EFF fights for technology users. We believe that empowering and protecting users should be baked into laws, policies, and court decisions, as well as into the technologies themselves. Since our founding in 1990, we have paired this goal with the common-sense recognition that in order to properly consider these questions, you need to listen to the voices of those who understand, deeply, how the technology works.
This guidestar has served us from the very beginning of EFF. EFF helps courts and lawmakers recognize that the speech of Internet users must be protected against government censorship, that technology users should not be subject to overbroad search and seizure, and that strong encryption ensures that users have security and privacy in the digital world. We work to protect against copyright and patent laws that threaten technologies that empower users to co-create our culture—technologies like podcasts, user-created videos, and peer-to-peer filesharing. As users come to rely on the Internet—to find a job, connect with loved ones, speak out on issues of the day and organize for a better tomorrow—EFF’s role in standing up for users becomes increasingly important.
So what does it mean to stand for the users in 2017 and looking into 2018? It means standing up to protect the fundamentals of democracy online, especially addressing the newly urgent needs of users organizing politically, while keeping up our longstanding role of encrypting the Web and combating mass surveillance. Specifically, it means:
- Fighting against illegal search and seizure of digital devices at the border, and educating users about how to protect their privacy even as invasive searches have ratcheted up significantly under the Trump Administration.
- Leading the way in identifying, tracking, and sounding the alarm about broadband provider violations of network neutrality, and seeking to build real competition through municipal broadband and other options.
- Developing materials to help technologically-savvy people better teach their fellow activists, colleagues, friends, and loved ones to protect themselves with the newly-launched Security Education Companion. This is the latest step in our effort to ensure that everyone who needs it has basic Surveillance Self-Defense.
- Tracking and exposing government surveillance and hacking, using tools that include the Freedom of Information Act, lawsuits, and the publication of our own investigations into state-sponsored malware attacks against activists around the world.
- Continuing to call out and oppose stupid patents, including more victories against a bad podcasting patent and standing up (and developing good speech law) against a patent troll who directly sued EFF.
- Developing Privacy Badger, which protects users from third-party tracking cookies.
- Organizing against the ongoing effort to wrest control of your computer away from you via digital rights management.
And so much more.
As always, but perhaps more in the past year, many threats to users are cloaked under the best of intentions. For instance, a looming Internet censorship bill known as SESTA is supposed to crack down on sex trafficking, but it wouldn’t punish traffickers. Instead, it would create an incentive for websites to police every piece of content uploaded by users—photos, blog posts, even personal messages—pushing websites to make censorship the default for user content. Similarly, grounded in the experience of our Online Censorship project as well as our 27 years protecting marginalized voices online from wrongful censorship by platforms including Facebook, Google, and Twitter, we work to make sure that well-intentioned efforts to protect against Nazis, harassers, and potential terrorists don’t end up silencing the very people they are intended to protect.
EFF is committed to ensuring that we build the kind of digital world that we all want to live in. As we head toward 2018, we’re larger than ever before, with over 85 staffers including lawyers, technologists, and activists. That’s because the task of standing up for technology users is larger than ever before. Please make your voice heard by joining with us.
We’re continuing a tradition of looking back at the complicated technology policy issues we’ve grappled with over the last year in retrospective blog posts. Over the coming days, we’ll be publishing over a dozen blog posts about how speech, privacy, and new technologies have changed society and the law in the last year. Please read the blog posts below, and check back every few days to see as we add more blog posts to this roundup.