Peter Eckersley, tech activist and founder of Let's Encrypt, dies at 43

Alfonso Maruccia

Posts: 89   +41
Staff
A sad loss: Peter Eckersley was only 43 years old, and he contributed to the creation of important technology ventures like certificate authority Let's Encrypt, Certbot, and HTTPS Everywhere. A computer scientist from Australia, Eckersley actively promoted discussion and research about highly debated topics like net neutrality and artificial intelligence.

Peter Eckersley is not one of the most well-known names in the computer industry, but his contribution to modern internet and technology are notable. A computer scientist born in Melbourne, Australia, Eckersley worked at the Electronic Frontier Foundation and elsewhere to improve and advocate privacy, net neutrality and online security.

One of Eckersley's most important contributions to the industry originated from his time at the EFF, when he co-founded the nonprofit service known as Let's Encrypt. Today, Let's Encrypt is a certificate authority run by the Internet Security Research Group, a web infrastructure trusted by all major browser and Internet companies including Mozilla, Google, Meta, IBM, Amazon and many others.

As Seth Schoen, one of Eckersley former colleagues wrote on Let's Encrypt community support forum, in the beginning Let's Encrypt was just "a wild idea" that later turned into an important part of the Internet infrastructure. Today the free CA provides TLS certificates to 260 million HTTPS websites, whether they are well known organizations and companies or just personal blogs for ordinary netizens. For many years TechSpot relied on Let's Encrypt and Certbot for HTTPS compliance as well.

Working as Chief Computer Scientist at the EFF from 2006 to 2018, Peter Eckersley was also an open advocate for net neutrality and started other important projects like the open-source browser extensions Privacy Badger and HTTPS Everywhere, the anti-tracking browser test Panopticlick and more.

Schoen noted that Eckersley was an avid road cyclist and espresso connoisseur, renowned for his flamboyant fashion sense as well as his appreciation of beautiful architecture. He held a PhD from the University of Melbourne, a city he left when he moved to the United States to settle in San Francisco, California. Here, Eckersley lived in a share house together with his roommates including computer scientist and activist Aaron Swartz.

Eckersley died of cancer on September 2, 2022 at CPMC Davies Hospital in San Francisco, at the age of 43. At the end of his life, his career was focused on ethics and safety in artificial intelligence, once again a highly debated subject for which he co-founded the AI Objectives Institute to establish a new foundation for the goals to pursue with artificial intelligence.

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