Board Report: 2014 Annual General Meeting

Introduction

On behalf of the board, I am once again very pleased to present the Annual Report for 2013-2014. This has been, as usual, a very busy year. The Abbott government has kept us particularly busy with the introduction and review of a range of policies that demanded a strong response from EFA. Data retention and national security legislation, privacy law, and possible changes to copyright have all kept us very busy.

On a much happier note, this year was EFAs 20th anniversary. Twenty years is a very long time for an organisation that has frequently struggled for funding and always depended heavily on its membership and volunteers (though not to forget the dedication of our staff). In that time we have seen the Internet grow from being an emerging phenomenon only just beginning to be noticed by the general public, to an integral part of our daily lives, and global commerce and civil society.

Protecting the privacy of Internet users has become one of the most important parts of the fight for privacy globally. Efforts to regulate, censor, and surveil the Internet have never stopped coming, and have now become global debates. EFA’s role continues to be vital, as despite the far wider reach and importance of the Internet, we still find regular attempts at legislation and regulation based on poor technical understanding, and despite the obvious global benefits of a free, open Internet, we still find it remains a constant target for authoritarian attacks. We did take a few hours out during the year to celebrate the Twenty Year milestone, at events in Perth (held after Linux.conf.au in January) and Melbourne (held after the Privacy Workshop in October).

We’ve also changed the way we work internally, with a view to expanding the number of EFA members actively working on EFA projects. We’ve introduced a number of Standing Committees so that members who wish to volunteer to work with EFA but do not wish to be on the Board can contribute in an ongoing and effective way that allows them to concentrate on areas that suit their skills and interests, and we are pleased to say that in general it has been very effective.

I’d like to also note that I (David Cake) am giving this report rather than Sean Rintel, because Sean resigned from the board due to a change of employment, which saw him depart for the UK at short notice. We thank him very much for his efforts as Chair earlier this year, and note that he is responsible for a great deal of our progress this year.

Membership and promotion

EFA has always been a membership-based organisation, and increasing membership grows the organisation.

While we believe all our members are motivated to join based on a commitment to EFA’s campaigns and principles, we know that incentives can sometimes help push potential members over the line. This year we have added some incentives to membership such as giveaways (including several relevant DRM free e-books), and merchandise. Merchandise is also available for purchase by members and supporters, and includes t-shirts, polo shirts, stickers and lapel pins.

The range of merchandise we’re currently able to offer has unfortunately diminished as one of our chosen suppliers closed down, but in general we have found this to be an effective way of raising some additional revenue while promoting the organisation at the same time. We are particularly happy about the large number of Citizens, Not Suspects campaign t-shirts we’ve sold. We’d love to hear member input on additional merchandise products and designs.

We are pleased to say that these strategies, combined with significant public discontent with the state of online civil liberties, has resulted in significant membership growth. Membership grew 29.1% over the last financial year, and is continuing to grow strongly.

The introduction of a discounted Concession membership in 2012-2013 also continues to be a significant area of membership growth, and the Board is pleased that this has been effective in bringing in students and other low-income earners into the membership base.

The Board set itself a goal of achieving 500 active members by the end of December 2013. That target was achieved a week and a half behind schedule, during the 20th Anniversary event in Perth on 10th January 2014.

Chart 1: Active Membership Growth by Type

An area of ongoing concern for the Board is the continued predominance of Life Memberships as a proportion of the total membership base, and the effect this has on membership revenue. Although new Life Memberships do provide a welcome short-term revenue boost, over the longer-term, and particularly given the number of very long-standing Life Memberships, they do represent a significant drain on the organisation’s revenue base, when compared with a similar membership base subject to annual renewal.

The board therefore wishes to cease offering new Life Memberships for purchase, and to instead offer a range of annual and multi-year renewable memberships. In conjunction with this proposed change, long-standing Life Members will be strongly encouraged to become recurring donors to help ensure the ongoing financial viability of the organisation.

Alongside this proposed change, the Board wishes to differentiate Life Memberships that have been awarded for services to the organisation’s objectives by referring to these individuals as ‘Honoured Life Members’.

Two Life Memberships have been awarded in 2014, one to Senator Scott Ludlam, in a recognition of his significant efforts championing digital civil rights in the Senate, and one to Nick Jaffe from Electron Workshop for his role in creating what is arguably Australia’s best grassroots digital rights event, The Privacy Workshop, the first of which was held at Federation Square in Melbourne in October.

The Board’s target for 2014-2015 is to increase the number of renewable memberships beyond 50% of the total membership base. As the following charts demonstrate, there has already been significant progress towards this goal.

Chart 2: Active Members by Type comparing EOFY 2013-2014

Chart 3: Membership growth – FY2013-2014

Organisational Changes

The new Standing Committee system was the biggest change to the organisation’s working methods, and has to date been a great success. This structure allows us to welcome volunteers into the organisation, to let them collaborate with other volunteers, while maintaining a strong connection to the Board so the board is able to stay in touch with all the work of the organisation.

Last year we established Systems and Policy Committee as an initial trial. That trial was considered positive, so one of the first priorities for the new board was to create solid rules governing these Committees, and to create more. We now have four: Systems; Governance & Finance; Campaigns & Communications; and Policy & Research (PRSC). The PRSC in particular has been very successful and now boasts a dozen active participants.

The Board intends to review the structure, governance and operations of these Committees in early 2015, but to date our experience is overwhelmingly positive and any members who are interested joining any of the Committees should get in touch.

We also continued to work to improve our financial systems. We are pleased to report that we now have fully integrated membership, online payment, and double entry bookkeeping and accounting systems, so that we can track all of our income and expenditure accurately in real time.

Policy

It seems like every year is another very busy one for our policy and advocacy work, and this year was no exception. In particular a new government with a busy policy agenda, including many items that EFA found problematic, meant we had a lot of work to do responding to government legislation and calls for consultation. Luckily, our new Policy and Research Standing Committee (the PRSC) has proved to be a very effective way of increasing our capacity to produce meaningful contributions across a wide range of policy areas. The Board thanks all of the volunteers in the PRSC, who have been a great asset to the organisation, and particularly Committee Chair Thomas Karpiniec, who has provided excellent leadership to the group.

We also are collaborating more closely than ever with other civil society organisations, including the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN), the Internet Society of Australia, the Australian Digital Alliance and the Australian Privacy Foundation. The Board looks forward to continuing to strengthen these linkages in the year ahead.

EFA policy work covered a very wide range of issues this year, and covering all of it in detail in this report is impractical. The discussion that follows attempts to summarise the most important issues and activities this year, but is not intended to be exhaustive.

Citizens, Not Suspects campaign

The government has prioritised several pieces of legislation that, taken together, make a concerted assault on Australians right to privacy and security against mass surveillance by government agencies. Disappointingly, but predictably, the government’s reaction to the Snowden revelations regarding illegal mass surveillance appears to have been a rush to make legalise it, and to push to remove legal and technical barriers that might interfere with mass surveillance efforts. This push has primarily consisted of three pieces of legislation, the National Security bill covering the powers and oversight of our intelligence agencies (which has already passed through parliament; changes to the Telecommunications Interception and Access Act governing wire-tapping and surveillance (in progress); and a bill to mandate Data Retention by ISPs and telecommunications providers.

Data retention remains one of our top priorities, and legislation is now before parliament, currently due for a vote in early 2015. Our campaign against mass surveillance, and enabling legislation like data retention, is called Citizens Not Suspects. Our work on this issue has also included:

  • Submission to and appearance before the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security;
  • Submission to and appearance before the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee;
  • Preparing a briefing paper for Members of Parliament on the issue;
  • Targeted lobbying of key opposition MPs and Senators, particularly Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus, Shadow Communications Minister Jason Clare and other senior Labor figures;
  • An online petition and MP emailing campaign in conjunction with GetUp (accessible at: www.citizensnotsuspects.org.au/petition)
  • Social media campaigning across a range of platforms.

We recommend the ACCAN report ‘Hacking The Grapevine: Data Retention and Protecting Consumer Privacy’ as a useful resource on data retention, which we have reviewed at:
https://www.efa.org.au/2014/09/05/hacking-the-grapevine/

Telecommunications Interception

EFA contributed to the Inquiry into the Telecommunications Interception and Access Act which is
accessible at:
https://www.efa.org.au/main/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/EFA-TIA-Act-inquiry-submissionsub22.pdf

- highlighting the vital importance of maintaining an appropriate balance between national security concerns and the need to maintain individual civil rights, especially privacy rights. We also discussed whistleblower protection, the need for a consistent legal framework for privacy, and the many issues hidden in the definitions of ‘metadata’. The testimony from EFA Executive Officer Jon Lawrence and Alex Vulkanovski from the PRSC to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee in relation to the Inquiry can be found at:
https://www.efa.org.au/2014/08/10/testimony-senate-140729/

National Security Legislation

The government introduced, and rapidly passed with ALP support, the National Security Legislation Amendment Bill, which amended the powers and oversight of Australian intelligence agencies. EFA strongly opposed several parts of this legislation, and the overly rapid process by which it was put through parliament with minimal debate. EFA feels that overly broad provisions for ASIO to infiltrate third-party computer systems will allow comprising the security and privacy of innocent people (such as breaking into ISP systems or workplaces justified by one suspect user), and that anti-whistle-blowing provisions attack free speech, freedom of the press, and make our intelligence agencies dangerously unaccountable to the public. While the legislation has passed, EFA will
continue to lobby for its repeal or amendment.

EFA put significant effort into lobbying politicians against this legislation, made statements in opposition in the media, and EFAs Jon Lawrence appeared before the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security hearing discussing this legislation, and was strongly critical.

Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement

EFA remains strongly opposed to this un-democratic and secretive agreement. We have very strong opposition to the way the process has strongly resisted calls for transparency and openness. We also have very strong concerns with provisions in the (secret, but leaked) existing text, including provisions dealing with intellectual property, ISP liability, and trade secrets.

EFA has supported the Our Fair Deal Coalition, an international coalition opposed to the TPPA, in their lobbying efforts. EFA representatives attended, and spoke at, events organised to protest the TPPA. And we will continue to lobby against it.

In July, EFA was a signatory to a letter signed by a broad international coalition, including businesses and user groups, criticising copyright dangers in the TPPA, our press release is at:
https://www.efa.org.au/2014/07/10/tpp-release/

Copyright Reform

In 2013, EFA contributed to the Australian Law Reform Commission inquiry into Copyright Reform. We were pleased with the result of that process, including a strong recommendation for flexible Fair Use instead of the current Fair Dealing system. EFA issued a media release calling for the introduction of a fair use amendment in February. Unfortunately, the positive report has yet to be implemented, and in 2014 the Attorney-General’s department issued a Copyright Infringement Discussion Paper, once again moving the focus of copyright debate back towards the enforcement wish-list of large copyright owners rather than positive changes.

EFA contributed to the paper with a submission, as did many others. We felt that the paper shifted costs and liability onto ISPs (and away from content owners and law enforcement), and ultimately on to users — and failed to address many other important concerns in the Australian copyright regime and content industry, including not only the recommendation of a fair use amendment, but also availability and price discrimination which was generally extremely unfavourable to Australian consumers.

As a contribution to the debate about digital enforcement, EFA created a web site that linked to legally available sources for content (where available) that was being illegally downloaded, while noting pricing and availability. While we felt this site (caniwatchit.com.au) was a useful contribution to the debate, we have since stopped updating it as we feel the (search engine backed) http://streamin.it/discover site fills the same role more effectively.

The Attorney-General’s Department announced that the many individual submissions made to this inquiry would not be published by Parliament. EFA offered to host individual submissions, and several submitters have taken us up on this offer. Submissions from EFA, other organisations, and individuals, may be found at: https://www.efa.org.au/issues-new/copdis

Several EFA members attended the Australian Digital Alliance Fair Use for the Future – A Practical Look at Copyright Reform Forum in February.

‘Sexting’

The Victorian Parliament passed legislation that made maliciously spreading intimate images of a person an offence, but that also made exceptions to child pornography laws so that consensual sharing of images by those under 18 would not see them prosecuted or placed on a sex offender register. We regard this outcome as an appropriate balance between the need for protection of privacy, without extreme criminal penalties for consensual acts. We hope that the submission EFA made in 2012 on this issue contributed to this outcome.

International Internet Governance

EFA continued to be active in international Internet governance. EFA was represented at the Internet Governance Forum in Istanbul, the NETMundial conference in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and three ICANN meetings.

The NETMundial conference was a conference organised by the Brazilian government to discuss principles for ongoing governance of the Internet. It was a crucial meeting to determine how the Internet can continue to be free of government control and censorship, and to ensure that principles such as human rights, openness, and innovation remain at its core. The meeting was generally regarded as a successful one, though there were some major disappointments, such as the lack of a strong statement opposing mass surveillance. EFA participated as part of a large and vibrant civil society delegation, alongside colleagues from organisations such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Association for Progressive Communications, Article 19 and sibling organisations such as Electronic Frontier Finland.

EFA board members were also present at the global Internet Governance Forum in Istanbul (Dr Jenny Ng as an auIGF Ambassador). EFA also participated in a meeting of the Best Bits civil society network. EFA Chair David Cake was part of a panel discussion on Internet Principles along with Dr Vint Cerf (considered the ‘father of the Internet’), Dr Steve Crocker (ICANN Chair, and internet pioneer), Larry Strickling (Assistant Secretary of the US Department of Commerce) and Baroness Rennie Fritchie DBE (Nominet), among others. EFA also attended some sessions of the Internet Ungovernance Forum held concurrently in Istanbul.

EFA also continued its involvement with ICANN (Internet Corporation for Names and Numbers), the organisation that manages critical Internet resources, including the global domain name and IP numbering systems. EFA Chair David Cake served as a member of the ICANN GNSO Council, the body that oversees global domain name policy, as part of the Non-Commercial Stakeholder Group, ensuring that free speech, privacy, and public interest issues are represented. David attended ICANN meetings in in Singapore, London, and Los Angeles, and was elected as a Vice-Chair of the Council in November 2013, re-elected to the GNSO Council for a second two year term, and re-elected for a second one year term as Vice-Chair of the Council. Issues addressed during the year included the relationship between government and the multi-stakeholder policy process, increased accountability mechanisms for ICANN, and the upcoming transition from US government control of the IANA contract (governing ICANNs core role in making changes to the domain name root, and allocating numbers, among other functions). EFA is also participating in several ICANN policy processes, in particular a working group discussing accreditation of proxy and privacy service providers, which is important to ensure that it remains possible to provide internet services such as web sites and email while still having appropriate privacy for your contact details.

Besides these processes, EFA has also been active in global civil society coalitions such as the Internet Governance Caucus, the Non-Commercial Stakeholder Group, and the Best Bits civil society network, and met with other Internet rights organisations around the world, such as Open Rights Group in the UK.

We anticipate 2015 will continue to be a very busy year in the Internet governance area.

Censorship: Classification

EFA submitted to the Inquiry into the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Amendment (Classification Tools and Other Measures) Bill 2014. EFA recommended that Internet content should primarily be dealt with via self-regulation, and the Classification Board should not be given powers to regulate or censor Internet content.

Censorship:: s313(3) of the Telecommunications Act

This little known section of the telecommunications act was suddenly made more relevant in 2013, when then Minister for Communications Stephen Conroy used it as part of his scheme to introduce a minimal Internet filter without parliamentary legislation. Section 313(3) allows for law enforcement and intelligence agencies to request ‘reasonable’ assistance from telecommunications providers including ISPs, and in Conroy’s filter scheme, ISP filtering was put in place that was intended to used to filter a small list of web sites containing child sexual abuse material and similar material created by INTERPOL, and then administered in Australia by the Australian Federal Police. EFA remains philosophically opposed to Internet filtering, and even this small minimal list showed very quickly that our concerns about filtering schemes quickly expanding beyond their initial purpose, and the need for strong judicial oversight on such schemes at a minimum, are very valid.

In April 2013, a number of sites, beginning with Melbourne Free University, reported that they had been blocked, apparently by government mandate. Only in June 2013 was it revealed that the blocking agency had been the Australian Securities and Exchange Commission, who had intended to block a fraud site, had not understood the relationship between a website and an IP number correctly, and had inadvertently blocked over 1200 sites. They admitted to the Senate Estimates in June 2013 that not only had they accidentally over blocked many sites on that occasion, but on another occasion they had similarly accidentally over blocked over 250,000 sites. It has become apparent that once blocking became available to the AFP, it was then open to use by other agencies without any oversight.

EFA considers it a priority to fix this fault in the law. Luckily, it appears that this opinion is shared by others, and there was an Inquiry. EFA made a submission to the Inquiry into the use of subsection 313(3) of the Telecommunications Act 1997 by government agencies to disrupt the operation of illegal online services, and strongly recommended that the Section 313(3) powers be preferably struck out entirely, and if not that then at least severely reduced and made far more specific and constrained in scope.

Governance

During the 2013 AGM, the financial report was not accepted by the membership, due to some errors and inconsistencies. While the amount of money involved was relatively minor, the issues relating to accuracy of financial tracking were very real. As a consequence, a Special General Meeting (SGM) was held on 10th June 2014.

Significant work was undertaken by our Treasurer, Daemon Singer, to implement and integrate the Xero accounting system. This work was completed prior to the SGM and ensures that our finances are now accurately tracked in real time and fully reconciled on at least a weekly basis. A revised financial report was presented to and approved at the SGM.

The SGM also approved the Terms of Reference for a Working Group designed to examine the engagement of external consultants in 2012. To date, however, insufficient volunteers have come forward to allow this Working Group to commence work. The Board has resolved that, should this situation not change by the end of November 2014, then the Working Group will be abandoned and the Governance and Finance Committee will be tasked with generating a set of rules and guidelines covering the engagement of external contractors, to be presented to the membership in 2015 (subject to the approval of the 2015 board).

The other major governance issue for the board in 2014 was the establishment of the Standing Committee structure. It was essential that, while this structure would significantly expand the number of active participants in EFA projects, the board’s oversight role, and the ethical and governance standards expected of Board members, were maintained throughout. The Board therefore produced Terms of Reference for the Committees and also a new Representatives Code of Conduct, closely derived from the pre-existing Code of Conduct applicable to Board Members. These documents are due to be reviewed early in 2015 after their first full year of operation.

Events

EFA organised or co-organised several events this year, and intends to continue organising more physical events during the next year. The number of physical events was significantly higher than previous years, and we felt very successful on several levels. The majority of events attracted strong attendance, helped fund EFAs work, and raised understanding and awareness of important policy issues.

The Privacy Workshop, 17th October - Melbourne

EFA was very proud to support Electron Workshop in the hosting of the first edition of The Privacy Workshop, a world class symposium on digital privacy, rights, and access featuring a wide range of respected speakers.

EFA held a 20th Anniversary event on the 10th of January 2014, coinciding with the final evening of the Linux Australia Conference, at which Senator Scott Ludlam was presented with a life membership by Kim Heitman, a former board member with a very long association with EFA.

Data Retention: the European experience, 15th October- Sydney

In conjunction with the Australian Privacy Foundation and Privacy International (PI), EFA presented Carly Nyst, PI's Legal Director, in conversation with freelance journalist Stilgherrian. They discussed a range of issues relating to privacy around the world, with a particular focus on the European experience with mandatory data retention.

Julian Burnside: 11th October - Brisbane

In conjunction with Queensland Council for Civil Liberties, this event featured leading Human Rights lawyer Julian Burnside AO QC, who was introduced by Carly Nyst, Legal Director of Privacy International.

Citizens, Not Suspects: 11th September - Canberra

EFA's Jon Lawrence moderated an expert panel discussion about data retention and mass surveillance. Panel members included:

  • Kate Lundy - ACT Labor Senator
  • Dr Roger Clarke - Chair, Australian Privacy Foundation
  • Alastair MacGibbon - Director, Centre for Internet Safety, University of Canberra
  • Bernard Keane - Politics Editor, Crikey

Citizens, Not Suspects: 4th September - Melbourne

Fairfax Media's Technology Editor Lia Timson moderated an expert panel discussion about data retention and mass surveillance. Panel members:

  • Dr Suelette Dreyfus - University of Melbourne
  • Associate Professor Lucas Walsh - Monash University
  • Colin Jacobs - Board Member, EFA

Citizens, Not Suspects: 19th August 2014 - Sydney

Leading technology journalist Stilgherrian moderated an expert panel discussion about data retention and mass surveillance. Panel members:

  • Narelle Clark - Internet Society of Australia
  • David Vaile - University of NSW
  • Stephen Blanks - NSW Council for Civil Liberties

The explosion in mass surveillance and what we can do about it: Jillian York in conversation with
Bernard Keane: 24th July 2014 - Melbourne

Jillian York is the Director of International Freedom of Expression at the Electronic Frontier
Foundation. Bernard Keane is a journalist and author, and Crikey’s Canberra correspondent.

Mass Surveillance, Digital Privacy and You: 8th July 2014 - Melbourne

In collaboration with ThoughtWorks and Electron Workshop, EFA presented a free hands-on
workshop 'Mass Surveillance, Digital Privacy and You’, held at ThoughtWorks Melbourne offices -
participants were taught how to use practical privacy tools - BYO laptop!

Creating the Web We Want: 17th June 2014

A thought-provoking examination of privacy issues vital to the future of digital freedom. Speakers
included Senator Scott Ludlam, EFA's Jon Lawrence, along with Lindy Stephens, Keith Dodds and
Tom Sulston from ThoughtWorks Australia.

EFA also participated in events organised by others. This included speaking at multiple protests, policy forums, and discussion events.

EFA participated in the Australian Internet Governance Forum. EFA was represented on a panel discussing data retention law, and board member Dr. Jenny Ng was selected as an auIGF Ambassador, and convened a panel on the emerging tort of privacy law.

EFA participated in the Day We Fight Back event on February 11th, an International protest against mass surveillance.

Media

EFA’s media presence increased dramatically through the year as EFA representatives, led by Executive Officer Jon Lawrence, built on our existing position and developed strong relationships with a number of key technology and other journalists.

A record of all media appearances (for which links are available) is maintained on the EFA media page at: www.efa.org.au/media.

This archive lists 49 media appearances for the 2013-2014 year, implying an average of over one media appearance per week throughout the year (including radio and TV appearances for which links are not available). Notable media outlets included:

  • ABC TV: Lateline; 7.30; The Drum; News24
  • Sky News
  • Channel Seven’s Today Tonight
  • ABC National Radio (The World Today, RN Drive, Overnights, News Radio, The Law Report)
  • Multiple ABC Local Radio stations
  • Triple J’s Hack
  • Multiple commercial radio stations (4BC, 2UE, 3AW)
  • Multiple community radio stations (3RRR, 2SER, Indymedia, Joy FM, 6RTR)
  • Major print and online media outlets (SMH, The Age, The Canberra Times, Guardian Australia, Crikey, The Conversation)

Subjects included data retention, net neutrality, privacy, mass surveillance, the right to be forgotten, children online, police use of mobile phone data, and several others.

We continued our program of Speak Out events, video interviews with important figures in the digital rights world. They included Senator Scott Ludlam, the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s International Director Danny O’Brien and copyright expert Niva Elkin-Koren.

Conclusion

Another busy year, and with a lot of positive outcomes, but the year brought some significant challenges from a new government with a distinct enthusiasm for surveillance and monitoring legislation. Changes to the organisation mean we have a larger, stronger, more open and active organisation, built on firmer foundations, but we have some very big challenges ahead, so we need to keep building. Particularly gratifying this year has been the work of the new PRSC, which has proved to be an amazing source of high quality work, producing parliamentary submissions, policy documents, blog posts, background research and more.

EFA depends on its supporters and members, and we thank all of you for all the support you have given us this year. We’ve got some big challenges coming, and with your help, we think we can continue to make a difference.