The internet is an amazing innovation in communication, information, entertainment, and many other aspects of daily life. Students use it for research, for homework, and to buy everything from specialty products, to electronics, to clothing. Professionals utilize various internet-based presentation sites to help them in their business and to play games when they are waiting at the airport. A soldier can skype his family and then locate his target on the battlefield, all thanks to the internet. The internet allows people to have access to all kinds of resources--but it also allows access to their information. Digital privacy advocates are attempting to help limit the two-way stream of information in order to prevent the leaking of private and personal information.
Two such advocates have been fighting for the rights of people in cyberspace since nearly the beginning of the internet. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) works to help individuals, companies and organizations protect their online security. In 1998, the EFF worked with two other civil liberties organizations in order to challenge the Child Online Protection Act (COPA), and online censorship bill that would infringe on adults’ privacy rights in order to maintain “community standards”. COPA was the “sequel” to the Communications Decency Act of 1996 (CDA), which was found unconstitutional in 1997 by the Supreme Court. COPA was found to be “probably unconstitutional” and the EFF and its partners won the case. The EFF is active in all aspects of privacy, free expression and technology from litigation to grassroots activism. The NSA (National Security Agency) has been a major antagonist of the EFF. Recently, the EFF fought the NSA to stop its mass surveillance programs; specifically the collection of data by tapping into the “backbone of the internet”. The EFF hopes to protect the information users leave on the internet from others trying to get it.
Another advocate, but from a different perspective, is the Berkman Center for Internet and Society out of Harvard. They specialize in examining digital privacy and rights of users of the internet through an academic lense. One of their most impactful projects has been the Digital Media Law Project (also called the Citizen Media Law Project). Its purpose was to provide help and information to anyone involved in “citizen media”, help citizen participate in online media, and to protect the freedom of speech on the internet. The project now includes a legal guide and legal assistance for free to those who need it. The Berkman Center has many resources for everyone to educate themselves about their privacy rights in cyberspace as well as controversy surrounding the issue. They share information in order to investigate and understand the limits and potential of the internet as well as its impact on society.
Both the Berkman Center and the EFF see the importance of protecting the rights of internet users, either through education or litigation. By informing the public of their digital rights, these two advocates hope to make the internet safe for users to browse and not have to worry about losing their private information.