Electronic Frontier Foundation

Defending your rights in the digital world
Electronic Frontier Foundation


Founded to defend civil liberties in an increasingly digital world, the non-profit EFF is responsible for some of the most important legal precedents in privacy and innovation that we now take for granted.
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Electronic Frontier Foundation Overview ‧ read

EFF: The early years

In 1990, a game developer named Steve Jackson found himself under investigation by the United States Secret Service who were searching for a stolen file from BellSouth that they believed hackers could use to wreak havoc on emergency phone lines. Believing the document was stored on Jackson’s servers, the Secret Service raided Jackson’s offices and confiscated his computers.

Jackson’s business was crippled without access to his equipment and his files. When his computers were finally returned, he found his private emails had been not only read but deleted. Despite being proved innocent, Jackson quickly learned he had no legal recourse, as no civil liberties group yet existed that was technologically literate enough to consider his predicament a legitimate invasion of privacy.

A group of concerned technology experts led by John Gilmore, Mitch Kapor, and the late John Perry Barlow came to the rescue with the founding of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. By the end of 1990, the EFF successfully defended Steve Jackson in court and established the legal precedent that email deserves the same legal protections as phone conversations.

The EFF also won a high-profile case, Bernstein v. U.S. Dept. of Justice, that threatened to prevent a graduate student named Dan Bernstein from publishing his own software because it used encryption, which the U.S. government officially considered a weapon. The EFF helped Bernstein sue the government and establish the precedent that code deserved the same protections as free speech under the First Amendment.

Defending your rights in the digital world

The EFF continues to use its funding and in-house expertise to offer legal defense, expose government wrongdoing (including overreaching surveillance), support innovators in the realm of freedom-enhancing technology, and defend free speech on the web.

While the group is not without its critics, it is widely held to be a strong force for good in preserving an individual’s right to free speech. To do these things, the EFF relies almost entirely upon the generosity of its financial supporters. As such, we at ExpressVPN are proud to be among those donors.

How to support the EFF

If you wish to help the EFF, there are many ways you can support it.

Beyond the obvious financial donations, the organization also needs people to lobby congressional representatives on key issues. Following and promoting the EFF on social media is also useful.

Fans of the EFF who have technical skills like coding, security, and design are invited to volunteer their time and expertise in reporting and fixing bugs, adding new features, and improving site design. Those with legal skills can offer their assistance via the EFF Cooperating Attorneys List. Even if you believe you have no technological experience at all, you can still act as a community organizer and digital rights activist.

ExpressVPN and EFF: Stop the amendment of Rule 41

What is Rule 41?

Rule 41 governs how federal judges grant warrants to law enforcement agencies conducting searches and seizures. Currently, the law is set up so that police or FBI looking to initiate a search must gain a warrant from a judge in the jurisdiction where the search is to take place.

The Department of Justice has proposed relaxing the jurisdiction rule under the following conditions:
  • If someone disguises the location of his computer through “technological means” (i.e. Tor or a VPN service )
  • If the investigation involves a botnet that has infected computers in more than five federal judicial districts

Why these amendments to Rule 41 are bad

The adjustments could pave the way for some dangerous legal practices. The first is forum shopping; wherein law enforcement seeks out a federal judge who they think might be more receptive to prosecution in a given case. It is generally frowned up in the legal profession, but that does not stop people — including federal law enforcement — from trying. Allowing investigators to choose from any federal jurisdiction in the country would make it easier than ever to invade people’s privacy.

Also worrisome is the prospect of giving law enforcement special dispensation when dealing with people who are concealing their computer’s location. It means that those concerned with Internet privacy could be unfairly impacted, as any precautions they take to protect their digital footprint would give the government justification to use different means to obtain a warrant.

Judges would suddenly have the ability to write warrants authorizing government intrusion into hundreds or even thousands of computers. Some of these computers could be located outside U.S. borders. An amended Rule 41 would overlook any local protections covering these computers in favor of U.S. law enforcement.

You can help stop the changes

Sign the EFF’s petition ! Lawmakers need to know their constituents want them to act. Make your voice heard and spread the news to your friends and family.