Here We Go Again: Our COVID-19 Litigation Fund Takes Two
As the pandemic blazes on, DFF has reopened applications for its COVID-19 Litigation Fund.
The second round comes on the heels of the first, which saw applicants seeking to challenge digital rights violations across the spectrum, from the growing use of thermal scanners to the security of tracing apps.
In June 2020, DFF launched the COVID-19 Litigation Fund. The fund supports strategic litigation that challenges digital rights violations committed in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
We established this fund as it became increasingly evident that the pandemic was not only a public health crisis, but also a crisis for digital rights. The scope and nature of the digital rights violations that have been caused by responses to the COVID-19 pandemic are unprecedented and need to be challenged as a matter of urgency.
The scope and nature of the digital rights violations that have been caused by responses to the COVID-19 pandemic are unprecedented and need to be challenged as a matter of urgency
The fund aims to ensure that activists and litigators have the resources to start bringing legal challenges now to halt or limit the impact of digital rights-infringing measures during this time.
What cases are we supporting?
The cases we are currently supporting under the fund include challenges to the growing use of thermal scanning technology in the UK, data protection and privacy claims against the rolling out of COVID-19 apps across Europe, and litigation on the right of women to have access to online sexual and reproductive health information and services in Spain.
Check out the case study page on our website to find out more about the different cases we are supporting through the COVID-19 Litigation Fund.
Although many governments have ended the most restrictive lockdown measures, ongoing responses to the pandemic continue to threaten our digital rights. The list of these threats is long, but includes the growing use of facial recognition technology, the roll out of immunity passports and travel apps, the use of tools to recognise whether people are wearing masks, the use of algorithms to prioritise hospital appointments, and tools to monitor quarantine breaches.
Although many governments have ended the most restrictive lockdown measures, ongoing responses to the pandemic continue to threaten our digital rights
Strategic litigation is an important tool for upholding people’s right to privacy and data protection, ensuring equality of access to information online and pushing back when technology does not meet human rights standards.
Early litigation successes include the banning of surveillance drones in France and preventing the tracking of cell phones in Israel. More recently, in the UK, the threat of legal action helped force the government to scrap an unfair grading algorithm that was being used to provide students with academic qualifications in the absence of exams. In Brazil and Slovakia there have been important court rulings that limit the sharing of telecommunications data to track contacts of people infected with the virus.
A second call for applications
To help support more organisations in taking legal action against digital rights violations exacerbated by the pandemic, we have launched a second call for applications under the COVID-19 Litigation Fund. The second call will be open until 30 September, and grants will be contracted with successful applicants by December 2020.
Recognising that responses to the pandemic can have a particularly severe impact on groups that are already experiencing discrimination and marginalisation, DFF will prioritise applications that focus on addressing the negative impact felt by the most vulnerable groups in society.
DFF will prioritise applications that focus on addressing the negative impact felt by the most vulnerable groups in society. Funding is not limited to digital rights organisations
Funding is not limited to digital rights organisations. We also encourage applications from other organisations, where digital rights violations have occurred in the context of other work, such as health, social justice or welfare.
If you have a case challenging digital rights violations related the COVID-19 pandemic, we encourage you to apply.