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January 16, 2024 - Comments Off on Digital Rights Foundation’s Conference on Countering Digital Threats and Building Resilience of Communities

Digital Rights Foundation’s Conference on Countering Digital Threats and Building Resilience of Communities

December 15, 2023

ISLAMABAD: Digital Rights Foundation (DRF) held a conference titled, ‘Countering Digital Threats and Building Resilience of Communities’ on Friday, 15th December 2023 in Islamabad. DRF’s conference addressed the lack of discourse relating to online freedoms in the country particularly with the rise of hate speech and disinformation against vulnerable and at-risk communities in Pakistan. The conference brought together experts from across the country with two panels that highlighted DRF’s engagements and redressal mechanisms available in the country for at-risk communities in Pakistan.

The event started off with welcome remarks by Seerat Khan Programs Lead at DRF in which she highlighted the particular vulnerabilities that religious minorities face in the country, especially with respect to rising hate speech and disinformation. Nighat Dad, Executive Director at Digital Rights Foundation also noted that “With the upcoming elections we see how harmful content pertaining to religious minorities in the country is increasing, particularly (the elements of) disinformation and hate speech. The rise in hate speech and disinformation will be even more rapid with the use of AI and generative AI which is quite concerning. The Election Commission and government institutions need to address this and include hate speech in the code of conduct for political parties that the Commission is developing. Social media platforms also need to do more to address how hate speech and disinformation spread and impact they have on at-risk communities in countries like Pakistan.”

In 2021, DRF conducted a research on "Religious Minorities in Online Spaces (2021)," addressing communities' vulnerabilities to attacks, disinformation campaigns, harassment, and hate speech. The research mapped the experiences of religious minorities in online spaces and through surveys and interviews, we found a majority of respondents for the aforementioned research experienced online negativity, including backlash or threats on the basis of religious affiliation and/or a combination of factors.

The first panel of the conference, ‘Navigating Digital Boundaries: Combating Online Hate Speech and Disinformation’ was a conversation about the challenges posed by online hate speech and disinformation targeting at-risk communities. The panel was moderated by Senior Program Manager Zainab Durrani and included NCHR Secretary Mr. Kamran Rajar, Dr. Shoaib Suddle, One Man Commission for Minorities, Academic Dr. Ayra Patras, Journalist Sajjad Azhar and Director of Bolo Bhi, Usama Khilji. The panelists shed light on how online hate speech and disinformation manifest online and how to combat these as a community together.

Dr. Ayra Patras said,”When religious minority communities are ostracized in real life then you see the replication of this behavior online as well. We see more hate speech and there are no recompense mechanisms in place that actually work.” She added,”The social discrimination faced by these communities germinates into social exclusion and the consequences are far-reaching and become entrenched in real life.

The second panel of the event was on ‘Bridging the Digital Divide: Ensuring Equal Access for All’ which was moderated by Programs Lead Seerat Khan. The panel was joined by NCHR Member Minorities Manzoor Masih, Former Senator Farahtullah Baber, Community Leader and Activist Sunil Gulzar Khan and Cyber Harassment Helpline Manager Hyra Basit. The panel addressed mechanisms needed to ensure safe spaces for at-risk communities, particularly in light of the upcoming elections and the need for community building and resilience.

Senator Farhatullah Babar said,”The discussion around digital divide is very timely in light of  the upcoming elections. In Pakistan, media has played a great role in elections and online disinformation is a very real issue.” He added,”It is very important to considers all actors complicit in the online disinformation campaign and more than most, its the state is complicit”. He advocated for the Election Commission of Pakistan to develop a code of conduct for media house that is focused on combating disinformation on social media.

Digital Rights Foundation is a registered research-based NGO in Pakistan. Founded in 2012, DRF focuses on ICTs to support human rights, inclusiveness, democratic processes, and digital governance. DRF works on issues of online free speech, privacy, data protection and online violence against women.
For more information log on:


Nighat Dad 
[email protected]

Seerat Khan
[email protected]

Anam Baloch
[email protected]

September 29, 2021 - Comments Off on Evaluating Applications Developed by the Pakistani Government

Evaluating Applications Developed by the Pakistani Government

Faizan Ul Haq is currently a Senior at LUMS majoring in History. His interests include tech, philosophy, and social justice

A non-exhaustive database of mobile phone applications developed by the Pakistani government has been compiled by Faizan and can be accessed here.

It has been widely noted that Pakistan’s potential for IT development has grown vastly in the last decade or so. According to the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority’s Annual Report for 2019-2020, in the period from 2016 to 2020, Mobile phone data usage in Pakistan has increased from 614 petabytes to 4,498 – an increase of over 700% in just half a decade. In the same time period, the distribution of broadband services has doubled. While numerous reasons can be speculated for leading this change (from the availability of cheaper smartphones from Chinese providers like Q-Mobile and Huawei, to the increasing importance of IT in business development, and the proliferation of mobile internet), it is obvious either way that the digital world in Pakistan now presents a new avenue that can be harnessed for better governance and delivering services.

It makes sense, then, that in late 2019, Prime Minister Imran Khan inaugurated the “Digital Pakistan” initiative. In its policy objectives, what stands out is the emphasis towards using digital applications (henceforth referred to as apps) for “e-governance” and in “key socio-economic sectors”. While there have been a few apps released previously to help with the aforementioned, the current government is seems intent on maximizing this newfound potential.

Over a 100 different apps (as of the summer 2021) have been released on the Google Playstore for Android phones and the Apple store for iOS device by both the government, at the provincial, federal and, at times, the district level. Primarily developed by different provincial IT boards, they cover a wide range of functions including education, the regulation of pre-existing government bodies, agriculture, and online ticketing and booking. Some apps are meant only for citizens of a particular locale (such as the City Islamabad app), while others are targeted to people of a specific profession (the Lahore and Sindh High Court apps are targeted towards the legal community). A few apps have also been released to help deal with health and safety emergencies, such as the Baytee app meant to increase women’s safety and a number of apps aimed at helping track and register COVID cases in Pakistan.

However, just publishing apps does not immediately mean that those apps have helped fix the underlying issues, or that they have been effective in their stated objectives. Quite a few of these apps have dubious efficacy, and some appear to not work at all. There are a few clear trends as to which apps have worked and which have not.

A number of apps profess a wide range of features. The “City Islamabad” app promises a lot. With the goal of “bridge(ing) the gap between citizens and government” by removing the need to go to government offices to access public services and departments, the app is supposed to provide quick access to numerous forms and payment services that would otherwise would have only been available therein. In practice, the Playstore review page is full of complaints that not all of the forms actually work. People have pointed out that tokens generated aren’t always registered by relevant financial departments. Certain forms load indefinitely – either they have not been programmed in properly, or the forms just are not available on the app. At the same time though, certain key features of the app still work and function effectively. The part of the app that provides information on Islamabad’s major landmarks and public facilities loads instantly and provides accurate information, while a portion of the userbase reports successful payment of tax related tokens and response upon submitting complaints. It appears that while a wide number of features have been programmed in, not all of them are perfectly useable.

A similar issue exists with what is arguably the government’s flagship application, the Pakistan Citizen Portal. Most of the reviews posted in September and August 2021 are entirely negative and allude largely to the same issue: a large number of the complaints registered on the app do not actually appear to lead to anything concrete and are instead marked “resolved” without any appropriate action being taken. While this is likely not representative of all users who have used the app, it does imply a degree of miscoordination between the app’s complaint registration mechanism and the departments that are meant to cater to it. If it’s true that complaints being marked as resolved does not actually mean any action has been taken, the widely quoted  statistics on the application’s website need to be taken with a grain of salt, it’s unlikely that each of the 3.1 million . It also speaks to the limitations inherent in e-governance and service delivery through apps – the issues that are already present in government bodies are likely to be reproduced through the functioning of the app. For example, if government bodies continue to treat cases of harassment lightly because of misogynistic attitudes, then the solution lies in a structural reform of said government bodies instead of opening more digital portals to file complaints through.

On the contrary, apps that are targeted towards a specific group of people appear to have had more success. There are two broad types of apps like this: some that have been created solely for the use of people in certain government departments, and others for everyone who works in a particular profession. Apps in the former category include the “Price Magistrate” app – a complaint management app meant specifically for district magistrates. This app has seen less use compared to other apps on this list, and its review section is full of users confused at the lack of a registration option. Of the few reviews that do appear to be from its intended user base, it seems that the app functions well.

An app’s functionality however is not just defined by how well certain features work. Overtime, as more bugs are reported, new devices are released and as operating systems go through several iterations, the publisher needs to provide constant support through updates to ensure their functionality. This is especially important in Pakistan, where Android users are likely to be using a very diverse set of devices given the numerous smartphone companies that exist. Additionally, smartphones in different price ranges have specific limitations – differences in screen resolution, RAM, processing power, and networking features mean that developers need to ensure that their apps can work despite these limitations. If this diversity isn’t catered for, sections of the Pakistani population that can only afford cheap smartphones with weaker specifications are likely to be left out. This means that the demographic which is least likely to be digitally literate will now also face bugs and compatibility issues that make it harder for them to use these applications. Updates are also important to address any security issues on the app, most application updates are issued to fix security bugs that are discovered later on and unanticipated backdoors.

The most prolific publisher of Government apps thus far has been the Punjab IT Board (compared to the other regional boards and other publishers, who barely have half as many apps as the Punjab board between them). On their Android publisher page alone, they have over 70 apps published. Yet, their support for these apps has been sporadic. More than half of these have not been updated even once in 2021. While at best, this might lead to most of these apps functioning albeit with bugs, quite a few of them have been rendered completely unusable as a result. A large number of users report that quite a few of these apps no longer have a working system for logging in users owing to an issue in generating and processing an OTP key. Other apps have been rendered completely unusable – the Agri-Smart app has been rendered completely unusable for certain Android users since their devices’ IMEI codes cannot be accessed. These issues have remained unaddressed for months on end.

It is unclear what the status of these apps is – if such glaring issues exist, has support for them been dropped completely? This seems to be the case, because other apps have had the publisher release frequent updates and engage with reviews that have pointed out issues. The fact that these apps remain available for download despite issues with their usability and a lack of developer support is troubling and speaks to a pattern where apps are launched without the necessary infrastructure to conduct follow-ups. This has caused a fair amount of confusion on app stores, as people continue to download said apps and leave negative reviews because of the clear lack of functionality.

If this is demonstrative of a communication gap between app developers and the intended user base, it is not the end of it. Certain apps certainly seem like they are designed to be used by a large user base, but evidently have not been used as such. The Click ECP app meant to facilitate voters during each election cycle and the Covid-19 Tracker app for Lahore both remain with only over a 1000+ downloads on the Playstore, when it is intuitive that their usage numbers should be far in the thousands. The “Equal Access App” meant to help disabled individuals also remains unused as its user base still is unengaged. At best, this is likely to result in certain apps being unused by their target demographic. At worst though, this can open the door to privacy violations.

Upon first use, a lot of apps require permission to access certain information and features of a phone. While this can vary from app to app, the general rule of thumb is that apps tend to only ask for those permissions that are core to an app’s functionality. Instagram, for example, will only ask for permission to use your camera when you open the in-app camera for the first time. However, even this can run awry – the Facebook app has long been under suspicion for secretly recording conversations for advertisement purposes. A number of apps supported by the Pakistan government, however, ask for a lot of permissions right at first launch. The Pehchaan app (currently unavailable on the Playstore as of September 2021) immediately requests permission to access a user’s location on launch. The “Forest Management Information System” (FMIS) app requests not only access to location services, but also to use the phone’s camera, to “modify and delete contents” of media files saved on device or USB storage, and of Wi-Fi connections. Why the app requires any of this is puzzling, especially since there is no use for any of these features immediately after an app has been launched. This runs afoul of the Principle of Data Minimization – the idea that data collectors should only request and use data that is needed for a specific purpose. Ideally, that purpose should be communicated clearly and a privacy policy should be attached in any scenario where private data is needed. Given that there is little communication from the developers of why these permissions are needed in the first place, it’s extremely troubling that many people in Pakistan could agree to these permissions just to launch an app without realizing the extent to which their privacy is invaded. While Google Play store does include a requirement that each app have a privacy policy attached, the Punjab IT Board’s Privacy Policy seems inadequate. The fact that it’s a generic policy means that it does not cater to the way each individual app may request, use, and store user data. By contrast, the City Islamabad App’s privacy policy and the Pakistan Citizens Portal’s privacy policy at least both specify the kind of data that may be collected. The Punjab IT Board’s privacy policy might already be violated by the FMIS collecting the “the minimum amount of information” required by the app. It is clear that the Punjab IT Board’s privacy policy – under which most of the apps released so far fall under – can be comprehensive and applied more rigorously.

Ultimately, the legitimacy of the Digital Pakistan initiative is worth questioning. Despite the massive growth in Pakistan’s access to these digital technologies and the potential therein, the system put in place to actualize it deserves further scrutiny. The reception of apps published by the government needs to move beyond a tokenistic celebration of each app’s release, to an evaluation of their actual benefit and long-term functioning.

February 8, 2021 - Comments Off on DRF Statement on UN Resolution On Right To Privacy (16-12-20)

DRF Statement on UN Resolution On Right To Privacy (16-12-20)

The Digital Rights Foundation is excited by the resolution recently adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on the 16th of December, 2020, which reemphasizes the UN’s commitment to highlight the importance of the right to privacy.

The Resolution (75/176) adopted during the 75th session of the Assembly, while noting the Special Rapporteur reports of the Human Rights council on the subjects of right to privacy, freedom of expression and association as well as the UN Secretary General’s Roadmap for Digital Cooperation and a myriad of other factors. The resolution:

  1. Affirms the right to privacy as set out in Article 12 of the UDHR and Article 17 of ICCPR.
  2. Recognizes the paramount importance of the Internet as a tool to connect people and also aid in achieving Sustainable Development Goals.
  3. Affirms that the right to privacy must be translated into online spaces as well as offline.
  4. Asks the States to employ principles of legality, necessity and proportionality in any curtailment or limitation of citizens’ right to privacy.
  5. Encourages States to promote an environment of open and secure technology, based on respect for international law.
  6. Acknowledges impact of artificial intelligence on right to privacy and asks for such risks to be minimized and safe and high quality data infrastructures to be built with human oversight.

The document also involves a call addressed specifically to States, especially those signatory to the UDHR and ICCPR and also to business enterprises involved in the storage and processing of data that we will unpack in further posts.

We, as an organization invested in creating a safer internet for women and children and all people, welcome this Resolution and see it for the important step that it is towards achieving a breathable and secure digital age for all netizens.

January 28, 2020 - Comments Off on Citizens Groups, Journalists’ Body & Others Reject PEMRA’s Draconian Proposed Draft Regulations On Web TV & Other Allied Attempts

Citizens Groups, Journalists’ Body & Others Reject PEMRA’s Draconian Proposed Draft Regulations On Web TV & Other Allied Attempts


On government attempts to curtail freedom of expression, right to information and digital rights; and appropriation of internet and cyberspace

Citizens groups reject PEMRA’s draconian proposed draft regulations on Web TV and other allied attempts to undermine digital rights and freedom of expression 

Islamabad – January 28, 2020

We the public, citizens of Pakistan, the media sector and its practitioners, digital rights advocates, human rights groups, legal fraternity and the broader civil society in general, are alarmed and angry at recent government attempts clearly aimed at curtailing our fundamental rights to free speech and access to information through blatant attempts to restrict our digital rights and hijacking of internet and cyberspace to curb open discourse and online socio-economic freedoms and pluralisms, as well as distorting and limiting the media market.

In particular, the following initiatives, proposals and measures at the start of 2020, and preceding it, taken by the government and the state, among other things, as made public by government authorities, reported by the media and/or unofficial information through reliable sources, are alarming:

  • A draft proposal uploaded on its website by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) in January titled “Consultation on Regulating the Web TV & Over The Top TV (OTT) Content Services”
  • Parallel/alternative draft, regulations not made public but reportedly possessed and distributed to selected authorities by PEMRA and presented before the federal cabinet that reportedly include even more stringent provisions than the ‘public’ version of the draft.
  • A draft proposal by Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) not formally circulated among the public but shared with parliamentary committees, aiming to establish so-called guidelines to “prevent harm to persons” on the internet but apparently aimed at restricting online freedom of expression and right to information.

A public consultation co-organized by BoloBhi, Digital Rights Foundation (DRF), Freedom Network (FN), Institute for Research, Advocacy and Development (IRADA) and Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ)  – all independent civil society Pakistani organizations championing the rights of journalists, civil liberties and digital rights of all citizens – and attended by dozens of journalists and media practitioners, digital rights activists, IT industry representatives, internet service providers, human rights groups, women’s rights advocates, lawyers, social media practitioners, and media rights groups, considered in detail all the recent announced and unannounced government measures and official and unofficial drafts.

All the above proposed measures, policies, drafts and proposals were rejected outright with consensus by the participants of the open consultation. The stakeholders and participants agreed that there is no need for the proposed drafts and proposals at all and, therefore, no need to respond to the individual clauses of both the declared and undeclared drafts from PEMRA, PTA and other sources, as they are redundant. Proposing amendments to these drafts would amount to  lending legitimacy to their unfair and non-representative, and often malicious, intent and content.

The stakeholders rejected the drafts in their totality as attempts at expanding the PEMRA footprint slyly by usurping and self-according to itself the mandate to regulate the internet with the thinly disguised aim to regulate online content. PEMRA’s legal mandate is to regulate the broadcast industry, not even regulate broadcast content, let alone online content,  while any attempts to self-expand its mandate to regulate the internet are dangerous by implication, and downright illegal, which will end up undermining Pakistan’s digital future.


The participants agreed and declared the following:

  1. The environment for free speech for the citizens and the media is already heavily curtailed in Pakistan as part of an ongoing process of suppressing civil liberties and engendering a climate of censorship. These newly proposed regulations and measures, through publicized and unpublicized versions of drafts, can and will be used to censor online content and curb freedom of expression and right to information of media practitioners and citizens.
  2. These anti-freedom of expression, anti-right to information measures and drafts cannot and should not be instituted through ‘regulations’ by bypassing legislative processes or without direct public-parliament consultations, or in violation of Articles 19 and 19A of the Constitution. Furthermore, the  proposed regulations are beyond the statutory mandate of PEMRA  and therefore must not be adopted through regulations or notifications alone. This is obvious in the much higher license fee for news and current affairs Web TV channels as compared to other entertainment Web TV platforms in the proposed regulation. The drafts will also disproportionately impact independent content creators due to the proposed onerous licensing requirements.
  3. The official and unofficial drafts, including those from PEMRA, are thinly disguised as draconian attempts to discourage new media journalism, including YouTube / website channels being run by Pakistani journalists who have been forced out from mainstream media over the past two years by the authorities to curtail their professional and/or entrepreneurial work, or dozens of entrepreneurial and non-legacy current affairs news and current affairs websites that are filling the gaps in information from legacy media and providing useful local community information. No one should be charged a fee for operating information services online through independent websites
  4. The proposals and the official and unofficial drafts seem to be attempts to indirectly materialize the otherwise rejected idea of Pakistan Media Regulatory Authority (PMRA) – the widely rejected proposal floated by the PTI government in 2019 to serve as a single controlling authority for print, broadcast and online media. This will also amount to overstretching of PEMRA’s jurisdiction beyond its statutory mandate and encroach on the mandate of other regulators.This will also amount to overstretching of PEMRA’s jurisdiction beyond its statutory mandate and encroach on the mandate of other regulators
  5. Through these regulations, PEMRA seems to be proposing to assume/acquire Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA)-type powers for itself, which have already proved controversial (and which themselves require amendments for overreaching mandate in violation of constitutional articles) and a thinly disguised framework to hinder freedom of expression online, as the cases under it against several journalists and citizens prove, and other digital rights.


The participants warned the citizens, the netizens, media, information practitioners, the government, the opposition, legislatures, political parties, civil society, rights groups, media regulators of the following consequences if the proposed new measures, proposals and drafts are approved:

Regression of a digital economic future for Pakistan: Net neutrality and easier and cheaper access to the internet is central for a robust digital future of Pakistan. The newly proposed declared and undeclared measures will become a barrier for a broad range of players in not just the information, telecom and internet access business domains but for digital entrepreneurship and start-up ecosystems as well as contribute to a widening gap between the digital and non-digital natives.

Decreased freedom of expression, increased censorship and diminished digital rights:

Pakistan is already poorly ranked on all key annual global indexes of freedom of expression and digital rights, including those of Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF), Committee to Protect Journalist (CPJ), Freedom House (FH) and International Federation of Journalists (IFJ). The newly proposed declared and undeclared measures will curb online free speech and digital rights further and bring levels of online censorship on a par with offline censorship and damage democracy.

Circumscribed access to information and weakened pluralisms:

Social media access and usage by the citizens of Pakistan is growing as a means of access to information that is now routinely curtailed on mainstream offline media. The newly proposed declared and undeclared measures will not only diminish access to information but also curtail online social discourse and pluralism of information sources that are necessary for Pakistan’s pluralist polity and strengthening human rights and democracy.

The death of creativity, initiative and productivity:

Free expression, the arts and visual and performance disciplines are key to a creative twenty-first century digital society. The newly proposed declared and undeclared measures will stifle the arts, strangulate the media, disrupt local community information services, undermine online education and health campaigns, sabotage state-to-citizen digital engagement and outreach, and simply push Pakistan back to the twentieth century.


The participants and stakeholders made a vociferous appeal to the Parliament, the political parties, the federal and provincial governments and the Prime Minister to prevent any and all attempts from all quarters to sneak into policymaking all such measures as the proposed official and unofficial drafts mentioned above that will hinder Pakistan’s march into a digital future in a globally connected world. They urged an immediate official rejection of the measures and drafts in line with the interests of the citizens of Pakistan.

  1.  AGHS Legal Aid Cell
  2.  ASR Resource Centre 
  3.  Aurat March Karachi 
  4.  Bolo Bhi
  5.  DRF - Digital Rights Foundation
  6.  FN - Freedom Network
  7.  HRCP - Human Rights Commission of Pakistan
  8.  Internet Service Providers Association of Pakistan
  9.  IRADA - Institute for Research, Advocacy and Development
  10.  Mangobaaz
  11.  Network of Women Journalists for Digital Rights (140 members)
  12.  People’s Commission for Minorities Rights
  13.  PFUJ - Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists
  14.  SAP Pakistan 
  15.  Women Action Forum - Hyderabad 
  16.  Women Action Forum - Islamabad 
  17.  Women Action Forum - Karachi 
  18.  Women Action Forum - Lahore 
  19.  Women Democratic Front
  1. Adnan Rehmat - journalist, analyst and media rights activist
  2. Ailia Zehra - NayaDaur
  3. Afia Salam
  4. Alveena Sajid -  Express News
  5. Ammar Masood - Columnist - AAP Communication
  6. Aneela Ashraf
  7. Anis Haroon - Feminist
  8. Annam Lodhi
  9. Asma Sherazi - Journalist
  10. Badar Alam - journalist, former editor Herald
  11. Gharidah Farooqi - Journalist AAP News
  12. Haroon Rashid - Independent Urdu
  13. Jalila Haider - activist, lawyer
  14. Laiba Zainab - NayaDaur
  15. Maleeha Mengal
  16. Manal Khan
  17. Moneeza Jahangir - Journalist
  18. Nadia Malik - Geo News
  19. Najia Ashar - CEO Global Neighbourhood for Media Innovation
  20. Nasir Zaidi
  21. Nasreen Shah - Member WAF
  22. Neelam Hussain - Member WAF
  23. Nighat Saeed Khan - Feminist
  24. Peter Jacob 
  25. Qurrat ul Ain Shirazi, Hum News
  26. Ramsha Jahangir - Journalist Dawn Newspaper
  27. Rubina Saigal - Member WAF
  28. Sabahat Khan - Journalist
  29. Saqib Jillani - Lawyer
  30. Sana Ejaz - Journalist
  31. Shabana Arif 
  32. Shehzada Zulfiqar - President PFUJ
  33. Sumaira Ashraf Rajput - Public News
  34. Tahira Abdullah - human rights activist
  35. Umaima Ahmed - TNS
  36. Wahaj Siraj - CEO Nayatel 
  37. Zeenat Khan
  38. Zoya Anwer - Freelance Multimedia Journalist

March 7, 2019 - Comments Off on February 2019: DRF launches Ab Aur Nahin – a legal portal for survivors of harassment and abuse

February 2019: DRF launches Ab Aur Nahin – a legal portal for survivors of harassment and abuse

DRF is proud to launch it's latest venture Ab Aur Nahin which is a legal portal for survivors of harassment and abuse. The portal aims to help individuals stand up against abuse and help bring us closer to achieving our goal for creating safe spaces everywhere. The portal has a network of lawyers from across Pakistan who will be providing legal assistance to victims of abuse and harassment. The portal comes in light of current #MeToo movement in Pakistan and the growing number of cases of harassment that DRF has been receiving. Click here to read the details about the portal.

DRF releases a Policy Brief on Online Harassment in Pakistan

Policy Brief

In view of the increasing problem impacting all users especially women online, DRF has prepared a policy brief regarding online harassment through a gendered lens. The policy brief significantly expands the discussion on legal remedies available to the victims of online harassment and the lack of awareness regarding Information and communication technologies amongst masses. Click here to view the policy brief.  

Nighat Dad at ‘The Conversation’ held at IBA, Karachi

IBA, Karachi hosted an event for the BBC titled, ‘The Conversation’ where Nighat Dad also took part as a panelist. The panel also consisted of Pakistan’s football captain Hajra Khan, actress Mahira Khan and a comedian Faiza Saleem. The panel discussion was moderated by Kim Chakanetsa where the panelists probed into the challenges, frustrations and joys of being a woman in Pakistan. Ms. Dad, talking about DRF’s cyber harassment helpline, discussed that around 60 percent of the people that call for help comprise of women facing blackmail and dealing with sexual assault issues. She addressed the audience and highlighted the necessity of speaking up about mental health issues and cautioned them about the safe usage of social media and the internet. Click here to listen to the whole session.

DRF at ‘Imagine a Feminist Internet South Asia’, Sri Lanka


Jannat Fazal represented DRF at ‘Imagine a Feminist Internet South Asia’ held in Negombo, Sri Lanka on 21st and 22nd February. The two-day regional conference brought together researchers, practitioners and policymakers from across South Asia for critical conversations seeking to answer the question: What opportunities does technology provide to question and, ultimately, start changing gender norms? The event focused on sharing research and findings around making a feminist internet.

DRF conducted series of seminars on “Fostering Open Spaces in Pakistan: Combating Gender-Specific Threats to Women's Activism Online”

The DRF team conducted a series of advocacy seminars entitled “Fostering Open Spaces in Pakistan: Combating Gender-Specific Threats to Women's Activism Online” in collaboration with International Media Support (IMS).

The Seminars took place in the four provincial capitals and Islamabad in the third and fourth weeks of February and will be followed by in-depth digital security trainings under the same head.

The envisioned aim of the seminars was to discuss the findings of the pilot study, and the recommendations drawn from the study and to glean insight and input from the participants regarding their experience of existing in the online sphere as women information practitioners in Pakistan.


Seminar held in Lahore

Seminar held in in Karachi

Seminar held in Islamabad

DRF at Social Media Festival

Shmyla Khan and Nighat Dad from Digital Rights Foundation participated in the second Social Media Festival 2019 at the University of Lahore on 22nd Feb. Nighat was the Keynote speaker for the session “Concept of Cyber Security and Modern Threats”. Shmyla represented DRF at the panel titled “Women in Technology Inclusion: Global and Local Perspectives” along with Nayab Gohar Jan, Fouzia Bhatti and Baela Raza Jamil.

Submission to UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Speech and Expression: Surveillance Industry and Human Rights

DRF made a submission to the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on call for submissions on the surveillance industry and human rights on February 15, 2019. In the report DRF calls for effective and human rights compliant national legislation on digital privacy and data protection that provides for robust safeguards against intrusion from surveillance technologies as well as international commitments from nation states for transparency around sale and transfer of surveillance technology. The submission can be accessed here.

Nighat Dad on Aaj News, Dawn and Geo News

Nighat Dad appeared on Aaj News, Dawn and Geo News to give her opinion on the recent social media crackdown happening in Pakistan. Earlier the Information Minister, Fawad Chaudhry, announced the federal government’s plans to initiate a comprehensive crackdown on “hate speech” on social media in Pakistan. She talked about how the crackdown would lead to further curb on freedom of expression and it has not been defined what constitutes as hate speech and what falls under free speech, making this crackdown even more problematic.

DRF at the roundtable consultation by UNESCO

DRF took part in a roundtable consultation on “Mapping emerging challenges for independent journalism and exploring solutions under the Sustainable Development Goals Framework” in Islamabad. The event served as a platform for sharing best practices, recommendations and to develop synergies between stakeholders to strengthen monitoring and reporting mechanisms to promote safety of journalists. Representatives of DRF urged that freedom of expression in online spaces should not be curbed and independent journalists and bloggers should also be able to exercise their fundamental rights.

Students from Beaconhouse School System Bahria Town Branch at DRF

Students from Beaconhouse School System Bahria Town Branch visited DRF's office to discuss violence against women for their project. The girls asked our team questions regarding the threats that women face in online and offline spaces and how it is each individual's responsibility to challenge the patriarchal norms that have been set in the society and preach of equality and due justice by adopting more feministic approaches in life. While they visited they talked about how they'd like to be part of the Aurat March.

Seminar on Cyber Harassment at Gender Studies Department, Punjab University

Nighat Dad conducted a session at Punjab University with students of the Gender Studies Department. The discussion involved an overview of the laws relating to online harassment and other Cyber Crimes, as well as basic issues relating to online privacy. It was an interactive discussion in which the students actively engaged with the topics in focus.

DRF at the launch of Pakistan Forum for Democratic Policing - Punjab Chapter\

DRF participated in Rozan’s launch and first meeting of Pakistan Forum for Democratic Policing (PFDP) -  Punjab Chapter on February 28. The event focused on the need and importance of police reforms, progress and commitment of the current government towards improving the situation of gender-based violence and the role of civil society in promoting gender-sensitive society and police.

DRF at Fatima Jinnah Women University, Rawalpindi

DRF conducted a seminar entitled “Our right to safe online spaces” in collaboration with UN Women in Fatima Jinnah Women University, Rawalpindi on February 14. The aim of this seminar was to mainstream digital rights in public discourse and to discuss the gravity of cyber harassment and its implications in cultural context.

DRF participated at the Rapid Response Network for Women Human Rights Defenders

DRF participated as a key stakeholder in the meeting arranged by Shirkat Gah - Women’s Resource Centre (SG) and Punjab Commission on the Status of Women’s (PCSW) Rapid Response Network (RRN) in Lahore on February 4th, 2019. The objective of this network is to secure and provide immediate relief to human rights defenders across Pakistan working on freedom and empowerment of women.

February 15, 2019 - Comments Off on The State Vs Usman Sohail Butt

The State Vs Usman Sohail Butt


The accused, Usman Sohail Butt, was charged under the following sections of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016 (“PECA 2016”):

  • Section 3 (Unauthorised access to information system or data)
  • Section 4 (Unauthorised copying or transmission of data)
  • Section 20 (1) (Offences against dignity of a natural person)  
  • Section 21 (c) (Offences against modesty of a natural person)


The complaint was filed by the brother of the victim against Usman Butt. He stated that the victim was married to the accused for two years before the marriage was dissolved. Subsequently, the accused hacked the victim’s Facebook account and used it to post ‘objectionable pictures’ of her along with her phone number. After receiving the complaint, the requisite officer at the FIA obtained data from Facebook headquarters and confirmed that the account was in use by Usman Sohail Butt. Thereafter, a mobile phone and tablet were recovered from the accused. Upon gaining possession of Usman Butt’s mobile phone, the officer noted that the accused was logged in to the victim’s Facebook account. This was confirmed through subsequent forensic analysis of the phone.


The learned Magistrate of the District Court held that the Prosecution had proved its case beyond reasonable doubt, and convicted the accused for the following offences under PECA 2016:

  1. Section 3-Unauthorised access to information system or data with imprisonment of 2 months
  2. Section 4-Unauthorised copying or transmission of data  with imprisonment of 4 months
  3. Section 21 (c)Offences against modesty of a natural person—Intimidates a natural person with any sexual act, or any sexually explicit image or video of a natural person with imprisonment of 30 months.

The charge under  s.20(1) (Offences against dignity of a natural person) was not proved and thus set aside.


This was a clear-cut case involving hacking and intimidation through dissemination of sexually explicit material through the hacked account. The conviction was based on statements of six witnesses, corroborated by documentary evidence.

With the cooperation of Facebook, the FIA was able to confirm that the account was in use through Usman Sohail Butt’s mobile phone, and the internet connection was also traced back to him. This shows the importance of cooperation with international entities that can aid such cases by providing data in a timely and efficient manner.

The Court also noted the seriousness of the crime, stating “whenever any objectionable image of a person is transmitted through the information system it can never be fully erased and these images continuously pass from one person to another for an indefinite period”. It further acknowledged the long term impact on victims due to ostracisation from society as a result of such crimes.

This post has been authored by Namra Gilani.



Digital Rights Foundation (DRF) has launched a pro bono online portal for women seeking legal representation and psychological counselling in cases of harassment and gender-based violence. The website works by linking victims/survivors to helpful resources and connecting them with qualified and experienced pro bono lawyers so they receive all the help they need to combat the cycle of violence and abuse.

In light of the #MeToo movement worldwide and the national conversation around harassment, an unprecedented number of women have been coming forward to share their experiences of gender-based violence and abuse.

“The #MeToo movement has opened the floodgates for women’s testimonies and stories; it has also shown us the true scale of the problem as it stands in Pakistan as well as around the world. Institutional support and resources are needed to provide both legal and mental health support to survivors of harassment.” - Nighat Dad, Executive Director, Digital Rights Foundation

The aim of this portal, “Ab Aur Nahin”, is to help women who want to take legal action against their harassers but are discouraged to do so due to inaccessibility of resources. The portal ( currently has over 42 lawyers from across Pakistan out of which 26 are women lawyers and the portal hopes to expand its database to include more professionals with the passage of time. We realise that support for survivors of harassment and gender-based violence should be holistic, which is why we also provide resources for mental health counselling on the portal.

Our network of lawyers is built across Pakistan to ensure that women from different geographical destinations can approach them without any hassle. The Cyber Harassment Helpline established by DRF in 2016 has received 2302 calls over a period of two years regarding incidents of gender based violence and harassment. We saw that a large number of women wanted to proceed against the harassers legally but were either financially restrained or did not have access to a lawyer. Keeping in mind these profound reservations of women, this portal is an attempt to cater to their needs so as to serve as a helping hand to these incredibly strong women who did not only vocalize their stories but wish to pursue their cases legally.

Digital Rights Foundation is a registered research-based advocacy non-governmental organization in Pakistan. Founded by Nighat Dad in 2012, DRF focuses on ICTs to support human rights, inclusiveness, democratic processes, and digital governance. DRF works on issues of online free speech, privacy, data protection and online violence against women.

Contact person:

Nighat Dad

Executive Director, Digital Rights Foundation

[email protected]

January 8, 2019 - Comments Off on Digital Rights Foundation launched “Cyber Harassment Helpline: Two Year Report”

Digital Rights Foundation launched “Cyber Harassment Helpline: Two Year Report”


Digital Rights Foundation’s (DRF) Cyber Harassment Helpline marked it’s two year milestone by launching the “Cyber Harassment Helpline: Two Year Report”. Helpline received 2302 complaints from December 1, 2016, till November 30, 2018,  with an average of 91 calls each month. 59% of the calls at the Helpline were by women, whereas 41% of the callers were men. The Helpline team also put forward recommendations for victim-centric reform to ensure that online spaces are safe for all.

Launch of report titled "Participants of female politicians in Pakistan's General Election 2018" in Islamabad

letter 2018

DRF held a seminar to launch its report titled “Online Political Participation of Female Politicians in Pakistan’s General Election 2018” on December 7, Friday in Islamabad. The event was organized in partnership with Democracy Reporting International (DRI) and the report has been supported by Heinrich Boll Stiftung Pakistan (HBS). The keynote address was delivered by Senator Sherry Rehman, where she highlighted the need for a terms of engagement with regards to social media and conduct. She also urged political party leaders to lead by example, “party leadership has to lay down the law regarding statements that demean women; degrading other women demeans us all”.
The seminar commenced with an introduction by Javed Malik, Country Representative at Democracy Reporting International (DRI). This was followed by a panel discussion titled “Social media for female political engagement: a tool or a curse?” The panel was moderated by Nighat Dad and the panelists included Senator Faratullah Babar, Senator Quratulain Marri, PMA Sumera Shams, MNA Shandana Gulzar, journalist Amber Shamsi, civil society member Nosheen Khurram from TDEA, activist Usama Khilji from Bolo Bhi and Mavra Bari  from HBS. Click here for more details.

Nighat Dad on Hum News and Geo News

Nighat Dad, on Hum News and Geo News, talked about the trends and findings that came through of DRF’s recent report which analyses the use of social media during 2018 General Elections in Pakistan. The report focuses on the online hate and harassment faced by women politicians and issues related to elections in the digital age. Ms. Dad talked about how the experience of women politicians is qualitatively different, where the harassment is gendered and is marked by sexist and abusive comments online.

DRF released ‘Experiences of Online Harassment in Pakistan: Case Studies from the Cyber Harassment Helpline’


DRF released its study documenting the experiences of Pakistani women with online harassment during the 16 days of Activism Campaign. These case studies capture the experience of Pakistani women in digital spaces and puts forward recommendations based on these lived experiences. These cases highlight the seriousness of online violence against women and the challenges women face in these spaces. Click here to download the report.

Talk on privacy and global responses at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS)

Shmyla Khan delivered a talk at the annual LUMS Model United Nations (LUMUN) Conference on December 31. The talk was regardings the right to privacy in the digital age and the implications that can have for international law and regulatory authorities. Students from across Pakistan participated in the event.

DRF continued it’s #16Days of Activism Campaign

DRF continued it’s 16 Days of Activism campaign in December which focused on the theme of gender based violence at the workplace this year. During the campaign, which started on 25th November, DRF collaborated with the Network of Women Journalists for Digital Rights who shared their experiences and challenges from the field of journalism. Moreover, a study documenting the experiences of Pakistani women with online harassment was released during the 16 days Campaign. Blogs and video testimonials were also shared of journalists to highlight the importance of taking measures to tackle violence against women in all fields.

Policy dialogue for protecting the democratic space for women

policy dialogue

On account of 16 Days of Activism Campaign, Department for International Development (DFID) and DRF held a policy dialogue on protecting the democratic space for women. Emphasis was laid on the how should the private sector, government and civil society best support the securing of safe digital spaces for women and girls in Pakistan through regulation, data and advocacy.

Session in Abdul Wali Khan University, Mardan on Peace Building and Cyber Security Measures


Digital Rights Foundation in collaboration with Shaoor Foundation spoke at the Abdul Wali Khan University, Mardan on cyber security and data protection on 10th December 2018. An interactive session took place with students around ethical practices online and the implications of the online world on one's offline life. The session also focused on how internet at times could be used as a radicalization tool by terrorist groups and how it is important to maintain healthy practices online.

Session in Bacha Khan University, Charsadda on Peace Building and Cyber Security Measures

bacha khan

Digital Rights Foundation in collaboration with Shaoor Foundation spoke at the Bacha Khan University, Charsadda on cyber security and data protection on 11th December 2018. A much needed debate around safer use of the internet took place with the students. The conversation also focused on how the internet should be used responsibly and how some groups use it for radicalization purposes which needs to be put to an end.

DRF at the Women Judges Summit

judge summitjudge summit

Nighat Dad, the Executive Director of DRF, spoke at the Women Judges Summit on December 22, on cyber security and what the judiciary can do to promote a culture of online safety. The event, which was held from December 21 to 23 was hosted by the U.S. Department of Justice and the purpose was to bring together women judges from across the country, to discuss, among other things, barriers to access to the justice sector and barriers to advancement within the legal profession. The judges also shared their experiences from their respective provinces and formulated possible solutions to counter bias and other impediments to the justice system, while building bridges between the senior and junior judicial leadership.

Amongst the many other points raised by her, Ms. Dad stressed upon the importance of the members of the judiciary keeping themselves abreast of the technological advances, reminding them that every case related to the cyber was unique in its own way  and called for judicial education to include a section on cyber crime, given its relevance in this day and age.

DRF at Child Protection Awareness Campaign


Nighat Dad spoke at the closing ceremony of British Council’s Child Protection Awareness Campaign held on 18th December. She talked about how children can protect themselves online and how parents can make sure their children use the internet safely. The event was organized to educate school teachers and coordinators on child neglect and child abuse so as to reduce the impact of abuse on present and future generations. The closing ceremony acknowledged the role of principals and teachers to empower children in their own protection and also to promote school based child protection mechanism to prevent and respond to child abuse. The ceremony began with a keynote address by the Country Director British Council, Rosemary Hilhorst. Other speakers from civic organisations also gave more insights on child protection policies and practices.

Workshop on Ethical Journalism and Digital Rights for Journalists, Karachi


On 21st December 2018, DRF conducted a workshop for journalists in Karachi on ethical journalism and digital rights. The workshop consisted of an awareness raising session on digital rights and the legal landscape that governs digital platforms for freedom of media and journalists. This was followed by a discussion on whether the existing media ethics are suitable for the evolving digital media landscape or new and different standards are needed. The deliberations also focused on actions needed to tackle the spread of fake news and disinformation online. This was found particularly important by the participants as digital misinformation is extremely potent in Pakistan, owing to a large segment of the population lacking digital literacy and being vulnerable to all kinds of online and digital propaganda. The participants were also given hands-on training and specifically designed toolkits to guide them on how they can make online spaces safe for themselves.

Workshop on ethical journalism and online safety with Digital Broadcast TV, Islamabad

On 26th and 27th December 2018, DRF conducted a two-day workshop with the staff of DBTV in Islamabad. The workshop was part of DRF’s initiative of conducting online safety trainings with media houses considering the increasing importance of cyber security, particularly for media organisations, whose most valuable assets are their content. Two interactive sessions were conducted on ethical journalism and fake news in the digital era, which the participants found quite useful. Effective tools and protocols for online safety were also discussed to safeguard the highly sensitive information of media houses and how to maintain its privacy.

DRF at Indus News discussing social media in 2018


On December 25, Jannat Fazal discussed the ongoing social media trends that have been observed in the year 2018. One of the major trends noticed was the increase in scam calls that lead to online harassment. An example of such scams is WhatsApp hacks which have exponentially increased specifically in the past three months. One of the major pitfalls in these scams is language barriers and gullibility of the user that traps them in this uncanny fraud.

DRF at GEO News discussing the Impact of Social Media

On December 31, 2018, Jannat Fazal spoke on the potential impact of social media on children and how it affects their mental health. She talked about how excessive use of social media leads to mental illnesses but no cause and effect relationship has been identified through research. Mental illnesses have different determinants, social media can be one of them but there is not enough research to posit it as a cause.

Members of Network of Women Journalists for Digital Rights continued to pen articles and blogs


Members of DRF's Network of Women Journalists for Digital Rights continued to share articles and blogs on digital rights issues which can be found on the Hamara Internet website here. The Network advocates for women and other minority groups to have safe access to online platforms, where they can exercise their constitutional right of free speech without facing constant threats. The Network members pen articles to document these threats, bring forward issues in the implementation of legislation to prevent and protect women journalists from gender-based discrimination and sexual harassment both online and offline, and also advocate their access to effective remedies.



September 12, 2018 - Comments Off on August 2018 – A study on the Punjab Safe Cities Authority (PSCA)

August 2018 – A study on the Punjab Safe Cities Authority (PSCA)




Digital Rights Foundation’s research titled “Punjab Government’s Safe Cities Project: Safer City or Over Policing?” was launched which looked at the privacy rights implications of the Punjab Safe Cities Authorities and digital urban policing in general.

The study can be found here.

Guidebook on Ethical Journalism on Digital Platforms

Digital Rights Foundation published a “Guidebook on Ethical Journalism on Digital Platforms”. New digital forms of media are more interactive, immediate and always on, and the media landscape is evolving at a furious pace. This has led to professional journalists sharing the same online space with tweeters, bloggers and social media users.

The Guidebook looks at the question of whether the existing media ethics are suitable for this evolving digital media landscape or new and different standards are needed. It discusses how the growing use of digital platforms for the creation and dissemination of news and information and spread of hoaxes, rumors and disinformation through this medium has led to demands for consistent ethical standards for online spaces. The Guidebook can be found here.

DRF organized a workshop on ‘Ethical Journalism & Digital Rights for Journalists’

On August 1, 2018, DRF organized a workshop for journalists on ethical journalism and digital rights in Lahore. The aim of the workshop was to discuss whether the existing media ethics are suitable for the evolving digital media landscape or new and different standards are needed. The session also aimed to highlight what are digital rights and to create awareness about the legal landscape that governs digital platforms for freedom of media and journalists.

Around 33 journalists from print and media joined the session and actively participated in the workshop. They gave great recommendations on how to tackle fake news and disinformation online, considering how most of the population in Pakistan lacks digital literacy and is vulnerable to all kinds of online and digital propaganda.

The workshop was concluded by a digital training by DRF’s digital security trainers on how journalists can make online spaces safe for themselves by adopting various tools and resources available to them. The participants were eager to join such sessions in the future as they had very little knowledge about digital rights and the ways journalists can protect themselves online.


Consultation at Punjab Commission on the Status of Women

Digital Rights Foundation took part in PCSW’s consultation between civil society and law enforcement agencies held on August 2, 2018. Our members raised their concerns regarding online harassment and the gaps in government service delivery to address the issue.

Recommendations for the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2018

DRF, along with Privacy International, submitted its recommendations and suggestions for the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2018. The recommendations highlight the need for data privacy with reference to government institutions and sensitive data.

Our recommendations can be found here.

Nighat Dad as a Guest Speaker at Training organized by UNCRC

Nighat Dad spoke as a guest speaker at a workshop on August 17, representing Digital Rights Foundation, organized by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child to talk about digital rights and security. She pointed out the intersection between child’s rights advocacy and digital rights.


Participation in APrIGF panel on “Internet Platforms and Online Abuse and Violence against Women”

Shmyla Khan from DRF virtually participated in the Asia Pacific Regional Internet Governance Forum (APrIGF) panel titled “Internet Platforms and Online Abuse and Violence against Women”. She highlighted issues of content moderation with reference to online harassment laws and experiences of Pakistani women.

Nighat Dad spoke about digital rights live on Subah Say Agay on Hum News  

On 21st August, DRF’s Executive Director, Ms. Dad spoke live about digital rights on Amber Rahim Shamsi’s show on Hum News. She talked about the importance of social media platforms and how they ensure fundamental rights and access to information. She also added that banning social media platforms in this digital age would not be a very wise move as mass censorship goes against democratic values.

For the complete interview click here.

Nighat Dad as a panelist at the launch of the ‘TRANSition’ project

CSC Empowerment & Inclusion Programme along with its partners - The Gender Guardian and Go Green Welfare Society, launched their ‘TRANSition’ project on 17th August. Nighat Dad was part of a panel discussion on ‘Policy level changes for acceptance of Transgenders’, to create awareness on the vulnerability of transgenders in our society and to highlight the efforts made on an institutional level. The keys of motorbikes were also distributed by the panelists to ten of the transgenders, to make mobility easier for them. Click here for more details.


State v Sarmad Liaqat


In continuing its project of ‘Mapping PECA’, a new designated section that has been created to overview the judicial development of the Act, DRF’s legal team has prepared another report on a recent judgement that has come from the court of Special Magistrate Aamir Raza Baitu and which looks into convictions under s.20(1), 21 and 24 of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016. It is available for your perusal here.

Network of women journalists continue to share articles and blogs

Members of DRF's Network of Women Journalists for Digital Rights continued to share articles and blogs on digital rights issues which can be found on the Hamara Internet website here. This is part of DRF's initiative to record women journalists' voices, particularly relating to digital rights and security issues.

In August was the month preceding the General Elections of Pakistan, Network members wrote extensively on the issues related to cyber bullying of journalists, social media and middle class elitism, and censorship policies.

March 20, 2018 - Comments Off on Cambridge Analytica Scandal and How to Secure Your Data

Cambridge Analytica Scandal and How to Secure Your Data

This weekend news broke that a data breach of 50 million Facebook profiles was used by the data analytics firm, Cambridge Analytica, to assist the Donald Trump campaign. The news is worrisome for several reasons, and it speaks to a problem that digital rights and privacy advocates have been advocating against for years--the need for stronger user data protections and accountability for social media companies.

Facebook users’ personal information, such as likes and status updates, were used to build profiles of users in order to predict their electoral behaviour. The data breach happened through a personality test app called “thisisyourdigitallife”. Like most apps we connect to our social media, it was far from innocuous as the intrusive application, once given permission, harvested personal data of users. Furthermore, the application also collected information of the test-takers’ Facebook friends. The ostensible justification for collecting the data was to improve the user experience and was allowed by Facebook’s “platform policy”.

We all volunteer a lot of information on social media, however there is a serious lack of transparency on how this information is being collected, stored and used. One of biggest sources of data breaches are the applications we give permissions and access to--they are a source of constant collection and surveillance.

The following is step-by-step guide on how to secure your social media accounts and prevent third-party applications for harvesting your data:

  1. Login to Facebook with your username and password


  2. Click the drop down icon next to the Help icon


  3. On left side Click Apps. You will be presented with apps that are currently using your Facebook credentials to sign in


  4. Clicking on any app you will be presented with the settings of that app. In this example, we will use Careem and see what sort of settings are available



The options presented by Careem are as follows. Some details of these options are:

  • App Visibility. This setting simply allows the audience for the app. In the screenshot it’s selected to “Only Me” meaning only the owner of the profile can see that the app is being used. If changed to “Friends” then only friends will be able to see that the owner of this profile uses this app

  • Public Profile. This app is currently accessing my Name, Profile Picture, Age, and Gender which is required by the app for registration purposes. You can see this information in Careem app as well. Your basic info is being picked directly from your profile when you sign up for the app using your Facebook credentials.

  • Email Address: Email address accessed by the app for signing in purposes.

  • Notifications are enabled if I use Careem directly from Facebook app.

    5. To revoke access simply click the “x” sign and click on remove button


Authored by Shmyla Khan and Hamza Irshad