If the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the nation’s preeminent digital rights nonprofit, had disclosed last year that it received a cool $1 million gift from Google — about 17% of its total revenue — some eyebrows might have been raised. The group typically describes itself as “member-supported” and, like most nonprofits, it treasures its above-the-commercial-fray, public-interest-group aura and reputation for independence.
In fact, Google (GOOG) did transfer $1 million to the EFF last year, but the money did not have to be, and wasn’t, reported as a corporate donation. And if, as currently planned, the EFF receives another $1 million this year from Facebook (FB), it won’t have to report that as a donation either. That’s because both transfers are formally court-ordered outlays being paid by those companies to settle class-action suits.