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Protecting civic society online 

International Human Rights Programme / Partner story

Photo by Patdanai from Shutterstock 

Privacy International is a UK-based organisation that works at the intersection of modern technologies and rights. For years, it has made investigations and campaigned against hacking powers, like those enabled by NSO Group and other companies. Previously used exclusively by intelligence agencies, Privacy International has uncovered that system exploitation is increasingly conducted by police and immigration officials.  

The organisation has exposed how governments are secretly expanding their arsenals to conduct generalised, invisible, real-time surveillance of civic spaces, from a distance. Increasingly, governments are able to extract data on a widespread scale from these civic spaces, and then create searchable archives of the people who participate in them. 

In addition, Privacy International is engaged in high profile legal cases on surveillance. Most recently, it was involved in a seminal European Court of Human Rights case that emerged from the Snowden revelations. The court declared that the UK intelligence agency GCHQ had unlawfully intercepted and monitored data. Privacy International was involved in other cases over the last year that also had similar positive results. 

Recently, Privacy International expanded its work with Open Briefing (also an Oak partner) over the pandemic period. Open Briefing is a not-for-profit organisation that provides human rights defenders and other civic actors in high-risk environments, with resources to improve their safety and security, digital security, wellbeing, and resilience. Both organisations focus attention on secure digital infrastructure for civil society organisations, and on supporting civil society organisations across the world. 

Keeping civil society safe, connected, and empowered is essential to protecting human rights and democracy. We are pleased to support civil society to respond to the inherent risks (and opportunities) posed by the online space. Given that many of our partners work in high-risk contexts, we are dedicated to ensuring that we provide these partners with a duty of care. To this end, we are happy to support the work of our partners mentioned above, who seek to build a more secure, free, and open digital future, not just for civic activists, but for everyone. 

To learn more about Privacy International or Open Briefing, you can find more information on their websites: and You can also find out more about the work of our International Human Rights Programme by clicking here