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Re: What is the EFF doing exactly?

Adam Back typed:
> Stanton McCandlish <[email protected]> writes on cpunks:
> > [again, since I'm not on the CP list these days, feel free to bounce this 
> > over to the list if it doesn't make it. I'm not sure what the 
> > non-subscriber posting policy is and/or whether such attempted posts are 
> > filtered out, though I seem to recall they didn't used to be.]
> Cypherpunks always has been and remains an open list.  You shouldn't
> need to wonder given cypherpunk views on free speech :-)

I grok. Hadn't been on the list for a while, and a lot of lists have set 
up non-subscriber filters to block spam these days.

I appologize to CP readers, who rightfully question my Ccing the list 
when I'm not on it (lately, anyway).  I'm just responding to where the 
message I'm responding to has been.  So far no one's seem particularly 
upset at this, just irritated, so it seems prudent to continue doing so, 
unless/until this gets to be a pointless thread.
> > In other words you propose an alternate EFF that censors its own
> > boardmembers.
> No.  But I too am rather suprised to hear an EFF board member
> apparently speaking against free speech.  OK, so maybe she was
> mis-quoted so I wait for her rebuttal, but nope, she basically to my
> reading reiterates nothing but negative opinions on free speech and
> anonymity.
> Tim's quotes of her CFP speech further demonstrates her leanings.

I've talked to her personally about this.  She's not thinking along those 
lines, she just perceives a potential problem in the 
accountability/ethics area, and is wondering how that can be solved, if 
it can be solved, and what the price of such a solution is.  Honest, 
she's not *advocating* restrictions on anonymity, just asking if any are 
necessary, in who's opinion, with what rationale, at what cost, and by 
what mechanism.

Another CP reader I've been talking to suggests even asking such a 
question is dangerous because it puts ideas in the minds of anti-freedom 
legislators.  I tend to disagree on this, since such people already see 
anonymity as a problem. They come from a world in which every citizen 
minus a few "weirdos" has an ID card, who's check and credit 
transactions are traceable, who's money is marked and numbered, whos 
medical and other records are readily available. And their campaigns are 
funded by companies with a vested interest in identification (credit 
bureaus, banks, insurance companies, etc.) The *already have* the idea.   
But, that may be neither here nor there.

I would agree when it comes to things that legislators have not even 
thought about yet. In cases like that, better to work quietly with 
activists, with industry, etc., to deal with it behind the scenes so it 
never even appears on congressional or regulatory radars.
> Lets put it this way: if Louis Freeh offered to be an EFF board
> member, would you take him on board?  If he seemed quite

Highly unlikely.  Who gets to be a boardmember is decided by a board vote.
Freeh's anti-freedom history, and his obnoxious nature would, in my 
guesstimate, give him less that a .0000000000001% chance of ever making 
it onto the EFF board. And that's being nice. :)

Dyson has no such history, and does have a history of careful thought 
(even if disagreed with by quite a few people) about networks, online 
commerce, negative effects of regulation, and civil liberties issues.
More the former 3 than the latter 1.  Not everyone on the board is there 
because of strong work directly in liberty areas, but often for other 
stuff, as long as they seem consistent with the civil liberties issues. 
Otherwise we might as well just have one boardmember. The diversity is 
necessary, as long as it doesn't get divisive.  It has gotten divisive in 
the past, and there are some boardmembers who are not on the board any 
more as a result (none that I know of were "canned", they just understood 
it wasn't working and moved on.)

 > pro-anonymity, and free speech, and later turned out to be having 
> doubts, would you keep him?

I'll generalize that to "if you had any boardmember who expressed doubts 
about the value of free speech and privacy, would the board keep them?"
I think not. But Esther's taken no such position. She's asking questions 
about the mechanics of a system, and the effects of the system on society.  
These are valid questions.  It'd be helpful to see some short 
Cypherpunks-generated answers, if they are available.  Stuff about 
reputational systems, etc.  I know this stuff in a vague way from reading 
CP for years, but I don't have or know of any specific documents on the 
topic.  Something like that to pass around internally here would be of 
value in helping EFF settle remaining issue, adopt a policy position, and 
get on with it.

> Ie if her views are proving a liability for EFFs reputation, perhaps
> you all ought to get together and see if you can work something out?

That is unlikely to ever be a concern.  If any boardmember's views 
proved a liability for EFF mission and work toward that mission, that's 
when the board would considering asking for a resignation, or kicking 
someone off the board directly.  We're mindful of PR and image, but the 
mission comes first. 
> Anonymity is a pretty darn major issue here, so it'd be really sad to
> see EFF coming down on the wrong side.  I've seen some of the other

That will never happen.  EFF would tear itself apart in a matter of hours 
if that happened.  The worst that will happen is that EFF won't adopt a 
policy on this issue. I tend to doubt that will happen either. As I was 
telling BU, I think we're closer now than ever before to having an 
anonymity policy.  That's mainly why I'm asking for pointers to any 
superb documentation on the topic. It's genuinely needed to resolve a few 
remaining issues.

Just to be clear: There is no disagreement on the board, or the staff, of 
EFF that anonymity is a vital component of privacy. If that's what the 
worry is, lay it to rest!  Actually coming up with a statement on the issue 
is something that's taking a bit longer due to some concerns and 
questions that haven't been assessed yet (by the boardmembers with these 
questions & concerns).

> She sounded pretty anti-anonymity to me.

I think that's your inferrence, not her implication. :)  I've talked to 
her personally about this, and that's not what she's saying.
> Are there a shortage of political and net-aware libertarians for board
> candidates or something?

There's no shortage of candidates in general, but finding ones that add 
something useful to the mix, get along with everyone, work cooperatively, 
are not interested in being a board member to add a line to their vitae 
or for other purely personal reasons, who have enough time and resources 
to do this, are willing to do fundraising, etc., etc., is somewhat more 
difficult. (I answer the question since it was asked. I refute, from a 
personal level, the implication that Esther's not fit to be on the EFF board.
She's been here almost from the very start, and EFF would not be here 
right now at all if not for her.)

> Perhaps the quote was unfortunate, perhaps she has also said
> pro-anonymity things.  But a person who is pro-anonymity would surely
> try to emphasise the pro arguments also?  The material I have seen so
> far does not seem to indicate that this is the case.

<shrug>  This long after the fact I have no way of knowing what she 
said verbatim, in what order, with what stress, etc.  Having been 
interviewed a lot of times, and seen a mangled result, I know that 
interviewers often take liberties with the ordering of statements, and 
remove material, and juxtapose one statment with other stuff it was not 
referring to originally, etc.  Any of that could have happened. If it was 
an oral interview, which is likely, keep in mind that many people don't 
speak well off the tops of their heads.  I can't believe some of the 
things *I*'ve said in situations like this. They just didn't come out right.
Interviewers often get attribution incorrect too, as in this case.

I think this is a mountain out of a mole hill problem.  Like I say, if 
EFF comes out with a policy against anonymity, THEN get out the rope.
It just won't happen.  
> If this is the case she needs to be _much_ more careful about what she
> says in `personal' interviews.

Certainly. All of us do. I know I do.  I still remember the time I 
slammed the FCC for being "the largest censorship body in the western 
world", at a time during which EFF was trying to get them to back off 
from deciding to push for regulatory authority (which, as we've seen, 
Congress is only too willing to grant).  Needless to say, they would have 
been less willing to listen to EFF after that, had they seen the comment
(probably didn't, it was in a small local newspaper; had a lot of 
dangerous potential though.)

> Be sure to express the pro-anonymity arguments while you're zealously
> hammering out every last thing that can go wrong with anonymity: like
> that free speech is not possible with out it.  It's pretty much all or
> nothing, either you think free speech is worth the risk, or you prefer
> big brother, government access to keys, the works.

Agreed. I'm sure the board agrees too.  We just like, and need, to have 
answers to the immediate authoritarian attack that will come on what EFF 
says, before we say it.  The saying about being silent and being thought 
a fool, vs. speaking up and removing all doubt applies here in an 
interesting way. If we have unprepared arguments, opponents will make us 
look like fools. It's only a secondary concern that this hurts EFF's 
image. The real problem is that things like that undermine the 
credibility of the whole "cyberliberty" camp.
> [see http://www.c2.org/~winsock/ for a windows remailer]

Any e.t.a. on a Mac one?  Sometimes I wish I could write code worth an 
exon so I could help move this along. Like I have any time to do 
programming anyway... <sigh>

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