Two years in…

Greetings mobile believers,

I am about to head into the first ever Silicon Valley Human Rights Conference, aka #RightsCon, and though I would post some thoughts about the state of the Guardian Project, and the world in which we operate. RightsCon looks to be an amazing event (live streaming here:, by an amazing organization (Access), and it comes at an interesting time in the world, and for our project.

One year ago, I was invited to attend the first Liberation Technology held at Stanford University, a forebearer of sorts, to the RightsCon event today. It was a novel event, being that is was so forthright about the possibility of liberation from oppressors through ones and zeros. It was also quite informative, in that brought together a wide array of participants, including from Egypt, Syria and Yemen, and allowed them to speak directly about the variety of tactics they were using to defeat censors, route around filters, connect diasporas to their homeland and ultimately find fissures in the system that could slowly be mined and widened.

I gave a short talk as part of a panel I was asked to be on, which covered the history of my sometimes bi-polar work as an activist and a technologist. In this talk, I discussed how the human-need focused brilliance of Steve Jobs, should be combined with the deep understanding of movements by Gene Sharp. I talked about how the icon of Android has some things to learn from OTPOR! if it wants people to join in liberating their mobiles. I proposed that the ideas of free culture and code held by Stallman and Lessig need to be studied, spread and embodied by activist communities, such as the Tibetan independence groups, with home I work closely.

While it is better in person with my arm waving, you can view the visual portion of this presentation here:

Since that event, so much has happened, both in the world and within our work here at the Guardian Project. The recent events in the Middle East and North Africa, have shown, that now more then ever, social, mobile technology, combined with non-violent direct action, is a central solution for helping citizens of this planet defend their rights to live, study, pray, commune, transact and organise. I think my words and presentation at that event were less about foreseeing the near future, and more about just sensing all the components in the air, and hoping that someone, somewhere, would put them all together in service of a good cause.

This same analogy can be used for the state of the Guardian Project itself. It was two years ago, we had our first breakthrough with the port of Tor to Android:

This was about as raw as it gets – source code, a user interface made up of a few grey buttons and a console log output, and very complex set of steps to actually get proxying working. However, it was a start – “Day 0” if you will – and where I mark the public entry of our project into the world.

Now, today, October 25, 2011, two years since Tor port, and one year since the LibTech event, we are quite a bit further than that. We have real, polished apps, and perhaps, some of the best user experience design in mobile security solutions. There have been over 100,000 downloads of Orbot, both from the Android Market and through direct distribution:

Beyond Orbot, we have an entire suite of (literally “award-winning”) apps in the Android Market, covering the range of capabilities expected from anonymous, circumventing web browsing, encrypted chat, secure file storage, to our more original projects, such as ObscuraCam, a privacy-aware camera app.

View all of our apps in the Android Market:

We have stayed true to our open-source, grant-funded goals, and have built a vibrant project for all to share, learn and take from:

We have also collaborated with many other human rights and activist organizations, to ensure our tools and technology are directly informed by their tangible day-to-day needs. ObscuraCam is a project with WITNESS, the leading human-rights video organization, and is part of a larger effort called the SecureSmartCam, which we aim to one day power international human rights evidence gathering.

We also joined MobileActive, in the development of the SaferMobile project’s InTheClear app for Blackberry, Nokia and Android phones, a mobile panic button for quickly erasing sensitive data and sending emergency distress calls, via SMS:

Finally, SQLCipher for Android, our port of an existing, tested, trusted open-source encrypted database solution by Zetetic, is gathering a lot of support quickly, because we consciously made it easy for developers to implement. We have a number of major partners who will be using it in their solutions, and we hope we can talk about them more soon.

Encrypted your mobile app data:

There is so much more to share, and I am already running long (and late for the #RightsCon!). I also know we have quite a bit more work to do in getting our apps to be more reliable, more stable and more functional in all of the places where people are depending upon their mobile phones to defend their rights, and in many cases, their lives. We are two years into our five year mission, and we have so many good things to announce in the coming weeks and months. Stay tuned, get your mobiles ready to power-up.

n8fr8 and the entire amazing @guardianproject crew