CYRILLA Applied Research and Advocacy Grants: Meet our Recipients!

In April, we announced that we were accepting proposals for our CYRILLA Applied Research and Advocacy grants — we received over 50 submissions from both organizations and individuals across the world. After a  competitive selection process, we’re pleased to announce our five grant recipients! It was important that we support a wide, diverse range of projects, and awarded a grant to each region represented in our CYRILLA Collaborative; with the exception of Latin America, which, due to the number of proposals received from the region, was awarded two. Read more about all our grant-supported projects below:

Analysis of judicial cases on gender violence and privacy on the Internet in ParaguayTEDIC

Feminist digital rights organization, TEDIC, will be undertaking a research project to understand how the courts in Paraguay address online gender-based violence with a focus on the unauthorized dissemination of intimate images and videos. Recent cases in Paraguay have brought to the fore the impact of this practice on women, who face social and economic consequences, including job losses, street harassment, depression, and, in some instances, suicide. Within the last year alone, more than 1,200 complaints of unauthorized dissemination of intimate images and videos were made to the Prosecutor’s Office, and TEDIC will be analyzing legal processes and public discourse to reflect on the relationship between gender and digital media.

Between Data Protection and Electoral Propaganda: comparative analyses of legal frameworks governing online political propaganda in Latin AmericaInternetLab

Following the Cambridge Analytica scandal and the marred election of Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro, allegations of voter manipulation and concerns about the lawfulness and the transparency of the digital marketing techniques employed by electoral campaigns, are at the forefront of global politics. The internet altered the nature of political communication, and the use of online manipulation, disinformation and radicalization as political tools has been widely covered. But these tools are only available due to the increasing technological capacity to collect, process, and store personal data, which has been a valuable asset to political campaigns. Understanding the interaction between the legal frameworks that govern electoral campaigns and data protection, in essential to both guarantee citizens’ right to privacy and to foster authentic political debate. Brazil-based policy think tank, InternetLab, will therefore map the emerging and existing rules that regulate the use of personal data in political campaigning in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Paraguay. The team will investigate the use of direct marketing techniques by political campaigns; practices of database sharing among parties, candidates, supporters and marketing companies; the use of profiling and microtargeting techniques to convey political propaganda; and the guarantee of voters’ personal data protection and privacy rights. InternetLab hopes the project will establish the groundwork on which the development of a bridge between electoral regulations and data protection regimes can advance.

What’s sex got to do with it? Mapping the Impact of Questions of Gender and Sexuality on the Evolution of the Digital Rights Landscape in IndiaInternet Democracy Project and Vrinda Bhandari

Questions relating to gender and sexuality have driven a number of key court cases in recent years, whose importance does not only affect the evolution of gender and sexuality rights in the country, but of digital rights as well. From intermediary liability for content that is discriminatory or violent against women to anonymity on social media for victims of sexual crimes, the cases exemplify a deep tension running through Indian jurisprudence: that between the constitutional guarantees of equality, including gender equality, and the profound gender discrimination that results from traditional concerns about women’s sexuality and ‘reputation’ in what remains in large part a socially conservative society. Such tensions also run through the various provisions of digital rights related legislations that already explicitly address challenges that sit at the intersection of gender and sexuality rights. The Internet Democracy Project, whose research and advocacy focuses on the experiences of marginalized groups online, will systematically analyze the profound ways in which matters concerning gender and sexuality are impacting the development of the digital rights framework in India’s socially conservative society. By looking at digital rights-related laws and cases, researcher Vrinda Bhandari and IDP hope to provide both feminists and sexuality activists, as well as digital rights activists, with expanded legal knowledge to intervene in these debates successfully.  

Privacy, Data Protection and Surveillance Legal Frameworks in the Middle East: A Case Study on COVID-19 Contact Tracing ApplicationsJoey Shea

The fast proliferation of COVID-19 contact-tracing applications, in response to the historic global health crisis, raises important concerns over privacy, data protection, and surveillance. There are legitimate concerns about whether these applications strike the correct balance between surveillance in the service of public health, while also protecting their users’ privacy. Moreover, given the immensity of the crisis, many NGOs and human rights organizations have expressed concern that states will use the crisis to exploit special exemptions and emergency powers in the law to expand state power and track citizens long after the end of the coronavirus. 

In order to thoroughly address and evaluate these concerns, Joey Shea, a researcher and analyst specialized in digital information controls and digital security in Egypt and the Middle East, will examine the legal frameworks of contact tracing applications, document their deployment and use, and explore broader questions about the health of data governance, data protection, privacy and state surveillance in the Middle East. To accomplish this, Joey will conduct a comprehensive overview of the applications as well as legislation and cases pertaining to data protection and surveillance from a number of states in the region, and assess the privacy implications of these legal frameworks.

An analysis of legislation concerning the introduction of digital identity programs in sub-Saharan Africa, and the risks and challenges posed by these Digital ID programsRose Mosero Maina

The adoption of digital ID systems has been hailed as transformative for many developing countries — sub-Saharan African states are no exception. In particular, proponents of digital ID espouse an improvement in the efficiency of public service delivery, as well as its role in digitizing economies. However, it is increasingly becoming apparent that these countries face a confluence of challenges in the implementation of digital ID programs that their legal frameworks are not equipped to remedy. 

Currently, there are approximately 1 billion people around the world who lack official proof of identity, and close to half of them reside in sub-Saharan Africa. Digital ID systems risk further excluding these vulnerable groups, like refugees, from the benefits of digital ID, or exposing them to surveillance threats and discrimination. The adoption of digital ID systems therefore requires strong legislative and policy frameworks to both remedy the lack of formal ID and to guard against misuse. Rose Mosero Maina, a lawyer and advisor to the Kenyan Ministry of ICT, Innovation and Youth Affairs, will research and analyze the implementation of digital ID systems in South Africa, Kenya, Cameroon and Nigeria through their regulatory instruments, in order to evaluate their impact on the rights of vulnerable groups in the region.

Look out for our completed projects this Fall!

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