Access is proud to announce the
2014 Access Innovation Prize

"In order for individuals to exercise their right to privacy in communications, they
must be able to ensure that these remain private, secure and, if they choose,
anonymous. [...] Freedom of expression cannot be ensured without respect to
privacy in communications."
— Frank La Rue, UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression, 4 June 2013

"Encryption works. Properly implemented strong crypto systems are one of the few things that you can rely on. Unfortunately, endpoint security is so terrifically weak that NSA can frequently find ways around it."
— Edward Snowden, NSA whistleblower, 17 June 2013

Enabling Secure Communications
in a High-Risk World

In the age of mass surveillance, the most vulnerable actor is the individual -- user, activist, journalist and human rights defender. They may be unsure about the digital environment they are in, but as they become a change actor in their community, the more threats they and their associates may face, both digitally and physically.

The devices we use are often insecure by default, and the work of journalists, activists, human rights defenders often attracts powerful actors who seek to compromise their communications and social circles. Providing easily deployed secure communications tools to high-risk human rights defenders and change actors ensures that even the most targeted individuals will be able to more safely communicate with each other and with the world. And as we continue to learn more of the extent that government surveillance penetrates our lives and communities, the more necessary it is that all of us -- as individuals and communities -- have tools to guarantee our human rights in all environments.

The 2014 Access Innovation Prize is designed to discover and reward projects that demonstrate unique positive impact on the endpoint security of at-risk users in need. You can submit a near-to-complete project, improve an existing tool or combination of tools, or something in-between. Criteria and details are listed below.

Interested in the Access Facebook Award?

FacebookUS$10,000 will go to the project that best uses the Facebook platform to deliver a human rights or social good outcome. We're looking for initiatives across the spectrum - from enhancing freedom of speech and expression to improving the well-being of a disadvantaged group. Visit the 2014 Access Facebook Award page.

Endpoint Security

Access is looking for communication technology initiatives from across the world to address the issue of improving “endpoint security” of individuals and communities working in high-risk environments. “Endpoint security” aims to secure the device and software an individual uses to communicate online. The types of functionality in endpoint security projects we are looking for are included below -- we are open to submissions from applicants that do not perfectly fit within the criteria if they directly focus on the endpoint security needs of at-risk human rights defenders.

Secure Communications

Projects could provide users with secure communications mechanisms, such as by including a pre-configured stack of trusted, open source, and peer-reviewed secure communications tools and anonymity networks. As appropriate, projects should be able to separate local and network-facing identities to reduce the risks of compromise, and be able to protect both the content of communications and the metadata associated with those communications.

Secure the Device

While devices are often insecure by default, live bootable operating systems and virtual machines are two ways to facilitate secure communications on systems that are resilient to malicious malware infection and other potential compromises. Leaving no forensic trace on the device also adds to the security of such a tool.

Community of

Building communities of interest around your project allows you to incorporate feedback and contributions from a more diverse group of users and developers, enabling you to have a more sustainable and effective project in the long-term.

Usable and

In order to be usable by human rights defenders, tools for protecting endpoint security should have a graphic user interface and be able to be localized into other languages with ease. Documentation on how to properly use the tool, the limitations of the tool, and a threat model of what adversaries it can and cannot protect against helps eg. users better judge what environments are appropriate for using the tool.


January 15 - Application process closes
February - Submissions judged, finalists announced, invited to RightsCon: Silicon Valley
March 3-5 - Winner announced at RightsCon: Silicon Valley

The Award

The winner will be awarded $50,000 and acknowledged publicly as the 2014 Access Innovation Prize winner at RightsCon: Silicon Valley, the premiere summit bringing together leading engineers, activists, visionaries, companies, investors, and governments on the subject of the internet and human rights. There will also be opportunities for ongoing collaboration and integration with Access.

The Application Process

Applications are relatively simple. Applicants are asked to complete the following 5 questions:

  • What is your project, and how does it help the endpoint security of human rights defenders in particular?
  • What is the technology behind the project? We're interested in code, bits, and platforms. Links to public code repositories are highly encouraged.
  • What’s your track record, and who are you working with to make the project happen?
  • What are the risks? What do you need to make the project successful in the long-term?
  • How will you make use of the prize money? Details should be listed on the specific items your project will use the $50,000 prize money, whether it be features, developers, platforms, etc.

You can find the application form below. Individuals, organizations, and networks can apply. Any intellectual property of the winner will remain their own.



Your project must attempt to solve specific, targeted, and defined endpoint security issues of human rights defenders. As described above, this includes improving the security of the user's device and providing a comprehensive stack of secure communications tools for the user. There must be a demonstrated need by a user base for your project to meet this criteria.

for Success:

Coming up with relevant and great ideas is important, but we want to make sure your project positively impacts high-risk users. Having your project be usable and understandable helps bridge the gap between human error and human security. Providing documentation on the features, limits, and risks of the tool toward relevant adversaries helps demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of the environments where it might be used.


We want to positively impact your project (and therefore the end user) with the $50,000 prize money. Details you provide regarding the tangible ways your project would use the money -- specific features, developers, security aspects, platforms -- shows the judges the maturity of your project planning and that you have thought through the needs of your project.


You should be thinking about the long term sustainability of the project -- besides being a free and open source software project, you must demonstrate there is a community of interest to further develop it after being awarded the prize money. An understanding of the community you work in and of communities you need to engage with is critical towards sustaining the project.

The Application

Fill in the
application form here.
Submissions close on January 15.

If you have any questions, please contact us at


Access is an international human rights organization that defends and extends the digital rights of users at risk around the world. By combining innovative policy, user engagement, and direct technical support, we fight for open and secure communications for all. For more information, please go to