I think I'm being surveilled

Recently, we have seen a lot of emerging cases of surveillance to civic space actors, from the use of stalkerware by abusive partners and corporate surveillance of employees, to mass state surveillance and targeted spyware campaigns against activists and journalists. Given the broad spectrum of observed techniques and precedents, it is impossible to cover every aspect of surveillance, especially for emergency support.

That said, this workflow will focus on common cases seen in the digital sphere and related to end-user devices and online accounts that represent emergencies with actionable response. When there is not a feasible solution, then we won't consider it an emergency, and it won't be covered extensively (instead, references will be shared).

Some of the cases this workflow doesn't cover are:

  • Physical surveillance. If you fear you are targeted by physical surveillance and want support, you can reach out to organizations focusing on physical security in the Digital First Aid Kit support page.
  • Massive surveillance with hardware like CCTV cameras in public, corporate, and private spaces
  • Hardware bugs not dependent on an internet connection

A second relevant disclaimer is that in modern days everyone is being surveilled by default at some degree:

  • Cellphone infrastructure is designed to gather a massive amount of data on ourselves, which can be used by several actors to learn details like our location, network of contacts, etc.
  • Online services like social networks and email providers also gather a great ammount of data about us, which can be linked for instance to advertising campaigns to show us ads related to the topics of our posts or even one-to-one messages.
  • More and more countries have many interconnected systems that use our identity and gather information on our interactions with various public institutions, enabling the creation of a "profile" based on document requests for tax or health information.

These examples of mass surveillance, plus the many precedents of targeted operations, create the sense of everyone (especially in the activist space) being surveilled, which can lead to paranoia and affect our emotional capacity to deal with actual threats we may face. That said, there are specific cases where - depending on our risk profile, the work we do, and the capacities of our potential adversaries - we might have founded suspicions that we are being surveilled. If that is your case, keep reading.

Aa a third disclaimer, many surveillance schemes (especially the most targeted ones), usually leave few or no indicators accessible to the victims, making detection difficult and sometimes impossible. Please keep this in mind while navigating the workflow, and if you still believe your case is not covered or more complex, please reach out to the organizations listed at the end of the workflow.

As a final consideration, please keep in mind that surveillance efforts can be massive or targeted. Massive surveillance operations usually cover entire populations or big parts of them, like all the users of a platform, all the people from a specific region, etc. These usually rely more on technology and are usually less dangerous than targeted surveillance, which targets one or a small number of indivuals, requires dedicated resources (money, time, and/or capacity), and is usually more dangerous than the massive surveillance given the motivations behind putting resources to monitor the activity and communications of specific persons.

If you found an indicator that you are beiong surveilled, click start to begin with the workflow.