Umbrella: a new tool for human rights activists and journalists

29 Sep 2015

The risk surrounding journalists and human rights activists globally has seen a number of new tools come on stream recently to offer as much protection as possible. Umbrella hopes to add to that.

Not long ago we brought news of a brilliantly named little app called Panic Button. Like a certain popular varnish, the name said it all, with it acting like a clever alert system that stayed hidden for as long as possible.

However, taking that as a kind of end-game defensive tactic, what should go before it? Well, Umbrella, recently developed by Security First, aims to get you in shape ahead of time.

So you download the app, fill in where you are and where you are going, and it supplies you with most of the information you really should be aware of before you go.

You get a checklist of criteria to go through before you head out the door, border issues, checkpoints, vehicular requirements and even tips to avoid kidnapping, or handle its aftermath.


Umbrella app human rights activists

Considering the countless areas around the world where these grim situations may occur, the more tools to help out activists the better.

Yet security is hard and complex and simply knowing what tools to use can be confusing. Security First’s aim, it seems, is to offer all this advice in one app.

“We wanted to build a simple, easily accessible tool that brought together digital and physical security, and helped human rights activists implement it in a really user-friendly way,” said Rory Byrne, CEO of Security First, a man experienced with human rights activities around the world.

“We’re basically building the tool we wish we had ourselves.”


The app is only on Android for now, and only in English, too. However, it’s something already appealing to some.

“Managing the safety of staff and collaborators in insecure environments, across multiple locations and facing an array of threats can be challenging,” said Matt Timblin, director of security at Human Rights Watch.

“The prospect of an easily accessible ‘one-stop-shop’ app, such as Umbrella, that allows quick access to security advice is an exciting and innovative development in helping improve the security of those working as human rights activists, humanitarians and journalists around the world.”

It’s actually hard to truly understand how useful this is until you really need to use it. So now that it’s in the wild we’ll get to find out.

Main image via Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic