Digital Security for Civil Society

Civil society organizations, including journalists, human rights defenders, and social justice activists, are critical drivers of social change. Their work is essential for healthy democracies, human rights, and justice to thrive.

But as technology becomes more important to their operations, these organizations face growing threats, like cyberattacks, targeted surveillance, online harassment, and the spread of disinformation.

Many lack the resources to secure their digital operations. Citizen Clinic is empowering civil society organizations to use technology to fulfill their missions, defend against digital threats, and build digital capabilities so they can drive social change.

Who We Are

Citizen Clinic is a trailblazing multidisciplinary, public-interest digital security clinic within the University of California, Berkeley’s Center for Long-Term Cybersecurity. Through a model similar to university clinics in law and medicine, we train teams of students to help civil society organizations build the capabilities they need to proactively defend themselves against malicious governments, powerful corporations, hate groups, and extremists.

We’ve trained over 100 students since 2018, drawn from 11 academic specialties at UC Berkeley, and have served 14 non-profit clients on 4 continents ranging from women’s reproductive rights organizations to LGBTQ and international indigenous rights groups. Over half of Citizen Clinic alumni are women.

We are proud to be a founding member of the Consortium of Cybersecurity Clinics, an international network of university-based cybersecurity clinicians, trainers, and advocates committed to sharing best practices, expanding the reach and visibility of cybersecurity clinics, and lowering the barriers for other institutions of higher education to successfully establish their own clinics. Download a one-page overview to learn more about the Consortium’s priorities and opportunities for support.

What We Do

Citizen Clinic is enabling civil society organizations to use technology to fulfill their missions. We are training the next generation of digital security leaders. And we are forging a new community around public-interest technology.

Defend Civil Society

“Our team created a cybersecurity playbook for a nonprofit law firm that advocates for human and environmental rights in developing countries. Working with incredible thought leaders in the tech, law, and human rights space fueled my passion for social impact by eradicating the digital divide through safe cybersecurity practices and access to information.” – Boikanyo Tefu, Citizen Clinic alumna participant, UCB Master of Journalism 2020, Multimedia Journalist and Content Manager at the UC Berkeley School of Law’s Human Rights Center
  • We help civil society organizations proactively defend themselves against digital threats, enabling them to focus on fulfilling their missions and driving social change.
  • We offer custom, long-term client engagements to build the digital capacity of civil society organizations.
  • We directly consult with civil society groups and provide them with the tools and knowledge to defend themselves against politically motivated bad actors and digital threats.

Train Digital Security Leaders

  • “My goal is to improve information technologies that support communities and civil society. The I School and Citizen Clinic have given me the skills and confidence to be a better advocate for users and socially conscious products. I’m excited to bring this knowledge to my new role as a Program Manager at Microsoft’s Artificial Intelligence and Research group.” – Lily Lin, Citizen Clinic alumna participant, UCB Masters of Information Management 2019, Program Manager at Microsoft

    We are building and training the next generation of digital security leaders.

  • We teach students through a hands-on approach, whereby they strengthen and support organizations to implement digital safety practices using a holistic and tailored approach.
  • By engaging students from varying backgrounds and disciplines, we encourage a diverse group to pursue careers in public-interest technology and expand the pool of potential participants in the cybersecurity workforce.
  • Citizen Clinic shows students that they don’t have to choose between a career in tech or a career in the public interest. They can do both.

Grow the Public-Interest Technology Community

  • We are leaders in building a new public-interest technology community where digital security is part of the bedrock of civil society.
  • We grow our impact by sharing our institutional knowledge and serving as a model and collaborative resource for other universities that want to establish similar clinics.

Apply Today!

The UC Berkeley School of Information is now accepting applications for the Fall 2022 semester. The Citizen Clinic is offered as:

  • CYBER 289 (for MICS students only)
  • INFO 289 (for all other UC Berkeley graduate students)

Clinic student participants will be chosen by application. Please submit the online application to apply for course enrollment.

Citizen Clinic Cybersecurity Education Center

The Citizen Clinic Cybersecurity Education Center is designed to share the Clinic’s pioneering cybersecurity resources for civil society organizations, and to help other academic institutions that may be interested in establishing their own cybersecurity clinics. The site includes past and current Citizen Clinic curricula, reading lists, and syllabi, as well as a link to our Baseline Organizational Security Guide.


Ann Cleaveland

Ann Cleaveland

Executive Director

Shanti Corrigan

Senior Director of Philanthropy