ARLINGTON, VA and MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA—The International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) and Google announced today the launch of a partnership to mitigate cybersecurity threats to elections and democracy. The partnership’s initial phase will begin February 7 and last until November 2023. Pairing Google’s expertise in leading edge security practices with IFES’s long-held, trusted relationships with election officials and civil society in localities worldwide, the partnership’s goal is to bring the best in cybersecurity to elections.
IFES is a leader in the protection and promotion of democracy globally. As a trusted adviser to electoral bodies around the world, IFES has unique insights generated from local-level expertise. Google’s commitment to creating safe and secure experiences online complements IFES’s work to help democracies deliver safe, secure, and credible elections. IFES and Google, together, can address critical gaps in helping high-risk users protect themselves online from those that seek to interfere in the democratic process.
In its first year, activities will include specialized training for key groups such as election officials and journalists, developing and disseminating guidance on security best practices, and expanding IFES's efforts to help elections managers share cybersecurity information and threat analysis through forming a network of election cybersecurity practitioners, private, and public partners.
“Democracies are still working to understand and adapt to the fundamental changes that technology has brought over the last two decades,” said Tony Banbury, CEO and President of IFES. “Cybersecurity risks pose challenges that demand urgent solutions, to ensure both the integrity of elections and the safety of election officials and others whose efforts are integral to making democracy work. IFES is excited to partner with Google to ensure that technological innovation contributes to resilient democracies that deliver for all.”
IFES will build on the strong foundations of their established cybersecurity training efforts, using funding provided by Google to reimagine and expand their curriculum to address the evolving threat environment, provide updated best practices, expand scenario-based approaches, and create modular content for specialized audiences. This modular approach will reach additional high-risk users by embedding cyber-hygiene content into a range of trainings for investigative journalists, activists, civil society members, and election officials.
As part of the updated and enhanced modular curriculum, IFES will highlight content for at-risk users that have been underserved by typical online safety and security education. These groups include women, people with disabilities, and other traditionally marginalized communities. Focused content will include utilizing two-factor authentication solutions along with enhanced protections for high-risk users offered by digital technology platforms. Attendees of trainings will enroll in Google’s strongest account protections with Google’s Advanced Protection Program and receive security key donated by Google.
In addition to jointly planned activities, the partnership also provides support for IFES’s Tech4Democracy (T4D). T4D is a fund that provides resources for leading-edge research and development to promote the use of information and technology in ways that contribute positively to democracy and elections, and to mitigate against the use of information and technology in ways that harm democracy and elections. Ten percent of all financial support IFES receives from technology companies are placed in this fund to accelerate IFES’s deployment of new and innovative programmatic tools designed to promote the appropriate use of technology and information in elections and in support of democracy.
“Today’s cybersecurity challenges require cooperation from all of us—communities, countries, and companies,” said Royal Hansen, Google’s Vice President of Privacy, Safety, and Security Engineering. “We believe the best path forward to a safe digital ecosystem is to double down on collaboration in defense of shared values. To align with this, we are committed to defending our digital ecosystem and this partnership with IFES will help us to do just that by further protecting users, citizens, and democratic institutions from online threats.”
IFES’s work on the intersection of technology and democracy has grown rapidly in recent years. Election management bodies, civil society organizations, and other key stakeholders increasingly rely on the organization as a resource for understanding the consequences of emerging technologies, mitigating harms caused by technology for electoral processes, and making positive use of technology for democracy.
IFES advances democracy for a better future. We collaborate with civil society, public institutions, and the private sector to build resilient democracies that deliver for everyone. As a global leader in the promotion and protection of democracy, our technical assistance and applied research develops trusted electoral bodies capable of conducting credible elections; effective and accountable governing institutions; civic and political processes in which all people can safely and equally participate; and innovative ways in which technology and data can positively serve elections and democracy. Since 1987, IFES has worked in more than 145 countries, from developing to mature democracies. IFES is a global, nonpartisan organization based in Arlington, Virginia, USA, and registered as a nonprofit organization [501(c)(3)] under the United States tax code.