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Electronic Frontier Foundation

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Title: Electronic Frontier Foundation  
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Collection: 501(C)(3) Nonprofit Organizations, Access to Knowledge Movement, Articles Containing Video Clips, Civil Liberties Advocacy Groups, Civil Liberties Advocacy Groups in the United States, Computer Law Organizations, Digital Rights Organizations, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Foundations Based in the United States, Freedom of Expression Organizations, Humble Bundle, Intellectual Property Activism, Internet Privacy Organizations, Internet-Related Activism, Mission District, San Francisco, Organizations Based in San Francisco, California, Organizations Established in 1990, Politics and Technology, Privacy in the United States, Privacy Organizations
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Electronic Frontier Foundation

Electronic Frontier Foundation
Founded July 6, 1990 (1990-07-06)
Type non-profit organization
Tax ID no. 04-3091431
Mission Law, Freedom, Privacy
Website .orgeff

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is an international non-profit digital rights group based in the United States.

EFF provides funds for legal defense in court, presents personal freedoms, maintains a database and web sites of related news and information, monitors and challenges potential legislation that it believes would infringe on personal liberties and fair use, and solicits a list of what it considers patent abuses with intentions to defeat those that it considers without merit.


  • History 1
    • Foundation 1.1
    • Early cases 1.2
    • Expansion and development 1.3
    • DES cracker 1.4
  • Activities 2
    • Litigation 2.1
    • Awards 2.2
    • Publications 2.3
  • Software 3
  • Support 4
  • In literature 5
  • See also 6
  • Notes 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9


Mitch Kapor
John Gilmore
John Perry Barlow
Electronic Frontier Foundation founders Kapor, Gilmore and Barlow


The Electronic Frontier Foundation was formed in July 1990 by John Gilmore, John Perry Barlow and Mitch Kapor in response to a series of actions by law enforcement agencies that led them to conclude that the authorities were gravely uninformed about emerging forms of online communication,[1] and that there was a need for increased protection for Internet civil liberties.

In April 1990, Barlow had been visited by a U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation agent in relation to the theft and distribution of the source code for a series of Macintosh ROMs. Barlow described the visit as "complicated by [The Agent's] fairly complete unfamiliarity with computer technology. I realized right away that before I could demonstrate my innocence, I would first have to explain to him what guilt might be." Barlow felt that his experience was symptomatic of a “great paroxysm of governmental confusion during which everyone's liberties would become at risk”.

Barlow posted an account of this experience to

This generated further reaction and support for the ideas of Barlow and Kapor. In late June, Barlow held a series of dinners in San Francisco with major figures in the computer industry to develop a coherent response to these perceived threats. Barlow considered that: "The actions of the FBI and Secret Service were symptoms of a growing social crisis: Future Shock. America was entering the Information Age with neither laws nor metaphors for the appropriate protection and conveyance of information itself."[2] Barlow felt that to confront this a formal organization would be needed; he hired Cathy Cook as press coordinator, and began to set up what would become the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation was formally founded on July 10, 1990, by Kapor, Gilmore and Barlow. Initial funding was provided by Kapor, Wozniak, and an anonymous benefactor.[3][4]

In 1990, Esther Dyson and Jerry Berman joined the EFF Board. By 1992 Cliff Figallo became the new director of EFF-Cambridge and in December 1992 Jerry Berman became Acting Executive Director.

Early cases

The creation of the organization was motivated by the massive search and seizure on Steve Jackson Games executed by the United States Secret Service early in 1990. Similar but officially unconnected law-enforcement raids were being conducted across the United States at about that time as part of a state-federal task force called Operation Sundevil. However, the Steve Jackson Games case, which became EFF's first high-profile case, was the major rallying point where EFF began promoting computer and Internet-related civil liberties. In 1993, their offices moved to 1001 G Street in Washington, D.C. That same year Big Dummy's guide to the Internet, an Electronic Frontier Foundation publication, was made available for free download.

EFF's second big case was Edward Felten, Jon Lech Johansen and Dmitry Sklyarov.

Expansion and development

In early 2010, EFF released this poster in celebration of its founding 20 years before.

The organization was originally located at Center for Democracy and Technology. EFF moved offices across town, where Drew Taubman briefly took the reins as director.

In 1995, under the auspices of director Tara Lemmey. Just prior to the EFF's move into its offices at 454 Shotwell St. in SF's Mission District, long-time EFF Legal Director Shari Steele became, and remains as of today, the Executive Director.

In the spring of 2006, EFF announced the opening of an office in Washington, D.C. with two new staff attorneys.[5]

In 2012, EFF announced a campaign to fund the renovation and move into a new building located at 815 Eddy Street in San Francisco.[6] The move was completed in April, 2013.[7]

DES cracker

By the mid-90s the EFF was becoming seriously concerned about the refusal of the US Government to license any secure encryption product for export unless it utilized key recovery and claims that governments could not decrypt information when protected by DES, continuing even after the public breaking of the code in the first of the DES Challenges. They coordinated and supported the construction of the EFF DES cracker, using special purpose hardware and software and costing only $210,000.[8][9] This brought the record for breaking a message down to 56 hours on 17 July 1998 and to under 24 hours on 19 Jan 1999 (in conjunction with

The EFF published the plans and source code for the cracker.[10] Within four years the Advanced Encryption Standard was standardized as a replacement for DES.



EFF booth at the 2010 RSA Conference

The EFF regularly brings and defends lawsuits at all levels of the US legal system in pursuit of its goals and objectives. Many of the most significant technology law cases have involved the EFF, including MGM Studios, Inc. v. Grokster, Ltd., Apple v. Does, and others.


United States senator Ron Wyden's acceptance speech for the Electronic Frontier Foundation pioneer award 2011.

The EFF organizes two sets of awards to promote work in accordance with its goals and objectives:

The EFF Pioneer Awards are awarded annually to recognize individuals who in its opinion are "leaders who are extending freedom and innovation on the electronic frontier."[11] In 2009, the honorees were Limor Fried, Harri Hursti, and Carl Malamud

The EFF Cooperative Computing Awards are a series of four awards meant "to encourage ordinary Internet users to contribute to solving huge scientific problems," to be awarded to the first individual or group who discovers a prime number with a significant record number of decimal digits. The awards are funded by an anonymous donor.[12] The awards are:

  • $50,000 to the first individual or group who discovers a prime number with at least 1,000,000 decimal digits – Awarded April 6, 2000[13]
  • $100,000 to the first individual or group who discovers a prime number with at least 10,000,000 decimal digits – Awarded October 14, 2009[14]
  • $150,000 to the first individual or group who discovers a prime number with at least 100,000,000 decimal digits
  • $250,000 to the first individual or group who discovers a prime number with at least 1,000,000,000 decimal digits.


EFF publishes through several outlets such as the periodical, EFFector (ISSN 1062-9424),[15] as well as its websites, blogs, and on social networking services.

The EFF has sent a video message of support to global grassroots movement CryptoParty.[16]


The EFF has developed some software and browser add-ons, including Switzerland (software), HTTPS Everywhere and Privacy Badger.


On February 18, 2004, the EFF announced that it had received $1.2 million from the estate of Leonard Zubkoff.[17] It used $1 million of this money to establish the EFF Endowment Fund for Digital Civil Liberties.

In April 2011, George Hotz donated $10,000, the remainder of his legal defense money in his case against Sony.

The agitprop art group Psychological Industries has independently issued buttons with pop culture tropes such as the logo of the Laughing Man from the anime series Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (with the original Catcher in the Rye quotation replaced with the slogan of Anonymous), a bleeding roller derby jammer, and the "We Can Do It!" woman (often misidentified as Rosie the Riveter) on a series of buttons on behalf of the EFF.[18]

Charity Navigator has given the EFF an overall rating of four out of four stars, including four stars for its financial efficiency and capacity.[19]

Beginning 2010, the EFF began regularly receiving income from the Humble Indie Bundle. In 2010 these donations made up 14% of EFF's total revenue for that year.[20]

In 2011, the EFF received $1 million from [21]

In 2012, the EFF received $250,000 from Mark Cuban and $250,000 from Markus Persson to support anti-patent activities.[22]

In late June 2014 the EFF flew a GEFA-FLUG AS 105 GD/4[23] blimp owned by, and in conjunction with, Greenpeace over the NSA's Bluffdale Utah Data Center in protest against its purported illegal spying.[24]

In literature

The EFF is featured in Dan Brown's techno-thriller novel Digital Fortress. The book was released in 1998, the same year as the EFF DES cracker was built.

See also


  1. ^ a b Jones 2003, p. 172
  2. ^ Barlow, John. "A Not Terribly Brief History of the Electronic Frontier Foundation". Retrieved 2012-09-11. 
  3. ^ "Formation documents and mission statement for the EFF". Retrieved 2012-09-11. 
  4. ^  
  5. ^ McCullagh, Declan (2006-04-27). "EFF reaches out to D.C. with new office". CNET Retrieved 2012-09-11. 
  6. ^ "The New EFF HQ". Retrieved 2 December 2014. 
  7. ^ "The Eddy Street Era Begins". Retrieved 2 December 2014. 
  8. ^ "EFF DES CRACKER MACHINE BRINGS HONESTY TO CRYPTO DEBATE". 1998-07-17. Retrieved 2012-09-11. 
  9. ^ "Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) About the Electronic Frontier Foundation's "DES Cracker" Machine". 1998-07-16. Retrieved 2012-09-11. 
  10. ^ Electronic Frontier Foundation (1998). Cracking DES - Secrets of Encryption Research, Wiretap Politics & Chip Design.  
  11. ^ "EFF Pioneer Awards". Retrieved 2012-09-11. 
  12. ^ "EFF Cooperative Computing Awards". Retrieved 2012-09-11. 
  13. ^ Bishop, Katina (2000-04-06). "Big Prime Nets Big Prize: EFF Gives $50,000 to Finder of Largest Known Prime Number". Retrieved 2012-09-11. 
  14. ^ Knoll, Landon (2009-10-14). "Record 12-Million-Digit Prime Number Nets $100,000 Prize". Retrieved 2012-09-11. 
  15. ^ "EFFector". Retrieved 2013-10-09. 
  16. ^ cryptopartymelb. YouTube. Retrieved on 2013-07-17.
  17. ^ "Internet Pioneer Gives Over $1.2 Million to EFF to Defend Online Freedom". 2004-02-18. Retrieved 2012-09-11. 
  18. ^ "Home". One Million Buttons for Digital Freedom project. Retrieved 2012-09-11. 
  19. ^ "Charity Navigator Rating - Electronic Frontier Foundation".  
  20. ^ "The Humble Indie Bundle: Epic Win for Creators, Customers, and Digital Civil Liberties". EFF's Richard Esguerra. 2011-07-28. Retrieved 2013-05-19. 
  21. ^ Parloff, Roger (2012-07-30). "Google and Facebook's new tactic in the tech wars". Fortune. Retrieved 2 December 2014. 
  22. ^ Mitroff, Sarah (2012-12-20). "Mark Cuban’s ‘Chair to Eliminate Stupid Patents’ Just Got Filled". Wired. Retrieved 2 December 2014. 
  23. ^ "Protesters Launch a 135-Foot Blimp Over the NSA's Utah Data Center - Slashdot". Retrieved 2 December 2014. 
  24. ^ "Protestors Launch a 135-Foot Blimp Over the NSA's Utah Data Center - WIRED". WIRED. Retrieved 2 December 2014. 


  • Gelman, Robert B.; Stanton McCandlish (1998). Protecting Yourself Online: The Definitive Resource on Safety, Freedom & Privacy in Cyberspace. New York: HarperEdge.  
  • Jones, Steve (2003). Encyclopedia of New Media. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.  

External links

  • Official website
  • "Big Dummy's Guide to the Internet by Electronic Frontier Foundation".  
  • "How To Bypass Internet Censorship".  also known by the titles: "Bypassing Internet Censorship or Circumvention Tools". 2011-03-10. p. 240 pp. 
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