Summer Institute 2017


The Citizen Lab Summer Institute on Monitoring Internet Openness and Rights is an annual research workshop hosted at the Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto.

The Citizen Lab Summer Institute (CLSI) is a meeting place for researchers and practitioners from academia, civil society, and the private sector who are working on Internet openness, security, and rights. It brings together perspectives from a wide range of backgrounds across technical and social science disciplines. Participants range from established experts to those just entering the area.

We started CLSI to demonstrate that a greater understanding of technology and policy can only be achieved through interdisciplinary collaboration. Our aim is to help build and support a community that shares this belief.

CLSI is not your average academic workshop. The goal is to form collaborations and work together on projects through intensive participant-led sessions. CLSI provides a unique opportunity to meet a diverse group of researchers, practitioners, and advocates and develop new and exciting research that address pressing questions for the Internet.

Collaborations formed at prior CLSI workshops have led to publication of high impact reports on Internet filtering in Zambia (2016), a security audit of child monitoring apps in South Korea (2015), and an analysis of the "Great Cannon" (2014), an attack tool in China used for large scale distributed-denial of service attacks against Github and

The 2017 Citizen Lab Summer Institute will be held at the University of Toronto on July 12 to 14, 2017.


  • July 12 (half day): Networking session and preview of projects that participants will work on over the next two days.
  • July 13 and 14 (full days): Participant-led breakout groups. Groups are designed to be small (8-10 people) to maximize collaboration.


View the list of participants and projects.


Research Streams

The Citizen Lab Summer Institute (CLSI) is organized into four general research streams that become mini workshops within the larger event. Below are framing questions around these areas and example topics from previous years.

1. Network Interference and Freedom of Expression Online

What are open questions for measuring Internet filtering and other forms of network interference?

What are the latest methods and tools for measurement and circumvention of network interference?

What are the impacts of network interference on freedom of expression and other rights?

Examples of projects from previous years:

  • Developing software for measuring and circumventing Internet filtering
  • Explore data sets on Internet filtering (ICLab, OONI, Satellite, etc.)
  • Document censorship on social media, chat apps, and other platforms

2. Surveillance and Counter Surveillance

What are the technologies, laws, and policies that enable targeted and passive surveillance?

What are technologies and practices for preserving privacy and evading surveillance?

How is surveillance affecting civil society?

Examples of projects from previous years:

  • Analyzing politically motivated targeted malware operations
  • IMSI catcher technology and policy
  • Developing privacy enhancing technologies

3. Security and Privacy of Apps

What are security and privacy issues in popular applications and devices?

What are the legal and policy regulations around how these apps and devices handle our data?

Examples of projects from previous years:

  • Security and privacy audits of child monitoring applications
  • Security and privacy audits of fitness trackers
  • Security and privacy audits of chat apps

4. Corporate Transparency and Public Accountability

What are corporations’ involvement in disclosing information to government agencies?

What efforts have corporations made to be transparent about requests from governments?

How can we enhance government accountability to legislative and judicial bodies, and to citizens more generally?

Examples of projects from previous years:

  • Documenting government accountability practices and reports to legislative assemblies
  • Cross jurisdictional analysis of data privacy legislation
  • Evaluating how transparent telecommunication companies are about their data protection policies and practices

5. Special Session: Information Controls and Armed Conflict

This year, we will also be having special breakout sessions on the topic of information controls during armed conflict, and we invite applications that revolve around methodological, ethical, and other challenges unique to doing research in that area.

What role do information operations, such as trolling, denial of service, and targeted espionage, play in hybrid conflicts (e.g., Russia-Ukraine)?

Example case:

  • Citizen Lab and others have documented targeted digital espionage involving at least five separate groups during the Syrian armed conflict.


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