What is the EFF doing exactly?
mech at eff.org
Tue Sep 3 03:14:42 PDT 1996
(You may need to manually repost this to c'punks. NB: I did not
authorize redistribution of my email to you to c'punks in the first
place. But since it's there now...
Black Unicorn typed:
> Why am I any more mistaken for pointing out that a single influential
> member of EFF's staff or board is anti-anonymity and yet remains with the
> organization than you are for pointing out that a single influential
> member who happened to be anti-anonymity has left?
I didn't say you were more mistaken than anyone or anything else. I'm not
aware of a mistakenometer with which to make such a measurement.
I pointed out your assumption that "It is clear that the personal
beliefs of those involved in EFF are those of compromise, present day
politics, and a general lack of moral fiber" is not in fact "clear" at
all, because you have insuffient information to make such a statement.
You don't even have to belive my remark that others in EFF have very
pro-anonymity positions - you categorization of EFF is still logically
bankrupt, because you don't have enough facts to make it.
> If my position, as you represent, is misguided, surely your point about
> Mr. Johnson is equally so. If the board is almost 100% pro-anonymity,
> where's the official position?
The board is not almost 100% pro-anonymity. There are widely differing
opinions on the topic, and many board members have not directly wrestled
with this issue before at all. I've seen some opinions shift in the space
of a few messages. This should clearly illustrate why there is no
official position yet. Some EFFers are not only not in agreement with
eachother on this, but aren't sure where they stand at all. This is the
first time the issue has come up for the board as a whole since early
1995, and the board's composition is very different now. This is the
same process EFF goes through every time an issue comes up on which we
have no position. Sometimes a position is agreed upon, and there we are,
but sometimes no position is taken, as is still the case with
intellectual property. In cases like that, we look at what happens on a
case by case basis, rather than categorically. (That is to say, even on
stuff where we have no position, if something happens that harms the
public interest we do not feel any obligation not to act simply because
we lack a position on the meta-issue.)
It will take some time to formuate a position on it. Personally, I am
confident that if EFF takes a position on online anonymity, it will be
the positive stance you would expect from us. It is also likely to be
tempered with a discussion of responsibility issues, just like every
other EFF position. This is not a "sellout" or a "compromise" just a
recognization of fact: anonymity does have costs associated with it, such
as the ability to defame without the defamed party having much recourse
other than contradiction. Such costs should be stated openly, not lied
about or ignored. If EFF or other organizations pretend there are no
costs or belittle concerns about costs, we undermine everything we are
working for - we undermine the public interest and individual liberty.
> In so far as an organization is much defined by those involved, I think it
> entirely right to wonder aloud about the personal motives of the staff and
> board. I think this PARTICULARLY prudent given EFF's reputation and prior
That's fine. I do think you should wonder. But wondering and making unfounded
accusations are different things. It's one thing to say, "I wonder if Black
Unicorn has good moral fiber whatever that is, and in fact I suspect he
doesn't" (hypothetically, mind you), but it's quite another to say "Black
Unicorn has no moral fiber!" (whatever moral fiber might be.)
> I would be most happy to be proven wrong and see EFF suddenly, in a burst
> of impressive moral fiber, speak out publically and take some political
> action to assure anonymous communication.
Don't be surprised if it happens. Also don't be surprised if it doesn't
happen. In EFF's 6+ years, no clear consensus on anonymity has yet
evolved within any version of EFF's board and staff. DO be surprised if
you see EFF take an official position against anonymity. If that happens,
I'll start looking for another job. I'm confident it won't happen, or
I'd probably already be looking for another job.
> > Things simply are not as black and white as they might seem.
> Well, let's have a clear official position issued then to end all dispute.
I'd like to see that too, but it may be a while in comming.
> What is EFF doing if not supporting anonyminity?
That's a very good question. EFF has, the entire time I've been with it,
and before that the entire time I was observing it (that is, ~1992 to
present) been quite supportive of anonymity, in ways that range from
relying on facets of the NAACP case in our own CDA challenge, to
defending online anonymity when being interviewed by the press, to
providing publicly available materials (e.g. at
http://www.eff.org/pub/Privacy/Anonymity) on anonymity including remailer
lists and FAQs, to having a link on our "other interesting sites" page to
the WWW remailer gateway, to permitting anonymous posts to all of our
public mailing lists. I can't think of any EFF statement against anonymity,
and even Esther's personal statement is not against anonymity, just
advising caution and noting that there are many unresolved concerns in
> I'm hardly going to support an organization that proports to be
> pro-internet freedom and yet has no official position on anonyminity. Of
It's certainly your right to not support us. I'm sad that you won't, but
it is beyond anything I can do anything about. Positions on issues take
time to evolve.
> course you should expect people to wonder about EFF when you have no
> official position and yet some staff and board members seem to have a
Again, I think you're making unfounded assumptions. The fact that Dyson
has questions about the balance of the value and cost of online anonymity
does not indicate a "statist bent". Hell, *I* have questions about that
balance. For myself, I've found adequate answers, and have come to the
conclusion that even if anonymity on the net were abused 1000x more than
it is now, it would still be better to have anonymity than to not have it.
But I have to let other people come to that conclusion themselves, with
my help when appropriate. I can't find any value in demonizing others
who've not come to that conclusion, even if if I do find value in severely
criticizing people who have taken a completely anti-anonymity position,
which Dyson has not. Dorothy Denning, different story. I will happily
criticize her positions into the ground, because they are what they are.
EFF's position does not exist yet, and the only not completely
pro-anonymity individual opinions I've seen out of the board are not
anti-anonymity, they're just full of questions. I can't slam people for
<HTML><A HREF="http://www.eff.org/~mech/"> Stanton McCandlish
</A><HR><A HREF="mailto:mech at eff.org"> mech at eff.org
</A><P><A HREF="http://www.eff.org/"> Electronic Frontier Foundation
</A><P> Online Activist </HTML>
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