Digital Security and Privacy

17 September-14 October 2014 (E06614) | Closed
Instructor: Paul McAdams

Civil society organisations (CSOs) have become increasingly reliant on information and communication technologies (ICTs) and social media to carry out their work. The benefits of these technologies are numerous: CSOs from around the world can communicate and support each other; these technologies enable the sharing of expertise, good practices, and resources in unprecedented ways. Access to new technologies has enabled CSOs to gather, document and analyse information to further improve their work, and as a result has enabled greater accountability for states to realise human rights obligations.

The use of ICTs and social media also presents risks NGO staff and others should be aware of in order to undertake their work effectively. In particular, using such technologies raises issues of digital security and privacy risks, also for those whom they protect and serve. Sensitive information related to human rights issues needs to be stored securely. Human rights defenders and other civil society actors have been threatened, abused, detained or arrested for exposing abuses and violations online. The continuous advances in digital technologies necessitate everyone to be up to date on the benefits they provide and potential threats they pose.

The goal of this course is for participants to increase their ability to ensure digital security and privacy. Beginning with a practical examination of concepts related to digital security and privacy, the course enables participants to realistically assess their current level of digital security and privacy. Through practical examples and case studies, the course encourages participants to increase their awareness of digital security and privacy with concrete tools and approaches to use in their work.

Course structure

This e-learning course involves approximately 20 hours of reading, interaction with participants and instructor on discussion boards, quizzes and webinars with invited guests. The course is based on a participatory, active learning approach, with an emphasis on critical reflection and peer-to-peer learning. The maximum number of participants is 25. Participants will receive a Certificate of Participation upon successful completion of the course.  It is also possible to audit the course.

Course outline

Week 1: Current trends and issues related to digital security and privacy (e.g. differences between online and offline environments, use of mobile devices, public WiFi environments, etc.)
Week 2: Understanding basic concepts of digital security and privacy (e.g. encryption, anti-virus, malware, secure web browsing, cookies, web history, metadata, etc.)
Week 3: Assessing personal and organisational threats with respect to digital security; how to keep information secure
Week 4: Ensuring digital privacy, examining personal and organisational online information, digital profiles, password protection, privacy measures, and encryption

About the instructor: Paul McAdams

Paul McAdamsPaul McAdams is Senior Programme Associate at HREA. Before joining HREA, he was Senior Education Specialist at Equitas–the International Centre for Human Rights Education in Montreal (Canada), where he has managed and facilitated 45 workshops for human rights educators in Canada, the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. At Equitas Mr. McAdams managed and facilitated the online learning community for programme participants. Before joining Equitas in 2001 he worked for the World University Service in Ghana and Malawi and with Edutech Associates (Montreal), where he conducted a 30-hour professional development institute for teachers using technology in the classroom. He was also an instructor for an online course at McGill University. Aside from the Digital Security and Privacy course, Paul is an instructor for the HREA e-learning courses ESC Rights in Practice, Use of ICTs and Social Media for Human Rights Work and Utilisation des TIC et des médias sociaux and regularly conducts workshops for HREA.

Who should apply

The course is particularly intended for human rights defenders, including staff members of NGOs and other civil society organisations, but will be useful for anyone interested in digital security and privacy. Candidates should have a good written command of English and have high competence and comfort with computer and Internet use.


Tuition fee for participants: US$ 395; tuition for auditors: US$ 145. Payments can be made online with major credit cards (Discover, MasterCard, Visa), PayPal, bank transfer (additional fee applies) and money transfer (Western Union, MoneyGram). Bulk rates are available. Payments are due upon registration.

How to register

Registration for this course is now closed.

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently asked questions about HREA’s e-learning courses.