For the last episode of Season 2 of ‘Igniting Change’, Rich and Puff sat down with Michael Kleinman to discuss his long and fascinating career championing human rights. Catch the entire conversation below:
Michael Kleinman is Director of Amnesty International’s Silicon Valley Initiative, which helps one of the world’s largest global human rights organisations, address the human rights implications of tech. His work looks at how tech is helping to advance human rights, and which ways it’s undermining human rights.
Before Amnesty, he was the founder and CEO of Orange Door Research, which helped donors, NGOs, and UN agencies gather data in conflict-affected countries. Prior to that, he was Director of Investments at Humanity United, where he worked on the intersection of technology and human rights.
He has also worked for development and humanitarian NGOs in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Sudan. His writing on development, human rights, and technology has been published in Vox, The Guardian, San Francisco Chronicle, and LA Times. He is a graduate of Yale and Harvard Law School.
His career path has been anything but linear, but his North Star is his desire and motivation to be a part of the “big issues” of our time. Working within Amnesty Tech allows him to do just that!
What is Amnesty Tech?
Amnesty Tech is working to answer one of the most critical questions facing the world today: what do our fundamental rights look like in the digital age?
Amnesty Tech is a global collective of advocates, hackers, researchers, and technologists. They aim to:
- Bolster social movements in an age of surveillance
- Challenge the systemic threat to our rights posed by the surveillance-based business model of the big tech companies
- Ensure accountability in the design and use of new and frontier technologies
- Encourage innovative uses of technology to help support our fundamental rights
They approach this through:
Working directly with human rights activists and civil society organisations to build up their technological capacity to defend themselves against emerging tactics of digital repression and surveillance.
Engaging in advocacy, campaigning, and litigation to address the broader risks posed by emerging technology and the surveillance-based business model of the big technology companies.
Helping to identify, pilot, and scale new technologies and tools to support their campaigns and research.
Big wins for Amnesty Tech
Around the world, hard-won rights are being weakened and denied every day. And increasingly, much of the repression faced by human rights defenders is digital. Since 2017, Amnesty Tech’s investigations have exposed vast and well-orchestrated digital attacks against activists and journalists in countries such as Morocco, Egypt, Azerbaijan, Qatar, Mexico, and Pakistan.
Amnesty Tech aims to counter digital repression by:
- Investigating, exposing, and shutting down digital attacks against civil society, from spyware to misinformation and online abuse
- Providing direct support to groups most at risk
- Undertaking strategic litigation to challenge the corporate actors who provide software and services to rights-violating governments
- Harnessing the power of the Amnesty movement to campaign for accountability and stop the export of surveillance tech which risks violating human rights
The Security Lab, launched in 2019 and located in Berlin, leads technical investigations into cyber-attacks against civil society and provides critical support when individuals face such attacks. The Lab also builds tools and services to help protect human rights defenders from cyber-attacks. It conducts technical training with the wider support community to help them identify and respond to digital threats.
Their global team of technologists provides digital security training, one-on-one support to activists, and security audits for partner NGOs. They also focus on the secretive surveillance tech industry, including campaigning to stop the export of tech which risks being used to target human rights activists.
In October 2019, they uncovered targeted digital attacks against two prominent Moroccan human rights defenders using NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware. they are also carrying out further investigations of abuses linked to the company.
Secure Squad is a trained network of volunteers who have signed up to provide peer support on tech and security to HRDs within their own communities. Those at the forefront of combating climate change are heavily targeted by infiltration and surveillance. Amnesty has initiated a project to provide more digital security support to environmental defenders, who remain underserved in terms of technical and security support.
Listen to the full episode here
To hear more of the conversation with Michael, listen now using the links below!
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