Dr. Eckersley facilitated these advancements during his 12-year tenure at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), where he was ultimately appointed chief computer scientist.
He joined the EFF in 2006, after graduating from the University of Melbourne, where he majored in mathematics, physics, and computer science, and quickly earned a reputation as an eclectic, creative, energetic, and collaborative researcher on Internet issues including privacy, security, and net neutrality.
In addition to originating many of the EFF projects on which he worked, he made extensive technical contributions and served as a powerful force for cross-pollination among nonprofit, commercial, and academic partners. He was a key contributor to the organization’s development of Let’s Encrypt, HTTPS Everywhere, the SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) Observatory, and Certbot, which combined to make a lasting contribution to the Internet’s evolution and growth.
As a testament to the impact of this work, Let’s Encrypt is now the largest public certificate authority in the world and has been significantly responsible for improving Transport Layer Security (TLS) and HTTPS adoption across the Internet. HTTPS Everywhere and Certbot had a transformative effect on the widespread adoption of HTTPS and reimagined the certification process itself. Meanwhile, SSL Observatory mapped the landscape of SSL/TLS certificates across the Internet, uncovering widespread vulnerabilities and misconfigurations, leading to improvements in the overall security of the Internet. The latter has also inspired thousands of projects that have followed its groundbreaking methodology.
In addition to technical contributions, Dr. Eckersley was a powerful and vocal advocate for Internet freedom, ensuring the Internet remains an accessible and inclusive platform for free expression and innovation in the face of censorship and surveillance. He campaigned for open wireless networks, fought to keep modern computing platforms open, helped to launch the campaign against SOPA/PIPA, and ran the first controlled tests of ISP (Internet Service Provider) interference with P2P (peer-to-peer) protocols.
Beyond his technical, policy and advocacy work, he was also a leader and mentor, fostering a robust community that continues to build upon his legacy.
He completed his PhD in 2012 from the University of Melbourne, and then in 2018 left the EFF to become director of research at the Partnership on AI, where he stayed until 2020. In 2021, he co-founded the AI Objectives Institute.
Dr. Eckersley died in September 2022 following complications from cancer.