February 2017 Monthly Report
In February, the Open Technology Fund continued to both receive a large number of support requests and support a diverse portfolio of internet freedom projects and fellows. Currently, OTF is reviewing and responding to the largest number of support requests ever received in a single round, as OTF received over 110 concepts notes requesting over $30 million in fiscal support for the March 1 round. Since its founding, OTF has now received in total over 1,500 requests seeking more than a quarter billion dollars in support.
- Following up on the release of their new mobile app, ooniprobe, censorship detection research platform OONI reports that the app’s censorship test function has already been run almost 200,000 times from nearly 3,000 different vantage points in more than 180 countries around the world. These statistics are updated monthly and can be found here. Also, in response to initial user feedback, OONI pushed an updated version of ooniprobe (1.1.2) with version 1.1.3 expected to be released soon. Download for Android devices on Google Play or for iOS from the App Store.
- The 2017 Internet Freedom Festival was held in Valencia, Spain from March 6-10. The global internet freedom unconference event was the largest to date, considered the most diverse gathering in the Internet Freedom community, with 1,400+ attendees (journalists, developers, activists, advocates, policy makers) from 110+ countries participating in 220+ sessions and workshops. You can read more about IFF 2017 in OTF’s brief recap here.
- Several new projects are now under contract with OTF, including Measurement Kit (improving the cross-platform compatibility and sustainability of OONI’s ooniprobe), Rights Action Lab (building up the emergency response capabilities of three Tibetan civil society organizations), the Vietnam Open Internet Project: Phase 2 (enhancing digital security practices among at-risk Vietnamese internet users), and Sub Saharan-Africa Cyber Regionalism and Elections (a detailed comparative study of censorship practices and mechanisms in the Gambia, Rwanda, Angola, and the Democratic Republic of Congo).
- Two new Supporting Usability and Design in Security (SUDS) fellows are now under contract with OTF. Senior fellow Yasmina Lopez will conduct research to identify and remedy the gaps between users, developers, and designers who work on internet freedom technologies. Seasonal fellow Ruba Abu-Salma will focus on the relationship between a person’s perceptions of and the actual security offered by secure messaging tools, with a goal of enabling the design of tools that more effectively protect at-risk users.
- ICFP Fellow Serene Han capped off the completion of her fellowship with the successful alpha release of the Snowflake pluggable transport in the Tor Browser Bundle, making the new circumvention tool a viable option for end users while leaving room for further development and more widespread implementation. Any volunteer running Snowflake can act as a temporary Tor bridge by simply leaving a web browser tab open, enabling access for users in repressive environments. The latest technical overview of Snowflake can be read here.
- Several OTF-supported projects were accepted to participate as mentor organizations in Google’s Summer of Code, which offers student developers the chance to work with and contribute to open source projects. K-9 Mail, Qubes OS, and Tor are among the available mentor organizations for accepted students.
- Secure mobile messaging app Signal now supports end-to-end encrypted video calls by default, enhancing the security and privacy of its users. Read more about the release on the Open Whisper Systems blog here.
- OTF recently welcomed Nat Kretchun to the team as Deputy Director. OTF welcomes the extensive background and experience Nat brings to the table, especially in the realms of research, management, open source, and media.
Select news collected by OTF from the month of February 2017 - Get the full feed live @OpenTechFund
North Korean regime is finding new ways to stop information flows, report says | Washington Post
Turkey’s Internet Policy After the Coup Attempt: The Emergence of a Distributed Network of Online Suppression and Surveillance | Internet Policy Observatory
In China, sources face harassment, jail for speaking to foreign media | CPJ
Uncovering a Campaign of Cyber Attacks against Civil Society in Qatar and Nepal | Amnesty Intl.
You can now add two-step verification to your WhatsApp account | Ars Technica
Cameroon’s Internet Has Been Cut For Four Weeks With No End in Sight| Motherboard
Pakistan’s Censorship Takes a Dangerous Turn | The Diplomat
Not Just Windows: Hackers Are Using Mac Malware to Track Iranian Activists | Motherboard
Embattled Egyptian NGOs face barrage of electronic espionage | AP