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Silicon Valley is undergoing a transformation. Tech companies are facing a reckoning driven by grassroots activists agitating for accountability, and as big tech’s role in public life comes under increasing scrutiny, tech companies are withstanding pressure from lawmakers, customers, and their own workers in new ways.
One of the tech world's most prolific gadflies is Evan Greer, deputy director of Fight for the Future. The group has made use of extremely online PR tactics, leading social-media campaigns that draw attention to tech giants’ practices that they see as threats to privacy and democracy.
Take a gander at the major reckonings faced by tech companies in the past year, and you’ll find that Fight for the Future — led partly by Greer — has played a role in shaping the public conversations surrounding those stories.
When Greer joined Fight for the Future nearly a decade ago, she saw its mission as “save the internet.” Now, she tells Business Insider, the organization’s goals are better summarized as “making the internet worth saving.”“I feel like I'm fighting this fight to ensure that technology is broadly used to liberate and lift up and empower rather than to exploit and oppress and silence,” Greer says.
In June, Fight for the Future successfully pressured Zoom to make its calls end-to-end encrypted free. Months before that, it successfully pressured dozens of the largest music festivals to drop facial-recognition tech and called for a nationwide ban on government facial recognition. That was before Amazon, IBM, and Microsoft agreed to stop selling facial-recognition to law enforcement and a bill that would ban the practice was introduced in Congress. Most recently, Fight for the Future has been a leading voice pushing for privacy protections amid COVID-19 contact-tracing efforts.
At all turns, Greer, with her bombastic social-media presence, has led the charge. “We want people to be able to count on us to be the watchdogs paying attention when there are these profound threats to our basic rights,” Greer adds. “There’s a million other things in the world that need to be addressed, but this is important to us.”