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BASICS: Call for Participation

January 14, 2020
BASICS will improve the sustainability of critical open source privacy and security tools by building ties to the communities they serve and identifying privacy-conscious methods to track usage and prioritize development needs.

Internews’ BASICS project (Building Analytical and Support Infrastructure for Critical Security tools) takes two well-known problems in the open source internet freedom community – sustainability challenges and lack of diversity – and combines them in an effort to improve both.

BASICS will improve the sustainability of critical open source privacy and security tools by building ties to the communities they serve and identifying privacy-conscious methods to track usage and prioritize development needs.

The BASICS project has two main components. Participating open source tools may engage in one or both aspects of the project.

1) Supporting Open Source Tool Development through Diversity

Many powerful and widely used open source security and privacy tools are maintained by individuals or small groups of volunteers who are often under-resourced, lack the ability to receive grant funding, and do not have the means to hire additional support to advance their project’s goals. These developers are also often based in Western countries, with limited exposure to targeted and vulnerable populations who use their tools.

Internews will place skilled individuals from targeted and vulnerable populations with the tool team as contributing fellows who will help address tool needs (as identified through a collaborative assessment and planning process). Contributing fellows will be supervised and supported by Internews and connected with a partner from the tool team for mentoring and coordination. Tool teams who work with contributing fellows have the opportunity not only to scale and become more sustainable, but to do so with an understanding of the challenges faced in Internet repressive environments.

The duration of a fellowship is flexible: a contributing fellow may lend their skills to the tool team to make a short-term, impactful contribution, or they may join the tool team as an ongoing contributor for up to 12 months. Depending upon the tool’s needs, participating tool teams may have the opportunity to work with multiple contributing fellows.

2) Privacy-Respecting Impact Measurement

Tool teams participating in this aspect of BASICS will be supported to add privacy-respecting usage metrics to their tools. Internews is partnering with Guardian Project to advance the Clean Insights methodology, which focuses on building trust with users to make tools better in a collaborative, threat-aware, and non-extractive way while providing insights to tool developers about usage of their tools without revealing personally identifying information. Guardian Project will give developers easy ways to integrate and leverage a secure, private measurement system with flexibility to cater to different use cases/privacy needs.

Intended Outcomes:

  • BASICS will provide tool teams a path to not only scale and become more sustainable, but to do so with an understanding of the challenges faced in Internet repressive environments.
  • The CAPs will provide case studies for an end-of-project report Internews will produce on the health of the open source Internet freedom tool ecosystem, focusing on common challenges and barriers and sharing our methodology and any learnings from the BASICS approach.
  • Developers will be able to identify which of their tool’s features are most frequently used and which are under-utilized or misunderstood by at-risk users as a result of the ability to measure usage of security and privacy tools without undermining at-risk users’ trust or privacy.

Call for Participation

Who:

  • Any open source privacy, anti-censorship, or security tool used by or useful for human rights defenders, activists, media/journalists, and other marginalized populations. This can include tools directly for end-users (such as password managers, secure chat/IM, or censorship circumvention tools) or software which is critical to other tools used by these communities (such as GPG).
  • BASICS will prioritize tools that have not previously sought or secured funding or support, as well as tools with development teams based outside of Northern America and Western Europe.
  • Tools need not be associated with formal organizations! Internews specifically has designed the BASICS project to work with a wide variety of open source communities, or “tool teams.” Tools could be the passion project of a single developer, or a group of individuals aligned around an open source project without a formal structure or affiliation. BASICS can also work with tools that do have formal organizations, consulting firms, etc. guiding their development and maintenance.
  • At least 10 tools will be selected to participate in the BASICS project.

How to Participate:

To be considered for participation in the BASICS project, please fill out the BASICS Interest Form for your tool team. (To submit multiple tools, please fill out the form anew for each tool.)

BASICS Interest Form: https://forms.gle/5aEwVTH5cdBAnQXy5

Questions?

Contact Gina Helfrich, Program Officer for Global Technology Programs at Internews: ghelfrich@internews.org

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