Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Need for a Declaration of Human Internet Rights

Article: Should Companies Take Responsibility for Repression?

Date Published: Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Like in the US today, countries around the world are using the internet as a way to organize protests and assembly. Although this has been proven effective, it is also easy to track down these demonstrators to arrest, harass, and even torture them.  Among the many Arab upraises  demonstrators in Cairo took control of central Tahrir Square.  The government however tracked these catalysts through the internet. This raises many important questions for policymakers such as the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). On the OSCE’s youtube channel  they have live videos from their meetings in Vienna where they discuss important questions such as comments on news sites, social media freedom, and protection of minors.

Although they do a lot on ‘paper’, they do not have any capacity to enforce these rules and regulations. One example given is how in the week of February 3rd, the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights and Privacy International filed complaints against two surveillance technology companies. The issue was to find out whether these technologies could land in the hands of oppressive governments such as in Bahrain and be used to monitor and identify critics. As far as I am concerned, the United States has a lot of advance surveillance technology, most of which is developed at the Army. They have the power to tap into our phone lines or our data packets at any moment that they wish, that is, with the excuse that you are suspected to be a terrorist. What keeps us from being monitored for far less threatening actions such as a protest, a boycott, or illegal activities? I suspect that it that the US has a clear definition of the Internet to enable human rights.  It is crucial that there be a universal basic definition that will prevent oppressive governments from taking advantage of the internet. Citizens are silenced by the fear of getting caught. This slows down revolutions and improvement to a society. In my opinion, companies are not to be held responsible for repression. It is not the tools for surveillance that is the problem, rather the intentions and allowable actions of the user.

NASA Student Ambassador
Undergraduate Research Assistant
Mechanical Engineering
Georgia Institute of Technology

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