European Digital Rights (EDRi) is an association of civil and human rights organisations from across Europe. They do a wonderful job in defending rights and freedoms in the digital environment in the Brussels maze. In the series “EDRi-Member in the Spotlight” members have the opportunity to introduce themselves and their work in depth. We were the first to appear.
1. Who are you and what is your organisation’s goal and mission?
Bits of Freedom is the leading Dutch civil rights organisation, focusing on privacy and communications freedom in the digital age. We strive to influence legislative and non-legislative measures, in order to increase freedom and privacy on the Internet. Our strength lies in combining a broad range of expertise, a constructive advocacy where possible, and sharp action where necessary.
Our main objective is an Internet that is open for everyone, where everyone can continue to share information freely, and where private communication remains private.
2. How did it all began, and how did your organisation develop its work?
The roots of Bits of Freedom can be traced back to 1999, and lie in the then activist ISP “XS4ALL”. The first employees worked on issues such as the crypto-wars, freedom of expression and data retention… equipped with a land line and an ASCII-newsletter. While political history might seem to be repeating itself, technology has certainly evolved.
3. The biggest opportunity created by advancements in information and communication technology is…
…the possibility of finding like-minded people, to share knowledge, and to work together with people around the world. The very work of EDRi is a beautiful example of that.
4. The biggest threat created by advancements in information and communication technology is…
…the information asymmetry that is amplified through the centralisation of services, and therefore the asymmetry of power in our information society.
5. Which are the biggest victories/successes/achievements of your organisation?
In 2012, the Netherlands was the first country in Europe to safeguard net neutrality by law. Together with our volunteers we campaigned intensively for this provision, and celebrated this historical moment for Internet freedom in the Netherlands.
More recently, we had another great success. While internationally the debate about encryption is becoming more and more dire, the Dutch government issued a statement in which it said it will, “at this time”, “not adopt restrictive legislative measures against the development, availability and use of encryption within the Netherlands.” The government also stated that it will defend this position “in the international context.” We are proud of this development as it is precisely what we what we called for in our position paper (PDF).
6. If your organisation could now change one thing in your country, what would that be?
If we were to be given magic powers, people would instantly have more knowledge about the technology they use every day, and by that they would make more conscious decisions.
7. What is the biggest challenge your organisation is currently facing in your country?
Policy-makers lack a long-term vision on privacy. The consequence is that conflicting statements and proposals are made. To give just one example: many policy-makers were angry as a result of the Snowden revelations, but are now also backing a dragnet surveillance proposal for the Dutch secret services.
8. How can one get in touch with you if they want to help as a volunteer, or donate to support your work?
You can also work on specific projects, such as the superb Privacy Cafés and the Internetvrijheid Toolbox, which introduce people to privacy-friendly tools. There are many more projects like this. Please e-mail Evelyn if you want to contribute to one of them, or if you’re interested in exchanging thoughts on organising digital self-defense for non-techies.
And last but not least, you can subscribe to our (Dutch) newsletter to stay updated about the latest developments on our topics and current campaigns.