Archives for October 2017

October 17, 2017 - Comments Off on Digital Rights Foundation in Hong Kong: Conversations on Data Protection, Gender, and Privacy

Digital Rights Foundation in Hong Kong: Conversations on Data Protection, Gender, and Privacy

Late last month, Digital Rights Foundation was in Hong Kong, taking part in two events concerning privacy - the 39th International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners (ICDPPC), and the 3rd Edition of the Privacy, Personality and Flows of Information (PPFI) workshop conference. DRF took part in a panel on Gender and Privacy in Asia at the PPFI workshop.

What is the ICDPPC & why did we go?

Inaugurated in 1979, the ICDPPC, according to Access Now, is a “forum which brings together a membership of 100 data protection authorities (DPAs) from more than 70 countries across the globe” with the decisions made at the forum being “influential” as “they shape data protection policy globally by providing guidance and tools for DPAs to fulfill their mandates.”

As we have highlighted through our advocacy campaigns and articles, Pakistan does not have data protection authorities or indeed data protection legislation, despite an overly broad cybercrime law - the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, passed in August 2016 - and a desire to be a new South Asian tech hub. DRF has been pushing for data protection provisions in the PECA both prior to and after its passage, to ensure that the private data of Pakistani citizens is protected. We went to Hong Kong to discern current global trends concerning data privacy, the nuances in a world where governments demand more surveillance and data retention powers, and what it all means for human rights, particularly in the Global South. The Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data, the DPA for Hong Kong, hosted this year’s forum, with the theme “Connecting West with East in Protecting and Respecting Data Privacy.”

The ICDPPC being held in Hong Kong  is an interesting choice of location, given the Chinese government’s interest in bringing Hong Kong judiciary et al in line with Beijing, something that has given independence and civil rights activists and lawyers concern. Given that the Government of Pakistan has signed up to be part of CPEC, as well as Shenzen-based Huawei being given the contract for Pakistan’s ambitious Safe Cities project, Digital Rights Foundation and other rights organisations should share that concern as well with the citizens of Pakistan.

At the ICDPPC there were recurring conversations being held, including: Internet of Things (IoT), the impact of data collection by Facebook, et al on personal privacy across international borders, biotech, the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR, to come into effect early 2018), and the evergreen concern of security versus privacy. There were calls by panelists at the ICDPPC to respect the necessity of strong encryption protocols, even in the face of calls by politicians for a loosening of encryption - e.g. the UK and US government calling for “backdoors” into encryption software and encrypted messengers such as WhatsApp.

Legislation as it stands in Pakistan does not permit encryption without prior permissions from and application to regulatory bodies, specifically the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority. Article 4 of the  2010 Monitoring and Reconciliation of Telephone Traffic Regulations (MTTR) requires that network operators allow for the monitoring and recording of real-time traffic both by and to be forwarded to the PTA. In July 2011 the PTA directed that encryption software and mechanisms that in its eyes contravene Article 4 of the MTTR to be banned. This condition of the PTA - which technically means that WhatsApp is some ways prohibited, yet widely used in Pakistan - is also one that a proposed digital protection authority and legislation in Pakistan may come up against, which in in turn is why the latter two are necessary, more now than ever.

What DRF hoped to see was more civil society involvement at the ICDPPC, with their concerns taken onboard. While there were civil society panelists - such as DRF partner Privacy International - the role of civil society in the development and larger discussions by the DPAs did not appear to be a large one.

About PPFI

Following the ICDPPC, DRF took part in the 3rd Edition of the Privacy, Personality and Flows of Information (PPFI) workshop conference, co-organised by the Office of the UN Special Rapporteur, Digital Asia Hub, and the University of Hong Kong. The workshop focused on Asian perspectives for privacy as a global human right, with us taking part in a panel that focused on Gender and Privacy in Asia.

An interesting observation by other participants - which also factored into our involvement on the panel - was the recurring trend of “honour” or “shame” being at the heard of privacy violation in Asian societies. A number of Asian countries, including Pakistan, do not have a word that directly translates into “privacy”, with some, such as Pakistan having synonyms for “personal”, which is telling in of itself.

DRF discussed what we observed through our training sessions and via our cyber harassment helpline, wherein the theft (and in some cases manipulation) of personal data would lead to young women being blackmailed, or else the perpetrators threatened to release their personal information to their families. It is the the fear of the latter, and how the family may react, that leads many victims to not come forward. When or if they do, however, there has been noticeable victim-blaming, even by officers of government authorities such as the Federal Investigation Agency, leading to further discouragement and disillusionment.

A key focus of our panel participation was the tragic case study of Qandeel Baloch, the Pakistani social media personality, on whom the Guardian had recently released a short documentary earlier last month. We highlighted that overarching patriarchal sensitivity and misogynist attitudes led to her personal information - her Pakistani passport and national ID card - being broadcast by media outlets, and journalists - some of whom whose own privacy had been attacked by the government - tweeting out her personal details. These directly led to her murder by her brother. What happened to Qandeel Baloch was, for lack of a better word, a perfect case study for the need for data protection legislation in Pakistan.

Written by Adnan Chaudhri

October 13, 2017 - Comments Off on Data Protection Law in Pakistan: Policy Recommendations by DRF

Data Protection Law in Pakistan: Policy Recommendations by DRF

In view of the commitments made by our government regarding the Open Government Partnership (OGP) and public statements by the Ministry of Information Technology (MoIT) to introduce a data protection law, Digital Rights Foundation has prepared a policy brief regarding data protection and privacy in the digital age.

Information and communications technologies provide immense opportunities and continue to grow in importance for all Pakistanis. However, their tremendous advancement has significantly impacted individuals’ ability to protect their digital identity, allowing for pervasive collection of their personal information by private companies and the government.

This policy brief significantly expands the discussion on legal safeguards, the general lack of guidance on Privacy and the broad powers given to the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) under the existing legal regime.

We at DRF believe that in order to ensure systemic change, government departments must be open to meaningful collaboration with civil society. We urge, therefore, that the law be drafted in a manner that is inclusive rather than exclusive, responding to consultations and recommendations, taking the input of civil society and the private sector to address the issues highlighted herewith.

These policy recommendations are part of larger efforts to ensure that the drafting process of our laws is held to public scrutiny, accountable and transparent, leading to an informed public debate about the lack of privacy protection for Pakistani citizens.

The policy brief can be found here, and we hope that our public officials will benefit from it as well.

Written by Jannat Ali

October 09, 2017 - Comments Off on September ’17 at DRF: The Team Traveled Far & Wide Talking About Digital Rights

September ’17 at DRF: The Team Traveled Far & Wide Talking About Digital Rights

DRF in Karachi

DRF in Karachi

The team of Digital Rights Foundation came to Karachi in the last week of September to talk to the people about all things digital rights. We were at British Council talking to women in our session titled "Hamara Internet: Reclaiming Online Spaces for Women", and to kids in the session titled "Anti-Cyber Bullying and Digital Awareness Workshop" on September 23 and 24th, 2017 respectively. We were then at the Institute of Advancing Careers and Talents (iAct) talking to the young students about Online Safety, followed by a panel discussion titled "Politicizing the Internet" at the Irtiqa Institute of Social Sciences. All in all, it was a busy but productive week in the bustling city of Pakistan.

“Hamara Internet: Reclaiming Online Spaces for Women”, British Council Library


Out trip in Karachi was off to a great start with some amazing women joining us to discuss the travails Pakistani women face on the internet. There was a great discussion about consent, victim blaming and of course digital security.

“Anti-Cyber Bullying and Digital Awareness Workshop”, British Council Library


It’s always great to work with kids and their parents, and this session was no different. We discussed cyberbullying, coping mechanisms and how our younger netizens can secure themselves online.

Online Privacy and Safety Workshop at the Institute of Advancing Careers and Talents (iAct)


Nighat Dad and Hija Kamran conducted a last minute workshop on Online Safety and Privacy during their trip to the city of lights, with the students of Institute for Advancing Careers and Talents (iAct) - a project of Habib University for the young students representing underprivileged areas of Karachi. During the training, Nighat and Hija emphasized on the importance of online safety and how it’s very essential to make informed decisions when browsing the internet. The session was concluded with a group photo with the amazing participants and a brief discussion on who takes the best selfies.

"Politicizing the Internet: Resisting Patriarchy Online" - A Panel Discussion at the Irtiqa Institute of Social Sciences


Third session in a day and the last session of DRF’s visit to Karachi was scheduled at Irtiqa Institute of Social Sciences. It was a panel discussion titled, “Politicizing the Internet: Resisting Patriarchy Online. Nighat Dad, Hija Kamran, Fatima Athar, and Danish Ali from DRF were part of the panel where they discussed how the online experiences of women and other marginalised groups differ from others, and how this difference in experience is followed by self-censorship. There was also a discussion on how women can resist oppression and advocate for change in the online and offline spaces.

Our Right to Safe Spaces Online - Workshop with Lawyers in Lahore


DRF conducted a 3 hour workshop with lawyers with a focus on digital rights. The workshop was titled ‘Our Right to Safe Online Spaces’ in which lawyers came together to discuss the ever changing problem of cyber harassment and hate speech. Participants discussed in detail about the prevailing laws in Pakistan and its implementation within institutions. They also discussed the importance of online safety and what measures to adopt in order to ensure their own safety as well as their clients.

Ending Cyber Harassment Against Women - Workshop at the University of Okara

Hamara Internet Okara Training-01

Jannat Fazal and Seerat Khan conducted a workshop on Ending Cyber Harassment Against Women with students of University of Okara on the 28th of September. More than 100 students participated in the event in which DRF touched key issues that women face online. Women shared their personal experiences of cyber harassment and harassment in general and were told about the remedies that are available to them in case of harassment.

UNESCO’s “International Day for Universal Access to Information” - Islamabad


DRF’s representatives took part in the event to mark the international day for universal access to information by adding a gender perspective and speaking in terms of new media. Shmyla Khan participated in a panel alongside Sadaf Khan (Media Matters), Neil Buhne (UN Resident Coordinator), Mr Ahmed Naeem (Deputy Director, Punjab Information Commission) and Owais Aslam Ali (Pakistan Press Foundation).

“Hamara Internet: Reclaiming Online Spaces for Women", Lahore British Council Library


Hyra Basit and Shmyla Khan conducted a workshop for young girls on issues of online harassment and digital security. The session brought to light specific problems faced by Pakistani women in Pakistan and an excellent discussion around patriarchy.

39th International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners, Hong Kong


In late September DRF took part in two events - the 39th International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners (ICDPPC), and the 3rd Edition of the Privacy, Personality and Flows of Information (PPFI) workshop, both held in Hong Kong. The PPFI workshop, co-organised by the Office of the UN Special Rapporteur, Digital Asia Hub, and the University of Hong Kong , focused on Asian perspectives for privacy as a global human right.

Members of DRF spoke at the PPFI as part the panel on Gender and Privacy in Asia. Our focus at this panel was to bring attention to the consequences of a lack of privacy through the lens of gender, highlighting the case of Qandeel Baloch. DRF also spoke about our research and experiences with training sessions in Pakistan, and how they reflected the on-the-ground realities of gendered harassment and loss of privacy.

Twitter Transparency Report, January – June, 2017: An Uptake in Requests by the Government


Pakistan is ranked 139 in the World Press Freedom Index 2017 and classified as “Partly Free” by Freedom House in 2016. Furthermore, Pakistan’s request to social media companies for information and content removal is increasing at an alarming rate. This trend has been reflected in the Twitter Transparency report released September 21, 2017. DRF analyzed the report that can be accessed here.

Exclusive: The CPEC plan for Pakistan’s digital future


A radical overhaul of Pakistan’s communications framework appears to be on the cards — or at least that is what Beijing and Islamabad have envisioned under their Long Term Plan (LTP) for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

A closer examination of the LTP document obtained in June by Dawn reveals intentions for a revamped communications framework, which includes components such as a fibre optic cable connecting Pakistan and China, a new submarine landing station for internet traffic flow, and digital TV for all. Details here.

Internet Shutdowns During Muharram


Internet Services were suspended in whole of Pakistan on September 29 to October 1, 2017 from 8 am till 10 pm in major parts of Pakistan to mark the religious events of Muharram due to the strict security arrangements to safeguard Muharram processions. Read details here.

Man sentenced to death over 'blasphemous' WhatsApp text


A Pakistani Christian man has been sentenced to death for blasphemy after he allegedly sent a Muslim friend a poem on WhatsApp that insulted Islam, a lawyer said Friday. Nadeem James was charged in July last year after his Muslim friend Yasir Bashir complained to the police that he received a poem on the messaging app that was derogatory toward the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and other holy figures. Details here.

ATC indicts four for blasphemy on social media


An Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) on Tuesday indicted four out of seven suspects for allegedly publishing blasphemous content about Islam on social media. ATC Judge Shahrukh Arjumand arraigned the suspects, who pleaded not guilty and decided to stand trial. Details here.

Blue Whale Challenge: Something Fishy


This week Pakistan joined the moral panic party surrounding the ‘Blue Whale Challenge’. Here is a detailed article separating fact from fiction.