Privacy and data protection

Updates

Freedom House's report Freedom on the Net 2018: The Rise Of Digital Authoritarianism shows key findings that: 

  • Declines outnumber gains for the eighth consecutive year, with almost half of these being election-related.
  • China trains the world in digital authoritarianism.
  • Internet freedom declined in the United States (mostly due to a decline in net neutrality protections).
  • Citing fake news, governments curbed online dissent (17 countries).
  • Authorities demand control over personal data (18 countries increased surveillance).

In his introduction to the report, Fake news, data collection, and the challenge to democracyAdrian Shahbaz said 'Events this year have confirmed that the internet can be used to disrupt democracies as surely as it can destabilize dictatorships'  [...] 'With or without malign intent, the internet and social media in particular can push citizens into polarized echo chambers and pull at the social fabric of a country, fueling hostility between different communities.'

 

                                                                               Changes in Internet Freedom 2018 Freedom House

The UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office fined Facebook with its maximum sanction (€565,000) for its part in the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Euractiv reports that this decision was publicly welcomed by EU officials, such as Justice Commissioner Vĕra Jourová. The UK watchdog indicated that Facebook processed users’ data unfairly by allowing applications to access them without clear consent between 2007 and 2014. Though the GDPR provides for greater sanctions, this regulation only entered in to force in 2018, and was thus not applicable.

Attending the International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners in Brussels, Apple CEO Tim Cook praised the EU’s strong stance on data protection and called for a similar development in the US. According to Politico, Tim Cook also warned the audience of policymakers and national authority representatives against the rise of a ‘data industrial complex’, stating that ‘these stockpiles of personal data serve only to enrich the companies that collect them’.

The Japanese government requested Facebook to better protect its users’ personal data following significant data breaches over the past months.  According to Reuters, Japan’s Personal Information Protection Commission issued a statement detailing its request to Facebook, including an order to communicate better with its users.

Facebook revealed it had discovered a security issue affecting millions of accounts on 25 September 2018. The attackers exploited a vulnerability in Facebook’s code that impacted 'View As', a feature that lets users see what their own profile looks like to someone else. When composing a birthday wish message with video, as of July 2017, the attacker could exploit the 'View as' option of the video uploader to get access to the profile of the user being looked up, including their login details. The access token was then available in the HTML of the page and extracted by the attackers who exploited it to login as another user. Facebook reset the access tokens of almost 50 million accounts thought to be affected, and temporarily disabled the 'View As' feature. On 12 October, Facebook announced hackers actually stole access tokens of about 30 million users, 20 million less than previously thought. For 15 million users, attackers accessed name and contact details (phone number, email, or both). For 14 million users, the attackers accessed name and contact details, as well as other details people had on their profiles, including username, gender, religion, birth date, etc. For 1 million users, the attackers did not access any information.

 

Google revealed a software glitch of the Google+ social network that gave outside developers potential access to private data of 500,000 Google+ profiles between 2015 and March 2018. The exposed data included names, birth dates, gender, profile photos, relationship status, occupation, places lived and email addresses. Google claims it found no evidence that any developer was aware of this bug or that any profile data was misused. The company patched the bug in March 2018, but did not disclose it. According to the Wall Street Journal, a memo prepared by Google’s legal and policy staff that was shared with senior executives warned that disclosing the incident would likely trigger 'immediate regulatory interest', and cause reputational damage as at the time Facebook was already under investigation following the Cambridge Analytica incident. Google announced that low usage and engagement of Google+ as well as the failure to meet consumers’ expectations prompted the decision to shut down of Google+ for consumers. The shutdown will be implemented in the next ten months (slated to finish in August 2019) and users will be instructed how to download and migrate their data. Google also stated that its review showed that Google+ is better suited as an enterprise product, and the company decided to focus on its enterprise efforts and will be launching new features purpose-built for businesses.

Privacy and data protection are two interrelated Internet governance issues. Data protection is a legal mechanism that ensures privacy. Privacy is usually defined as the right of any citizen to control their own personal information and to decide about it (to disclose information or not). Privacy is a fundamental human right. It is recognised in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and in many other international and regional human rights conventions. The July 2015 appointment of the first UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Privacy in the Digital Age reflects the rising importance of privacy in global digital policy, and the recognition of the need to address privacy rights issues the the global, as well as national levels.

 

Frameworks for safeguarding the right to privacy and data protection

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) is the main global legal instrument for the protection of privacy. At a regional level, the main instruments on privacy and data protection in Europe is the Council of Europe (CoE) Convention for the Protection of Individuals with regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data of 1981. Although it was adopted by a regional organisation (CoE), it is open for accession by non-European states. Since the Convention is technology neutral, it has withstood the test of time. The EU Data Protection Directive (Directive 95/46/EC) has also formed an important legislative framework for the processing of personal data in the EU and has had a vast impact on the development of national legislation not only in Europe but also globally. This regulation has also entered a reform process in order to cope with the new developments and to ensure an effective privacy protection in the current technological environment.

Another key international – non-binding – document on privacy and data protection is the OECD Guidelines on Protection of Privacy and Transborder Flows of Personal Data from 1980. These guidelines and the OECD’s subsequent work have inspired many international, regional, and national regulations on privacy and data protection. Today, virtually all OECD countries have enacted privacy laws and empowered authorities to enforce those laws.

While the principles of the OECD guidelines have been widely accepted, the main difference is in the way they are implemented, notably between the European and US approaches. In Europe there is comprehensive data protection legislation, while in the USA the privacy regulation is developed for each sector of the economy including financial privacy (the Graham-Leach-Bliley Act), children’s privacy (the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act) and medical privacy (under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act).

Another major difference is that, in Europe, privacy legislation is enforced by public authorities, while in the USA enforcement principally rests on the private sector and self-regulation. Businesses set privacy policies. It is up to companies and individuals to decide about privacy policies themselves. The main criticism of the US approach is that individuals are placed in a comparatively weak position as they are seldom aware of the importance of options offered by privacy policies and commonly agree to them without informing themselves.

These two approaches – US and EU – to privacy protection have generated conflict. The main problem stems from the use of personal data by business companies. How can the EU ensure that data about its citizens is protected according to the rules specified in its Directive on Data Protection? According to whose rules (the EU’s or the USA’s) is data transferred through a company’s network from the EU to the USA handled?

A working solution was found in 2000 when the European Commission decided that EU regulations could be applied to US companies inside a legal ‘safe harbour’. US companies handling EU citizens’ data could voluntarily sign up to observe the EU’s privacy protection requirements. Having signed, companies were required to observe the formal enforcement mechanisms agreed upon between the EU and the USA.

The so-called Safe Harbor Agreement was received with a great hope as the legal tool that could solve similar problems with other countries. However, it was criticised by the European Parliament for not sufficiently protecting the privacy of EU citizens.

In a turning point for data transfers between the EU and the USA, in October 2015, the Court of the Justice of the European Union (CJEU) struck down this long-standing agreement and declared the Safe Harbour Agreement to be invalid. The Court found that the European Commission had failed to examine whether the USA afforded an adequate level of protection equivalent to that guaranteed in EU, but simply examined the safe harbor scheme. It found that in the US, the scheme is applicable only to undertakings that adhere to it, whereas public authorities are not subject to it, and national security, public interest and law enforcement requirements prevail over scheme. The US scheme therefore enables interference by public authorities, whereas no such limitations exist under EU law.The Court also found that the powers of national supervisory authorities could not be diminished other than by the Court.

Given the high importance of privacy and data protection in the relations between the USA and the EU after the Snowden revelations, it is likely to expect higher pressure to find a post-Safe Harbour Agreement solution.

Events

Actors

(ISO)

More and more standards and guidelines developed by ISO cover issues related to data and information security,

...

More and more standards and guidelines developed by ISO cover issues related to data and information security, and cybersecurity. One example is the 27000 family of standards, which cover aspects related to information security management systems and are used by organisations to keep information assets (e.g. financial data, intellectual property, employees’ information) secure. Standards 27031 and 27035, for example, are specifically designed to help organisations to effectively respond, diffuse and recover from cyber-attacks. Cybersecurity is also tackled in the framework of standards on technologies such as the Internet of Things, smart community infrastructures, medical devices, localisation and tracking systems, and future networks.

(UN OHCHR)

Challenges to the right to privacy in the digital age (such as surveillance and interception) are among the is

...

Challenges to the right to privacy in the digital age (such as surveillance and interception) are among the issues covered by activities of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. At the request of the UN General Assembly, the Commissioner prepared a report of the right to privacy in the digital age, which was presented to the Assembly in December 2014. The office of the Commissioner also organises discussions and seminars on the promotion and protection of the right to privacy in the online space, and collaborates on such issues with the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy.

(UNHRC)

Privacy and data protection online has been the subject of many UNHRC resolutions.

...

Privacy and data protection online has been the subject of many UNHRC resolutions. General resolutions on the promotion and protection of human rights on the Internet have underlined the need for states ensure a balance between cybersecurity measures and the protection of privacy online. The Council has also adopted specific resolutions on the right to privacy in the digital age, emphasising the fact that individuals should not be subjected to arbitrary of unlawful interference with their privacy, either online or offline. The UNHRC has also mandated the Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy to address the issue of online privacy in his reports.

(ECHR)

The European Court of Human Rights deals with privacy through the prism of Article 8 of the

...

The European Court of Human Rights deals with privacy through the prism of Article 8 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. It adjudicates on cases brought on against Council of Europe member states accused of being in violation of one or more articles of the Convention. The ECHR has a broad view of what it deems to be protected as ‘personal data’ as any information related to a person (identified or identifiable), which falls under the ‘private life’ part of Article 8. Its most recent high-profile case on the issue found the Hungarian government in breach of Article 8, due to its broad surveillance law.

(CoE)

The Council of Europe has been actively involved in policy discussions on the issue of net neutrality.

...

The Council of Europe has been actively involved in policy discussions on the issue of net neutrality. In 2010, the Committee of Ministers adopted a Declaration on network neutrality declaring its commitment to the principle of net neutrality. Later on, and in line with the Council’s Internet Governance Strategy, the Committee adopted a Recommendation on protecting and promoting the right to freedom of expression and the right to private life with regard to network neutrality, calling on member states to safeguard net neutrality in legal frameworks. Issues related to net neutrality and its connections with human rights are also tackled in events organised and studies conducted by the Council.

(PI)

Privacy International’s work is varied, in terms of both subject matter and actions.

...

Privacy International’s work is varied, in terms of both subject matter and actions. Their three main areas are ‘Building a Global Privacy Movement’, ‘Challenging Data Exploitation’ and ‘Contesting Surveillance’, while their actions include research (Privacy 101 explainers and broad-ranging reports) and legal action. A majority of its most recent work has skewed towards issues of surveillance around the world, with a specific focus on Kenya, which relies heavily on its Privacy International Network.

G20
(G20 )

World Bank
(World Bank)

G7
(G7)

Hivos
(Hivos)

Pew Research Center
(Pew Research)

Freedom House
(Freedom House)

US Congress
(US Congress)

Access Now
(Access)

Instruments

Conventions

Link to: Convention on Cybercrime (Budapest Convention)-482 (2001)

Judgements

Case of Barbulescu v Romania - European Court of Human Rights (2016)
Google Spain SL and Google Inc. v Agencia Española de Protección de Datos (AEPD) and Mario Costeja González Case - Court of Justice of the European Union (2014)

Resolutions & Declarations

IPU Resolution: 'Democracy in the Digital Era and the Threat to Privacy and Individual Freedoms' (2015)
Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948)

Standards

Request for Comments (RFC) dealing with Privacy and Data Protection (2015)

Recommendations

Other Instruments

Suplementary act on personal data protection within ECOWAS (2010)
Patriot Act (2001)

Resources

IoT – Economic Opportunities and Security Challenges (2018)

Articles

Apple vs FBI: A Socratic Dialogue on Privacy and Security (2016)
2016 Data Threat Report (2016)
Trends in Transition from Classical Censorship to Internet Censorship: Selected Country Overviews (2012)
Policy and Regulatory Issues in the Mobile Internet (2011)

Publications

Internet Governance Acronym Glossary (2015)
Securing Safe Spaces - Online Encryption, online anonymity, and human rights (2015)
An Introduction to Internet Governance (2014)

Papers

Expert and Non-Expert Attitudes towards (Secure) Instant Messaging (2016)
Personal Data Storage in Russia (2015)

Reports

Rule of Law and Democracy in the Digital Society: Challenges and Opportunities for Europe (2018)
Technology, Media and Telecommunications Predictions 2017 (2017)
Drones and Privacy by Design: Embedding Privacy Enhancing Technology in Unmanned Aircraft (2016)
Enabling Growth and Innovation in the Digital Economy (2016)
One Internet (2016)
Encryption: A Matter of Human Rights (2016)
A New Regulatory Framework for the Digital Ecosystem (2016)
The Impact of Digital Content: Opportunities and Risks of Creating and Sharing Information Online (2016)
NI Trend Watch 2016 (2015)
Freedom on the Net 2015 (2015)
OECD Digital Economy Outlook 2015 (2015)
Global Internet Report 2015 (2015)
Government Request Report (2015)
Taxation and the Digital Economy: A Survey of Theoretical Models (2015)

GIP event reports

Matchmaking for the data revolution: bringing data producers and users together (2018)
Big Data for Sustainable Development: what does it take to get to the next level? (2018)
Privacy and consumer protection in the age of artificial intelligence (2018)
Data localisation: Balancing trade disciplines and national policy objectives (2018)
Confidentiality of Communications and Privacy of Data in the Digital Age (2018)
Session 3: Policy and regulation perspective – Privacy and beyond (2018)
StaTact, data and monitoring for resilient societies (2018)
Roundtable Discussion: AI for Development (2018)
Leadership Debate: Emerging Technologies for Digital Transformation (2018)
Opening Session and Session 1: AI and Cybersecurity – The State of Play (2018)
Session 4 – Ways forward and closing (2018)
Session 2: AI and IoT – Exploit the potential for building confidence and security in the use of ICTs (2018)
Surveillance, Laws and Governments vs. Internet Rights (2018)
Privacy is Everywhere: How to Deal with Emerging Problems? (2018)
Is GDPR Still a Mystery? (2018)
Competition in a Data-driven World: How to Ensure Sustainable Growth? (2018)
Expert Workshop on the Right to Privacy in the Digital Age (2018)
The Legal Framework for Countering Terrorist and Violent Extremist Content Online (2017)
Where and How to Protect Legal Interests in the Digital Era (2017)
Addressing Access to Remedy in the Digital Age: Corporate Misconduct in Sharing and Processing Personal Data (2017)
Big Data and Conflict Prevention: Balancing Opportunities with Challenges (2017)
Recent Cyber Incidents - Patterns, Vulnerabilities and Concerns (2017)
Artificial Intelligence, Justice and Human Rights (2017)
Realizing Rights Online: From Human Rights Discourses to Enforceable Stakeholder Responsibilities (2017)
Key-note Speeches on the Future of the Internet (2017)
Digital citizenship, Integration, and Participation (2017)
GAC Meeting with the ICANN Board (2017)
Cross-Community Discussion on Next-Generation gTLD Registration Directory Services (RDS) Policy Requirements (2017)
At-Large Advisory Committee (ALAC) and Regional Leaders Wrap Up – Part 2 (2017)
GDPR and Its Potential Impact: Looking for Practical Solutions (2017)
International Trade Agreements and Internet Governance (2017)
EuroDIG 2017 Welcoming Address (2017)
Domain Names Innovation and Competition (2017)
Data Protection, Digital Trade and Development (2017)
Report for EBU Big Data Conference 2017 (2017)
ICANN58: GNSO Registration Directory Services (RDS) Policy Development Process Working Group Meeting (2017)
ICANN58: Public Forum 1 & 2 (2017)
Report for Symposium on The Future Networked Car (2017)
Report for ITU CWG-Internet - 4th Physical Open Consultation Meeting (2017)

Other resources

Internet Legislation Atlas (2016)
Security and Privacy Handbook: 100 Best Practices in Big Data Security and Privacy (2016)
Security for All: An Open Letter to the Leaders of the World's Governments (2016)
The Twitter Rules (2016)
Privacy Level Agreement [v2]: A Compliance Tool for Providing Cloud Services in the European Union (2015)

Processes

Click on the ( + ) sign to expand each day.

13th IGF 2018

UNCTAD 2018

  • 11:30 - 13:00
    Platforms as an Orchestrator of Digital Re-organization: Strategizing for Long-term Development Impact

WSIS Forum 2018

12th IGF 2017

WTO Public Forum 2017

WSIS Forum 2017

IGF 2016

WTO Public Forum 2016

WSIS Forum 2016

WSIS10HL

IGF 2015

IGF 2016 Report

 

Continuing a trend to keep human rights at the forefront, a main session at the IGF 2016 was dedicated to the topic (Human Rights: Broadening the Conversation). This demonstrates that the IGF has matured to a point where human rights (Dynamic Coalition on Internet Rights and Principles) are now accepted as an underlying unifying force (Mapping Digital Rights in the Middle East and North Africa: A New Visual Tool for Comparative Analysis). 

The broader implications that the right to privacy (Surveillance and International Human Rights Law - WS267) and data protection (Is Personal Data ‘Mine’ or There to be ‘Mined’? - WS114) have for the Internet and society were discussed in the context of global balance, with overarching links to states’ governance models. These topics are being increasingly merged with issues of security (a right in itself), jurisdiction, and other complexities. The interconnections between privacy, on one side, and access and net neutrality issues, on the other side, were also discussed (Dynamic Coalition on Net Neutrality).

WSIS Forum 2016 Report

 

Privacy and data protection in the online space was discussed from various perspectives. Internet Governance, Security, Privacy and the Ethical Dimension of ICTs in 2030 (session 150) looked at issues related to online privacy in different contexts: the evolution of Internet of Things technologies, state surveillance programmes, and cybersecurity.

In session 169 on Internet Fragmentation one interesting scenario was exposed: one in which governments had one IP address fixed for each citizen, and used it as a passport. In this scenario, the individual would have to renew their passport every year. The government would know exactly which content they had accessed and could deny renewal.

IGF 2015 Report

 

At this year’s IGF, the discussion on privacy and data protection revisited a typical dilemma: How do we ensure both privacy and security or - at least - strike a right balance between two?

This ‘balancing question’ was echoed in many discussions. In the debate on encryption (WS 141 on Law Enforcement in a World of Pervasive Encryption, and WS 53 on The Politics of Encryption), human rights and security communities presented two different views. Human rights activists argued for pervasive encryption aimed at protecting privacy, while security officials believe that strong encryption hinders investigations and poses a problem to gathering data and preventing crime and terrorism.

In the debate between Privacy and Transparency (WS 124), it was argued that the treatment of personal data needs to be transparent, with transparency being also closely associated with accountability. Yet, a recently negotiated trade agreement, which will impact users’ privacy,was not negotiated in such a transparent way.

In discussing these dichotomies, a few new proposals and ideas emerged. For example, in Implementing Core Principles in the Digital Age (WS 114), the two UN Special Rapporteurs on freedom of expression and on privacy argued that both rights could be protected in an integrated way, where encryption and transparency of policy should play an important role. The link between privacy, freedom of expression, and anonymity was discussed in depth in Special Rapporteur David Kaye’s report on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression (May 2015).

Another question was whether privacy should be protected on a national or international level. The prevailing view is that it needs to be afforded international protection. In the same workshop, Special Rapporteur Joseph Cannataci said that people needed ‘safeguards without borders’ and ‘remedies across borders’, neither of which he believe is possible at the moment. He also referred to the ‘further development of international law’ during the Open Forum on the Right to Privacy in the Digital Age, a view which was picked up by a Brazilian Foreign Ministry official: the right to privacy is already enshrined in international law through the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which has been ratified by 168 countries. His comment: ‘And we might ask ourselves what about the remaining countries? Well, all remaining countries recognise the universal Human Rights, which also [include] the right to privacy. So we have the norm. We have a foundation. A basis to work on.’

 

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