Burlingame, CA - March 12, 1997 - In what the organization's spokesman describes as "a unique event both for EFF and for the Computers, Freedom, and Privacy conference," the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) will honor former movie actress Hedy Lamarr with a special award this evening for her co-invention of spread-spectrum broadcast communications technologies. Lamarr will be honored along with Johan Helsingius of Finland, and Marc Rotenberg of Washington, D.C., whose work for civil liberties on the Net has earned them each a 1997 Pioneer Award.
EFF Staff Counsel Mike Godwin, who serves on the Pioneer Awards' panel of judges and who has coordinated the Awards event for four of its six years, said his organization regards both Lamarr's contribution and the general public's "nearly absolute ignorance about it" to merit special recognition for Lamarr as well as for late George Antheil, who, working with Lamarr more than half a century ago, developed and patented what is now known as spread-spectrum broadcasting. Communications experts say that one of the chief benefits of spread-spectrum broadcasting is the access to the airwaves it will give ordinary people with ordinary resources. Only recently has the promise of spread-spectrum technologies begun to be affordable -- this is due to the recent development of inexpensive computers, Godwin said, adding that the amount of mathematical calculation one had to do in the pre-microcomputer era to implement spread-spectrum broadcasting made such broadcasting "a practical impossibility most of the time."
The presentation of the Sixth Annual Pioneer Awards will take place in a ceremony this evening at the seventh annual Computers, Freedom and Privacy Conference. The conference is being held Tuesday through Friday of this week at the San Francisco Airport Hyatt Regency hotel in Burlingame, California.
The Pioneer Awards were started in 1991 in order to recognize individuals who have made significant and influential contributions to the development of computer-based communications or to the empowerment of individuals in using computers. Two individuals were named recipients of this year's Pioneer award; they are Johan ("Julf") Helsingius, for his pioneering work in exploring the socially constructive uses of anonymous communications on the Internet, and Marc Rotenberg, now the head of Electronic Privacy Information Center, for his many years of work in educating both the general public and the Washington policy community about the privacy and civil-liberties concerns raised by computer communications.
"Both Rotenberg and Helsingius have set standards of education and consciousness-raising about social issues on the Net that any of us could be proud of," Godwin said. Both winners of this year's Pioneer Awards, he said, "have taken a lot of heat for their principles, but have shown an exemplary willingness to stand their ground in the hope of teaching us something about the importance of sticking to such principles where the Net is concerned."
"The special award for Lamarr and Antheil is remarkable for other reasons besides its recognition of a woman whose contributions were thought to be solely in the field of entertainment," Godwin said. Partly this is because Lamarr and Antheil had hoped that the military applications of their invention would play a role in the defeat of Nazi Germany. "Ironically," Godwin said, "this tool they developed to defend democracy half a century ago promises to extend democracy in the 21st century."
Godwin also noted that the chief architect behind the public campaign to honor Lamarr and Antheil was Dave Hughes, an online community activist based in Colorado. Hughes won a Pioneer Award himself some years ago for his online activism, Godwin said, "and his effective use of the Net to tell the story of Ms. Lamarr's and Mr. Antheil's contributions just goes to show that we picked the right guy back then." Will the special award for Lamarr and Antheil eclipse the awards to Rotenberg and Helsingius? "We expect the awards to complement each other," he responded. "People who come to see Ms. Lamarr and Mr. Antheil being honored will learn about the great work Marc and Julf have done, and vice versa."
Johan Helsingius, Managing Director for EUnet Finland Oy, the major commercial ISP in Finland, is being honored with a Pioneer Award for his contribution to online freedom and privacy by establishing and maintaining the first practical anonymous e-mail server. For many years his anonymous remailer, anon.penet.fi, allowed people who might otherwise be intimidated or even endangered to speak out and to express their views. From battered women to political refugees, Helsingius' system provided all users the ability to communicate freely and safely in cyberspace.
Marc Rotenberg, founder and Director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), is being honored with a Pioneer Award for his as role as a tireless champion of privacy, human rights and civil liberties on the electronic frontier. His efforts have kept the important issues concerning the impact of computer and telecommunications technologies on freedom and privacy in society in the forefront of public policy debates, both in this country and around the world.
Actress Hedy Lamarr and composer George Antheil are being honored by the EFF this year with a special award for their trail-blazing development of a technology that has become a key component of wireless data systems. In 1942 Lamarr, once named the "most beautiful woman in the world" and Antheil, dubbed "the bad boy of music" patented the concept of "frequency-hopping" that is now the basis for the spread spectrum radio systems used in the products of over 40 companies manufacturing items ranging from cell phones to wireless networking systems.
The judges for the sixth annual EFF Pioneer Awards were: Hal Abelson, Professor of Computer Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Karen Coyle, librarian at the University of California and president of the Berkeley chapter of Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility; Bruce Koball, technical consultant and one of the organizers of the Computers, Freedom, and Privacy conference; Simona Nass, founder of the Society for Electronic Access and board member of the Voters Telecommunications Watch; Peter Neumann, principal scientist at SRI International; and Mike Godwin, staff counsel for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, who coordinated the judging process.
510-548-3290, Fax: 415-436-9993
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is a non-profit organization founded in 1990 to ensure the protection of civil liberties, such as privacy and freedom of expression, as new communications technologies emerge. Through its work with policymakers, industry organizations, communications media and the public, EFF is committed to protecting and defining civil rights and responsibilities within the realm of computing and telecommunications.