InClass Assign. on EFF by Astor and Shaina



InClass Assignment by Astor and Shaina

EFF was formed in 1990 to create protection for Internet civil liberties. This was a response to an incident dealing with the hacking of the 911 system referred to as the E911 document. The secret service felt that this would be a threat to people if the lines were being tampered with and people in dire emergency would be unable to seek help. One of the alleged recipients of these hacked documents was Steve Jackson who was a small games book publisher. His technologies were confiscated and it nearly ruined his business. When it was later returned every individual email from his company had been deleted and he felt his rights as a publisher had been violated along with free speech and privacy rights of his users. This legal case became known as Steve Jackson Games v Secret Service Case Archive. This set a precedent for making it illegal for law enforcement to read private emails without a warrant. Among other legal cases that the EFF was involved in included the Bernstein v US Department of Justice case.

The EFF legally established that the computer code is a form of speech under the First Amendment which kept developers of privacy-protecting software safe from government censorship. On their website they site Dan Bernstein’s case in 1995 where he wasn’t allowed to develop an encryption program due to “draconian federal laws” that made any privacy protection illegal as it could be a threat to national security. In addition to encryption protection, EFF helped create privacy regarding cellphone tracking of users without any sufficient evidence of involvement in a crime.

In 2006, USA v. Pen Register, EFF legally fought against the government’s use of their ability to track user’s without sufficient evidence. The government argued it didn’t need to show any sufficient evidence or probable cause of a crime to track the location of a mobile phone use. A judge in NY rejected the governments argument.

The EFF does not just defend the rights of users in technological usage through advocating in legal situations but also helps educate the press and public about their rights and emerging and unfamiliar technological communications.

The way in which The Electronic Frontier Foundation not only disseminates information on user rights and freedoms and educates the public on such issues is through networking in person and in the digital world. They create educational guides but also physically hold activist workshops.