C.S.: How did EFF start?
J.G.: It has been founded by Mitch Kapor, who is one of the founders of Lotus, and John Perry Barlow, and some other people. Mitch was getting frustrated at learning how the government was dealing with technology, and how they were chasing after teenagers who were using BBS, and really haven't done much if anything wrong. EFF is a non-profit organisation which has existed for 11 years now, and has a budget of about 1-2 Mio $ a year.
C.S.: Where does this money come from?
J.G.: All from donations. We have several thousand members and they send in money, and we also get larger gifts from private individuals or occassionally companies. And it is very helpful to work with well-known personalities, in the sense that if somebody who is wellknown and respected works with us, it shows people that we maybe deserve some of this respect, too.
C.S.: Do you have partners?
J.G.: We always work together with other groups. In the United States we work with the American Civil Liberties Union a lot, with the Electronic Privacy Information Center, the Center for Democracy and Technology. Internationally, there is a whole global alliance of liberty groups called GILC, Global Internet Liberty Campaign, it's probably 40 or 50 organisations all over the world. We coordinate policies, make joint statements about global problems, internet policy etc.
C.S.: What I see, is a conflict between national laws and global activity, as laws are partly very different in each country. At the same time joint action is required, because the actual issues are pretty much the same everywhere. Do you think that GILC is govering this problematic sufficiently, or is there need for more work, and if yes, on what level? Is there anything missing in the structure of getting organized?
J.G.: Most of the organisations around the world are only, run by volunteers; they do not reall yhave the time or money ti oppose initiatives by major governments or major companies that will be harmful to the public. So what's really missing, particularly in Europe is an organisation that knows enough about raising money to pay people to work on these issues full time. It is a unique situation here in Europe: You have all these nationmal governments, which traditionally make all their own rules, and now there is a new government which is trying to impose a layer of influence and control. Clearly everybody who wants to influence legislation in Europe will try to influence it at the EU level, as they won't have to do the work in 15 countries. You can do it in one place. So it's great opportunity for corruption, for profitseeking people to try to get rules passed that help them, and hurt the public. And so far, there is not much of an organized effort to oppose that.
C.S.: Europeans still have to get used to the idea that there is this new government and that is getting more and more real power over them. Additionally, what is typical for political processes in Brussels is that they seem to be very intransparent for various reasons...
Do you work together with people in Europe, let's say on the technological stuff or on political actions?
J.G.: Well, occassionally, but this time I mostly came to meet up with people who I know, and spend some time on vacation in Amsterdam.
C.S.: Another strategy you have mentioned before, besides developing technological solutions is education of the public. How do you do this?
J.G.: Part of how I try to educate thepublic is by speaking out at conferences, by giving interviews to the press; EFF publishes a website where we talk about all of these issues, we have mailinglists where people discuss them, anyone can join in and have announcements from us or discussions with us.
C.S.: And what is the role of the public in the fight for privacy? Isn't it very much a discussion of specialists with politicians, and the general public is pretty ignorant?
J.G.: Well if they don't care about their privacy that's fine for them, but I do mind, if people read my private e-mail and my private diary. So I should have the right to mine, as well as them not having the right to mine.
C.S.: I have the impression that there is not much public awareness, and it is a question how to rais eit.
J.G.: There is actually lots of awareness. People are very scared about their privacy. They don't know what to do about it, and I not either in many cases. There was a surevy from a year ago which said, that most people who had not done any business on the internet didn't do it, because they were afraid for their privacy. They didn't want to type their names and numbers into something on the internet, because they were afraid that it would get used maliciously against them.
C.S.: Once you have said, privacy is a means...
J.G.: a means to an end, right. And the end is to be let alone. To be left to be who you wonna be.
Published in: mute Magazine, Critical Information Services, issue 21, September 2001