Friday, December 9, 2011

Cyber Attacks And Political Pressures Upon Cyber Dissidents Worries European Council

Human rights protection in cyberspace is an important aspect of civil liberties protection these days. However, despite the significance of this issue, both national and international governments ate shying away from protecting human rights in cyberspace. On the other hand they are actively engaging in e-surveillance, Internet censorship, etc that violates various civil liberties in cyberspace. Throughout the world technology has been increasingly used to violate human rights in cyberspace.

In India various individuals and companies have already sued Indian government for violating their civil liberties in real world as well as cyber world. A writ petition for protection of privacy rights in India is already pending before the Supreme Court of India. The way Indian executive is playing with the Constitution of India, the day is not far when there would be a complete “constitutional failure” in India.

Similarly, Yahoo has already taken Indian government to court over illegal demands of e-surveillance by union home ministry of India. In its petition, Yahoo has emphasised upon the right to privacy of a company that stores such sensitive data and questioned as to what extent authorities can coerce it to part with the information considered necessary to either track terror perpetrators or thwart future attacks.

India has demanded companies like Google and Facebook to censor user contents. Indian government has asked the Internet intermediaries like Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Facebook, etc to pre screen offensive contents before they are posted. This has happened because there are no well defined Internet intermediary laws in India deals with cyber due diligence requirements of these companies in India. Google has already communicated its dissatisfaction with the Internet intermediary law of India.

Further, censorship of Internet in India and blocking of websites in India is very common even without any constitutional and civil liberty safeguards. Further, Indian government is now openly acknowledging surveillance of Internet traffic in India. In fact, measures to fight websites blocking and Internet censorship have also been suggested by few.

In these circumstances, protecting human rights in cyberspace is not an easy task and most of the nations are not willing to do so for their own e-surveillance reasons. Although UN has declared that access to Internet is a human right yet all countries are openly violating this right. Efforts of United Nations to protect human rights in cyberspace are still half hearted and slow. UN must protect human rights in cyberspace in widest possible manner.

Lack of privacy laws and procedural safeguards have already stalled the national intelligence grid (Natgrid) project of India. Intelligence work is no excuse for non accountability that is commonly available to Indian intelligence and security agencies of India.

Similarly, absence of data privacy laws in India has created a big trouble for the Aadhar project of India. Chances are very great that Aadhar project of India may be scrapped and it must be scrapped in its present form and structure.

In these troubled situations, the council of Europe is taking many pro active steps to strengthen human rights protection in cyberspace. The Council of Europe has recently released a resolution titled “Abuse of State Secrecy and National Security: Obstacles to Parliamentary and Judicial Scrutiny of Human Rights Violations”. This is a significant step to reduce the blanket use of national security fa├žade to violate civil liberties.

Now Council of Europe has issued an alert to European countries about the risk to free speech by cyber attacks and political pressure on internet platforms, internet service providers (ISPs), independent media, whistleblowers, human rights defenders and political dissidents.

The Council's Committee of Ministers issued a Declaration expressing concern over pressure being exerted on internet companies and ISPs to tighten controls on internet content, which supports a recent EU Court of Justice ruling that ISP filters are prohibited under European law.

The Council is also worried about the impact of cyber attacks, particularly Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, on advocates of free speech, which it sees as a relatively new way that this right is being violated.

The Council alerted member states about their potential violation of Articles 10 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights if they exert pressure on ISPs and internet platforms, or participate in cyber attacks against whistleblowers and other new media.

Let us hope that other nations, including India, would take clue from these developments happening in Europe and consider changing their laws and attitudes accordingly.