Posts Tagged ‘technology’

NGOs express fear that new EU ‘terrorist content’ draft will make things worse for human rights defenders

January 31, 2019

On Wednesday 30 January 2019 Mike Masnick in TechDirt published a piece entitled: “Human Rights Groups Plead With The EU Not To Pass Its Awful ‘Terrorist Content’ Regulation“. The key argument is that machine-learning algorithms are not able to distinguish between terrorist propaganda and investigations of, say, war crimes, It points out that as an example that Germany’s anti-“hate speech” law has proven to be misused by authoritarian regimes. Read the rest of this entry »

Today official launch of AI’s Panic Button – a new App to fight attack, kidnap and torture

June 23, 2014

Amnesty International launches new open source ‘Panic Button’ app to help activists facing imminent danger.

Today, 23 June 2014, Amnesty International launches its open source ‘Panic Button’ app to help human rights defenders facing imminent danger. The aim is to increase protection for those who face the threat of arrest, attack, kidnap and torture. In short:

Read the rest of this entry »

Can ‘big data’ can help protect human rights?

January 5, 2014

Samir Goswami, managing director of AI USA’s Individuals and Communities at Risk Program, and Mark Cooke,  chief innovation officer at Tax Management Associates, wrote a piece about how ‘big data’ can help human rights rather than just violate them. The piece is worth reading but falls short of being convincing. The better prediction of human rights violations which may [!] result from the analysis of a huge amount of data would of course be welcome but I remain unconvinced that it would therefore lead to a reduction of actual violations. Too many of these are planned and willful, while the mobilization of shame and international solidarity would be less forthcoming for violations that MAY occur. The authors are not the first to state that prevention is better than cure but the current problem is no so much a lack of predictive knowledge as a weakness of curing intervention. Still, the article is worth reading as it describes developments that are likely to come about anyway. Read the rest of this entry »

For HRDs digital surveillance can mark the difference between life and death says Mary Lawlor

September 22, 2013

This blog has tried to pay regularly attention to the crucial issue of electronic security and referred to the different proposal that aim to redress the situation in favour of human rights defenders. In a column of Friday 20 September the Director of Front Line, Mary Lawlor, writes about the digital security programme “Security in a Box” which her organisation and the Tactical Technology collective started some years ago. For Sunday reading here the whole text:

Mary Lawlor

ARE YOU AWARE that the recording device on your smartphone can be activated remotely and record sensitive conversations? And that the webcam on your PC can film inside your office without you knowing?

For most people, debates about the snooping NSA and GCHQ are little more than great material for a chat down the pub, but for human rights defenders around the world, digital security is synonymous with personal security. For a gay rights campaigner in Honduras or a trade unionist in Colombia, safety from interception of communications or seizure of data can be the difference between freedom or imprisonment, life or death.

Digital surveillance has been described as “connecting the boot to the brain of the repressive regime”. Governments are developing the capacity to manipulate, monitor and subvert electronic information. Surveillance and censorship is growing and the lack of security for digitally stored or communicated information is becoming a major problem for human rights defenders in many countries.

By hacking into the computer system of a human rights organisation, governments or hostile hackers can access sensitive information, including the details of the organisation’s members and supporters. They can also install spyware or viruses to monitor or disrupt the work of the organisation.

Dangerous in the wrong hands

One of the best-documented cyber attacks on an NGO was the hacking of the Political Prisoner’s Solidarity Committee, a Colombian human rights organisation. The organisation’s email account was hacked and used to send malicious viruses and spam messages, and all employee work email accounts were deleted.

The hacked email account was also used to send threatening emails to a member of the organisation based in a different region. Their offices were broken into and the hard disk of one computer was stolen and replaced with a faulty one. Spyware was found on the computer used to maintain the organisation’s website; this recorded all the information on the computer and sent it via the internet to an unknown location. This cyber attack also coincided with a wave of anonymous phone calls and direct threats to staff members.

In this digital age how can human rights defenders make sure their online communications and their data are safe and that they are not putting themselves or colleagues in danger?

This is where Front Line Defenders is able to give practical help. With a security grant from Front Line Defenders, the Political Prisoner’s Solidarity Committee installed a new secured server and router, and upgraded their whole computer security system. We also organised a workshop on digital security for all the members of their organisation.

This was useful for a seriously at-risk organisation. But there are effective steps all of us can take to stay safe. Most of us have a computer or laptop and most have a password. That password is probably a cat’s name or a daughter’s name – which can be broken in about 10 seconds. Simply by changing your password to a longer one which combines upper case, lower case and digits makes the password virtually unbreakable and is a simple, first step to improve your online security.

“Back doors”

Recent revelations have shown that even encrypted communications that were previously thought to be secure have been built with deliberately included “back doors”, so that organisations like the NSA and GCHQ can access information that people think is secret. One protection against these built-in weaknesses is to use open-source software – this is software not provided by a big-name company like Microsoft or Apple, but one in which the workings of the software are made available for all to see, so that any such intended weakness in the encryption would be spotted and exposed by the global community of digital security experts.

Even if authorities or malicious hackers can’t see what you’re communicating, it can still be possible for them to see when you communicate and with whom. The Tactical Technology Collective has said, “If you use a computer, surf the internet, text your friends via a mobile phone or shop online – you leave a digital shadow.” If you want to find out the size of your digital shadow, and more importantly want to know what you can do about it, visit their award-winning website myshadow.org.

Security in-a-box (available onlineis a collaborative effort of the Tactical Technology collective and Front Line Defenders. It was created to meet the digital security and privacy needs of advocates and human rights defenders, but can also be used by members of the public.Security in-a-box includes a how-to booklet  which addresses a number of important digital security issues.

It also provides a collection of Hands-on Guides, each of which includes a particular freeware or open source software tool, as well as instructions on how you can use that tool to secure your computer, protect your information or maintain the privacy of your internet communication.

A clear understanding of the risks

When we started our Digital Security Programme we only ran one or two trainings per year. Now we are organising workshops on digital security all over the world, sometimes in secret locations for human rights defenders from countries where even to use the word “encryption” in an email would bring you under the eagle eye of the security services.

Electronic communication enables human rights defenders to network and cooperate as never before but survival depends on having a clear understanding of the risks involved and the need for a well thought-out digital security strategy.

Column: For some people, digital surveillance can mark the difference between life and death.

Protection International opens inscription for new e-learning course on Security for HRDs

September 12, 2013

On 7 October 2013, a new course on “Security and protection management for HRD and social organisations” begins on the e-learning platform of Protection International (http://www.e-learning.protectioninternational.org/course/info.php?id=21).

•       Enrolment until 24 September 2013 Read the rest of this entry »

Development of Amnesty’s Panic Button App

September 11, 2013

Having last week referred to 3 different (and competing?) techno initiatives to increase the security of HRDs, i would be amiss not to note the post of 11 september  2013 by Tanya O’Caroll on the AI blog concerning  the development of the Panic button. Over the next couple of months, she will be keeping you posted about the Panic Button. If you want to join the community of people working on Panic Button, please leave a comment on the site mentioned below or email panicbutton@amnesty.org.

via Inside the development of Amnesty’s new Panic Button App | Amnestys global human rights blog.

 

Technology to protect Human Rights Defenders: great but should there not be more cooperation??

September 5, 2013

On 7 April 2013 I posted on this blog the announcement of the Anti-kidnap alarm for human rights defenders in form of the Natalia bracelet launched in Stockholm by Civil Rights Defenders.

This was followed 10 days later, 17 April, by a post referring to the Panic Button developed by Amnesty International (“How to turn a mobile phone into an alert system for human rights defenders: AI’s Panic Button”).

Now the New York based Human Rights foundation announces its Partnership with global encrypted communications firm Silent Circle to protect the private communications of political dissidents, human rights groups, and civil society organizations in at-risk scenarios. (http://humanrightsfoundation.org/HRF-Announces-Silent-Circle-Partnership-to-Support-Dissidents-04-09-2013.php)

 

There exist already the older and more wide-ranging tools of:  “Security in a Box”  (a collaboration between Front Line and Tactical Tech Collective – see http://security.ngoinabox.org/welcome) and Protection International‘s  on-line Manual: http://protectioninternational.org/publication/new-protection-manual-for-human-rights-defenders-3rd-edition/.

 

While these (and perhaps other tools that I have missed!) may have all different features, the question could be asked who among the hard-pressed human rights defenders on the ground have the time and energy to sort through all this and pick what is most meaningful for them? Competition may well bring out the best but can also be confusing.

 

Nordic Creative Commons Film Festival: Witness on-line discussion 5 September

September 5, 2013

Google Plus Hangout On Air Live at Nordic Film Festival

Priscila Neri, WITNESS Senior Program Manager, discusses digital media, freedom of speech and advocacy at the Nordic Creative Commons Film Festival Thursday 5 September at 10:40am ET. She will present two short videos – you can watch them anytime online: People Before Profit and How to Film Protests: A WITNESS Guide to Video for Change) and discuss the use of Creative Commons and why it’s an important resource for activists. You can watch the live discussion on Google Hangout On Air and send Priscila your questions on Twitter using #WITNESSlive or @witnessorg.

Facebook Joins the Global Network Initiative for Human Rights

May 23, 2013

On 22 May 2013 the Global Network Initiative (GNI) announced that Facebook had become the sixth company to join GNI. “Advancing human rights, including freedom of expression and the right to communicate freely, is core to our mission of making the world more open and connected,” said Elliot Schrage, Vice President of Communications, Marketing and Public Policy at Facebook.

GNI brings information technology companies together with NGOs, investors and academics. Founding companies are: Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo!, as well as Evoca and Websense who joined the initiative in 2011. GNI’s principles and guidelines provide companies with a framework for responding to government requests in a manner that protects and advances freedom of expression and privacy. Companies that join GNI agree to independent assessments of their record in implementing these principles and guidelines.

By joining this important collaboration between companies, human rights organizations, investors, and academics, Facebook is fully embracing its responsibility to protecting the rights of its users and setting an example that other companies should follow,” said Leslie Harris, President and CEO of the Center for Democracy and Technology.

Contacts:  David Sullivan, GNI, dsullivan@globalnetworkinitiative.org
via Facebook Joins the Global Network Initiative | Global Network Initiative.

 

How to turn a mobile phone into an alert system for human rights defenders: AI’s Panic Button

April 17, 2013

image of mobile phone

Last week I reported on the Natalia bracelet and yesterday my eye fell on a lengthy piece posted on Amnesty International‘s Livewire by Technology and Human Rights Project Officer Tanya O’Carroll. It describes how emerging digital tools will help activists and human rights defenders. http://livewire.amnesty.org/2013/04/15/how-to-turn-a-mobile-phone-into-an-alert-system-for-activists/.

As a student activist speaking out against the government, Hassan is at constant threat of being arrested. The Sudanese government tracks and harasses members of the student movement he belongs to. Reports of his friends and contacts being detained, tortured and even killed by the authorities are frighteningly regular. But Hassan’s network is also well organized. His phone is always on him and he uses it to help organize demonstrations, to record and disseminate video of violent crackdowns against the students and to keep his network updated every minute – a network that stretches from Khartoum to the rest of the globe in the time it takes to send a tweet. If he is able to get word out that he’s been arrested, Hassan knows that his network’s response will be swift and structured. The problem is that he knows the first thing the authorities will seize is his mobile phone. And here’s the double danger of not getting word out: the authorities will use the phone book, call log, messages and any open apps – such as G-Mail or Facebook – to identify and track others. Without knowledge of the arrest, the whole network will be easily compromised. Read the rest of this entry »