Announcing the VPN Village!

By July 31, 2020 December 18th, 2020 Blog, IFF Updates

Published: July 31st, 2020

We are happy to announce the virtual VPN Village, taking place this Fall. The Village, a combination of private and public events, will be hosted with ARTICLE 19’s Team Digital, and with the support of the following partners: The Calyx Institute, TunnelBear, and NordVPN, and various other allies.

→ Interested in becoming a VPN Village sponsor or partner?
Email us at

VPNs (Virtual Private Network) are becoming the go-to tools for users looking to protect themselves from surveillance or to circumvent censorship. They are an essential tool for human rights defenders and journalists. However, it is often hard to choose a reliable and trustworthy VPN from the large market that includes expensive and shady providers.

The VPN Village will cultivate conversations for those who are researching, distributing, or using VPNs. Workshops and trainings will be centered on addressing the impact of VPNs on the Internet Freedom community, both the good and bad. The Village will make space for civil society, developers, activists, and VPN companies to come together to discuss:

  • The use of VPNs as part of a censorship-resilient community
  • Strengths, vulnerabilities and flaws inherent in VPNs, and understanding how they impact vulnerable or marginalized populations
  • Best practices and standards in the promotion and use of VPNs
  • Industry standards among enterprise and community-ran VPN instances

The VPN Village will be hosted on various platforms. We encourage you to RSVP in order to reserve your spot and receive login information.

Please reach out to the IFF Team to recommend other areas you wish to address. We will consider including more workshops as part of the Village. Submit your ideas by emailing For now, the Village will consist of the following programming:

September 8
How to VPN
Presenter: Elijiah Waxwing, Senior Technologist at The Calyx Institute
Time: 12:00 pm – 1:30 pm EST / 16:00 – 17:30 UTC
Type: Public

This introductory workshop is designed for folks that want to understand what a VPN is, how it works, and how it differs from other tools like Tor. Participants will learn what a VPN does and does not do, best use cases, and how to pick a VPN provider that is both trustworthy and serves your needs. Ample time will provide ample time for questions.

September 17
VPN Glitter Meetup
Facilitated by IFF Team
Time: 9:00 am to 10:30 am EST / 13:00 – 14:30 UTC
Type: Public on the IFF Mattermost. No RSVP required but an IFF Mattermost account is needed. Email if you do not have one.
RSVP not required. We will also be collecting notes here.

We want to hear from our community on what issues or questions they have when using VPNs in their respective regions. The goal of this meetup is to provide the community with a place to map out challenges and brainstorm on possible next steps that we can do collectively as a community. To enhance this, we will invite a few key VPN researchers to participate and provide guidance. This is a chat-based meetup.

Tuesday, September 22
Industry Standards Collaborative Conversation
Private. To be considered for this and future collaborative conversations, you can email us at

This private workshop is a beta test to bring together a handful of community leaders working on VPN issues. This collaborative discussion on industry standards, will begin with the mapping of issues activists and journalists will face in coming years. As always, we will be bringing together a cross-section of folks from disciplines and different regions. While this workshop is experimental and we will be limiting this to a small group, we plan on publishing and using lessons-learned to develop several other in-depth VPN workshops.

→ If you work on VPN issues or have frontline information you think would be useful, and/or want to participate in these facilitated collaborative conversations, email us at

Thursday, October 8
Q&A with TunnelBear
Time: 9:00 am – 10:00 am EST / 13:00 – 14:30 UTC
Speaker: Rodrigue Hajjar, TunnelBear’s Director of Engineering.
Type: Public on the IFF Mattermost.
No RSVP required but an IFF Mattermost account is needed. Email if you do not have one. We will also be collecting notes here.  

Join us during this Glitter Meetup to hear from TunnelBear’s Rodrigue Hajjar, the Director of Engineering. Did you ever want to know what countries use VPNs the most? What is the VPN industry doing to evolve to meet increasing digital right threats? This is also a good time to share some of the issues and challenges folks have been encountering in the field in regards to TunnelBear.

Tuesday, November 3
Civilsphere’s Emergency VPN: Analyzing Mobile Network Traffic to Detect Digital Threats
Time: 10:00 am – 12:00 pm EST / 15:00 – 17:00 UTC
Speaker: Veronica Valeros, Co-founder of the MatesLab Hackerspace
Type: Public

The access to surveillance technology by governments and other powerful actors has increased in the last decade. Nowadays malicious software is one of the tools to-go when attempting to monitor and surveil victims.In contrast, the target of these attacks, typically journalists, lawyers, and other civil society workers, have very few resources at hand to identify an ongoing infection in their laptops and mobile devices. Veronica Valeros, Co-founder of MasterLab Hackerspace, will share her work on Emergency VPN, a solution developed as part of the Civilsphere project at the Czech Technical University, designed to provide a free and high quality security assessment of the network traffic of a mobile device.

Tuesday, November 10
VPN & Policy
Time: 10:00 am – 12:00 pm EST / 15:00 – 17:00 UTC
Panel (Speakers to be determined)
Type: Public

More and more countries are passing laws that criminalize the usage of VPNs. For this two-hour workshop, we will be bringing together policy experts who can share the various strategies and legal frameworks being used to counter this growing criminalization. We will examine the impact on the VPN industry, how (or if) they have changed their business model, and challenges rising in the future. We look at how global frameworks such as GDPR have impacted both VPN providers and its users.

→ If you would like to be considered as a speaker for the panel, email us at