Observers around the world are scrutinizing the President-elect’s transition team and prospects for digital rights under the incoming administration. Trump’s campaign statements offered few reasons to be optimistic about the next administration’s commitments, making the unrestrained domestic secret surveillance regime that President Trump will inherit an even greater threat not only to privacy, but also dissent, individual autonomy and freedom of conscience, and—ultimately—our democracy.
At EFF, we have committed ourselves to redoubling our efforts to defend digital rights. We know, however, that it will take the concerted actions of our supporters to help our goals find their reflection in law, policy, technology, and culture.
That’s why we launched the Electronic Frontier Alliance (EFA), a network of grassroots groups taking action in their local communities to promote digital rights.
In places like Brooklyn, Baltimore, Chicago, Denver, and Los Angeles, local organizers have hosted workshops to train social movement activists how to incorporate encryption into their communication practices.
Their work not only helps encrypt the web—ensuring that privacy and dissent can survive, however the legal regime may empower intelligence agencies. It also enables and cultivates alliances with local communities and neighbors responding to underlying social issues from state violence and climate change to domestic violence and the rights of refugees.
In other places, such as San Jose, Oakland, St. Louis, and New York, grassroots groups in the EFA have advocated in coalition with local allies for legal protections at the municipal level to ensure that police departments can no longer buy or use military surveillance equipment in secret.
Those campaigns help their neighbors stay safe from the secret and unaccountable use of surveillance devices that state & local authorities have used around the country—in some cities, thousands of times—for reasons including suppressing dissenting voices. They also help create opportunities for future policymakers, journalists, and activists by forcing a democratic decision-making process on what has otherwise been a secret metastasis of domestic surveillance, as thousands of agencies across the U.S. have been transformed under our feet from police departments into local spy centers.
Meanwhile, groups from Atlanta to Austin are pressing university administrations to consider the public interest when licensing patents to monetize scientific research.
Their work helps protect access to science, and ensure that discovery enables innovation, rather than financial opportunism by parasitic patent trolls using the courts as a tool at the public’s expense. It also builds a voice on campuses to challenge the orthodoxy of corporate rightsholders that have increasingly restricted access to culture and the right to tinker by, for example, forcing on device owners digital locks backed up by vicious and unreasonable legal penalties that treat innovators like criminals.
If you’re concerned about the future of digital rights and working with a local group like a hacker space, a student organization, or community coalition, we want to hear from you. If you’re not yet organizing locally, join our next EFA teleconference to connect with the dozens of allied groups around the country who already are and learn how to follow their lead.
Dissent and resistance grow only more meaningful in times of crisis. And if the days to come prove as dark as some fear, we—not only EFF, but also you, the Internet, your rights, and our democracy—will need all the allies we can find.