SIF13 (II). Reconciling freedom and security in cyberspace

Notes from the Stockholm Internet Forum on Internet Freedom for Global Development, held at Münchenbryggeriet (The Brewery) at Södermalm in Stockholm, Sweden, May 22-23, 2013. More notes on this event: #sif13.

Reconciling freedom and security in cyberspace

Moderator: Stephen Sackur, Journalist, Presenter HARDtalk at BBC World News.

Panelists: Ron Deibert, Director at the Canada Centre for Global Security Studies; Leslie Harris, President & CEO, Center for Democracy and Technology; Renata Avila, Global Voices, Guatemala, Ingeniero en Ciencias Informáticas; Cecilia Malmström, European Commissioner for Home Affairs in the Barroso Commission; Elaine Weidman, Vice President Sustainability and CR, Ericsson.

Govenrments are massively using technology for deep and comprehensive surveillance and, when contested, they ban or bar access to technology for the citizens to communicate, organize and have a voice.

There are three main pillars in the development of today’s technology: mobility, broadband and cloud.

Why should we trust corporate players in their commitment to privacy or security? Human rights are a political and moral construct, and only occasionally successful as a legal one. As such, easy to ignore. We have to maintain the same human rights in the digital world as in the physical world. Concerning trust, it is very important because if there is no trust that will affect the bottom line of a company.

Many citizens are concerned by internet security: will they be able to buy online without their money be stolen, will they be able to use social networking sites without their data being used for malicious purposes, etc.

But the problem is the Law or the platform? Because laws on hate speech already exist. The problem is that the Internet has been a game changer and many concepts just scape the boundaries of Law.

When we talk about cybersecurity we tend to call everything cybersecurity, and then begin to propose overreacted “solutions”. We need to have a common understanding of what is and what not cybersecurity, because security is not one single thing. When we talk about security, we need to define what we mean and then to have a sense of proportionality. Hate speech, political liberties, anonymity, etc. are not matters of security.

We are witnessing a roll-back of checks and balances in democratic nations. Legislation is becoming extreme and, worryingly enough, escaping the control of the citizen. Without democracy on the internet, we cannot use internet for democracy. Language, indeed, has been hardening when related to the Internet: e.g. plain activism has become cyberterrorism.

We have to tell ‘freedom’ from ’emancipation’, which are sometimes synonyms but sometimes are not. The best way to fight cybercrime is to protect human rights and the rule of law. You can’t have security without human rights.

The incorporation of new users to the Internet will mainly come from countries where there are totalitarian regimes, where religion plays a major role. And this will necessarily change the balance of forces or approaches that we now have on the Internet.


Stockholm Internet Forum on Internet Freedom for Global Development (2013)