The Calyx Institute is a non-profit education and research organization devoted to studying, testing, developing, and implementing privacy technology and tools to promote free speech, free expression, civic engagement and privacy rights on the internet and in the mobile communications industry. The Calyx’s mission is to educate the public about the importance of privacy in digital communications and to develop tools that anyone can use to build "privacy by design" into their internet access. By developing encryption and anonymity tools that help users maintain their privacy, Calyx hopes to make online security easier and more accessible for everyone. Calyx provides unlimited broadband access to the internet through wireless hotspots with unlimited access to 4G and/or 5G networks. Rather than charging for that service like a commercial company would do, it makes the service available for free to members who pay annual dues and voluntary contributions. The majority of Calyx's funding comes from members, which guarantees Calyx’s independence, and allows them to support and sustain their operations. Calyx has also developed a Microgrants and Small Project Support program backing digital security and privacy education and software development through financial support to external organizations and individuals.
The Calyx Institute’s wireless internet hotspot membership program has grown significantly in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, as teachers, students, employees, and many office workers shifted to working from home instead of the office. Their wireless hotspots with unlimited access to the Sprint/T-Mobile network have provided a lifeline for thousands of users, many of whom lack affordable alternatives in underserved areas. In addition, Calyx’s grants program expanded in direct response to the pandemic and the consequent funding shortfalls for many of their allied and partner organizations. Their grants program has provided funding to keep other digital rights organizations operational despite the COVID-19 pandemic, or to start-up in response to it.
Theory of Change
Promoting cyber education as well as developing and offering technological tools that make digital security and privacy more accessible to everyone addresses the systemic and pervasive surveillance prevalent within the Telecommunications Industry, with the goal of increasing cybersecurity, privacy and freedom of expression.
The Calyx Institute’s flagship program, CalyxOS, is an Android mobile operating system that puts privacy and security into the hands of everyday users. CalyxOS minimizes the tracking, surveillance, and spying done by phone manufacturers, mobile phone service providers, internet service providers, advertising companies, data miners, and malicious hackers. It is designed with the needs of human rights frontline defenders, journalists, lawyers, and political and social activist groups in mind. Calyx also provides privacy-focused digital services for chat, videoconferencing, and web-browsing, including infrastructure support for the censorship-circumventing Tor network, a free Virtual Private Network, an experimental free public chat service using jabber/XMPP, and an instance of the videoconferencing software Jitsi. Finally, the Calyx Institute conducts privacy research and provides privacy education by producing and publishing original documentation relating to online privacy and digital security, hosting and participating in public forums and events, working with telecommunications carriers, hosting providers and internet service providers.
The Calyx Institute has been supported by over 6,500 member-donors who are able to access the internet through their mobile hotspot program. CalyxVPN can carry up to 20Gb/s of traffic, and it has been leading cutting-edge experiments with pluggable-transports integration to circumvent heavy censorship. In 2020, member-donor support amounted to over 3 million USD. Calyx’s 20+ Tor nodes can currently carry 780.57 MiB/s of traffic, while their Jabber/XMPP service has hundreds of thousands of registered users. In addition to the tens of thousands of CalyxOS users, systems-level applications developed for the project have been picked up by other Android operating systems, providing privacy and security services to millions of users. Calyx’s microgrants program has supported organizations facing short-term funding shortfalls, experimental programs, and led to one project raising over $100,000 in funding elsewhere, with over 12 organizations receiving support since 2020.