The Information Controls Fellowship Program (ICFP) from the Open Technology Fund (OTF) supports research into how governments in countries, regions, or areas of OTF’s core focus are restricting the free flow of information, cutting access to the open Internet, and implementing censorship mechanisms, thereby threatening the ability of global citizens to exercise basic human rights and democracy; work focused on mitigation of such threats is also supported.
Full application details available on the OTF website.
Deadline: June 30, 2021
- The program offers three, six, nine, or twelve month fellowships
- Candidates apply to a specific host organization
- Fellowships usually offered to postdoctoral, doctoral students, and experienced researchers with demonstrated ability and expertise
- Monthly stipend of $5,000 USD
- Travel stipend of $1,250 to $5,000 USD depending on the fellowship length
Applications are open to people from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines and can include students and junior to mid-career practitioners. While individuals with diverse and unique backgrounds are encouraged to apply, likely candidates have experience as computer scientists, engineers, information security researchers, software developers, social scientists (e.g., comparative politics; international security), lawyers and law students, data visualization designers, and others.
ICFP at the Citizen Lab
The Citizen Lab co-founded the program with OTF and has been a host organization since its inception. We welcome proposals from fellowship candidates for research projects related to our current thematic areas described below:
Freedom of Expression Online
Information is censored and disrupted by state actors and private companies at the network layer (e.g., network shutdowns, network throttling, Internet filtering, etc.) and the application layer (e.g., content filtering and moderation, government requests for content removal, etc).
Research Objectives: Develop methods for identifying how content is restricted at the technical level, and conduct policy and legal analyses to understand the underlying political economy around the practice and policy of these controls. Evaluate how these information controls impact freedom of expression and other rights.
- We Chat, They Watch: How International Users Unwittingly Build up WeChat’s Chinese Censorship Apparatus
- Censored Contagion: How Information on the Coronavirus is Managed on Chinese Social Media
- Planet Netsweeper
Targeted Digital Threats Against Civil Society
Global civil society is under persistent threat from digital espionage enabled by phishing, malware, disinformation campaigns, and other threat vectors. Civil society does not have the same level of resources as governments and the private sector to defend against these threats.
Research Objectives: Document digital threats against civil society groups across regions and communities. Identify technical trends in how groups are targeted. Understand the political context in which these threats are happening, and the impact they have on groups and social movements. Evaluate the efficacy of mitigation strategies available to civil society.
- The Great iPwn: Journalists Hacked with Suspected NSO Group iMessage ‘Zero-Click’ Exploit
- Running in Circles: Uncovering the Clients of Cyberespionage Firm Circles
- Dark Basin: Uncovering a Massive Hack-For-Hire Operation
Public and Corporate Transparency
Users of information technologies now depend on and share their data with a plethora of private companies, many of whom are required by law or otherwise induced to share information with government agencies. These data retention and sharing practices can lack transparency and impact user privacy.
Research Objectives: Conduct analyses of private sector and government policies and laws around data protection and transparency. Develop methods and tools for evaluating how these policies and laws are implemented in practice. Disseminate findings in accessible ways to increase user awareness around data protection and impact change in private and public actor practices.
- Canada’s Proposed Privacy Law Reforms Are Not Enough: A Path to Improving Organizational Transparency and Accountability
- Approaching Access: A look at consumer personal data requests in Canada
Mobile App Privacy and Security
Mobile applications have become a central means for civil society to communicate, organize, and mobilize. Applications that have amassed huge user populations in some regions of the world remain largely understudied by security researchers leaving users with limited information on their relative privacy and security.
Research Objectives: Evaluate security and privacy issues in mobile applications with high user bases in communities of interest that have received minimal research attention. When applicable, outreach to companies to present concerns around security and privacy vulnerabilities. Present findings in accessible ways to help users make informed decisions about the tools they use.
- TikTok vs Douyin: A Security and Privacy Analysis
- Unmasked II: An Analysis of Indonesia and the Philippines’ Government-launched COVID-19 Apps
Legal, Policy, and Technical Research
Apart from these research areas, we encourage applicants to propose projects that are within the following two broad areas (or combinations of the two):
- Legal and Policy Research: Evaluation of laws, policies, and norms related to Internet censorship and surveillance.
- Technical Research: Empirically document technologies and technical practices affecting openness, privacy, and security. This area can include: research and development of software tools, analysis of systems for Internet censorship and surveillance, and data analytics and visualization.
The application process is run by the Open Technology Fund. See their website for details. The 2021 application window will be open until June 30, 2021. Please note that applications have to be submitted via the OTF website no later than 23:59 (11:59 PM) GMT on June 30, 2021. The fellowship window is open once annually.
If you have questions about the ICFP and Citizen Lab, email us at email@example.com.
For general questions on the fellowship, OTF has a public spreadsheet that you can post to and they will answer you promptly. If your question is not appropriate for a public forum, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.