem, giving a perspective that could help see patterns and options that were previously invisible. Peter’s vision, audacity, and commitment made the web, and the world, a better place.
With deep sadness, EFF mourns the loss of our friend, the technologist, activist, and cybersecurity expert Peter Eckersley. Peter worked at EFF for a dozen years and was EFF’s Chief Computer Scientist for many of those. Peter was a tremendous force in making the internet a safer place. He was...