Electronic Frontier Foundation celebrates 25 years of defending online privacy

EFF Photos (CC BY 2.0)

EFF Photos (CC BY 2.0)

Maria Korolov via CSO Online:

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is the digital world’s top watchdog when it comes to privacy and free expression.

But while cops and firefighters are often ready to retire after 25 years on the job, protecting citizens, the EFF has a full agenda as it celebrates its 25th anniversary today.

The EFF was founded in 1990, when the Web still had just one webpage. Its first major case was one in which the U.S. Secret Service, hunting a stolen document, raided a company’s computers, computers that were also used to run an online bulletin board, and read and deleted those users’ messages.

The company, Steve Jackson Games, and some of the users of that bulletin board, thought that the government overstepped its warrant.

The situation inspired former Lotus president Mitch Kapor, Sun Microsystems employee John Gilmore and John Perry Barlow, cattle rancher and Greatful Dead lyricist to form the EFF and represent Steve Jackson Games and their users against the U.S. Secret Service.

In 1993, in a landmark judgment, the courts ruled that law enforcement authorities can’t seize electronic mail without a specific warrant.

It was just a warm-up.

In 1995, EFF took on the case of Daniel Bernstein, a math grad student at Berkeley, who wanted to publish an encryption algorithm he developed.

Back then, encryption was considered a national secret, regulated the same way as military weapons.

In order to publish his algorithm, the law at the time required Bernstein to register as an arms dealer and apply for an export license.

In 1999, the courts ruled in his favor, deciding that computer code was, in fact, constitutionally-protected speech.

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