RightsCon – Growing the Community around Tech and Human Rights

A summary of what we learned at RightsCon 2014, and what we contributed to the largest conference on human rights and technology.


Imagine 700 people, who are curious to learn more about anything from the latest malware governments are using to spy on activists, to new technologies that have social justice and digital security in mind and to discuss among civil society, big business and governments, how privacy can actually be protected when using the internet. Take this and the willingness to build new things with new people, and you get RightsCon, the conference on technology and human rights that took place 3-5 March in San Francisco.

Our own delegation contributed to three events in particular:

  • A presentation of Casebox in the tech demo room, where we for the first time presented our newest open source technology for human rights (learn more on https://www.casebox.org).
  • A workshop on human rights capacity building that we co-facilitated with Benetech and Small World News, and that brought together a wonderful crowd interested on continuing the discussion and creating more best practices on what really works.
  • A panel on the “Intersection of technology, human rights, rule of law and democracy in Africa”, where we discussed with friends from the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, Privacy International and the World Wide Web Foundation.

But there was much more that made RightsCon a special event. We met security trainers and discussed how training can become more holistic. We saw many more interesting new technologies presented. We saw companies like Google and Facebook joining the discussion on what they can do. And we immersed in the spirit, one of getting things done, meeting new people and of solidarity (not least for Alaa Abd El Fattah, who was scheduled to speak, but could not come, because he is imprisoned in Egypt).

Right after RighsCon we also took part in the kick-off event of the Responsible Data Forum, a new initiative from our friends at the Engine Room. It was a very timely kick-off for a row of discussions covering everything from releasing data about marginalised groups, sketching out campaigns to create awareness about the data we create by consuming online, and for building the tools and infrastructures that include these ideas by design. A lot is going to come from this initiative and we are excited to be part of this process.

Both RightsCon and the Responsible Data Forum were landmark events for the community, which is why it is great that they are sharing their outcomes as transparently as possible. RightsCon’s outcomes are captured in detail on the website, and this is an organic body that is going to grow, in maturity and in size. The outcomes of the Responsible Data Forum will be published in many places, but you will find them over at the Engine Room for sure.

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