Data privacy: top VPN helps journalists and activists to stay safe online

ExpressVPN running on multiple devices

One of the best VPN services around has launched a new initiative to empower human rights defenders to take back their online privacy.

With the help of international experts in the field, ExpressVPN put together a Digital Security Resource Library to guide journalists and activists on the most secure tools, cybersecurity tips, and training, to stay truly safe online.

The announcement comes only a few days before Data Privacy Day on January 28—the outcome of the workshop the provider held six months ago during RightsCon in Costa Rica, the world's leading summit on human rights in the digital age.

Empowering activists with knowledge

"Internet safety and digital freedom are fundamental human rights. This is what the Digital Security Resource Library is all about—helping campaigners and journalists feel safe online and ensuring that they have the skills to do so," said Lauren Hendry Parsons, Privacy Advocate for ExpressVPN.

The library is an accessible guide of affordable and privacy-focused tools that the press, NGOs, and other digital activists can use to fight online threats.

Among the recommended software are the secure messaging app Signal, secure email providers like Tuta (formerly Tutanota), secure collaboration platform Element, privacy-first browsers like Tor, Brave, and Firefox, spyware removal tools including Microsoft Defender and Bitdefender, and more.

An explanation of the importance of using a reliable virtual private network is included, too. VPNs are, in fact, a valuable tool as they encrypt users' internet connections while spoofing their real IP addresses. All this grants better online anonymity as well as access to otherwise geo-restricted content—an essential piece of tech for those operating under harsh online censorship and surveillance.

Besides security and privacy software, the Library also lists useful resources like cybersecurity and open-source intelligence (OSINT) training, best practice tips, strategies for navigating internet shutdowns, and more. The provider said that the aim is empowering journalists and activists "in their ongoing efforts to make a lasting impact on the causes they believe in, regardless of their technical skills."

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ExpressVPN's new initiative can be seen as the natural extension of the work the provider started in June last year during the RightsCon Summit. At that time, it put together a workshop to determine the issues that human rights defenders face on a daily basis as well as potential solutions.

Among the attendees were human rights defenders, activists, lawyers, technologists, journalists, and educators from various regions across the world to help give a better representation of the challenges people face globally. How police officers use social media and mobile surveillance to find protest organizers and activists' real identities was cited as the main concern.

Did you know?

According to Reporters Without Borders, nearly 800 journalists (779) were arrested at some point in 2023. About half of these were detained across four countries worldwide: China, Myanmar, Belarus, and Vietnam. 

"Sadly, and all too often, we are seeing campaigners, human rights defenders, and journalists put at risk when using technology to further their cause," said Francesca Bosco, Chief Strategy and Partnerships Officer at cybersecurity and digital rights NGO The CyberPeace Institute, who collaborated to both the workshop and the ExpressVPN Library.

"Everyone should have safety and security in the digital world, and we hope that this Digital Security Resource Library will help all individuals, whatever their mission, to continue pushing forward with what they believe in, free from the risk of being restricted, attacked, or silenced online," she added.

Other privacy advocate experts who take part in the initiative include Rhona Tarrant, Head of Editorial at social news and strategic intelligence agency Storyful, and Fergus O’Sullivan, freelance technology journalist and VPN expert.

Commenting on the joint effort, Parsons from ExpressVPN said: "We’re delighted to collaborate with leading experts in digital privacy and security and we look forward to continuing working with them and other organizations in providing further contributions to the Library over the coming months and years."

Chiara Castro
Senior Staff Writer

Chiara is a multimedia journalist committed to covering stories to help promote the rights and denounce the abuses of the digital side of life—wherever cybersecurity, markets and politics tangle up. She mainly writes news, interviews and analysis on data privacy, online censorship, digital rights, cybercrime, and security software, with a special focus on VPNs, for TechRadar Pro, TechRadar and Tom’s Guide. Got a story, tip-off or something tech-interesting to say? Reach out to chiara.castro@futurenet.com