In an article published on, Citizen Lab Senior Legal Advisor Sarah McKune writes about the digital threats that civil society organizations (CSOs) face in carrying out their work, which undermine their privacy and compromise sensitive information.

Yet these organizations, who we often rely on to check abuses of power and advance human rights agendas, typically have inadequate levels of digital security “due to a lack of resources and access to technical expertise.” McKune called this reality “a new digital divide,”  in which differences in digital security exist between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’. It is unsurprising, therefore, that public debates on cyber security have largely focused on the private sectors’ and governments’ experiences, whilst ignoring the plight of CSOs. “To address this problem we must expand the terms and scope of the debate, exploring the link between the right to privacy and access to digital security more fully,” said McKune. What is needed, she argued, is “a holistic approach” to digital security that consists of coordinated action from governments, funding agencies, and companies.

McKune’s article is a follow on to our report, entitled “Communities @ Risk: Targeted Digital Threats Against Civil Society,” which sought to obtain greater visibility into an often overlooked digital risk environment affecting–whether they know it or not–civil society organizations. The study involved 10 civil society groups that enrolled as study subjects over a period of four years. Read the press release for the report.