5 Tips for staying safe before and at RightsCon Tunis
We’re less than a month out from RightsCon Tunis, our first-ever global summit hosted in the Middle East and North Africa region. The RightsCon Team has been hard at work, building the program and coordinating the community experience from the Access Now Tunis office, and we can’t wait to welcome you.
Last month, we published our blog post, How we’re thinking about community safety and security, to share our reflections and approach to convening a space that is safe and productive for all participants.
In our post, we outlined how important it is to us that everyone who attends RightsCon is equipped with the information and resources they need to have a positive experience. To that end, and with June fast approaching, we’re getting in touch to provide you with tips for getting ready for and staying safe – both online and offline – throughout RightsCon Tunis.
As always, we want to hear from you. If you have any questions or concerns, please email us at [email protected] or [email protected] (encrypted), and we’ll be happy to discuss and connect you with members of our team who are working to ensure the safety and security of RightsCon participants.
There are a number of steps you can take ahead of joining us in Tunis to ensure a smooth arrival, which many of which we’ve outlined in the attend page on our website.
- Check if you need a visa: First things first, find out if you need a visa for RightsCon. Entry conditions vary depending on what citizenship you hold, and we encourage you to check the Tunisian government website immediately. If you do need a visa, we’re coordinating with the government to make sure participants receive necessary documentation and approvals. Please request a visa invitation letter here as soon as possible to be included in our visa support process.
- Book your accommodations: This year is shaping up to be our biggest RightsCon summit ever, which means hotels are selling out quickly. Take a look at the accommodation recommendations on our website. We encourage you to look at Airbnb or other booking websites to secure accommodation, too!
- Don’t forget the basics: Make sure you are up to date on your vaccinations, secure insurance, and share your travel plans with colleagues or family. For Tunis and Tunisia, it’s a good idea to read up and follow some of the advice found on the travel site from your country’s government – and three countries that have lots of information are the Canadian Government’s travel site, US state Department, and the British FCO.
Whether you’re a human rights activist, businessperson, government official, technologist, or academic, digital security matters. Your safety and security is at heightened risk when you cross borders, and anytime you connect to wifi or use your devices in other countries.
As members of the global community that defends human rights in the digital age, it’s vital that we not only protect our own data, but also the networks and communities we work with. The following general tips will be useful for most travelers, but if you have specific questions about digital security, please reach out to Access Now’s Digital Security Helpline.
- Minimize your data: You can do this either by leaving non-essential devices at home, by bringing a travel-focused “clean” device (or renting one), or by safely deleting data from your devices before you leave. Even when you think files are gone from your device, they might still be recovered. Therefore, if you have sensitive documents, you should follow experts’ advice on removing files from Windows, Mac, or Linux operating systems.
- Backup your data: The best way to prevent the loss of your data due to a stolen, lost, or crashed device is to back it up. You can create local backups and leave them in a secure place, or choose a cloud provider to backup your information.
- Make sure your devices are fully up to date: There’s nothing worse than falling victim to an old issue that there is already a fix for. Take a few minutes to ensure your Windows, Mac, or linux (Ubuntu) devices are up to date, as well as your mobile device (iPhone and Android).
- Encrypt your devices: In case you lose physical control of your device, or it is seized, you can take steps to make sure your data stays secure by setting up full disk encryption when the device is powered off. Remember to combine strong encryption with strong passwords.
- Install a VPN client or Tor: It’s always good to have a VPN client or Tor available when you are traveling to protect your network traffic on insecure networks, like at airports or hotels. RightsCon will have a public network available in Tunis, which presents an excellent opportunity for you to put a VPN to use.
- Set up two-factor authentication for your accounts: Two-factor authentication for your accounts ensures that even if your password is compromised, your account will still be protected. Always try to use the app-based two-factor authentication rather than SMS-based authentication. That way, you can access your accounts even if you do not have cellular service. Don’t forget to print out a few one-time passwords to keep in case you are separated from your cell phone.
- Think about what devices you bring: Everyday personal electronics, such as a laptop, phone, and camera, should present no issues when crossing into Tunisia. Satellite phones and drones require a permit in Tunisia and without the appropriate documentation can be subject to confiscation. Other types of electronics may be subject to rules and restrictions. If you’re unsure, contact your local embassy for advice.
Tunis is a fantastic city, with great food, a rich history, and interesting people. But like any city you might not be familiar with, you should be aware of different cultural norms, crime, transport options, and other physical security considerations.
- Traveling in Tunis: If you arrive at the airport during the week of RightsCon, we’ll be your ride: we’ve arranged shuttles to help participants travel from the airport to hotels and the venue. If you’re looking to leave the venue and tour around Tunis, walking or take a taxi is your best option. Taxis are inexpensive and readily available. If you need help booking ask your hotel or flag one down yourself – just make sure to look out for ones with a red light, which means they are available! Taxi drivers often only speak French or Arabic, and may not always know where to find specific addresses, so it’s helpful to consult a map and get a sense of your route beforehand.
- Familiarize yourself with the culture: In true Mediterranean fashion, Tunisians are warm and expressive when they communicate, and often shake hands at the start of conversations. It is a Muslim country, which is reflected in its laws and customs. Dress is typically conservative and modest, while more relaxed in the coastal tourist areas. Global Affairs Canada travel site has a detailed information on a wide range of cultural points for Tunisia. We also have answered a number of Frequently Asked Questions on our website, including about the environment for LGBTQ participants.
- See the sites! Whether you’re coming early or staying late, there’s a lot to see in Tunis and the surrounding areas. We recommend checking out our interactive map of things to do in the city.
- Carry identification: You should always carry your passport when outside of the venue. There is often a police presence in tourist areas and at night the police sometimes set up roaming check-points. It is not uncommon for the police to check in on tourists and they may ask you for identification.
- In case of emergency: In the very unlikely event you need urgent help, save the following emergency numbers in your phone: 197 for police, 190 for medical, and 198 for fire.
This year RightsCon will be taking place near downtown Tunis, across two venues: the Laico Hotel and the Palais De Congres. Our team has spent the past months planning and addressing various issues related to security and safety at RightsCon. Below is some information about the security presence and set up that you can expect to see when attending RightsCon this year.
- The RightsCon Summit Zone: The RightsCon community is growing, and the need for more space means this year’s summit will look and feel a little different. The conference will take place over two venues, the Laico Hotel and the Palais des Congrès, which will be combined to make one, large secure summit zone. Only RightsCon participants will be allowed into the secure summit zone, and there will be a series of measures in place in and around the area. We’ll be sharing more details on the security of the summit zone in an upcoming blog post.
Staying safe at RightsCon requires effort from all of us. Please keep in mind the following considerations while you’re in Tunis:
- Keep an eye on your device: We’ve made lots of effort to secure the RightsCon venue – for example, all hotel rooms at the Laico Hotel will have safes – but it’s still good practice to keep an eye on your device. Please do not leave devices unattended or unsupervised.
- Don’t assume others will protect your expectation of privacy: Countries may have different privacy protections for electronic communications than your home country. Be mindful that any cell phone conversations, email, and internet browsing may be intercepted by local private, corporate, or governmental entities. Consider all free WiFi to be insecure, this also applies to the WiFi network at the RightsCon venue, and take measures listed above to protect yourself and your devices.
- Visit our Digital Security Helpline! If you have any questions or concerns about digital security during RightsCon, be sure to visit our Digital Security at the Lacio Hotel and to speak with a member of Access Now’s Helpline team.