This is the second article of the series “EDRi-Member in the Spotlight” in which our members have the opportunity to introduce themselves and their work in depth.
Today we introduce the international organisation Access Now.
1. Who are you and what is your organisation’s goal and mission?
Access Now defends and extends the digital rights of users at risk around the world. We combine innovative policy, user engagement, and direct technical support, and fight for open and secure communications for all.
We are fighting against internet shutdowns and mass surveillance, for corporate and government transparency and a secure internet, for MLAT reform and net neutrality and we’re really really into encrypting ALL THE THINGS!
But we are first and foremost a tech-driven organisation. Our brilliant tech team valiantly runs the Digital Security Helpline which operates out of Manila, Tunis and Costa Rica, working 24/7 to assist civil society, activists, bloggers and journalists on the ground in digital need around the world.
2. How did it all begin, and how did your organisation develop its work?
Access Now was founded in 2009 by four people – Brett Solomon, Cameran Ashraf, Sina Rabbani and Kim Pham – after the turbulent Iranian presidential election of that year. During the protests that followed the contested election, Access Now took a strong role in supporting secure communications, protecting independent websites and disseminating the video footage that came out of Iran despite government efforts to thwart outgoing communication. Since then, the key focus has been on empowering users and fighting ill-advised government policies in our increasingly networked, digital world.
3. The biggest opportunity created by advancements in information and communication technology is…
… fostering free expression, human development, building bridges and overcoming the lack of diversity. As a society we have the tools to make a lot of real, positive change.
4. The biggest threat created by advancements in information and communication technology is…
…. currently to the right to private life and data protection, human intimacy and trust. We’ve voluntarily accepted cameras and microphones into all areas of our lives. But it does not have to be that way. Technology can and must be human rights- protecting and enhancing.
5. Which are the biggest victories/successes/achievements of your organisation?
We have been involved in global victories for net neutrality in the EU, the US and in India, for privacy in the EU, against data retention in Paraguay, for corporate accountability globally, on the government surveillance in the US and many more. Without our cooperation with EDRi, none of our success in the EU would have been possible.
One of our greater endeavors is the organisation of a yearly conference, RightsCon, where the world’s human rights experts, business leaders, technologists, engineers, investors, activists, and government representatives come together to discuss issues at the intersection of technology and human rights. The latest edition recently took place in San Francisco in March 2016. The atmosphere in this year’s edition was fantastic and next year we are bringing it to Europe! So let’s make sure European civil society is over-adequately represented.
Fun fact: In 2010 we were finalists for the European Union’s 2010 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought!
6. If your organisation could now change one thing in your country, what would that be?
Since we are a global organisation, we will simply ask for the protection of an open, free and secure internet globally.
Here in Europe we would like to see governments reconnect with the people they are elected to protect through user-centric rights-enhancing policies bringing transparency, accountability and digital security.
7. What is the biggest challenge your organisation is currently facing in your country?
The biggest challenge we are currently seeing globally is with governments reacting too rashly to current challenges. The digital world is getting away from them and they are coping with this change by trying to surveil and control it. We’re seeing massive thresspases against privacy and fundamental human rights, encryption compromises… Governments need to relinquish this constant need to meddle and fiddle. Stop trying to break the internet and just give us the solid legal certainty which we need to feel protected and free to express ourselves in the online environment.
8. How can one get in touch with you if they want to help as a volunteer, or donate to support your work?
We have an Action Center where we list all of our ongoing campaigns. Every voice counts so signing those petitions and sending emails to government representatives really helps get our message across. There is of course a weekly newsletter that goes around and there is also the opportunity to subscribe to our actions alerts – that way subscribers can get a notification to join us in protecting human rights online! There is of course also the traditional way of making a donation or volunteering to help us at RightsCon next year. All of this can be found on our website: www.accessnow.org
Member in the spotlight series