Cyber security, surveillance and human rights

With the advent of new technology, new security threats have emerged for people, businesses and states. Oftentimes, responses to such threats, including states’ exercise of their unprecedented power to surveil their populations, have been criticised for their negative impact on human rights. Can security and human rights no longer be reconciled in the Internet age?

Posts & Reports

  • IGF 2016: A tale of victories – and new challenges

    Dr. Anja Kovacs from the Internet Democracy Project attended the Internet Governance Forum, 2016, at Guagalajara, Mexico, with the support of the Association for Progressive Communications. This post details highlights of the forum for her: there have been important gains in the debate with regards to gender and economic, social and cultural rights, but is the space for civil society at the cybersecurity table shrinking? Read on for more. This post was originally published on Association for Progressive Communications’ blog.   More

    03 February

  • Corporate actors must not facilitate human rights violations through new Chinese rules

    Recent efforts by Verisign at the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) in response to China’s new draft Internet Domain Name Management Rules present a serious threat to the right to privacy and freedom of expression online. By facilitating the implementation of real name policies for domain name registration in China, the rules risk seriously encroaching on Internet users’ rights, and Verisign’s technical and policy proposals to comply with them don’t include any consideration of potential human rights impacts. There is a whole constellation of actors involved in making this policy possible, all of whom have a responsibility to respect human rights.   More

    02 December

  • India’s Universal Periodic Review - third cycle: Stakeholder report by the Internet Democracy Project

    The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a United Nations Human Rights Council mechanism to assess how member States fare on their human rights record. Every 4.5 years, each member state of the UN is reviewed by the UPR Working Group for the State’s performance under international human rights obligations. The review is based on (a) a national report submitted by the State under review (b) reports of independent human rights experts and treaty bodies (c) reports from other stakeholders including non-governmental organisations. In this report, the Internet Democracy Project has highlighted the challenges to realising human rights on the Internet, in India. More information on the UPR process can be found here.

    Report 10 October

  • Coalition report of Universal Periodic Review for India - third cycle: Internet rights

    A coalition of organisations submitted a report towards the Universal Periodic Review of India for consideration at the 27th Session of United Nations Working Group to take place in 2017. The coalition includes Digital Empowerment Foundation, the Internet Democracy Project, Point of View, Nazdeek and Association of Progressive Communications. More information about the Universal Periodic Review process can be found here.

    Report 22 September

  • Our comments on the draft Geospatial Information Regulation Bill

    The Ministry of Home Affairs invited comments on the draft ‘Geospatial Information Regulation Bill’. Through this, the ministry seeks to regulate the acquisition, dissemination, publication and distribution of geospatial information of India which is likely to affect the security, sovereignty and integrity of India. The Internet Democracy Project* submitted comments to the ministry, outlining reasons why the draft bill does not succeed in addressing the national security concerns, while at the same time being disastrous for businesses, communities and individuals alike.

    Report 07 June

  • India and the Budapest Convention: To sign or not? Considerations for Indian stakeholders

    In 2001, the Convention on Cybercrime of the Council of Europe, also known as the Cybercrime Convention or the Budapest Convention, became the first binding international instrument to foster a common criminal policy and international cooperation to battle cybercrime in signatory States. Whether or not India should join the Convention has, since then, been a topic of intense debate. In this paper, we consider the Convention’s major strengths and weaknesses in five areas of crucial importance to Indian stakeholders. To sign or not? There might not be an easy answer, as we will show.

    Report 31 Mar 2016

  • Watchtower: An interactive map of cybersecurity institutions in the Government of India

    We are excited to release the first iteration of Watchtower, an interactive map of the Indian government’s cybersecurity institutions! This visual tool gathers an alphabet soup of bodies in the Indian government working on cybersecurity- it includes mass surveillance projects masquerading as enhanced security and welfare measures, centres monitoring content on social media networks, citizen …   More

    31 Mar 2016

  • India at the Internet’s root? Understanding India’s pitch for a root server

    This paper was co-authored by Dr. Anja Kovacs and Rajat Rai Handa.
    In September 2015, news reports noted that India had pitched with the United States (US) for a root zone server to be placed within the country. What to make of India’s request? In order to fully understand the weight, import and potential consequences of India’s stance, it is essential to gain a deeper understanding of the root zone, its functioning and its management, as well as of India’s historical positions on related issues. In this paper, we aim to aid such understanding in several steps as we examine both a variety of technical aspects involved and the larger politico-strategic context in which India’s bid has to be understood.

    Report 30 Mar 2016

  • Defending India’s Critical Information Infrastructure

    With the establishment of the National Critical Information Infrastructure Protection Centre (NCIIPC) in 2014, India has taken an important measure towards strengthening its cybersecurity. But while the establishment of NCIIPC as such is a positive step forward, several shortcomings mark, however, its implementation. In this paper, I will first briefly outline the origin and development of NCIIPC and will then go on to critically examine three challenges or limitations in particular: NCIIPC’s command and control structure; fallacies in the framework that was used to rank sectors in order of criticality; and the absence of sector-specific guidelines and standard operating procedures (SoPs). As we will see, each of these contributes to important vulnerabilities remaining in India’s critical information infrastructure (CII).

    Report 15 Mar 2016

  • Cybersecurity, Internet governance and India’s foreign policy: Antecedents and the way forward for non-governmental stakeholders

    On 27 February, 2016, the Internet Democracy Project organised a national meeting of non-governmental stakeholders at the India Habitat Centre in Delhi, to discuss the findings of its latest research study, ‘Cybersecurity, Internet Governance and India’s Foreign Policy: Historical Antecedents’ by Mr. Saikat Datta. In this report, we summarise the findings of the discussions.

    Report 14 Mar 2016

  • Multistakeholderism in Cybersecurity: What Civil Society Brings Uniquely

    As again became clear in the recently concluded WSIS+10 Overall Review, governments around the world, including India’s, continue to argue that cybersecurity should be under the primary purview of the state. Many however, believe that multistakeholderism rather than multilateralism is the way forward in cybersecurity, as has been the case in Internet governance. What is the kind of dominant role then that the government is poised to play? Why do we need multistakeholderism in cybersecurity? In this post, we investigate these questions. As it is the civil society’s role that is most often questioned, we focus on their role in particular.   More

    09 Mar 2016

  • With or without us: Bilateralism and India’s cybersecurity policies

    While India has become a staunch supporter of multistakeholderism in Internet Governance, it has also stuck by its stance that cybersecurity should remain primarily the responsibility of governments. In the past quarter of 2015, there has been a flurry of bilateral negotiations between India and other countries on cybersecurity. What did these negotiations address, and …   More

    30 Dec 2015

  • Cybersecurity and bilateral ties of India and the United States: A very brief history

    In September 2015, the first U.S.-India Strategic and Commercial Dialogue was held, to advance some shared priorities in the areas of security, defense and commerce. This came shortly after the India-U.S. Cyber Dialogue in August 2015, where both countries identified opportunities for collaborating on capacity building for cybersecurity, combatting cybercrime and enhancing information sharing to counter terrorism. These events got a lot of attention for their attempts to mount cooperation between the two States. However, bilateral engagement between India and U.S on these matters is not new. Want to know more? Read on for a brief history.

    Report 30 Sep 2015

  • Addressing India’s global cybersecurity concerns: Norm development, regulatory challenges, alternative approaches

    With the arrival of cyberspace, a whole host of new security and other challenges have arisen which are not always adequately tackled. In order to deal with them more appropriately, India has repeatedly argued for a greater role of the UN in the formulation of international Internet-related public policies, particularly where cybersecurity is concerned. However, as the cybersecurity landscape is rather complex, it brings a range of challenges to especially India’s more ambitious proposals to mobilise the multilateral system. What are those challenges, how can we work through them, and what are possible alternative approaches to cybersecurity-related problems? We investigate.

    Report 18 Aug 2015

  • Digital India abroad: India’s foreign policy and digital rights

    THIS ARTICLE HAS BEEN CO-AUTHORED BY ANJA KOVACS AND SAIKAT DATTA. If India has supported economic, social and cultural rights far more vocally at global fora than civil and political rights, this is a result of both domestic security compulsions and historical foreign policy positions. Internet rights advocates’ strategies will need to take into account India’s preoccupation with sovereignty and an improved international stature to gain the country’s full support. This article was co-authored by Anja Kovacs and Saikat Datta, and first published in Lettinga, Doutje and Lars van Troost (eds.) (2015), Shifting Power and Human Rights Diplomacy: India. Amsterdam: Amnesty International Netherlands.

    Report 08 Apr 2015

  • We need a UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Privacy!

    The Internet Democracy Project was one of more than ninety organisations supporting an NGO oral statement at the UN Human Rights Council calling for a UN Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy. The statement was delivered to the UN HRC’s 28th ordinary sesion by Article 19 on 13 March. The UN General Assembly, the …   More

    18 Mar 2015

  • Re-Interpreting Document 98: India’s proposals at the ITU Plenipot 2014 and the evolution of Internet governance

    At the recently concluded ITU Plenipotentiary Conference in Busan, India proposed a controversial new resolution that sought to contribute to realising a more secure information society. But while some criticisms of the draft resolution were justified, much of the discussion at the ITU Plenipot overlooked the considerable merit that India’s proposed new resolution has when considered against the backdrop of the larger politics of global Internet governance. For its attempt to find solutions to long-standing concerns of developing countries while at the same time recognising the value of existing internet governance institutions, India’s proposal deserves a second reading, argues Anja Kovacs.

    Report 02 Feb 2015

  • Letter from international civil society organisations to President Dilma Rousseff in support of her statement at the 68th Session of the UNGA

    Earlier this week, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff delivered a rousing speech in the UN General Assembly, slamming the USA for the NSA’s spying, emphasising the importance of freedom of expression and privacy to support democracy, and calling for a global, democratic and just framework for Internet use and governance. The Internet Democracy Project joined other …   More

    28 Sep 2013

  • Can security and human rights be reconciled?

    At the recently concluded Freedom Online Coalition conference — Freedom Online - Joint Action for Free Expression on the Internet — Anja Kovacs was asked how security and human rights can be balanced, and whether conversations between governments and civil society like those at the meeting were aiding such efforts. Here is what Anja said: …   More

    25 Jun 2013

  • Civil society statement to the UN HRC on the impact of state surveillance on human rights globally, addressing the US PRISM program

    The Internet Democracy Project was part of a broad alliance of civil society organisations from across the world who delivered the following statement to the UN Human Rights Council on 10 June 2013, to express grave concerns regarding the human rights implications of revelations of widespread state surveillance by the USA government under its PRISM …   More

    10 Jun 2013

  • Reframing the debate: Cyber security, cyber surveillance and online human rights

    This discussion paper - co-authored by Anja Kovacs from the Internet Democracy Project and Dixie Hawtin from Global Partners and Associates - was written on invitation for the Stockholm Internet Forum. The paper examines the main challenges that the cyber security arena currently poses for the promotion and protection of human rights - including a lack of definitional clarity; a consequent pervasive but often illegitimate sense of crisis; and costly yet frequently ineffective solutions. It then investigates what a human rights approach to cyber security entails, taking as its starting point a positive, rather than negative, approach to security that supports not only the right to privacy but, crucially, also the right to freedom of expression.

    Report 16 May 2013

  • Passwords: Your first line of defence - #EROTICSIndia

    This blog post is sixth in a series of ten blog posts to report on the EROTICS India workshop, recently concluded in Delhi. A password is your first line of defence – for your computer, email, and information. So firstly, make sure your computer is password protected (under the ‘admin’ account option), so your prying …   More

    20 Mar 2013

  • Quotable Quotes from #SAFoE

    This blog post is the final one in a series of ten blog posts to report on the ‘Third South Asian Meeting on the Internet and Freedom of Expression’ recently concluded in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The discussions during the two day Third South Asian Meeting on the Internet and Freedom of Expression in Dhaka were rich and …   More

    29 Jan 2013

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