New Coalition of Computer Professionals and Human Rights Workers

For Immediate Release

PALO ALTO and TORONTO (January 30, 2002) -- Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility (CPSR) today announced Privaterra, a new coalition of computer professionals, human rights workers and human rights organizations joined to harness the power of technology and help protect human rights workers worldwide. Established in December of 2001, Privaterra will be an ongoing project of CPSR. The organization already completed training contracts in Latin America and is currently planning several more worldwide.

"Ensuring the privacy and security of information and communications is often a matter of life and death when combatting human rights violations," explains Robert Guerra, a founder of Privaterra. "Human rights workers place themselves in harm's way to protect others. In so doing, they often become targets themselves."

President of CPSR, Coralee Whitcomb is proud to extend the work of CPSR into this incredibly important area. "As always, information technology brings with it incredible new opportunities for change. The work of Privaterra will help to ensure that human rights work benefits fully from these new tools. Privaterra's extensive track record insofar demonstrates the great need for services, technology and resources to help protect and promote the work of human rights organizations around the world."

Advances in technology have made it easier to monitor and report human rights abuses around the world. In Kosovo, Chechnya, China and East Timor, new information and communications technologies helped in documenting and reporting human rights abuses. These advances have also created vulnerabilities, which Privaterra strives to secure.

Privaterra provides human rights workers with technology and teaches them how to secure their information and communications. The group is also constructing a protected clearinghouse of information and resources relating to privacy and security for human rights organizations.

Privacy and security oriented NGOs from all over the world have contributed support to the newly formed organization, recognizing the critical need for secure communications in the fight for human rights. These NGOs include:

"At Amnesty International-USA we communicate by email, internet and telephone with human rights organizations in all parts of the world," explains Barb Bocek of Amnesty International. "And we've seen many cases in which compromised communications and computer networks endanger human rights activists. Many NGOs in developing nations have few options for help with internet connections or network design. If in addition -- as in many Latin American countries -- activists operate under constant threats and electronic surveillance, they desperately need the assistance of an organization like Privaterra to design secure systems AND to identify who is tapping their phones or hacking their hard drives. I look forward to collaborating with Privaterra in the future as I believe there is going to be an increasing role for privacy technology in protecting human rights work."

Privaterra is a volunteer-based organization with offices in the United States and Canada, and members in North America, South America and Europe. Their goal of Securing Human Rights is increasingly important as low-tech groups and individuals use the Internet to conduct business and transfer sensitive data around the world.

CPSR is a public-interest alliance of computer scientists and others concerned about the impact of computer technology on society. As technical experts, CPSR members provide the public and policymakers with realistic assessments of the power, promise, and limitations of computer technology.

To help human rights workers and organizations conduct their activities in safety, and to protect the safety and anonymity of those they serve, Privaterra is seeking funding, donations-in-kind, and qualified volunteers.

Contact Information:

Robert Guerra



Tel: +1 (416) 458-8564

Fax: +1 (303) 484-0302

Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility


Tel: +1 (650) 322-3778

Fax: +1 (650) 322-4748

AMP Section Name:Technology & Telecommunications
  • 116 Human Rights
  • 192 Technology & Telecommunications

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