Long before Edward Snowden’s revelations, the Benetech Human Rights Program has provided secure and open information management and data collection technology for human rights defenders. Now as we start to grasp the scope and scale of unchecked surveillance, it is clear that having the know-how to protect personal information and privacy is no longer something that only human rights activists need.
That’s why our Human Rights Program is working to increase use of end-to-end, open source encryption among journalists, citizen reporters, and activists, as well as broad awareness of the self-empowerment that open technology can generate.
Team members of the Benetech Human Rights Program have just hosted a two-day workshop in New York City, where they introduced Martus, Benetech’s open technology for secure information management. They designed the workshop for a broad audience—from human rights practitioners and journalists interested in protecting their information and sources with end-to-end encryption to anyone engaged in mobile data collection and distribution.
During the two-day event, the Benetech team discussed a wide range of topics, including strategies to effectively manage distributed data collection, digital security risks, and effective tools to combat them. There was particular focus on the ethical implications of managing information of vulnerable populations, as well as on the challenges for upholding the promise of privacy and anonymity in the context of unchecked mass surveillance. The team also demonstrated the next Martus release and some of the digital security applications that integrate with it. The event was a great opportunity to get feedback on the growing Martus information management and data collection framework, and to hear perspectives on information management directly from those who are at the forefront of the battle for accountability, transparency, and justice.
Benetech co-hosted the workshop jointly with ThoughtWorks, an organization whose purpose is to revolutionize software design, creation and delivery, while advocating for positive social change. The attendees represented leading organizations working at the intersection of human rights and technology innovation, including Access, Department of State’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, The Guardian Project, Human Rights Watch, New Media Advocacy Project, New Tactics for Human Rights, OpenITP, Vital Voices Global Partnership, and WITNESS.
Benetech sees an effective engagement model emerging out of this workshop. Our Human Rights team is looking forward to replicating it as we continue to work towards making the Internet a safe place for journalists, citizen reporters, activists, and other organizations or individuals who rely on secure data collection.