This decade, advances in communications technology and the ubiquity of the internet have pushed the issues of digital rights and privacy from out of the realm of niche technological fields and into the forefront of daily life for everyone with a mobile phone or a social media account.
If you have ever logged onto Facebook or performed a Google search, news stories regarding the NSA PRISM surveillance program and Cambridge Analytica scandal should have you rightly concerned about governmental and corporate threats to your online privacy and data protection.
However, news about digital rights and online privacy issues comes out at a rapid clip, with policy decisions and governmental regulation ever changing in the face of evolving threats and technology.
In order to educate internet users on these related topics, and point would-be activists in the right direction, we’ve compiled this comprehensive list of organizations dedicated to advocating for digital rights and policy in the United States and around the world, as well as a list of guides, apps, and other great resources allowing people to enhance their internet security and avoid falling prey to online surveillance and the actions of bad actors on the web.
All of the links are up to date, and most organizations’ websites provide easy instruction on how you can participate in their campaigns or support them financially.
- Access Now - A well-funded international non-profit organization with bases in over ten locations around the globe fighting for digital rights and freedom of expression through grassroots campaigns and government lobbying. Access Now holds annual conferences in which experts discuss pressing issues in the realm of digital rights.
- Center for Democracy & Technology - A non-profit organization centered in Washington dedicated to both preserving freedom of expression on the internet while advocating technology, laws, and policy that enhance the privacy of internet users and protect them from government and corporate surveillance.
- Center for Digital Democracy - Founded in 2001, the CDD is one of the top privacy organizations in the United States, advocating for digital rights and protections against predatory data collection practices for all members of society.
- Electronic Frontier Foundation - Since its start back in 1990, the EFF has been on the vanguard of championing digital rights and user privacy on the internet. As the leading non-profit organization in the field, the EFF advances education and influences policymakers around the world.
- Electronic Privacy Information Center - A 501(c)(3) nonprofit headquartered in Washington, DC dedicated to bringing attention to emerging free expression and digital rights issues in the information age. EPIC is on the vanguard of the fight for consumer privacy on the internet.
- Internet Governance Project - A coalition of professors, researchers and students centered at Georgia Tech that conducts scholarly research on global internet governance and brings proposals directly to government bodies.
- Internet Rights and Principles Coalition - An open organization based at the UN Internet Governance Forum dedicated to upholding human rights standards on the internet with many opportunities for those interested to get involved.
- The Privacy Coalition - A nonpartisan coalition of organizations from many sectors that have mutually agreed to the Privacy Pledge, a short statement inspired by the 4th amendment and devoted to protecting the essential freedom of privacy.
- TechFreedom - TechFreedom is a non-profit think tank focused on guiding the policy discussion prompted by rapid technological change in a positive, user-friendly direction.
Civil Liberties and Consumer Advocacy Groups
- American Civil Liberties Union - An American non-profit organization with nearly 100 years of history preserving and defending the individual rights and freedoms of U.S. citizens. Recently, digital and privacy rights have been at the forefront of their campaigns.
- CAUCE - Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial Email - A volunteer-led organization originally started to advocate for anti-spam email laws that has broadened its focus to defending internet users against all forms of abuse and invasion of privacy on the web.
- Privacy Rights Clearinghouse - This San Diego, California-based non-profit has been educating and protecting the privacy of individuals while advocating for consumer protections since 1992. Opportunities for internships are posted on their website.
- U.S. Public Interest Research Group - An independent, non-partisan consumer advocacy group working against the abuses of powerful corporations that publishes research and findings to support the public good.
International Privacy Organizations
- Digital Rights Watch - An Australian charity organization dedicated to educating about and lobbying for the digital rights of Australians. Digital Rights Watch posts an annual report of their work on their website.
- European Digital Rights - A coalition of civil and human rights organizations based all around Western Europe working to defend the digital rights of EU citizens and protect against unlawful web surveillance.
- La Quadrature Du Net - A French digital rights and privacy advocacy non-profit that includes net neutrality, freedom of expression, and online privacy among its central issues. The website is available in both French and English.
- Open Media - Based in Vancouver, Canada, but advocating for policy change around the world, OpenMedia sponsors grassroots campaigns to educate people on citizens on digital rights and fight against government and corporate surveillance and online abuses.
- Open Rights Group - This UK-based nonprofit is funded by thousands of supporters and protects against threats to digital rights through grassroots campaigns, legal actions, and original tech projects. Open Rights Group has been active for over ten years and boasts many successful initiatives.
Digital Security Resources and Guides
- Access Now - Digital Rights 101 - A primer on digital rights, privacy and the most omnipresent threats internet users face hosted by TechSoup Canada, an organization dedicated to enhancing the voice of Canadian nonprofits through the use of technology.
- Centre for Investigative Journalism - Information Security - This digital handbook is a must-read for journalists around the world, with in-depth information and explanations on how to protect one’s privacy and safely store and send sensitive information without being spied upon.
- Digital First Aid Kit - A terrific guide that's helpful for a wide variety of internet users, educating them on how to protect against common privacy threats on the internet. This guide also teaches users how to communicate securely, avoid account hijacking, and keep devices malware-free. Most importantly, it contains self-diagnostic tools that help users analyze whether they can mitigate problems on their own.
- FreedomBox - FreedomBox is a pocket-sized private server system that empowers regular people to host their own internet services: VPNs, personal websites, file sharing, encrypted messengers, VoIP servers, a metasearch engine, and more. FreedomBox is an inexpensive piece of power-efficient hardware that runs on free software: it cuts out large platforms and empowers users to do things like share files, send encrypted messages, have voice calls, and more on self-hosted servers.
- LevelUp - LevelUp is a group focused on providing peer-to-peer, online and offline digital safety training and guidance to those with limited experience in the area.
- Privacy.net - A website run by one man named Dennis (last name withheld) dedicated to educating the average internet user on how governments and corporations violate their privacy online. An excellent, informative digital rights resource.
- SAFETAG - Auditing group that services at-risk independent media houses and nonprofits with their digital security and privacy concerns through assessing and fixing vulnerable areas in a group’s online presence.
- Security in-a-Box - Developed and hosted by Front Line Defenders and Tactical Technology Collective, Security in-a-Box is a toolkit with advice on how to safeguard your devices from hacking and surveillance, and boost overall digital security.
- Surveillance Self-Defense - Handy guide on protecting against corporate and government surveillance and promoting privacy written for all groups in mind: average users with little background on the topic, journalists in risky areas around the world, and savvier individuals in the tech industry.
Computer Privacy Software
- Ad-Aware - The premier free antivirus program that protects against hackers and malware and allows you to browse the internet and check email safely. 24/7 online technical support and support for several platforms. (Windows, iOS, Android)
- Symantec Drive Encryption - Data encryption ensures that your sensitive information is protected and your files can’t be accessed by malevolent parties. Symantec is a leader in the industry and their encryption software is top of the line. (Windows)
- Emsisoft - Creators of award-winning anti-malware software, Emsisoft has developed multi-layered cybersecurity software that, on a yearly basis, prevents over 20 million infections for its users. They offer industry-proven software for both home and business applications, with plans starting at $29.99 per year for the former and $59.97 for the latter. (Windows, Android)
- File Vault 2 - The best data encryption software for the Mac user. Automatically encrypts your files and prevents access to those without the password. (Mac)
- Eraser - A security tool for Windows that ensures that data on hard drives is completely erased by overwriting it several times. Often, data that seems to have been erased leaves its trace until it is actually overwritten by other files, but not so after one has used Eraser. The software is both free and open source. (Windows)
- ProtonMail - An email service that puts your privacy and security first: end-to-end encryption, no tracking/information-logging of any kind, secured and encrypted (and even bunkered) data centers in Switzerland that never upload "to the cloud," and self-destructing emails that evaporate after their expiration. Prices include a free basic account with core features, a plus account with all major features for about $4.50 per month, and more elaborate business plans for organizations. (Mac, Web, iOS, Android)
Mobile Privacy Apps
- IPGMail - A handy messaging app for iOS users offering end-to-end encryption that ensures that only those that you intend to view your messages will be able to see them. (iOS)
- Orbot - An app available for Android apps using the Tor browser to encrypt all of your internet traffic and redirect it through a series of proxy servers, worldwide. Users claim that the software doesn’t slow connection speeds down as VPNs often do, while still providing excellent security. (Android)
- Signal - One of the most highly regarded secure messaging apps that is available for both Android and iOS. Allows for voice, text, video, picture and document messages in both one-on-one and group conversations. Endorsed by Edward Snowden, himself. (Android, iOS)
- Telegram - A cloud-based secure messaging app available for a wide variety of platforms compared to competitors. Boasts high delivery speeds relative to other encrypted messaging apps of its type. (Android, iOS, Linux, Mac, PC)
- Umbrella - An open source app that serves a handbook detailing how to maintain digital security and protect against myriad online threats. Offers real-time alerts about recent security threats in your area. (Android)
- Wickr - An extensive mobile toolkit of features that enhance digital security that is favored by professionals in a number of fields. Comes in both a free version and a premium version that costs $25 a month. (Android, iOS)
Web Browsers and Add-ons
- Disconnect - Disconnect is a privacy tool available for a variety of browsers in free, Pro ($24.99 one-time), and Premium ($50 per year, comes with a VPN) versions that protects you by blocking tracking requests from websites. (Chrome, Firefox, Safari)
- Flash Control - This app puts control of website flash content in the user’s hands by blocking automatically loading content, thereby increasing your browsing speeds and web sovereignty. (Chrome)
- Ghostery - Ghostery is a nice app that enhances web browsing privacy by anonymizing your data in addition to optimizing page performance by blocking certain website requests.(Chrome, Firefox, Safari)
- Privacy Badger - Sponsored by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Privacy Badger blocks requests from invisible trackers while learning through time via algorithms which websites are tracking, and which aren’t. (Android, Chrome, Firefox)
- Tor - The ultimate software for protecting online privacy and defending against surveillance. Tor works by channeling users’ communications through a network of volunteer-run relays ensuring that no one becomes aware of a user’s actual location.
Print Publications and Mailing Lists
- 2600 Magazine - A quarterly digest with a charmingly retro website covering contemporary digital rights and technology issues from a hacker’s perspective.
- Bloomberg Law Tech & Telecom - Delivers up-to-date news coverage on emerging issues and trends in telecom law from around the world.
- EPIC Alert - The Electronic Privacy Information Center’s bi-weekly publication featuring privacy news, reviews of privacy and digital rights-related books and publications, and an extensive list of upcoming events relevant to privacy issues.
Privacy Law Services
- Data Protection in the United States: Overview - Hosted by Thomson Reuters, this is a comprehensive guide to US laws regarding data protection. A dense read, but offers essential information for those wanting to know policy specifics.
- Gigalaw - A law firm focused on protecting its clients from online threats, from copyright infringers to counterfeiters. The firm’s blog, run by founder Doug Isenberg, is highly regarded and recognized.
- The European Consumer Organisation - Digital Rights - The digital rights page of the European Consumer Organization, which is funded by the European Union. Offers Eurocentric digital rights and privacy news.
- Federal Trade Commission - Privacy and Security - The FTC’s Privacy and Security portal offers advice on how parents, consumers and companies can protect their privacy, online and elsewhere. A wealth of links and policy information.