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Electronic Frontier Foundation celebrates 25 years of defending online privacy

Maria Korolov | July 20, 2015
The Electronic Frontier Foundation is the digital world's top watchdog when it comes to privacy and free expression.

In that case, the EFF argued that customers of cloud computing services shouldn't lose property rights to their data by simply hosting their data with an outside provider.

"It speaks perfectly to how enterprise businesses benefit from the EFF's activities," Henry said. "I respect them tremendously."

"I -- and Malwarebytes -- are very pleased to see groups like the EFF standing up to protect the digital privacy rights and overall freedom of individuals in cyberspace," said Josh Cannell, a security expert at Malwarebytes.

And it's not just on the legal front that the organization has made a difference, he said. They've also worked on technology infrastructure projects.

"The EFF has also launched projects like Sovereign Keys that help protect and improve the usage and implementation of encryption protocols," he said.

The EFF has also been a big supporter of the Pretty Good Privacy encryption software and the Fido alliance for stronger and simpler authentication, said Phillip Dunkelberger, CEO at Nok Nok Labs. He was a co-founder and CEO at PGP Corp.

"Many of the things that they have suggested are now considered best practices globally," he said.

Some privacy advocates hope to see the EFF expand its mission.

"Over the past 25 years the EFF has been very active in lobbying against governments violating privacy rights," said John Pescatore, director of emerging trends at SANS Institute. "But it has been mostly silent about similar abuses by search engines, advertisers, and e-commerce companies."

He said he'd like to see the EFF take on more battles against corporate privacy abusers, as well.

"But all in all they have been a positive force in fighting imbalances of power in the digital world," he said.

And the EFF has had some impact on the way corporations view customer privacy, said Matt Cullina, CEO at IDT 911, LLC.

"The EFF acts as an industry watchdog holding those who haven't implemented robust privacy practices, accountable, making a clear line in the sand of those that do data privacy right from those that do it wrong," he said.

A never-ending battle

Meanwhile, some battles are never really over.

For example, right now, the EFF is fighting a plan by the Bureau of Industry and Security, an agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce, to impose wide-ranging export restrictions on software used for penetration testing, network monitoring, and other security purposes.

Meanwhile, law enforcement officials are making the rounds at conferences and Senate hearings, asking for some mechanism that would allow them to look at encrypted communications and files.

"The battle is not over," Cohn said. "It's an ongoing thing. It'll never be completely over. New technologies always gives us new challenges."

 

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