By Cindy Cohn
EFF believes we can create a future where our rights not only follow us online, but are enhanced by new technology. The activists, lawyers, and technologists on EFF’s staff fight for that better future and against the kinds of dystopias best left to speculative fiction. In courts, in legislatures, and in company offices we make sure that the needs of the users are heard. Sometimes we send letters. Sometimes, we send planes.
We’ve pushed hard this year and won many hard-fought battles. And in the battles we have not won, we continue on, because it’s important to stand up for what’s right, even if the road is long and rocky.
In 2022, we looked into the apps used by daycare centers that collect and share information about the children in their care with their parents. It turned out that not only are the apps dangerously insecure, but the companies that make them were uninterested in making them safer. We responded by giving parents information that they can use to bring their own pressure, including basic recommendations for these applications like implementing two-factor authentication to ensure that this sensitive information about our kids stays in the right hands.
We won big in security this year. After years of pressure, Apple has finally implemented one of our longstanding demands: that cloud backups be encrypted. Apple also announced the final death of its dangerous plan to scan your phone.
We also continued our fight against police surveillance. Williams v. San Francisco, our lawsuit with the ACLU where the San Francisco Police Department illegally accessed surveillance cameras during the Black Lives Matters protests continues on appeal. Since the lawsuit was filed, the San Francisco Police Department has repeatedly tried to change the law to give the police unwarranted access to third-party cameras. Mayor London Breed introduced and then withdrew a proposal to give the police even more power. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors eventually passed a similar change to the law—but we secured a 15 month sunset. Rest assured, we will be fighting this mass surveillance that sweeps in protests and other First Amendment-protected activity when that sunset date approaches.
The camera setback was followed by a dramatic turnaround win, again in San Francisco. In one week the Board of Supervisors reversed its position on giving the SFPD the ability to deploy killer robots. (The SFPD would like you to know that they object to our “killer robots” framing. That’s because the robots do not act on their own or have guns. Instead, they have bombs and explode. We stand by our framing.) Make no mistake: this historic reversal would not have happened without the pushback of the activists. And of course our thanks to the many regular residents of the Bay Area who showed up and made good trouble.
Through our representation of the Internet Archive, we also stood up against the four largest publishers who are looking to control how libraries serve their patrons. These publishers want to lock libraries into expensive and restrictive ebook licenses, while claiming, without evidence, that the Internet Archive’s Controlled Digital Lending (CDL) program, is a threat to their business. Libraries give us all knowledge and EFF stands with them.
In the European Union, we lobbied hard for a Digital Markets Act that recognized the value of interoperability and meaningfully restrained the power of “gatekeeper” platforms.
Finally, sustained pressure from EFF and its allies—and you—kept Congress from mandating filters or link taxes, protecting free expression online. And Congress did some good this year, too, passing the Safe Connections Act, a bill that EFF pushed to make it easier for survivors of domestic violence to keep their phone number while leaving a family plan. This simple protection can be essential to stop abusers from using access to their victims’ cellphone plans to track and harass.
It’s impossible to cover everything we’ve done this year in a blog post that doesn’t take the whole new year to read. But rest assured, we did a lot and none of it would be possible without our members, supporters, and all of you who stood up and took action to build a better future.
EFF has an annual tradition of writing several blog posts on what we’ve accomplished this year, what we’ve learned, and where we have more to do. We will update this page with new stories about digital rights in 2022 every day between now and the new year.
Cindy Cohn is the Executive Director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. From 2000-2015 she served as EFF’s Legal Director as well as its General Counsel. Ms. Cohn first became involved with EFF in 1993, when EFF asked her to serve as the outside lead attorney in Bernstein v. Dept. of Justice, the successful First Amendment challenge to the U.S. export restrictions on cryptography.
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