While we prefer applicants select from one of the listed host organizations, we do allow a different organization to be proposed in the fellowship application. Please ensure the area of focus is relevant to OTF’s goals and they have the interest and capacity to be a host organization. OTF will review the organization’s eligibility for participation in the program. Host organizations exist to provide mentorship and support to OTF Fellows. A fellow acting as a general employee for an organization will not be accepted.
The Citizen Lab is an interdisciplinary research laboratory that investigates the intersection of human rights, global security, and the digital world. Based at the Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto, we use a mixed methods approach that combines techniques from network measurement, information security, and the social sciences for researching and documenting information controls (e.g., Internet censorship and surveillance) that impact the openness and security of digital communications and pose threats to human rights.
The current research priorities of the Citizen Lab are as follows:
This area includes developing new tools and methods for network measurement, analyzing Internet filtering systems, and correlating network interference with political events (e.g., elections, protests, conflicts, etc).
This area focuses on investigating politically motivated targeted malware campaigns against civil society groups. Specifically, reverse engineering malware, mapping attack infrastructure, tracking malware development, and linking contextual information to technical data.
Projects include uncovering censorship and surveillance in popular apps and social media platforms (e.g, chat apps, microblogs, etc), and evaluating the privacy and security of popular consumer apps (e.g., browsers, fitness trackers, etc). We are particularly interested in widely used apps and platforms that are understudied by security researchers. The goal of this work is to help users make more informed decision about the technologies they use.
Projects in this area include developing software platforms for empowering citizens to exercise their rights to data protection and access requests, and analyzing the systems and policies practices of telecommunication and Internet companies.
Apart from these research areas we encourage applicants to propose projects that are within the following two broad areas (or combinations of the two):
Legal and Policy Research: Evaluation of laws, policies, and norms related to Internet censorship and surveillance
Technical Research: Empirically document technologies and technical practices affecting openness, privacy, and security. This area can include: research and development of software tools, analysis of systems for Internet censorship and surveillance, and data analytics and visualization.
Location: Toronto, ON, Canada
The host organization would be the Calipr research group (http://calipr.cs.umass.edu) at the University of Massachusetts—Amherst, led by Prof. Phillipa Gill. This research group maintains several projects relating to online information controls including block page detection, device fingerprinting, traffic differentiation, and notably the ICLab project (www.iclab.org).
Fellowship Focus Areas: As the lab is in the computer science department, fellows should have reasonable background in computer science and networking (though this may be waived in special circumstances). Many of the relevant projects involve an aspect of network measurement or data analysis.
Location: Amherst, MA, USA
ICSI is a non-profit center for research in computer science, with close ties to the University of California, Berkeley, where Prof. Paxson serves on the faculty. ICSI’s Networking and Security Group, led by Prof. Paxson, focuses on understanding the behavior, use, and abuse of today’s Internet, and on exploring new technology, designs, and defenses for tomorrow’s Internet.
Fellowship Focus Areas:
Active projects at ICSI include measurement and analysis of censorship deployments, policies, and technologies; exploration of circumvention mechanisms; formulating abstract models relevant to analyzing censorship/circumvention arms races; characterizing and defending against nation-state surveillance of political opponents; and assessing the presence of mass monitoring of network traffic.
The Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Technology Law (CIPIT) is an evidence-based research and training centre based at Strathmore University Law School, Nairobi, Kenya. Strathmore University, founded in 1961 as a not-for-profit body, was the first educational institution in Kenya to be awarded the ISO 9001:2000 certification on Quality Management and currently has a student population of 6,272.
CIPIT’s mission is to help Africans in all types of industry and arts effectively use Intellectual Property on a global and local scale and seek research informed improvement of ICT Policies in the region. We train lawyers, business executives and citizens on IP & ICT Law with a special focus on how ICT policies and regulatory environment affects the overall social, political and economic development of countries. Example training topics include ICT and Human Rights, cyber security and data protection, e-commerce, IP portfolio management, patent drafting and filing, branding and marketing, and issues pertaining to licensing.
Fellowship Focus Areas: The Cyber Security project at the Institute is anchored around the role of laws and the regulatory framework in enhancing Internet Freedom in Africa. We have recently been tracking the African Union Convention on Cyber Security and Personal Data Protection (AUCyC) and, as its implementation kicks in in the African Countries, we are monitoring how Internet freedom will be impacted. We are also offering practical research-based recommendations to relevant stakeholders focused on promoting a free, open Internet in Africa. A dedicated fellow who can contribute to our focus area of human rights in the cyber domain is welcome. Other relevant areas in which we can utilize a fellow’s research capacity is on ICT Governance, Freedom of Information, and International Relations in cyber related issues.
The Network Operations and Internet Security Lab (Professor Feamster’s research group at Department of Computer Science at Princeton University) focuses on developing new algorithms, protocols, and systems for the current and next-generation Internet, with a specific focus on network operations and security. Possible research projects include:
Global measurement of Internet censorship We are building algorithms and tools to continuously monitor Internet censorship on a global scale. We are developing a range of tools to accomplish this task, including Encore, which uses cross-origin requests to measure Web filtering from countries around the world—as well as other tools to collect widespread measurements of global censorship. We are also designing mechanisms to makes these measurement tools safer for users to run in countries where collecting such data might endanger the user who is collecting it.
Design, implementation, and deployment of circumvention tools We are developing tools to help citizens communicate with one another using circumvention tools that are “deniable” (i.e., it is not apparent that they are even being used at all). We have designed various tools to circumvent censorship that are “deniable”, meaning that it is difficult for a censor to prove that a user is using the circumvention tool in the first place. We have designed such tools for Web browsing in the wide-area (e.g., Collage, Infranet), as well as for near-field communications in mobile and wireless networks (e.g., Denali). A possible project would be to explore deniable circumvention in other settings, or to explore steps for making any of these existing systems operational.
Information manipulation Organizations (and software) can manipulate the content that users see. In the best-case scenario, tools such as online personalization algorithms control the results that we see when we perform a simple search on search engines, commerce sites, media sites, and social networks. In the worst case scenario, attackers can actively manipulate what we see by “polluting” user profiles.
We are investigating the scope and extent of information manipulation on the Internet, through techniques such as astroturfing, whitewashing, and personalization. We are collaborating with social scientists to understand how users view information manipulation, and how political organizations use manipulation to affect thought and control citizens.
We have developed some preliminary tools for characterizing inconsistency in Web search results, and we are interested in studying information manipulation more generally, for a broader class of services, applications, and websites.
We are generally interested in empirical network measurement projects, as well as systems-building efforts that have policy connections. We work closely with the Measurement Lab in New York City and are open to arrangements where a fellow would split time between CITP at Princeton and New York City.
In addition, we are generally interested in empirical network measurement projects, as well as systems-building efforts that have policy connections. We work closely with the Measurement Lab in New York City, as well as several other policy organizations (e.g., CITP at Princeton University) and are open to arrangements where a fellow would spent time working with our collaborators in these places.
The principle that guides our research is that it shouldn’t be so easy for those who control the Internet to perform censorship and surveillance without full transparency. Towards this goal, we perform Internet measurements and reverse engineering to shed light on censorship and surveillance practices around the world.
Fellowship Focus Areas:
We would like to build upon our work on idle scans and TCP/IP side channels to measure censorship all over the world. We would also like to develop new techniques for off-path inference of what’s happening between two arbitrary hosts on the Internet, such as the ability to detect man-in-the-middle. Other potential areas of interest: reverse engineering, data analysis, Chinese natural language processing, BGP analysis. We’re always open to new ideas and directions, don’t hesitate to send us an email.
Albuquerque, NM, USA
The Computer Security Lab at Rice University is interested in a variety of security and privacy topics relevant to the Information Controls Fellowship.
Fellowship Focus Areas:
The Lab’s previous work has focused on censorship measurements on Sina Weibo, in China, and on Twitter, in Turkey. The Lab is also very interested in the behaviors of advertising networks, which involves data collection as well as static code analysis and virtual machine sandboxing.
Houston, TX USA
The Electronic Frontier Foundation is the leading nonprofit organization defending civil liberties in the digital world. As a host for ICFP, we are open to a variety of projects relating to our work on Certbot that expand the scope of our ability to provide encryption services and fall within the OTF remit.
Fellowship Focus Areas: Current work includes expansion of the security features for Certbot’s integration with Apache or better quality controls and assurance measures for existing features of the Certbot project.
San Francisco, CA
The Berkman Klein Center’s mission is to explore and understand cyberspace; to study its development, dynamics, norms, and standards; and to assess the need or lack thereof for laws and sanctions. We are a research center, premised on the observation that what we seek to learn is not already recorded. Our method is to build out into cyberspace, record data as we go, self-study, and share. Our mode is entrepreneurial nonprofit.
OTF Fellows may contribute to one or more of the many projects within our Internet Health group, which is focused on developing and maintaining an Internet that is open and robust at both the network and content levels. Projects within this group include Internet Monitor, Lumen, Internet Robustness, and Herdict, among others. We encourage applications from researchers and developers interested in building new tools to measure and document Internet censorship, data analysis and visualization, mesh networking, improving the resiliency of the web, transparency reporting, cybersecurity, and/or surveillance.
Location: Cambridge, MA, USA
Grounded in a determination to measure, understand and explain the Internet’s multi-faceted interactions and effects, the Oxford Internet Institute brings together some of the best international scholars within a multi-disciplinary department in one of the world’s top research universities.
Fellowship Focus Areas:
Current research focuses on internet filtering and surveillance, circumvention tools and privacy-enhancing technologies, and their interaction with internet regulation. You can find more information here
The Ranking Digital Rights project produces a Corporate Accountability Index, a regular ranking of the world’s most powerful ICT sector companies on their policies and practices affecting users’ freedom of expression and privacy. In November 2015 we published the first public ranking of 16 major global Internet and telecommunications companies. Over the next two years we will expand the ranking and incorporate more types of companies, including software, devices, and networking equipment.
Fellowship Focus Areas:
A seasonal fellow might carry out a research project designed to help us to identify, develop, and/or test out changes to the Index research methodology to accommodate new types of companies or technologies.
A senior fellow might focus their work in one of several ways:
• Support a regional research partner in developing and launching a national or regional version of the Index;
• Work with NGOs or research partners to develop related research and/or technical testing projects, using the Index data as a starting point, or the fellow might develop such a project themselves as proof of concept for other researchers to emulate or expand upon;
• Carry out a year-long research and pilot testing project that would produce a proposal for how we might modify the Index methodology to add new technologies and/or company types.
We welcome applications from graduate students and seasoned researchers with backgrounds in computer science, engineering, Internet and telecommunications law, or communications studies with a strong technical background. Prior academic research experience or professional work related to freedom of expression, censorship, privacy, and surveillance in the ICT sector is important. Prior experience working collaboratively with teams and meeting deadlines is also important. International experience and ability to read at least one language other than English is a major plus.
The successful applicant will demonstrate a thorough understanding of the project’s purpose, research methodology, advocacy goals, etc., and will clearly articulate how his or her skills and interests can concretely contribute to the project’s success. We are a global project and proposals to work remotely for all or part of the fellowship are welcome when accompanied by evidence that the applicant has some prior experience working remotely with people in other countries.
Location: Washington, D.C.
At the Security and Privacy Lab at Princeton University (Prof. Prateek Mittal’s group), we are interesting in several aspects of censorship resilient and anonymity systems. First, we are working on improving the security and performance of deployed systems such as the Tor network. Second, we are interested in leveraging trust relationships in social networks to improve user privacy in these systems. Finally, we are interesting in next generation Internet architectures that provide anonymity and censorship-resilience.