Electronic Frontier Foundation is Fighting for Your Electronic Rights

“If America’s founding fathers had anticipated the digital frontier, there would be a clause in the Constitution protecting your rights online, as wellâÂ?¦” From the Electronic Frontier Foundation mission statement.

Who could ever have anticipated the technology of today? We are a society of iPoding, DVDing, downloading, blogging, e-mailing, and photo-shopping. The atomic age is dead, long-live the electronic age. New systems of communication are radically transforming our society.

While the digital domain grows exponentially; corporate policies, business structures, and legal interpretations lag behind, often at a cost to the general public. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) www.eff.org exists to protect our civil liberties in the wired world. Not surprisingly, in this conservative and repressive era, their website is a hub or activity, activism, and action.
Born in 1990, the EFF is one of the first electronic-grassroots organizations. Dedicated to the defence of free speech, privacy, innovation, and consumer rights; the EFF consistently supports public interests over corporate. New technology and software can often exist in legal quagmire. The EFF is a digital ACLU; the tech-friendly David to corporate and governmental Goliaths. With a membership of lawyers, analysts, activists, and technologists, EFF isn’t a group of tech-geeks and radicals; it’s a group of well-trained, well-educated, and well-dressed tech-geeks and radicals. If the committed core-group of 50,000 “concerned citizens,” isn’t enough to make politicians and businessmen take notice; the communications, electronic, and legal elite that serve on the Board of Directors are all well-connected forward-thinking visionaries.

Responsible for some monumental court decisions (MGM versus Grokster), the EFF website has a detailed list of rulings and current litigations. Browse through the Legal Cases page to become familiar with new e-policy, and peruse current court cases and litigation. Detailing an impressive history and action plans, the website is constantly updated, mostly thru there “Action Center.” This list of various attacks to electronic freedom is well linked, allowing the viewer to write to congress, sign petitions, or read further information. The “Action Center” also provides support for establishing an RSS feed for syndication and news aggregators. A less sophisticated feature allows for free subscription to the websites newsletter, the EFFector.
Supplementing all this is the EFF White Papers. These are papers that EFF staff has written which present research results or offer in-depth analysis on some of current electronic freedom issues. These well-written and highly cited papers are must read for and electronic professional. Any spam mail hater will find the “Collateral Damage in the Fight Against Spam” paper interesting, in that it details how free speech maybe damaged by rabid anti-spam laws. Older papers may not reflect current changes in technology or law, but they do provide a road-map of the challenges overcome by both the legal and electronic community.

Completely donor-funded, the EFF is a non-profit and depends on public support, with two-thirds of their budget coming from individual donations. Litigation is incredibly expensive; and the EFF’s pockets aren’t as deep as Time-Warner, Apple, or the U.S. government. The EFF site subtle reminds the user that pricey legal representation doesn’t come cheap, and has options to join in different membership platforms. If you’re hurting for cash, a plethora of suggestions are also available for helping the EFF without spending any change.

Critics argue the EFF prioritizes wholesale changes to law over stopping abuses of the law. However, EFF’s case history (Skylink and OPG versus DMCA) indicates real efforts to limit abuses of existing law. Others believe the EFF prioritizes consumer rights at the expense of artists’ rights. Some in the anti-spam community criticize the EFF for officially opposing anti-spam. Regardless, the EFF does not hide mission or goals, and the website is largely honest in depiction of EFF motives and methods.

In comparison to the American frontier of the 1700s, the new digital world may seem an easier place to explore. But be wary traveller, this is an illusion. The electronic frontier is a dangerous place, filled not with lions, tigers and bears; but with corporate lawyers, under-cover agents, and electronic predators. Be thankful for websites and organizations like the EFF, since most of us would survive a tussle with a lion – but not a corporate lawyer.

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