AI ethics

Lizzie O’Shea declared “Hero” for mobilizing the Australian public against the government’s anti-encryption legislation

Today, Access Now announces its selection of Lizzie O’Shea, an Australian human rights lawyer, broadcaster, and writer, as a recipient of this year’s Human Rights Heroes Award. O’Shea is recognized for leading work to highlight, analyze, and protest expansive surveillance laws in Australia.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet will present the award to O’Shea, as well as this year’s four other winners, at RightsCon Tunis (June 11-14, 2019).

After a more than a year in development, in September 2018, the Australian government introduced legislation expanding law enforcement’s powers to break encryption protocols. Despite widespread public dissent, Parliament rushed to pass the bill in December 2018, with the promise it would be further reviewed in 2019.

Frequently working in coalition, O’Shea has led the campaign against the Assistance and Access Bill and other threats to secure communications in Australia. This has included building an alliance across technology companies, civil society organizations, academics, and activists, and fronting media, public events, and parliamentary inquiries. Despite the laws being passed, the campaign had a huge mobilizing impact, with a strong coalition committed to working together and thousands of Australian citizens sparked to take action.

O’Shea is a board member at Digital Rights Watch and recently published a book on the politics and history of digital technology.

About the Award

We live in an era where rapid developments in digital surveillance threaten to erode universal human rights, such as our right to privacy, freedom of expression and association. In 2013, several NGOs, criminal attorneys, human rights and privacy advocates worked together to introduce 13 Necessary and Proportionate Principles. Signed by 600 organizations and 300,000 individuals, the Principles provide a framework to evaluate whether current or proposed surveillance laws are compatible with human rights.

In celebration of these principles and the work of people around the globe to protect human rights in the digital age, every year Access Now names “heroes” and “villains” who have either protected the principles of freedom online or worked to undermine them.

Previous heroes recognized by Access Now include UN High Commissioner Navi Pillay, President of Brazil Dilma Rousseff, Professor Kyung-Sin Park, and Supreme Court of Justice of India Rohinton Nariman. Read more about this year’s Heroes here.