Why We Invested: Tactical Technology Collective

January 17, 2017

Technology increasingly permeates our lives – from social media and mobile phones to governmental algorithmic decision-making and surveillance systems. Daily, we create data traces that are collected, stored, purchased, sold, and analyzed. Everyday citizens – whether sparked by Snowden’s revelations, Facebook’s purchase of WhatsApp, or agreeing to a new app’s privacy policies – are asking themselves: How do I understand the dynamics at play? How do I regain control? Is it possible to undergo a data detox?

Furthermore, activists and marginalized groups seek advice on how to safeguard their online and offline activity. Human rights defenders face increasingly oppressive contexts, and need solutions for protection and security – especially regarding their digital lives and uses of technology.

Tactical Technology Collective (TTC), a nonprofit organization that explores the political and social role of technology in our lives, responds to both of the above interrelated trends.

By developing toolkits, guides, films, animations, visualizations, applied research, trainings, events, and exhibitions, TTC is dedicated to the effective and safe use of information and technology in activism and action. In its 13-year history, TTC has strengthened the capacity and security of at-risk communities, its tools and resources have been accessed by millions, and it has leveraged expertise as well as strengths in design and creative presentation.

Following Omidyar Network’s initial grant of $500,000 to TTC in 2015-2016, we are happy to announce a new three-year core grant of $1,950,000. The grant will enhance TTC’s impact across its three focus areas: 1) Digital Security and Privacy; 2) Politics of Data; and 3) Shaping and Exposing Issues. In particular, TTC will expand the content and scale of its resources Security in a Box and Me & My Shadow. We look forward to seeing the number of users of TTC’s toolkits, as well as the number of citations of and references to TTC’s materials, multiply.

The organization brings over a decade of experience and reflection, enhancing and protecting the safety and security of those with whom they work. TTC is especially known for its work with civil society organizations, especially the most marginalized and/or at-risk (e.g., women’s rights organizations, LGBTQI groups, environmental justice and transparency activists, journalists, human rights defenders). TTC's materials are quoted or sourced in many digital security manuals, and TTC is often referenced in the media (e.g., Wired UK, The Guardian, Al Jazeera, BBC Radio 4, Columbia Journalism Review).

In addition to products, resources, and trainings, TTC is engaged in creative projects and exhibitions. Its Nervous Systems Exhibition in Berlin explored how the enormous amounts of data captured by billions of sensors from our everyday communications and movements are transforming our behavior, as well as our understanding of self and society. It attracted over 10,000 visitors; its workshops were completely oversubscribed. For media coverage of this exhibit, please see more here. TTC’s “Glass Room” in New York City, a 15-day exhibition (plus a 4-day extension due to popular demand) in collaboration with Mozilla – received rave reviews and more than 35 features in the press. It also attracted over 10,000 visitors.

Importantly, TTC’s team is diverse in a way that enables it to better represent and serve its target communities. The backgrounds and languages of TTC’s staff span the globe.  Its leadership team is primarily women, which is (unfortunately) rare for a technology-focused organization.

We are pleased to support this thoughtful, vibrant, creative, and relevant organization, and look forward to our continued partnership.

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