A blog on why norms matter online

Monday, March 19, 2012

Ensuring Human Rights and Human Security on the Internet: Key Insights from the Graz Workshop on the Future of Security

At the opening of the 5th Workshop on the Future of Security

On 16 March, the 5th Graz Workshop on the Future of Security took place in Graz. It was dedicated to "Human Security in the Information Society: Regulating Risks – Empowering People" and I was one of the organizers. 

We'll publish the presentations in the next edition of Human Security Perspectives (here's the link to last year's papers) and here's a short report on the university's media site (in German). 

I've made some notes on the presentaitons of the four invited keynote spakers. Please find them enclosed (but remember, they are my notes and summaries, not the speaker's, so don't quote or cite, but wait for publication of the workshop papers in May 2012).

Keynote Session I: Human Rights, Technology and Online ‘Securities’

Wolfgang Benedek 

Human Security in the Information Society 
Wolfgang Benedek 
Institute of International Law and International Relations and European Training and Research Center of the University of Graz, Austria

Calling ACTA a useful hysteria Wolfgang Benedek introduced some of the key challenges to human rights online. Everybody is concerned with cybersecurity, he argues. Misuse of cyberspace affects the individuals seriously. The examples of Georgia and Estonia have shown the extent to which cyberspace can be instrumentalized to exert power. But the Internet is also an interesting tool to fight for human rights, as the (not unproblematic) “Kony 2012” campaign shows.

A central problem is the “complicity” of some companies in human rights violations. But in filtering, blacking out the Internet, the state is also endangering human security. Human security has a wider focus than state security. Individuals need to be empowered in the information society. We need to ensure access and freedom of information. We need democratic and decentralized responses.

Transparency is important also with regard to state. Examples of good practice are Google’s Tranparency Reports, websites such as Chilling Effects, and the Council of Europe which has passed important guidelines on human rights in the information society. Self-regulation by stakeholders, by example through cyber-cops, is not enough. What we need is a common, multistakeholder-based approach to refining the principles on which Internet Governance will be based.

Cyberspace is not a lawless zone, there are responsibilities for states, individuals and companies. The “10 Internet Rights and Principles”, developed by the Internet Rights and Principles Coalition, can provide important guidance.

Wolfgang Slany 

The Threats of Social Engineering and Malicious Insiders to IT Security

Wolfgang Slany
Institute for Software Technology, Technical University Graz, Austria

Wolfgang Slany reminds us that there is too little awareness about the threats of new technologies. Too many network administrators are naive to the threats of social engineering and malicious insiders. The biggest problem is manipulable human beings. We are all much too ready to open up and tell our stories. People are the weakest link in IT protection infrastructure. The Internet will never be virus-free, just like human health will always be in danger. 

We need to rethink trust in the information society. But we also need to rethink what we throw away - this enables identity theft. There is too much miscommunication between the technical and the human rights communities. We cannot just give up responsibility to the technical community.

Keynote Session II:                          
Political Contributions and Military Challenges to Human Security in the Internet Age

Ernst M. Felberbauer 

Military Security, Human Security and the Internet

Ernst M. Felberbauer
Head of Research Management, National Defence Academy, Ministry of Defence and Sports, Austria

Ernst M. Felberbauer identifies some of the central challenges that the Internet poses for human rights. The Internet changes the way we think about issues of war and peace. The “Kony 2012” is one case in point, as is the public reception of “Assad-Gate”, the publication by the Guardian of emails from the Syrian president to his wife. The Internet makes information spread incredibly quickly without reflection.

These dynamics need to be taken into account, as we consider the evolution of conflict in 20th century. Today, especially after the Arab Spring, it has become clear that legitimacy of governments is important. There is nothing like a humanitarian military intervention. Military logic will predict in war what will happen. The question is when we stop to make this relation get out of hand.

Governments have a certain responsibility not only to protect the networks but also to protect their people. Cybersecurity is an issue that is by now at the forefront of a number of international organizations.

Currently, the Austrian authorities are working on a National Cybersecurity Strategy which will be made public in the near future. A Cybercrime Resource Center will be created. Within the military, a reshuffling of capacities will lead to more cybersecurity personnel.
People should not get hurt. In order to protect them, we need to conclude the legal framework.

Jörg Leichtfried

How the European Parliament Safeguards Human Rights on the Internet

Jörg Leichtfried
Member of the European Parliament, President of the Delegation of the Social Democratic Party of Austria to the European Parliament

There are three dimension to policy-making, Jörg Leichtfried explained: what is meant to happen politically, what actually happens, and what is applied in practice. 

The EU is clearly an export-oriented continent and it is quite a problem that our successful trademarks are being pirated. While ACTA has a legitimate goal, its realization is problematic. It covers WTO law, and could thus be brought before the Dispute Settlement Body.

But there is another problem: the second part on intellectual property rights in connection with virtual products. Big international companies are protected, but a whole generation of people might be illegalized. 

Further, the negotiations process was much too opaque. Also, penal law should not be used to counter IPR violations. Private data could be compromised if business interests are at stake. 

As the case of German lobbying for dual use technology has shown, governments sometimes act against the interests of human rights. 

Leichtfried underlined that it makes much sense to pressure European parliamentarians to ensure human rights-sensitive policies. The Internet can be used to effectively mobilize civil society.  In fact, anti-ACTA protest was the first real revolution of civil society in Europe. 

Organization committee 

(left to right) Wolfgang Benedek |  Cristina Pace|  Pascoal Santos Pereira Heike Montag | Paul Gragl |  Matthias C. Kettemann 

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