Amnesty Tech
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Amnesty Tech is working to answer one of the most critical questions facing the world today:

what do our fundamental rights look like in the digital age?


Who We Are

Amnesty Tech is a global collective of advocates, hackers, researchers and technologists. We aim to:

  • Bolster social movements in an age of surveillance
  • Challenge the systemic threat to our rights posed by the surveillance-based business model of the big tech companies
  • Ensure accountability in the design and use of new and frontier technologies
  • Encourage innovative uses of technology to help support our fundamental rights

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Our Approach

Community Engagement

Working directly with human rights activists and civil society organizations to build up their technological capacity to defend themselves against emerging tactics of digital repression and surveillance.

Policy Solutions

Engaging in advocacy, campaigning and litigation to address the broader risks posed by emerging technology and the surveillance-based business model of the big technology companies.

Innovation

Helping to identify, pilot and scale new technologies and tools to support our campaigns and research.

Our work

Disrupting Surveillance

Across the world, hard won rights are being weakened and denied every day. And increasingly, much of the repression faced by human rights defenders is digital. Since 2017, Amnesty Tech’s investigations have exposed vast and well-orchestrated digital attacks against activists and journalists in countries such as Morocco, Egypt, Azerbaijan, Qatar, Mexico and Pakistan.

Amnesty Tech aims to counter digital repression by:

  • Investigating, exposing and shutting down digital attacks against and civil society, from spyware to misinformation and online abuse
  • Providing direct support to groups most at risk
  • Undertaking strategic litigation to challenge the corporate actors who provide software and services to rights-violating governments
  • Harnessing the power of the Amnesty movement to campaign for accountability and stop the export of surveillance tech which risks violating human rights

The Security Lab, launched in 2019 and located in Berlin, leads technical investigations into cyber-attacks against civil society and provides critical support when individuals face such attacks.  The Lab also builds tools and services to help protect human rights defenders from cyber-attacks, and conducts technical training with the wider support community to help them identify and respond to digital threats.

Our global team of technologists – including in Tunis, Dakar and Nairobi – also provide digital security training and one-on-one support to activists, as well as security audits for partner NGOs.

We also focus on the secretive surveillance tech industry, including campaigning to stop the export of tech which risks being used to target human rights activists.

In 2019, we supported a legal action against Israeli spyware firm NSO Group, whose intrusive products have been used in attacks on activists in Mexico, Saudi Arabia and UAE, including an attack against one of our own staff members.

In October 2019, we uncovered targeted digital attacks against two prominent Moroccan human rights defenders using NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware. We are also carrying out further investigations of abuses linked to the company.

Secure Squad is trained network of volunteers who have signed up to provide peer support on tech and security to HRDs within their own communities.

Those at the forefront of combating climate change are heavily targeted by infiltration and surveillance. We have initiated a project to provide more digital security support to environmental defenders, who remain underserved in terms of technical and security support.

Big data and AI

Companies such as Facebook and Google have created an endless quest to drive profits through data capture, constructing a global surveillance infrastructure that goes beyond anything we have seen in history. It is clear these trends are already impacting the very core of our societies.

In the US, Cambridge Analytica misused intimate personal Facebook data to micro-target and influence swing voters in the last presidential election. Since taking power, Donald Trump has tried to harness the power of big data to bolster his own aggressive policies targeting Muslims. 

In the US and Europe, the algorithms powered by Facebook and YouTube have deepened polarization and fanned hate – contributing to the rise of the far-right. In China, a sophisticated web of “dataveillance” technologies have tightened the government’s grip on social control and aided the persecution of minority groups like the Uighurs.

In 2018, Amnesty and Access Now launched the Toronto Declaration, a landmark statement on the human rights impact of machine learning systems on the right to equality and non-discrimination. It was widely endorsed by civil society, but the reception from tech companies has been decidedly cold.

In November 2019, Amnesty launched a ground-breaking report on how the surveillance-based business model of companies like Facebook and Google undermines fundamental rights, including the right to privacy and free expression. Amnesty is also looking at the human rights impact of emerging technologies such as facial recognition.

In addition, we also seek to understand and expose the impacts of dis/misinformation and online abuse, such as our Toxic Twitter campaign which used cutting edge AI/ML tools to measure the extent of violence and abuse against women on Twitter.

As part of these efforts, we identify opportunities for strategic litigation to secure accountability for human rights abuses arising from the dominance of the big tech firms and their misuse of big data and artificial intelligence.

Censorship

As many countries introduce sweeping new laws to increase censorship of the internet, Amnesty Tech is at the forefront of the fightback.

For instance, when Google planned to launch a censored search app in China – codenamed Project Dragonflywe warned it could irreparably damage internet users’ trust in the tech company while setting a dangerous precedent for tech companies enabling rights abuses by governments.

We launched a global petition calling on Google CEO Sundar Pichai to drop the app, which would blacklist search terms like “human rights” and “Tiananmen Crackdown”.

In November 2018, Google staff published an open letter in support of Amnesty International’s campaign for Google to #Drop Dragonfly.

In July 2019, Google said it had “terminated” plans to launch Project Dragonfly. We are continuing to monitor developments and have urged Google to commit to never aiding China’s large-scale censorship and surveillance.