Stage 2
13:45 - 14:15
How Smartphone Consumer Protection Affects Investigative Journalists and Activists

Short thesis

Investigative journalists and activists rely on smartphones to do their job. Smartphones are a key resource to test the powerful and keep governments in check. At the same time, smartphones can provide a window into the most sensitive parts of their users’ life and work. Recently, even some governments are alleged to utilize smartphones against users at odds with their political agenda. What are the threats, how can smartphones be protected and what is the role of tech companies in all this?


Consumer protection on smartphones describes the whole range of safeguards provided to consumers in their mobile ecosystem.

In times of ever-increasing complexity and an incomputable amount of information, investigative journalists and other activists play a pivotal role in society, advancing democracy and protecting human rights. In many African states, the smartphone is the most important tool to access the internet. Activists and journalists in these countries rely on it to communicate and spread their message. The Smartphone has become a key resource to keep the powerful in check.

At the same time, smartphones collect a stunning amount of data. They can be a window in the most sensitive areas of their users’ life and work. Hence, it should not come as a surprise that certain governments and powerful actors increasingly attempt to utilize smartphones against users who are at odds with their political agenda. In recent years, a whole industry, the so-called ‘lawful intercept market’, has developed; a market where (mostly) governments can acquire software designed to exploit security gaps of smartphones.

The recently jailed human rights activist Ahmed Mansour is but the most prominent activist who has been targeted by increasingly professional attacks on the smartphones of political dissidents.

In this session journalists and activists will report on the threat they face in their daily work that results from a lack of consumer protection and gaps in the privacy and security functions of smartphones and their apps. Subsequently, a challenging discussion with civil society, tech-experts and representatives of tech-companies will explore the corporate responsibility of tech-companies to provide the necessary protection and updates to mitigate the risks activists, journalists, political dissidents and civil society face.