There’s a behind-the-scenes battle that requires your help
On a recent Friday, the American Civil Liberties Union held a Facebook fundraiser, Stand For Your Rights, generating $500,000—adding to its existing $24 million in donations in 2017. The ACLU is essential, and they will use those funds wisely, but there is another, less sexy nonprofit in need of your attention: The Electronic Frontiers Foundation.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation is the “leading nonprofit organization defending civil liberties in the digital world. Founded in 1990, EFF champions user privacy, free expression, and innovation through impact litigation, policy analysis, grassroots activism, and technology development.” The group works to ensure that rights and freedoms are protected as technology continues to evolve.
It’s not as public as, say, sending a lawyer to defend rightful travelers entering the country at Los Angeles International Airport, or as cool as marching right to the doorstep of Donald Trump in Washington, D.C., to stand up for women’s rights, but supporting the EFF is just as imperative to support as any others.
Why? In case you missed reading it on the internet (which will soon be tracked, recorded, and sold), Republicans in Congress voted to roll back a set of internet privacy protections approved by President Obama in October of 2016. While techically already legal, internet service providers (otherwise known as ISPs) will now be legally allowed to sell your personal browser history to anyone willing to pay for it.
In essence, ISPs will make money collecting, storing, and selling your data to advertisers who want to serve you highly targeted ads based on the things you’ve searched for online. Your ISP can also store and sell your app usage data, purchase history, and your location data without your consent. To add insult to injury, the bill passed by Republicans also prevents the Federal Communications Commission from establishing consumer privacy protections ever again.
Ok, so you’ll start getting some very specific ads next to your Facebook feed. No big deal, right? As The Guardian reported:
Your web browsing patterns contain a treasure trove of data, including your health concerns, shopping habits, and visits to porn sites. ISPs can find out where you bank, your political views, and sexual orientation simply based on the websites you visit. The fact that you’re looking at a website at all can also reveal when you’re at home and when you’re not.
Every single thing you read, click, share, or do online (including on your mobile phone) will now be readily available to the highest bidder. And the EFF will be the ones to defend your rights in the future.
“Without a doubt, internet providers (with the exception of the small providers who stood with us) will engage in egregious practices, and we are committed to mobilizing the public to push back,” Ernesto Falcon, legislative council at EFF, said in a story following the vote. “EFF will continue the fight to restore our privacy rights on all fronts. We will fight to restore your privacy rights in the courts, in the states, in Washington, D.C., and with technology. We are prepared for the long haul of pushing a future Congress to reverse course and once again side with the public.”
The future fight will certainly include privacy rights. But one thing the fight already includes is net neutrality, the idea that all internet traffic should be available to everyone equally. What that really means is, the Republican-controlled House and Senate, who have already showed a penchant for dismantling internet privacy, can also decide it’s ok and legal for internet service providers to charge more money for higher speed internet for some, and deny service to others. It could also make it legal for ISPs to slow service to specific websites, such as news services, Netflix, academic sites,and more.
Already, the EFF and others are gearing up for the net neutrality fight. In early March, more than 170 groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the EFF, endorsed an open letter urging the FCC to reconsider its position on net neutrality rules.
“The continuation of net neutrality is essential to the continued growth of the country and to ensuring access to social, political, and economic empowerment for all,” read the letter. “Since the order went into effect, broadband infrastructure investment is up, ISP revenues are at record highs, and businesses continue developing innovative ideas and offerings.”
Beyond representing us all in Washington, D.C., EFF also provides free services like Privacy Badger, a free browser-add on tool that “analyzes sites to detect and disallow content that tracks you in an objectionable, nonconsensual manner.” It also gives away HTTPS Everywhere, a service that “encrypts your communications with many major websites, making your browsing more secure.” It also provides free tutorials on how to make your web browsing safer.
There’s another reason why the support of EFF is crucial right now: your donations will also be matched by Cards Against Humanity, the best drinking game you’ll ever play with your friends on a Friday night. Max Temkin, the game’s creator, shared the news that the company will match $10,000 in donations to the EFF. All you have to do is donate and tweet @MaxTemkin to let him know.