A blog on why norms matter online

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I'm a Post-Doc Fellow at the Cluster of Excellence "Normative Orders" of the University of Frankfurt and lecturer at the Institute of International Law of the University of Graz, Austria. I've studied international law in Graz, Geneva and at Harvard Law School. I enjoy thinking and writing about Internet Governance and discussing and shaping the future of the Internet

Friday, September 20, 2013

Die überwachte Gesellschaft: iRights.info veröffentlicht E-Book zu Politik und Recht nach Prism

Überwachte Gesellschaft - eine neuer Sammelband
mit Interviews und Beiträgen zu Recht und
Politik nach Prism und Tempora  cc

Prism und Tempora und die sich an die Enthüllungen über Intensität und Ausmaß der Überwachungsprogramme anschließende Debatte haben Politik und Recht stark beeinflusst. 

Welche Entwicklungen sich nun abzeichnen und wie Politik und Recht auf den Einsatz von Informations- und Kommunikationstechnologie zur Überwachung reagieren, zeichnen Beiträge nach die David Pachali für iRights.info zusammengestelllt hat. 

Die Beiträge - Interviews und Artikel - sind nun unter dem Titel   Überwachte Gesellschaft: Recht, Technik und Politik nach Prism und Tempora als E-Book erschienen. 

iRights.info will die Frage stellen, "wie wir als Gesellschaft damit umgehen wollen, dass unsere Leben und unsere Daten vor den Geheimdiensten dieser Welt offenliegen."

Das E-Book enthält Texte von Tilman Baumgärtel, Nico Ernst, Jürgen Geuter, Friedhelm Greis, Torsten Kleinz, Felix Knoke, Lorenz Matzat, David Pachali, Jan Schallaböck, Anja Seeliger, Henry Steinhau, Jörg Thoma und und Interviews mit Nikolaus Forgó, Matthias Hartwig, Matthias C. Kettemann, Erich Moechel und Peter Schaar.

Mein Interview vom Juli 2013 und alle anderen Texte sind noch auf iRights.info nachzulesen, aber der Kauf des E-Books lohnt sich auf jeden Fall.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Human Rights on the Internet: A Reasoned Call for Transantlantic Cooperation

Transatlantic human rights dialogue on Internet rights
is essential: for five distinct reasons. (c) Kettemann 2013
Next week I'll participate in a conference on the transantlantic  human rights heritage organized by Harvard University and the Council of Europe. My panel will be dedicated to human rights in cyberspace. 

I will call for a transatlantic human rights dialogue on Internet rights and present five arguments in support of it.

I. Are States the New Anarchists?

In the early phases of the development of the Internet the absence of state-given norms was a key feature which boosted creativity and facilitated development. Its downside was the perceived anarchy of the early Internet. Users thought they could do what they wanted to do. But progressively, social mores were enforced on the Internet. Norms were created (or applied) and, for cases of serious anti-social behaviour, states reined people in.

This has changed. Today, states seem like the new anarchists. They behave (pass laws, take enforcement measures) as if the Internet was a quasi-anarchic, self-contained place: as if the law-based human rights framework limiting state action did not apply.

Just as early Internet anarchists were proven wrong, states believing their normative behaviour online is off limits to international scrutiny will be, too. States cannot do what they want to the Internet, its data flows and its users. But it will take individuals (an emerging global public sphere) to rein them in. Combining the growth of a whistleblowing culture, old media’s attempts to reassert its role and the technical possibilities of the Internet, keeping secrets regarding Internet surveillance gets progressively difficult, especially when the secret lies in perceived or actual violations of human rights.

Against this background I suggest five propositions that can help inspire a transatlantic human rights dialogue on Internet rights.

II. Five Propositions

(1) All human rights that apply offline also apply online.

On July 5, 2012, the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) adopted by consensus a key resolution on the promotion, protection and enjoyment of human rights on the Internet.The Resolution affirms that “the same rights that people have offline must also be protected online.” We thus do not need any ‘new’ human rights for the Internet age. States need to respect, protect and implement the existing ones – especially in light of the catalytic function of the Internet to exercise a broad range of human rights, especially the right to freedom of expression.
            The right to privacy is intricately and closely connected to that right. If you feel watched, you will behave differently. If you think that your communications are read, you will write differently. Recommitting to this consensus, especially in times of serious doubts as to the human rights conformity of national Internet surveillance, must be a transatlantic priority.

(2) Ensuring human security means ensuring both human rights and security.

Fighting terrorism is an essential goal of the international community. In ensuring their citizens’ security, states fulfill their human rights-based role. But their policies must always be proportionate. Ensuring human security means ensuring both security and human rights. The concept of human security, which has been accepted by the United Nations as a key conceptual vector, must be mainstreamed in any surveillance laws and proportionality requirements must be factored in in keeping with established international human rights doctrine and jurisprudence.

(3) The protection of human rights online (and keeping the Internet functional and stable) lies in the global common interest.

The protection of online communication processes is safeguarded comprehensively by Article 19 ICCPR, regional human rights law and customary law. Further, states have a duty to ensure the Internet’s stability, integrity and functionality as a precondition to the exercise of rights related to information and communication processes. Further sources of an emerging duty to safeguarding the integrity of the Internet include aspects of the international legal duty to cooperate, the prohibition of intervention and the precautionary principle.
(4) The transatlantic partnership is important, but do not forget China (and Brazil, and Russia, and India …).

Cyberspace works better, when the US and Europe work together. With 11,4 % and 21,5 % of world users respectively, they are important forces that shape Internet Governance policy across the globe. This applies particularly to the US which has special role due to the historical evolution of the Internet (ICANN, IANA etc.). But we must not forget the rest of the world. Internet penetration rates in Africa and Asia are growing energetically. Some countries, including emerging world powers such as India, Brazil and South Africa, but also Russia and China have markedly different approaches to human rights online than Europe and the US – and Asia has 44,8 % of the world’s Internet users with a penetration rate of only 27,5 % of the population. Here, too, a dialogue is essential. It must be based on human rights-sensitive practices in the US and Europe. If transatlantic practice in human rights protection disappoints or seems insincere, the case for Internet freedom, strongly advocated by the former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, suffers substantially. When human rights-insensitive states see similar practices in the US and Europe they will feel little need for policy changes. Whether it its Internet surveillance through powerful spy agencies or the sale of Internet surveillance software by European companies: the human rights message cannot be convincing if practice is inconsistent.

(5) In Internet (human rights) policy-making, states will continue to matter, but let us not forget the people.

States will continue to make decisions that influence the usage of the Internet worldwide. But we should not underestimate the power of people to legitimize norms that relate to the Internet. The case of ACTA in Europe has shown how civil society activism could stop a treaty ratification process. Both Europe and the US need to learn from this. When human rights online are at stake, norms should be developed, ideally, in a multi-stakeholder process, but at least more openly than existing surveillance legislation is applied. International multi-stakeholder processes are no substitute for a national political debate, but they can add important legitimacy (and ideas). One example of good practice is the EuroDIG, the annual European Dialogue on Internet Governance, which brings together members from all stakeholder groups and serves as a regional preparatory event for the IGF.

III. The Case for Cooperation

Implementing these five propositions in a spirit of transatlantic cooperation will mean a big step towards effectively respecting, protecting and implementing human rights online. Three cases can be made for the necessity of such cooperation: based on principles, politics and economics. 

Principles: The US and the EU share a common heritage of human rights. They need to reassert the primacy of human rights in their relations and ensure that human rights inform their ICT policies and their Internet Governance approaches. Ensuring human rights and human security must be a paramount concern for both transatlantic partners. 

Politics: It is poor politics to commit to human rights online (by, e.g., supporting resolutions on human rights online, by promoting Internet freedom) and have laws on the books that allow for widespread monitoring. Respecting human rights of non-US Internet users (and their sensibilities) should be a political goal of the US government. The historical role of the US in establishing the Internet gives it also a historic responsibility: to be a beacon of human rights protection online. And an example for the world, first amendment!

Economics: US companies are (still) in the lead in the provision of IT services. Google and Amazon, Facebook and Twitter are key data handlers and still largely enjoy the trust of people worldwide. If global consumers no longer feel that they can trust the security of their data with US service providers, they will – to the degree that this is possible – take their business elsewhere. As has happened with cloud services. Non-US customers need to feel valued and secure when dealing with US companies. The US government should support initiatives such as the Google and Facebook Transparency Reports by, for example, allowing that the data requested, especially under FISA, is more clearly disaggregated. In the fight against terrorism US IT companies, the US government and Council of Europe states need to be strong allies, but not at the expense of fundamental rights.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Cyberspace - a terra incognita for human rights? A conference in Cambridge sheds some light on the question

If you're in terra incognita, it's great to have signs ...
then again, if you have signs, it's not really terra
incognita per se - just terra incognita for you.
I've been invited to contribute to an Joint Council of Europe/Harvard University conference next week dedicated to the theme of managing the transatlantic human rights relationship: "Divided by a Common Heritage: Human Rights in Europe and the United States”.

My panel will be dedicated to "Cyberspace: Terra Incognita of Human Rights? European and U.S. Experiences” with Yochai Benkler, Professor of Law, Harvard Law School; Julie Cohen, Professor of Law, Georgetown Law School, Washington DC; myself and Rolf H. Weber, Professor for Civil, Commercial and European Law, University of Zurich, Switzerland; with Philip Heymann, James Barr Ames Professor of Law, Harvard Law School, moderating.

Of course, cyberspace is not really "terra incognita" of human rights. The term might refer to unknown, unexplored or uncartographed areas (of land or human knowledge). Cyberspace is not unknown to human rights (just think of the HRC Resolution 20/8 confirming that all human rights that apply offline also apply online). It is not unexplored (but arguably underexplored), as there are quite a number of publications dedicating themselves specifically to the role of human rights on cyberspace. Similarly, the role of human rights online are non uncartographed, but again under- and miscartographed.

We can agree, therefore, that cyberspace is not terra incognita but terra not quite enough cognita for human rights.

At the conference I will be making a couple of points regarding the importance of transatlantic cooperation in the pursuance of common goals relating to Internet Governance. I'll blog about them in the next days.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Netzpolitik in Österreich: ein Aufruf!

Wie im letzten Eintrag berichtet, habe ich mit zwei Kollegen von der Donau-Universität Krems einen Band zur Zukunft der Netzpolitik in Österreich veröffentlicht: Netzpolitik in Österreich. Internet. Macht. Menschenrechte".

Wir wollten wichtige Initialzündungen für eine nuanciertere und mutigere Netzpolitik setzen und haben daher die Arbeit von mehr als 30 Expertinnen und Experten in Thesenform zusammengefasst. Diese sind auch unser Aufruf: gerichtet an Politik und Gesellschaft, Wirtschaft und Wissenschaft.  

Ein Auszug folgt hier, die gesammleten Thesen findet ihr hier:
Zentraler Netzpolitik in Österreich – ein Aufruf

"Im Internet muss das Recht nicht neu erfunden werden. Im Internet müssen die Menschenrechte nicht neu konzipiert werden. Und im Internet muss Politik nicht gänzlich neu gedacht werden. Dennoch stellt die Netzpolitik formative soziale Kräfte vor neue Herausforderungen. Um das politische Emanzipationspotenzial des Internets nutzen zu können, bedarf es einer menschenrechtlich sensiblen, entwicklungsorientierten und technisch informierten Netzpolitik. Die Autorinnen und Autoren dieses Bandes haben in einer halbjährigen Arbeit zentrale Thesen aufgestellt, die als Leitlinien für die Netzpolitik Österreichs dienen können. Sie zeigen auf, wie diese zwischen Macht und Recht navigieren und zentrale gesellschaftliche Werte im und durch das Internet schützen kann.

Dieser Band möchte zeigen, was Netzpolitik leisten muss, leisten kann und leisten soll. 
These 1. Recht begrenzt die Macht im Internet, doch über „Hintertüren“ wie Interessenspolitik, Sprache, Sozialstruktur und Code hält die Vermachtung wieder Einzug.

These 2. Alle Menschenrechte, die offline gelten, gelten auch online. Im Internet stehen sie allerdings neuen Herausforderungen gegenüber, denen mit einer klaren Rückbesinnung auf ihre Kerngehalte und einer entsprechenden Inpflichtnahme aller AkteurInnen zu begegnen ist.

These 3. Um das Demokratisierungs- und Emanzipationsversprechen des Internets einzulösen, bedarf es einer menschenrechtlich sensiblen, entwicklungsorientierten und alle Menschen einschließenden Netzpolitik.

These 4. Umfassende und gleichberechtigte Beteiligung an der Informationsgesellschaft verlangt Internet-Bildung, eine Öffnung exklusiver Wissenslandschaften, eine sozial informierte Bewirtschaftung der Internet-Allmende und proaktive Maßnahmen zur Überwindung bestehender und sich vertiefender sozialer digitaler Gräben, gerade auch innerhalb eher homogener Gesellschaften.

These 5. Das Internet befördert sozialen Aktivismus und politisches Engagement durch Transparenz, die Nivellierung von Partizipationshindernissen und Informationsfreiheit. Dabei kann Online-Aktivismus zivilgesellschaftliches Engagement auch in Offline-Kontexten unterstützen, aber nicht ersetzen."

Und nicht vergessen: Wir laden herzlich ein zur Buchpräsentation im Rahmen des 8. paraflows-Festivals am 14.09.2013, 19:30 – 21:30, im Museumsquartier / quartier21 / Raum D, in Wien. (Anmeldung bis 10. September 2013 unter http://bit.ly/AnmeldungCoLabATMRI).

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Zwischen Heimgärtnervereinen und Revolutionen: "Netzpolitik in Österreich" wird am 14.9. vorgestellt

"Das Internet ist zu einem zentralen Resonanzraum verschiedenster Ideen, Vorstellungen und Wünsche geworden. Es können Heimgärtnervereine ebenso wie Revolutionen gestartet, Musikvideos betrachtet, aber auch Filme über Menschenrechtsverletzungen angesehen werden. Menschen können sich im Internet austauschen, Informationen oder Unterhaltung suchen und konsumieren, politisch aktiv werden und sich organisieren. Den Möglichkeiten des Internets scheinen kaum Grenzen gesetzt. Das Internet verstärkt aber auch Ungleichheiten."
So beginnt "Netzpolitik in Österreich. Internet. Macht. Menschenrechte", ein von mir mitherausgegebener Sammelband, in dem 30 Expertinnen und Experten die Wege und Hürden zu einem menschenrechtssensiblen Internet aufzeigen.

Ich lade herzlich ein zur Buchpräsentation im Rahmen des 8. paraflows-Festivals am 14.09.2013, 19:30 – 21:30, im Museumsquartier / quartier21 / Raum  D, in Wien. (Die Organisatoren bitten um Anmeldung bis 10. September 2013 unter http://bit.ly/AnmeldungCoLabATMRI)

Zu dem gemeinsam mit Clara Landler und Peter Parycek herausgegebenen Band habe ich auch einige meiner Forschungen der letzten Zeit im Überblick  zusammengefasst: Neue Menschenrechte für das Internet?
Besonders interessant zu lesen sind die Thesen, die wir aus der Arbeit der Expertinnen und Experten über Monate entwickelt haben. So beginnen wir das Buch auch so, wie wir die Initiative geschlossen haben. Mit einem Aufruf, der hier nachzulesen ist: Netzpolitik in Österreich. Ein Aufruf.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Klagen gegen Überwachungsprogramme: Kaum eine Chance vor internationalen Gerichten

Als ob PRISM nicht schon schlimm genug wäre. Nun soll auch der britische Geheimdienst GCHQ deutsche Internetkommunikationen über ein Glasfaserkabel angezapft haben. Die Bundesregierung kann die Spionagestaaten deshalb zwar vor internationalen Gerichten verklagen; doch einfach wird das nicht, meint Matthias C. Kettemann.

Zu diesem Thema habe ich auf der Legal Times Online einen Artikel veröffentlicht. Zu lesen hier. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Just published: European Yearbook on Human Rights 2013

ISBN: 978-3-7083-0925-5
Wolfgang Benedek/Florence Benoît-Rohmer/Wolfram Karl/Matthias C. 
Kettemann/Manfred Nowak (eds.)

European Yearbook
on Human Rights 2013

In terms of human rights 2012 was the year of coherence: The EU adopted the first Strategic Framework and Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy and appointed its first Special Representative for Human Rights. At the Council of Europe, the importance of coherence in executing judgments and in improving the efficiency of justice remains high. And the story of OSCE's human dimension proves to be one of ensuring policy coherence.

Defining and discussing key developments in human rights, the fifth edition of the European Yearbook on Human Rights brings together 26 contributions by renowned human rights experts that provide a much needed overview and sought-after analysis.

Edited jointly by representatives of four major European human rights research, teaching and training institutions, the Yearbook 2013 covers extensively all relevant developments in the field of the three main organizations charged with securing human rights in Europe: EU, Council of Europe and OSCE. A further chapter contains contributions on the role of civil society in human rights protection and on cross-cutting topics.

Pursuing a holistic approach and containing detailed analyses, the European Yearbook on Human Rights 2013 provides readers with both a comprehensive overview and deep understanding of the events and issues that have shaped the human rights debate in Europe in 2012 and will shape it in the future.

The impressive array of authors – academics and diplomats, practitioners and human rights experts – makes the book essential reading for anyone interested in human rights in Europe and beyond.


I Topics of the Year

Karen ABUZAYD, Carla DEL PONTE, Vitit MUNTARBHORN and Paulo Sérgio PINHEIRO: The Imperative of a Political Settlement in Syria: Perspectives of the UN Independent Commission of Inquiry

Engelbert THEUERMANN: The Review of the EU Human Rights Policy: A Commitment to Strengthened EU Action on Human Rights

Ulrike LUNACEK: Sticks and Carrots from Brussels to Pristina: An Inside Perspective on the Difficult but Rewarding Project of Kosovo’s EU Rapprochement

II European Union

Wolfgang BENEDEK: EU Action on Human and Fundamental Rights in 2012

Jeff KENNER: The Court of Justice of the European Union and Human Rights in 2012

Allan ROSAS: The Applicability of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights at National Level

Christian BEHRMANN and Davide ZARU: The External Promotion of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights by the EU: Some Lessons for the Future

Peter VALANT: The EU Special Representative for Human Rights: Manager or Mastermind?

Theodor RATHGEBER: The EU at the UN Human Rights Council in 2012: Out of Touch with Human Rights Dynamics

José Luis BAZÁN: Freedom of Religion in the European Union

Aikaterini-Kaousar AMPOU-SALIM: The EU’s Involvement in the Democratization Process in Egypt and in Libya Before and During the Arab Spring

Sarah DERDELINCKX: Towards a More Effective Promotion of Human Rights and Democracy in Central Asia: the Need for a Paradigm Change in EU Policy

Silvia GÓMEZ MORADILLO: Ending the Detention of Irregular Migrants Prior to Removal in the EU’s Mediterranean Member States: A Proposal to Reform the Return Directive with a View to Alternatives to Detention

Marnix DE WITTE: The Case for a Solidarity- and Human Rights-Based Revision of the Dublin System

Paolo PAGOTTO: EU Trade Policy and Labour Standards: The Case of the Free Trade Agreement with Colombia and Peru

III Council of Europe

Brigitte OHMS, Tatjana CARDONA, Elisabeth HANDL-PETZ, Leonore LANGE: The Human Rights Jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights in 2012

Jean Paul JACQUÉ: A propos de Nada contre Suisse: Les résolutions du Conseil de Sécurité devant la Cour européenne des droits de l’Homme

Dominika BYCHAWSKA-SINIARSKA: Why (and How) the Committee of Ministers Needs to Be Reformed in Order to Enhance Implementation of ECtHR Judgments

Georg STAWA: The Commission for the Efficiency of Justice (CEPEJ) of the Council of Europe: Aims, Tools and Instruments to Measure and Provide Competence, Independence, Impartiality, Transparency and Efficiency to Judicial Systems


Douglas WAKE: Is There Life after Astana? Recent Developments in the OSCE’s “Human Dimension” in Historical Perspective

Aleksandar LAZOVSKI and Aleksandar DIMISHKOVSKI: ODIHR’s Activities Against Discriminatory Practices in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia: A Case-Study of Roma Integration

Snježana BOKULIC and Omer FISHER: ODIHR’s Human Rights Monitoring: Observing Public Events and Supporting Freedom of Peaceful Assembly

V Cross-cutting Issues

Manfred NOWAK: The European Master in Human Rights and Democratisation in Venice

Antonio PAPISCA: What Education for a Smart, Sustainable and Inclusive Growth in the EU? The Relevance of Human Rights Education

Lauri MÄLKSOO: The Human Rights Concept of the Russian Orthodox Church and its Patriarch Kirill I: A Critical Appraisal

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Call for Papers: Practices of Critique, 5-7 December 2013, Frankfurt

I'm happy to share a call for papers for the 

Fourth International Young Researcher's Conference

Practices of Critique
5-7 December 2013
Goethe-University Frankfurt am Main, Campus Westend

Two of the panels are of particular interest to those who engage with Internet and human rights issues: 

  • Von Shitstorms und Empörungswellen – Gründe und Abgründe der Internetkritik click here...
  • Praktiken der Kritik nach dem Arabischen Frühling click here...
Below you can find the complete call.

Call for Papers (pdf): click here...

Deadline: 15 July 2013

Practices of critique are intertwined with normative orders in manifold ways. They contain and refer reflexively to critical contentions, and they can enable as well as suppress critique. On the one hand, critique can draw on the justificatory basis of normative orders. On the other, such an immanent critique always harbours the danger of contributing to the reproduction of the conditions it questions. Further, critical practices of social movements and theoretical interventions are often confronted with the argument that there is no uncontaminated position from which to formulate critique. Accordingly, the question arises as to what forms critique will assume and under what historical, political and social conditions critique will appear at all.
In this context it is essential to reconstruct the theoretical foundations of critique and power structures as well the practicesin which they are instantiated. Three aspects are crucial: firstly concrete forms of power and their application, which always emerge from a tension between normative claims and solidified systems of rule; secondly the purview of justice as the foundation for critical rationale; thirdly the aspect of representation. After all, justifications are carried via narratives as well as symbols such that they necessarily contain excess aesthetic content. Therefore the aesthetic facets of power, justice or legitimation also require attention. These terms of reference result in the following array of questions for the conference:
1) Conditions of possibility for critique
Under what circumstances do practices of critique emerge? To what extent are unjust conditions relevant? How do specific normative orders, power structures and representations of them by themselves and others affect the emergence of critique? How can we apprehend the (im-)possibility of the critique of normative orders? Are there spaces of critique that lie beyond the reach of the criticized, or is critique perpetually condemned to aporetic relations?
2) Realization of critique
In what forms does critique become manifest? What social practices are connected with critique, and how do they relate to each other, not least with regard to their respective interpretations of social reality? How can we grasp practices of critique – conceptually as well as empirically? What role do representations of critique and the criticized play in terms of its realization? Do particular forms of articulation further legitimize relations of dominance? Who is able to and who is entitled to express critique?
3) Reactions to critique
What reactions to various practices of critique, such as social movements and theoretical interventions, can we observe? Do they lead to a stabilization of power structures through conservative retrenchment or to reflexive social change towards more just relations? How does the academic reconstruction of social struggles influence the reaction towards critique? How does the representation or the mode in which orders are justified and critiqued affect the reproduction of injustice, oppression and violence?
Such questions shall be addressed from multidisciplinary perspectives at the international graduate conference “Practices of Critique” of the Frankfurt Cluster of Excellence “The Formation of Normative Orders” on the 5-7 December 2013. We invite abstracts from novice researchers (max. four years subsequent to receiving a PhD) until 15 July 2013. There are 23 panels (about half of them are in English) to which you may directly apply. You may also submit your abstract under the general conference theme should selecting a specific panel prove unfeasible. For further information concerning content and language of the panels please refer to the links below or visit the following website:
Please email proposed contributions to graduateconference@normativeorders.net, including ananonymized abstract and a short bio in two separate documents (doc or rtf). The subject heading of the email should include the panel of choice. The length of abstracts should be 400 - 700 words.
Child care services are available with advance registration. For further question on this and other issues, feel free to contact the organizers at the above email address. We are looking forward to your submissions!


(Non-)Compliance and Critique click here...
Coping with critique: The reaction of international organizations to normative contestation click here...
Crisis and critique in banking and finance click here...
Critical Theory and Global Justice click here...
Critique from beyond the Edge of the (Legal) Universe click here...
Democracy in theory and practice - or both? click here...
Die Kritik auf der Leinwand - Darstellungsformen von Rechtfertigung click here...
Die Schönheit der Chance: Das Internet als Ort utopischer Praktiken click here...
Dogmatik – Apologie oder Kritik von Normativität click here...
Freiheit und Kritik click here...
Indeterminacy in law and Critical Legal Theory click here...
Knowledge and Action click here...
Kritik der politischen Kunst click here...
Kritische Rechtsbetrachtungen: Wohin zielt ihre Kritik und worauf zielt die Kritik an ihnen? click here...
Normativität der Sozialkritik click here...
Other Voices, Other Critique? Critical Knowledges Otherwise click here...
Politics of Insecurity, Critique of Security click here...
Politische Gewalt und Aufstände als fundamentale Systemkritik: Transnationale Reaktionen im langen 19. Jahrhundert click here...
Von Shitstorms und Empörungswellen – Gründe und Abgründe der Internetkritik click here...
Praktiken der Kritik nach dem Arabischen Frühling click here...
Religion and Critique click here...
Revolution and Reflection: 1789 and beyond click here...
Transnationaler Konstitutionalismus zwischen Herrschaft und Kritik click here...
Presented by:
Cluster of Excellence "The Formation of Normative Orders" in cooperation with  "100 Jahre Goethe-Universität" and the involvment of "Hochschule für Gestaltung Offenbach"

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Surveillance under Scrutiny: Finally, the world is talking about human rights online

As more revelations regarding PRISM and Verizon's metadata emerge, one key question arises: Can something bad be actually good? Can the revelations on surveillance practices that have galvanized global civil society lead to a broad discussion on what privacy means, what the limits to surveillance should be, and how human rights (and the proportionality requirement) limit state action? 

Or, as the Economist puts it (in an excellent summary here), "Will scrutiny spur change"?

It is ironic, but in Obama's second term, change is indeed necessary. Change in the way that Internet surveillance is conducted - in secret and without broad public scrutiny. Of course, fighting terrorism is a key responsibility of governments, but in that fight, human rights need to be respected - online and offline. 

What we have learned about PRISM and Verizon suggests that human rights considerations did not play to important a role in the formulation and implementation of surveillance policies. 

A lot of good can come from this assessment. While two thirds of US citizens, in a poll reported by the Economist, agreed that surveillance of their telephone metadata did not bother them, and still half felt the same regarding traffic data on their email communications, a number of global civil society organizations with a keen interest in Internet policy energetically formulated new demands and provided options for the way forward.

Best Bits, a coalition of global civil society groups and individuals active in Internet policy, has published a letter to the US Congress on Internet and telecommunications surveillance. CDT, which signed the letter, argued that it "highlights how the NSA’s surveillance activities not only threaten Americans’ constitutional rights but also the human rights of everyone."

Indeed, as the letter points out: 

"The introduction of surveillance mechanisms at the heart of global digital communications severely threatens human rights in the digital age."

While it is not easy to pinpoint violations of US laws and particular human rights breached by PRISM, the letter correctly identifies the troubling contradiction between US commitments to Internet freedom and the surveillance practices. 

"The contradiction between the persistent affirmation of human rights online by the US government and the recent allegations of what appears to be mass surveillance of US and non-US citizens by that same government is very disturbing and carries negative repercussions on the global stage. A blatant and systematic disregard for the human rights articulated in Articles 17 and 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which the United States is signatory, as well as Articles 12 and 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is suggested."

The law is very complex and international law may not offer definitive answers but the surveillance activities, at the very least, question whether consumer trust in US companies is well placed.

The Coalition calls upon the Obama administration and US Congress

  • "to take immediate action to dismantle existing, and prevent the creation of future, global Internet and telecommunications based surveillance systems."
  • "to allow involved or affected companies to publish statistics of past and future Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) requests they have received or may receive."
  • "to establish protections for government whistleblowers in order to better ensure that the public is adequately informed about abuses of power that violate the fundamental human rights of the citizens of all countries, US and other."
  • "[to create] an independent panel with subpoena power and all necessary security clearances to examine current practices and to make recommendations to ensure appropriate protections for the rights to privacy, free expression, and association. The results of this panel should be broadly published."

The letter to Congress is the second sent by Best Bits. The first went to the Human Right Council 
urging the UN body to 

"act swiftly to prevent the creation of a global Internet based surveillance system by:
  1. convening a special session to examine this case
  2. supporting a multistakeholder process to implement the recommendation of Mr La Rue that the Human Rights Committee develop a new General Comment 16 on the right to privacy in light of technological advancements, and,
  3. requesting the High Commissioner to prepare a report that:
    • formally asks states to report on practices and laws in place on surveillance and what corrective steps will they will take to meet human rights standards, and
    • examines the implications of this case in in the light of the Human Rights Council endorsed United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the “Protect, Respect and Remedy” Framework of A/HRC/RES/17/4.

Both policy approaches, a US-centred one and a global approach, are important and well placed. They are based on the same commitment ot human rights online as the 11 June 2013 Declaration of the Committee of Ministers on Risks to Fundamental Rights stemming from Digital Tracking and other Surveillance Technologies. 

The Council of Europe recalls that Council of Europe member states have undertaken 

"to secure to everyone within their jurisdiction the right to respect of private and family life, home and correspondence. Restrictions to this right can only be justified when it is necessary in a democratic society, in accordance with the law and for one of the limited purposes set out in Article 8, paragraph 2, of the Convention. ... [Member] States have negative obligations, that is, to refrain from interference with fundamental rights, and positive obligations, that is, to actively protect these rights. This includes the protection of individuals from action by non-state actors."

The NSA was no non-state actor, of course, but the companies holding data for European customers are. Again, legal questions are tricky, especially regarding the extraterritorial application of European data protection and privacy rights.

The Council of Europe finally identified the key challenge of weighing between

"the risks of digital tracking and other surveillance technologies for human rights, democracy and the rule of law and [...] the need to guarantee their legitimate use which benefits individuals, the economy, society at large, and the needs of law enforcement"

The revelations of  NSA's surveillance serve to put the role of human rights online squarely in the focus of the international community.  Thus it's truly an exciting time as I head towards Lisbon for the EuroDIG where I will join as speaker  a workshop on human rights on the Internet organized by IRP Coalition on Thursday and organize a flash panel on Internet surveillance on Friday. Stop by if you have time or attend remotely.

NSA is committed to the value of "protect[ing] national security interests by adhering to the highest standards of behavior". This is commenable. And true, since only by adhering to human rights (as the yardstick against which state behavior can be measured) can the NSA (or any other agency or state actor) ensure security, ideally human security.