Preparing the aid sector for the digital age: threats to digital security and the learnings from Wikileaks

Published: January 23, 2018 | By Adelicia Fairbanks

To support EISF members with understanding some of the digital security risks that aid organisations should be aware of and mitigate against, EISF has begun engaging with experts, publications and events that deal with this issue.

As a result, EISF attended a talk this week on a new book entitled, ‘Women, Whistleblowing, Wikileaks’, written by Renata Avila, Sarah Harrison and Angela Richter. These three women, in their respective fields of expertise – law, journalism, and theatre – have explored in their work and in the book the role of women in the field of Internet activism, the concerns around digital surveillance and weaknesses in digital security, and the advent of organisations such as Wikileaks and the impact on the future of journalism.

The discussion at the event raised some interesting questions:

  • Why is the role of women in Internet activism unrecognised or underplayed?
  • Are entities like Wikileaks the future of journalism?
  • Is journalism moving away from its current ‘curated format’ where news outlets decide what ‘news’ is published, to being a database of documents where readers decide what is ‘the news’?
  • How to protect whistle-blowers in an era of mass surveillance?
  • How to ensure data protection when companies such as Google, Facebook and others have access to so much information with limited accountability and regulation?
  • Are states allies in the regulation of companies when these collect and use data?
  • Where to find ‘true news’ in an era of ‘fake news’, especially when platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are now, as author Renata Avila put it, de facto ‘ministries of truth’?

The debate spurred by these questions and many others resonated with the discussions EISF has had with its members about ensuring data protection and digital security. Many organisations are starting to recognise the need to prioritise their digital security and some are turning to their security focal points to lead the way on improving organisational processes and systems to address identified gaps.

In 2018, EISF intends to publish a new module for our Security to Go guide, which looks at digital security for aid organisations. EISF will also be planning a workshop on this topic to discuss concerns and bring in experts to provide guidance and advice on what humanitarian organisations can do to protect themselves.

If you would like to be involved in these projects, please do reach out to Adelicia


Additional resources on this topic by EISF: