Monday, June 6, 2011

United Nations And Human Rights In Cyberspace

Human Rights Protection in Cyberspace is urgently needed at National and International level. The call is for the United Nations to take that is “Slow” in this regard. No time in the history of Internet and Cyberspace the need for Protection of Human Rights in Cyberspace is more than the present times.

If the United Nations believes in Human Rights, it must start thinking towards its new form in this Internet Era. There is no reason why Human Rights in Cyberspace must be given any lesser importance than its traditional Human Rights. After all Human Rights like Right to Speech and Expression, Right to Information, Right to Know, Privacy Rights, etc are similar in Cyberspace. Rather violation of Human Rights in Cyberspace is much easier and more frequent.

What is most surprising is why UN has still not considered Cyberspace as an essential part of human life. If we analyse the trends World over, technology has been increasingly used to violate Human Rights in Cyberspace. Thus, UN must urgently protect Human Rights in Cyberspace.

Even the World community on Human Rights, Cyber Law and Cyber Security must start thinking in this direction as issues like Cyber Warfare, Cyber Terrorism, Cyber Espionage, Cyber Crimes, E-Surveillance, Unlawful Interceptions, etc are “Transnational” in nature. If different Countries would have different laws for these issues, it would be very difficult to truly enforce protective provisions against these menaces at National and International levels.

This is the reason why we must a “Harmonised Legal Framework” in this regard, preferably under the regime of United Nation’s Human Rights Organisation. The Governments all over the World are engaging in illegal and unlawful phone tapping and interceptions. This is violating various Human Rights that must be addressed immediately by the International Community.

The present UN Framework for Human Rights can be “Suitably Amended” to accommodate Human Rights in Cyberspace. Almost all the Countries of the World are Member of UN and this would extend Human Rights Protection in Cyberspace to their Citizens automatically. The call is for UN to take and the sooner it is taken by it the better it would for Citizens’ World wide.

Take the example of India. The Cyber Law of India is violating various Human Rights in Cyberspace. This is the main reason why we started the exclusive Cyberspace Human Rights Protection Centre of India. So much offensive is the Cyber Law of India that it deserves to be repealed.

Further, Indian Government launched Projects like Aadhar, National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID), Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and Systems (CCTNS), National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC), Central Monitoring System (CMS), Centre for Communication Security Research and Monitoring (CCSRM), etc. None of them are governed by any Legal Framework and none of them are under Parliamentary Scrutiny.

If there is no “Internationally Acceptable Standard” for Protection of Human Rights in Cyberspace, Countries like India would keep on enacting and applying the Draconian Laws like Information Technology Act, 2000, Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, Official Secrets Act, etc.

Finally, UN has shown some inclination in this regard. UN now considers Internet access a Human Right and considers disconnecting people from the Internet as a violation of Human Rights and International Law. A Report by the UN Human Rights Council’s 17th Session underscored the “unique and transformative" nature of the Internet allowing individuals to exercise a range of Human Rights, and to promote the progress of society as a whole.

I welcome this initiative of UN as this is a good step in the right direction. However, UN must not stop here and must move towards enacting a “Comprehensive Framework” for Protection of Human Rights in Cyberspace.

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