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Re: What is the EFF doing exactly?

(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
> conduct.

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 
this area.
> 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
> statist
> bent.

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 
having questions.

<HTML><A HREF="http://www.eff.org/~mech/">    Stanton McCandlish
</A><HR><A HREF="mailto:[email protected]">        [email protected]
</A><P><A HREF="http://www.eff.org/">         Electronic Frontier Foundation
</A><P><A HREF="http://www.eff.org/A">        Online Activist    </A></HTML>