The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is an international non-profit advocacy and legal organization based in the United States with the stated purpose of being dedicated to preserving free speech rights such as those protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution in the context of today's digital age. Its stated main goal is to educate the press, policymakers and the general public about civil liberties issues related to technology; and to act as a defender of those liberties. The EFF is supported by donations and is based in San Francisco, California, with staff members in Toronto, Washington, D.C., and Brussels, the seat of the European Union. They are also accredited observers at the World Intellectual Property Organization.
EFF has taken action in several ways; it provides or funds legal defense in court, defends individuals and new technologies from the chilling effects of what it considers baseless or misdirected legal threats, provides guidance to the government and courts, organizes political action and mass mailings, supports some new technologies which it believes preserve 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.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation was founded in July 1990 by Mitch Kapor, John Gilmore and John Perry Barlow. The founders met through the online community at The WELL. Initial funding was provided by Kapor, Steve Wozniak, and an anonymous benefactor.
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. EFF's second big case was Bernstein v. United States led by Cindy Cohn, where programmer and professor Daniel Bernstein sued the government for permission to publish his encryption software, Snuffle, and a paper describing it. More recently the organization has been involved in defending Edward Felten, Jon Johansen and Dmitry Sklyarov.
The organization was originally located at Mitch Kapor's K.E.I. in Cambridge, Massachusetts. By the fall of 1993, the main EFF offices were housed in Washington, D.C., headed up by Jerry Berman. During this time, some of EFF's attention focused on the business of influencing national policy, a business that was not entirely palatable to parts of the organization. In 1994, Mr. Berman parted ways with EFF and formed the 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 Lori Fena, after some downsizing and in an effort to regroup and refocus on their base support, the organization moved offices to San Francisco, California. There, it took up temporary residence at John Gilmore's Toad Hall, and soon afterward moved into the Hamm's building at 1550 Bryant St. After Fena moved onto the EFF board of directors for a while, the organization was led by Tara Lemmey. Just prior to the EFF's move into its new and present offices at 454 Shotwell St. in SF's Mission District, long-time EFF Legal Director Shari Steele became, and remains as of mid-2006, the Executive Director. In the spring of 2006, EFF announced the opening of an office in Washington, D.C. with two new staff attorneys.
- Electronic Frontier Foundation official site
- "Technopolitics", originally published in the Australian magazine 21C, tells the early history of EFF.