Surveillance Self-Defense and Security Education: Year in Review 2020

By Lindsay Oliver

As the world rapidly changed in 2020, new threats arose to our digital security. The shift to online education and the wave of police brutality protests brought new avenues for surveillance, so EFF created new resources to help people protect themselves.

EFF maintains a repository of self-help resources for fighting back against surveillance across a variety of different platforms, devices, and threat models. We call it Surveillance Self-Defense, or SSD for short.

SSD covers myriad topics, and is broken up into four main sections:

  • Basics: Overviews on what digital surveillance is and how you can fight it.
  • Tool Guides: Step-by-step tutorials on installing and using privacy and security tools.
  • Further Learning: Deep-dives on the theory behind protecting your digital privacy.
  • Security Scenarios: Playlists of our resources for specific use cases.

In 2017, we also launched the Security Education Companion, also known as SEC, as a sister site to SSD. It’s geared toward people who would like to help their communities learn about digital security, but are new to the art of security training.

SEC also features four main areas of educational resources:

  • Security Education 101: Articles on foundational teaching concepts, and the logistics and considerations of planning a workshop or training.
  • Lesson Modules: Guides for training learners how to use password managers or lock down their social media, and more.
  • Teaching Materials: Handouts and gifs to help illustrate new concepts in approachable ways for any skill level.
  • Security News: An archive of curated EFF Deeplinks posts for trainers, technologists, and educators who teach digital security.

Major Updates to SSD and SEC in 2020

Privacy for Students

Our student privacy guide is a wide-ranging breakdown of the ways schools spy on students, both in and out of the classroom. It goes over the types of technologies schools can use and the data that they can gather, with strategies that students can use to protect themselves and their peers from invasive school surveillance.

Understanding and Circumventing Network Censorship

We revamped and renamed our previous censorship circumvention guide to break down more fully the ways in which censorship and surveillance go hand-in-hand, and the harms they bring to users. We also go over how network censorship happens–where the blocking occurs, and by what mechanisms. And finally, the guide provides users with options for circumvention techniques, and the risks and benefits of these options.

Attending a Protest

Our guide on attending protests went through a major update in response to the protests against police brutality this past summer. We added new sections on dressing for anonymity and safety to circumvent surveillance techniques used at protests and considerations for transit, location, and social media tracking. We also provided additional resources to help address issues of self-censorship in the face of surveillance risk and guidance on posting images in a mindful way to minimize exposing other protesters to potential harm.

Lesson Module: Phishing and Malware

We added to SEC’s training repertoire this year by creating a lesson module on teaching others about phishing and malware. This resource is based firmly in learner empowerment, not fear. These topics can be daunting and scary for people just learning how to protect themselves online, and we frame this training in building up learners’ awareness and understanding, not recommending specific tools. An additional resource released in tandem with this lesson is our malware handout, a double-sided informative resource on the common types of malware, and protections against contracting this malicious software on devices.

Check out the rest of Surveillance Self-Defense to learn more about protecting yourself online, and Security Education Companion for more of our digital security training resources, at the beginner and intermediate levels of learning.

This article is part of our Year in Review series. Read other articles about the fight for digital rights in 2020.


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