The Citizen Lab has been honoured for its research and for drawing “much-needed public attention to the role that surveillance and malware technologies play in facilitating human rights abuses worldwide.”

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a U.S.-based international non-profit digital rights group, annually presents awards to organizations or individuals who are leaders in “extending freedom and innovation on the electronic frontier.” In addition to the Citizen Lab at the Munk School, the 2015 awards go to the late Casper Bowden, cofounder of the British Foundation for Information Policy Research and onetime chief privacy adviser at Microsoft; Anriette Esterhuysen, executive director of the Association of Progressive Communications and current member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Commission on Internet Governance; and Kathy Sierra, a leading teacher, community leader and author about programming and interaction design.

“This extraordinary group of winners have all focused on the users, striving to give everyone the access, power, community, and protection they need in order to create and participate in our digital world,” said EFF Executive Director Cindy Cohn. “This group has worked tirelessly to bring to life a future where new technologies don’t compromise privacy or safety, or leave anyone behind. We are so proud to honour them with Pioneer Awards, and we’re deeply grateful for the work they’ve done.”

Ron Deibert, Director of the Citizen Lab, says it is a “huge honour and a tribute to all Citizen Lab staff, past and present, to be a recipient of the EFF Internet Pioneer Award for 2015. It is also very humbling to join a long list of such distinguished award winners who have done so much collectively to work for an open and secure Internet.”

The EFF citation for the Citizen lab states it “has become a powerful force in identifying and examining state-sponsored surveillance malware, drawing much-needed public attention to the role that surveillance and malware technologies play in facilitating human rights abuses worldwide. Their groundbreaking and peer-reviewed research has put a spotlight on both the companies that sell the technologies and the governments that use these tools to facilitate repression. Citizen Lab has produced numerous independent reports on censorship and surveillance in popular social media platforms, instant messaging applications, and search engines. It has also refined network measurement methods for performing Internet-wide scans to ‘fingerprint’ country-level installations of Internet filtering, deep packet inspection, and surveillance products.”

Deibert says he and his colleagues are “thrilled to see that our impartial, evidence-based research is being recognized by an organization like EFF, which has done so much over the years to promote human rights online.”

The lab received their award at a ceremony in San Francisco on Sept. 24, 2015.

Read the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s wrap-up of the 2015 Pioneer Awards

Listen to Citizen Lab director Ron Deibert on Metro Morning with Matt Galloway