The Electronic Frontier Foundation Turns 30

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has recently turned 30 years old. The non-profit organization celebrated with a live stream.

If you are into digital rights related issues, it’s hard to imagine a world without the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). Perhaps a great reason for this is because the non-profit organization has been around for over 30 years now. The long legacy of the organization features perspectives, commentary, and legal action that has repeatedly put the organization on the cutting edge.

Throughout my career as a journalist, I’ve covered some of their activities from time to time over the years. In fact, the very first article I’ve ever published was on the EFF’s “The Customer is Always Wrong” clear back in my early Slyck days. At the time, I was just getting my footing in the world of digital rights. I wound up taking on a, at the time, big topic: DRM (Digital Rights Management). At the time, DRM was just starting to take off and it raised questions on what it meant to even be a customer and whether or not this means the end of ownership of what you pay for. By this day and age, such an issue seems to be quite quaint by comparison.

Yet, despite most people not even knowing about the existence of DRM, there was the EFF actively condemning the practice. In the years since that report, more and more people joined the movement. By the very next year, there were already activist groups such as Defective By Design forming protests against the use of DRM. Simply put, more and more people realized that there is something to the argument that DRM prevents the user from actually owning what they paid for.

In the years since then, the EFF has been at the cutting edge of a number of digital rights issues. Another example is the EFF’s lawsuit against the then-Bush administration over the NSA warrantless wiretapping program. This happened while I was working for ZeroPaid. I remember, at the time, some of my colleagues being confused as to why the wiretapping program was even controversial. To be fair, with how quickly technology and the issues change, it was very hard to keep up with it all. My ability to keep up with it all depended on how quickly I could type and research.

The warrantless wiretapping program, at the time, involved a very controversial room at AT&T. In this room, there was a splitter installed. With this splitter, all the data flowing through AT&T was copied. That copy was then sent directly to the NSA for analysis. All of this occurred without a warrant. It then sparked the well known case of Jewel vs. NSA (EFF’s page on the case). That case, more than a decade later, is still going. If you intend on researching the full history of the case, that is one long and deep rabbit hole. In my view, there is some seriously crazy stuff packed into that one. At the time, it’s the kind of stuff that resembles weird conspiracy theories – only what happened was actually real. There was the EFF, right in the thick of it all.

Now, while on Freezenet, we’ve covered many cases the EFF has taken on. One great example is the fight against the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). When it was resurrected in 2017, we covered how the development caught the EFFs attention. If you think it’s scary enough that the government is wiretapping every communication, get a load of what we uncovered with the TPP back in 2015. Luckily, a bunch of it was shot down since thanks to the US pulling out, but there was plenty of reasons to view the current iteration as a threat to this day.

In 2018, there was the role the EFF played in fighting to retain network neutrality in the US. They also took on Europe’s notorious article 11 and article 13.

In 2019, EFF took part in opposing the detention of Julian Assange. They also helped take up the defence of the related Ola Bini case. In the same year, they also issued data on the negative impacts of FOSTA. They also went to court to say that API’s cannot be copyrighted. They even played a role in the Equifax data breach settlement.

Just this year, we’ve seen the continued effort of the organization to push back against Trumps anti-security efforts through the banning of effective encryption. Additionally, the EFF continued their fight against EARN IT. They also pointed out the two tiers of privacy found on Twitter.

If you think all of this is a lot. This doesn’t even scratch the surface of what all they’ve been doing to defend digital rights. Still, that is a nice sampling of what we’ve been able to cover over the years.

Last Friday, they held their 30th anniversary celebration. The EFF wrote a statement on this:

On Friday, July 10, 1990, the Electronic Frontier Foundation was officially born. It’s safe to say that on that day, co-founders Mitch Kapor, John Perry Barlow, and John Gilmore, with critical help from Steve Wozniak, were ahead of their time in imagining that there needed to be an organization that fought to protect ordinary people’s access to new technology that could instantly erase distance, create connection, and access much of the world’s knowledge. Today—thirty years later—that technology affects and is affected by most everything we do.

Throughout those thirty years, EFF has been on the frontlines, fighting thousands of battles in courts, in Congress, on the streets, and across the globe to ensure that when you go online, your rights go with you. We’re excited to celebrate our victories. and the lessons we’ve learned

While we didn’t exactly catch the event, we can certainly tip our hats to this long running organization. Here’s to another great 30 years!

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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