Privacy is the cornerstone for human rights in the digital age.Without it, we are not free to shape our identities, explore new ideas, nurture relationships, or challenge the status quo without interference.
That is why each year Access Now honors unique contributions to the fight to defend privacy around the world. We also shine a light on the offenses of those who have played a notable role in undermining privacy rights.
UPDATE: The call for nominations for the 2020 Privacy Defenders & Offenders — recognizing work undertaken in 2019 — is open until April 13, 2020, 11:59pm PST.
Access Now selects five award winners from among those nominated, considering each individually and as a group to represent the diversity of human rights defenders and approaches to upholding privacy around the world. Nominations are evaluated based on actions taken during the calendar year prior to the award, though additional context from other periods can be provided. We consider:
⇨ Impact in the field — How has the person’s work had a demonstrable impact on defending human rights in the digital age, and in particular upholding the right to privacy?
⇨ Connection to users at risk — How has the person’s work impacted those most prone to marginalization?
⇨ Diverse representation — How does this person’s experience, perspective, or body of work contribute to a diverse and widely representative cohort of award winners?
⇨ Opportunity — How will receiving this award contribute to the person’s ongoing work to defend privacy rights?
⇨ Wildcard — What else makes it especially important to acknowledge this person’s contribution to digital rights last year?
Access Now chooses five individuals from among those nominated, considering each individually and as a group to represent the range of threats to privacy and the diversity of communities impacted around the world. Nominations are evaluated based on actions taken during the calendar year prior to the award, though additional context from other periods can be provided. We consider:
⇨ Impact — How has the person’s work undermined human rights the digital age, and in particular the right to privacy?
⇨ Connection to users at risk — Who has been affected by the person’s actions? How has the person’s work impacted those most prone to marginalization?
⇨ Opportunity — How might recognizing the person in this manner help to achieve a change in course?
⇨ Wildcard — What else makes it especially important to acknowledge this person’s actions undermining digital rights last year?
We believe that human rights are universal — including on the internet. Technology has given us new and powerful ways to exercise our rights, but the internet can also be a battlefield where those rights are under threat. We live in an era where rapid developments in digital surveillance threaten to erode universal human rights, such as our right to privacy and freedom of expression and association.
To defend our private spaces, in 2013 several NGOs, criminal attorneys, human rights defenders, and privacy advocates worked together to introduce the Necessary and Proportionate Principles. Signed by 600 organizations and 300,000 individuals, the 13 Principles provide a framework to evaluate whether current or proposed surveillance laws are compatible with human rights.
In celebration of these efforts and the work of people around the globe to protect human rights in the digital age, every year Access Now honors individuals who have protected the principles of freedom online and sheds light on those who have undermined them.
From its inception to the award ceremony at RightsCon Tunis in 2019, this project was known as the Human Rights Heroes & Villains Awards. We will recognize contributions that had particular impacts on the privacy landscape in 2019 in the project’s next iteration — the 2020 Privacy Defenders & Offenders.
You can find out more about past years’ recipients the award’s evolution through the following pages: