August 18, 2015 - Comments Off on Digital Rights Foundation stance on privacy and data retention provisions in the 2015 Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill
Digital Rights Foundation recognises that the government must protect its citizens, as is its duty, especially in turbulent times. Digital Rights Foundation also recognises, however, that the government must do so in a manner that also protects the right to privacy and the right to freedom of expression.
Legislation that effectively tackles cybercrime and terrorism is vital. What the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill does, however, is move beyond what is necessary, and instead violates the civil rights of citizens, in the name of security. The government has been very reluctant in allowing for public oversight in regards to the PEC Bill, and has made amendments without sufficient involvement with, or indeed alerting civil society stakeholders to, the amendment and process.
The Bill as it stands contains a number of provisions that run of the risk of being open to very broad interpretations that could lead to sweeping penalty measures that would in effect criminalise innocent online and offline behaviours. Civil society stakeholders have submitted a legal draft to the IT Standing Committee of the National Assembly, that seeks to address and amend said provisions in a manner that balances the need for security with the need to respect the civil liberties of Pakistani citizens.
What remains, however, is that while civil society stakeholders have provided invaluable legal input, there still remain areas of great concern for Digital Rights Foundation and our colleagues in civil society.
Of concern to Digital Rights Foundation in particular are continued mandatory retention of data, as well as the decision to continue with allowing the government to forward information to international partners, if so requested. There is a lack of a clear oversight regarding this international cooperation, and this is a matter that must be addressed, as it violated the right to privacy of Pakistani citizens.
It is our concern that the Bill as it stands does not protect citizens effectively, and does not protect their right to freedom of expression and their right to privacy. Thus, Digital Rights Foundation cannot support the Government of Pakistan's cybercrime legislation.