Privacy Defenders: Enabling young people to defend their online privacy

EDRi member Electronic Frontier Norway (EFN) in cooperation with Croatian NGOs NUM and Politiscope will soon finish the implementation of the project Privacy Defenders, supported by the Active Citizen Fund (EEA and Norway). The project aims to build the capacities of young people from a small local community to advocate for and defend their online privacy.

By Politiscope (guest author) · September 28, 2022

NUM, a youth organisation based in the small Croatian town of Lepoglava, is the project lead. Their members and volunteers will participate in a series of modules and workshops that will enhance the capacities of young people for informed and responsible participation in the modern public sphere, which is mediated by private digital spaces.

“We know most of the acute societal and political problems of today (such as the increase of intolerance, violence, fake news, conspiracy theories) have their origin and reasons for spreading in the digital public sphere. It is important that young people are aware of the hidden algorithmic structure of social networks and the addictive nature of digital products, as well as the detrimental impact they have on our democracies, societies, and personal well-being. Our partners Politiscope and EFN helped us to raise awareness among young people in our local community on these extremely important issues of today.“ – says Silvija Vrabelj, from NUM, the coordinator of the project.

Duje Prkut from Politiscope, a privacy watchdog organisation based in the capital of Zagreb, stressed the importance of going local:

“Most often activities targeting Croatian youth are implemented in the capital and few other larger cities, especially those activities related to IT, online privacy, digital rights, and similar. We are excited we had an opportunity to make a difference in a small but vibrant local community and educate kids on how to protect their online privacy and familiarise them with GDPR and their digital rights.”

While most activities targeted young people already engaged with NUM as employees, members, and volunteers, the project Privacy Defenders envisioned outreach activities in the wider local community. Politicsope and NUM held a brief education module on digital rights for pupils of the Lepoglava elementary schools. NUM members who participated in education then held a brief education module for the elderly, all members of the local organisation of retirees. A stand with young privacy defenders distributing leaflets on online privacy was operational throughout the exceptionally well-visited Jailhouse festival – a local summer youth festival organized by NUM in Lepoglava.

“Teaching youth about the tools and techniques you can use to protect your rights, is key to enabling them to participate in a society which is ever more privacy encroaching, without having to live in fear of having your private messages or pictures shared for the entire world to see.” – says Tom Fredrik Blenning from EDRi member EFN.

In the final stage of the project, NUM and Politiscope will design and implement small-scale advocacy activities on the national level. Project partners will bring the latest insights on the concerning rise of mental health disorders among the young to the attention of relevant public bodies. Relevant decision-makers will be introduced to the growing body of evidence pointing to social networks as the primary explanation for the deteriorating mental health of young people.

Contribution by: Duje Kozomara, Deputy Executive Director, Politiscope