Fall Update

Tue, 2013-11-12 16:57

Project Updates

Highlighted are some of the best updates since the last report from OTF Internet freedom projects continuing to deploy and produce novel research and tools supporting free expression, speech, and press online.

Standout Highlights

Textsecure by Open Whisper Systems is now the default SMS app for 10 million Android users worldwide

This achievement was a massive development effort between multiple organizations to integrate by-default safer text messaging into CyanogenMod, an open version of the Android mobile OS. Those who already have Android phones can join the additional 500,000 others who have downloaded on-demand from the Google Play Store. (More info)

Cryptocat’s creator Nadim Kobeissi presented a talk at TEDx Montréal

In his 16-minute talk on the importance of making cryptography and privacy technology accessible to the masses, Nadim discussed threats to Internet freedom and privacy, political perspectives, as well as the role open technologies such as Cryptocat can play in this field. (More info)

Storymaker was featured in a presentation to the Cronkite School of Journalism

The tool jointly created by The Guardian Project and Small World News is one-part beginning video journalism lessons and one-part easy step-by-step templates for creating video, audio or photo reports on smartphones. The current demo version which Libby Liu also presented at the NGO School of Democracy can be found at here (YouTube).

The Berkeley anti-censorship technology incubator continues to help users circumvent the Chinese firewall

Tools that have passed through the incubator include GoAgent, BTSync, LanternBreakwall, an Open DNS resolver, OperaMini integration, EastChamber and numerous in house and external VPN services. Tool dissemination is assisted through a variety of mechanisms such as hundreds of thousands of emails to subscribers, a help desk receiving thousands of incident reports called iaskfq and HikingGFW.org, a site devoted to highlighting blocked websites and the technique used.

Notable Project Highlights

  • Globaleaks has deployed its transparency software in Serbia, Tunisia, and Hungary.
  • 14 Internet freedom projects and more than a 100 translators utilize OTF’s community localization hub supported by Transifex. To date, they have translate over 100,000 words with more than 13 million words available for translation.
  • SRLabs’ GSMMap project is beta testing an Android app to capture and test the mobile security settings of 2G and 3G GSM networks.
  • The Guardian Project’s Gibberbot project is now called ChatSecure and available for iPhone and Android devices.
  • The Berkeley evaluation testbed has begun testing android and iOS. Overall, more than 35 tests are ongoing or completed.
  • Mailvelope released a new major version which includes improvements to the usability of sending encrypted email within Gmail’s web interface.
  • Cryptocat launched its new Network Monitor, a live monitor of active users (more info).

Program Updates

Highlighted are notable updates since the last report from within the OTF program itself as a demonstration of it’s commitment to openness and transparency.

Standout Highlights

Report: How to Evaluate Technical Audits as a Funder OTF has identified and published a process by which to evaluate technical security audit reports from the perspective of a funder. This report provides a framework for how an organization, such as a human rights funder or an NGO, can effectively and efficiently engage information security auditors, based on OTF’s experience and findings. (More info)

OTF now awards new project’s 6 times yearly After FY13, OTF evaluated the proposal application process and the impact it has on applicants, the OTF team, RFA staff and the Advisory Council. Many changes to the process will be implemented in FY14, including a more frequent review schedule, use of a new proposal management system and improved judging criteria. (More info)

Notable Highlights

  • OTF conducted a portfolio review with BBG’s IAC, ODDI, and Department of State’s DRL teams.
  • OTF changed its review schedule to allow new projects every 2 months.
  • OTF hosted, collaborated with, and participated in several convenings including the OTF Summit for active projects, a human rights/Internet freedom non-USG funder round table, a privacy and security technology hack-a-thon, the Open Knowledge Conference in Geneva, and the Google Ideas Summit: Conflict in a Connected World in New York City.
  • OTF organized, created, and maintains a mailing list for a both government and private Internet Freedom and Human Rights technology funders to discuss relevant issues and coordinate projects.
  • OTF launched its fully online proposal submission and management system v1.0 at opentechfund.org

Past Projects

OTF successfully concluded and said farewell to its first 5 projects from 2012, making space for future incubation efforts!


GlobaLeaks received its first substantial support from OTF. The first open-source whistleblowing framework empowers anyone to easily setup and maintain a whistleblowing platform. As a result of OTF funding, they have assisted groups worldwide deploy the GlobaLeaks platform. Active deployments include news outlets in western and southern Europe and Middle-East & Northern Africa with many more underway.


Benetech’s Martus tool is the most trust tool used by human rights workers, attorneys, journalists and others who need to securely document information. The open-source software has helped document cases and observe human rights abuses across the globe for a decade. With OTF support, Benetech created Mobile Martus, an android app that allows for secure on-the-go submissions. Mobile Martus is now available in the Android app store with continuing support being provided by the Department of State’s Internet freedom funding program.


Commotion is an open-source communication tool that uses mobile phones, computers, and other wireless devices to create decentralized mesh networks. OTF funded the Open Technology Institute at the New America Foundation for the first international deployment of OTI’s wireless mesh network, Commotion, in Dharamsala, India. OTI partnered with local stakeholders to research local policies, train community members, document the deployment, make subsequent software improvements and perform a post-deployment assessment of the project to help with future international deployments. OTI has made all project information available on the Commotion website (https://commotionwireless.net/) and are in the process of planning or assisting in future international deployments.

LEAP Encrypted Access Project

The LEAP Encrypted Access Project promotes communication security by increasing both supply and demand for encrypted Internet services. The project focus is on bringing a suite of secure products to be deployed by service providers large and small. This means taking on some of the Internet’s biggest security challenges. The LEAP project has successfully deployed secure email and VPN services as a result of OTF support. Since their OTF contract was signed, a variety of funders have begun exploring how to support the project.

Open Internet Tools Project

OpenITP supports and incubates a collection of free and open source projects that enable anonymous, secure, reliable, and unrestricted communication on the Internet. OpenITP published a study in April 2013 with the results of a detailed survey of more than one thousand Chinese users circumvention habits. The study, entitled Collateral Freedom, was performed by Robinson and Yu and found users rely not on tools that the Great Firewall can’t block, but rather on tools that the Chinese government does not want the Firewall to block. The most widely used tool in the survey—GoAgent—runs on Google’s cloud hosting platform, which also hosts major consumer online services and provides background infrastructure for thousands of other web sites. The methodology in this widely referenced study is now being considered in a variety of repressive countries.

Projects Mentioned