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[liberationtech] Silent Circle to be used to protect human rights activists

Yosem Companys companys at
Fri Sep 6 11:55:15 PDT 2013

The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) has launched a partnership with global
encrypted communications firm Silent Circle <> to
protect the private communications of political dissidents, human rights
groups, and civil society organizations in at-risk scenarios. As a first
step, Washington D.C.-based Silent Circle will be donating hundreds of
licenses for Silent Phone, the company’s peer-to-peer mobile phone
encryption service, to Tibetan groups who come under frequent cyber attacks.

“Whistleblowers, human rights defenders, and exile groups absolutely need
this sort of technology to keep their communications out of the hands of
governments. It is laudable that Silent Circle has recognized this need and
is so generously prepared to publicly declare their commitment to be part
of a long-lasting solution,” said HRF president Thor Halvorssen.

Last month, the Tibetan government’s website was
an attempt to spy on human rights activists visiting the site. This
incident is the latest in a long line of China-based malware attacks that
range from direct surveillance to the email phishing described by Tibetan
prime minister Lobsang Sangay in his speech at the 2013 Oslo Freedom

“Silent Circle was founded to help people and organizations, including
targeted human rights groups, have the assurance of private and
confidential communications in the digital world,” said Silent Circle Chief
Operating Officer Vic Hyder. “We believe private communications are a
fundamental right for all.”

Equipped with Silent Circle’s technology, Tibetans will be able to conduct
secure conference calls, send text messages, and transfer files with their
colleagues across the globe using Android and iOS devices. Silent Circle’s
services use a revolutionary new peer-to-peer secure communications method,
which does not store any keys or data on its servers.

“In cases where a government compels the release of communication data,
Silent Circle’s encryption model ensures that no information can be made
available,” said Silent Circle Chief Technology Officer Jon Callas. “If a
Silent Circle user faces the confiscation of their phone, they merely need
to delete the service’s application to remove their communication history,”
said Callas.

Silent Circle recently discontinued its email
fears that governments might be able to coerce its server companies to
divulge private data; however, the company’s text messaging, voice, video
and file transfer services are still active. These services will be
important communications tools for Tibetans moving forward. Callas and
Halvorssen met with senior Tibetan groups at a recent HRF event.

Starting this month, HRF and Silent Circle will provide additional licenses
for its encryption services to dissidents and human rights groups otherwise
unable to afford robust information security.

“The ongoing discussion about the U.S. National Security Agency’s threat to
privacy in the West should be broadened to also include discussion of how
governments like Putin’s Russia and Maduro’s Venezuela routinely humiliate
and intimidate their critics by playing their personal telephone
Skype communications on government television channels, among other tactics
that chill freedom of speech and sow fear,” said Halvorssen. “At this
point, Silent Circle is one option for dissidents in these oppressive
climates who need confidential calls, texts, and file transfers. Too many
use standard phone, email, and chat services that are easily tapped by
government surveillance. HRF hopes that its partnership with Silent Circle
becomes a force for transformation in the work of human rights defenders
across the globe,” he concluded.

Thus far, HRF has documented how human rights defenders laboring in
oppressive environments in Bahrain, Cuba, and on the North Korean border
have used Silent Circle with success. Silent Circle is one of several
companies offering high levels of encryption services for the general

HRF is a nonprofit nonpartisan organization that protects and promotes
human rights globally, with an expertise in the Americas. We believe that
all human beings are entitled to freedom of self-determination, freedom
from tyranny, the right to speak freely, to associate with those of like
mind, and to leave and enter their countries. Individuals in a free society
must be accorded equal treatment and due process under law, and must have
the opportunity to participate in the governments of their countries; HRF’s
ideals likewise find expression in the conviction that all human beings
have the right to be free from arbitrary detainment or exile and from
interference and coercion in matters of conscience. HRF does not support
nor condone violence. HRF’s International Council includes human rights
advocates—many of them previously targeted by dictatorships with
surveillance technology—George Ayittey, Vladimir Bukovsky, Palden Gyatso,
Garry Kasparov, Mutabar Tadjibaeva, Ramón J. Velásquez, Elie Wiesel, and
Harry Wu.

HRF Contact: Alex Gladstein, 212.246.8486,
alex at<>

Silent Circle Contact: Tom Resau, 703-877-8103,
tom at<>
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