Posted 7 June, 2012 by Susannah Vila

A Call For Best Practices at Freebird Camp

How much does your mobile phone know about you? Probably more than you know about it.

That was one of the premises behind Freebird Camp, a workshop convened by The Guardian Project, Access and others to demystify mobile phone security and foster communication between developers and non-developers. There were of course plenty of old hands in attendance, but there were also a few newcomers to the topic, and the take home message was that it’s still too hard for those in-the-know about safe mobile usage to educate those who are not.

That was why Noel Hidalgo, formerly of the New York State Senate and now at the World Economic Forum, began talking early in the day about a “manifesto of digital security.” The goal here is to make it easier for open source, secure mobile apps to be not just developed but also used in an informed way by more people. Envisioned as a pyramid, workshop goers outlined four main components: open source code, applications created with open source code, best practices guides and other educational material.

Pyramid of need for more secure mobile phone usage, courtesy of @noneck

The workshop set out to surface user needs that developers can address but, while that did happen, the most prominent need surfaced wasn’t one that developers can do much about: attendees clamored for spreadable, practical  educational materials. People weren’t just interested in learning about this stuff for their own purposes – they wanted to know the best way to teach it to others.

This makes sense. After all, if you took the time to spend an entire Thursday at a workshop chances are you’re at least familiar enough with the topic to know you’re interested in it. So how do you spark that interest (and awareness) in others? Sure, you can tell someone that they should use WITNESS’ ObscuraCam for anonymizing faces if they’re taking protest footage – but unless they understand how to interpret the context of their real lives using the framework and concepts that drive best practices for online and mobile security, this message is unlikely to stick.

So will the “high level, #knowyourdigitalrights one pager” emerge anytime soon? Not sure – but interested parties should start with the website, which has printable guides with practical steps for mitigiting mobile security threats.

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