The Electronic Freedom group

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  • Craig Gargano
  • Amy Joh
  • Hanna Schwartz
  • Miroslaw Szatko

    What to prepare for
    You are preparing a position paper (at most 3 pages long) for an organization representing the viewpoint of a new subculture whose members believe that widespread and unrestricted use of electronic "stuff" will give us all better lives. They are perhaps more extreme than some traditional civil liberties folks, more attuned to what is possible to do with cryptography, and more willing to discuss the technical shortcomings and features of various policy issues. Sometimes the efforts of these folks seem to have a rather anti-U.S. orientation, declaring that U.S. policies are rather inferior to those (chosen from, say) policies of Western Europe. Webpages of these organizations may be useful to you: CDT, EFF, and EPIC. Remark that money is on your side: if folks in the U.S. don't do it, the software will be available easily from people living in lots of other places.

    In your oral rebuttal
    Be prepared to deal with the accusation of uncaring irresponsibility: spies, terrorists, and criminals of all sorts could be aided by your efforts! An assertion could be made that "good" people will naturally agree with the sort of mild restrictions on e-commerce and communications proposed by (some) governments, since benefits will be gotten by "everyone".

    Electronic Freedom Policy

    In today's day and age, a new frontier has emerged. With that new frontier comes a new concern about personal rights. In the First Amendment of the Constitution, it states, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances." No longer can society worry simply about security and first amendment rights in the real world. We have come upon a time where these rights are being encroached upon without many of us even knowing about it. These violations come by way of electronic means of communication such as the Internet and email.

    Just as over time the government has been forced to enact laws to protect individuals from illegal searches and seizures, so must they understand that the need has now arrived for the same type of legislation to protect the electronic world. Our goal is to implement a variety of electronic tools to allow families and individuals to be able to communicate freely without worry that there is an unseen listener. There is a need in the world for people to have control over their own private information and to be able to control who does and does not have access to it.

    It is especially important to look at transactional data, communications, and stored information and the surveillance it receives from the government and others who have the ability to view such information. The rules that have been applied to regular search and seizures of physical property have not been applied to that of electronic information, even though in many cases they carry the same value. With the growing usage of personal information in electronic communications media, these rules need to be employed with email and such communications also.

    However, electronic freedom is not limited to solely pursuing civil liberties. It is also of great importance to promote equal availability of access to these forms of communication. At this time many people do not have access to a computer and therefore do not have the chance to be a part of this rapidly improving field. We work for public policy solutions that maximize, in a just and equitable fashion, the unique openness and accessibility of the Internet and preserve its vision as it evolves with ever more powerful technologies. Through this widespread use, it will be possible to use the Internet for such things as democratic elections, which would serve to enhance the democratic process. If more people have access to the Internet and can vote from their computer, voter response will reach new levels.

    In order to understand the point of view electronic freedom groups take, one must look at the some of the cases that they participate in. Parts of these activities include educating the public about privacy issues. This includes both coalition building and Internet postings to get people more involved. Organizations such as the Citizens Internet Empowerment Coalition (CIEC), a diverse group of Internet users, librarians, publishers, online service providers, and civil liberties groups, were formed to get the public more involved with the battle against censorship. At such web sites as the "CDT Guide to Online Privacy," the "CDT Privacy Quiz," Policy Posts, and an updated guide to "Legislation Affecting the Internet" people can learn more about current issues that affect electronic communication.

    Another main task of our groups include both developing and critiquing new cryptographic systems. Some of the most prominent cryptographers in the world are assembled to develop such things as platforms to control what their children can and cannot view on the Internet. These experts also work on already designed crypto systems to test their strength and report their weaknesses to the public. This allows the common person to keep abreast of advancing technology.

    Some of the current litigation electronic freedom groups are involved in should be mentioned also. Teaming up with other civil liberty groups such as the ACLU, the electronic freedom groups have helped in defense counsel in three cases against websites containing "cphack", a program designed to crack a filtering program for the Internet entitled "CyberPatrol." They have also opposed the notion of the transfer of personal information on European citizens to companies operating in the United States where there is no comprehensive privacy protection. Finally, on many occasions groups like CDT and EFF have advised the government on many instances in reference to encryption and its relationship to terrorism.

    In a verdict of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, the judge stated, "Some of the dialogue on the Internet will test the limits of conventional discourse. Speech on the Internet can be unfiltered, unpolished, and unconventional, even emotionally charged sexually explicit and vulgar in a word, indecent, in many communities. But we should expect such speech to occur in a medium where citizens of all walks of life have a voice. We should also protect the autonomy that such a medium confers to ordinary people as well as media magnets." This sums up the ideals of electronic freedom. Every individual should be guaranteed their right to free speech without the fear of having a third party listen in. A completely secure system allows individuals the right to say what they want when they want to no matter the message, which is after all the basis of the first amendment.