July 02, 2016 - Comments Off on PTA powers on censorship, Data Protection and Privacy become focal point on Second day of PECB consultation at Senate

PTA powers on censorship, Data Protection and Privacy become focal point on Second day of PECB consultation at Senate

The meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Information Technology’s Sub-Committee on the PECB continued on Thursday, June 30 and was rife with discussion on data.

The problems pertaining to data sharing and data protection took centre stage with all stakeholders trying to come to consensus as to what should be done. The question of whether the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) and PEC itself require the powers that are being allotted to them was also brought up.

Once again, Osman Saifullah Khan took his position as the chair and was joined by other senators at the session.

Section 39, which has to do with international cooperation was brought up during the meeting. This section allowed the government to share information with spy agencies and foreign governments.

Senator Farhatullah Babar said that the section was flawed and made him feel vulnerable. He questioned why the government could provide his information and details to any country or agency without any safeguards in place to ensure that the data was not mishandled or misused.

He also asked what guarantee there was to ensure that the investigation officer would not use the data to manipulate, harass or extort another person.

The Digital Rights Foundation proposes that this section needs rules and procedures for its implementation. It should not be the prerogative of the Pakistani government to share any information with another government without due processes.

Section 38, which has to do with confidentiality of information, also came under discussion. The committee pointed out that the ministry needed to ensure that the seized item and their data remained protected.

The officials present said that a proper channel would be used to share data under international cooperation law. The blanket authority being granted to the PTA as per section 29 was questioned by both the civil society and the committee members.

Civil society said that the clause should be deleted because of the privacy violation of the entire internet users in Pakistan. However, Senator Osman Saifullah said that in a country like Pakistan this is not possible and we need to look for a middle ground solution.

In response to that, Senator Farhatullah Babar mentioned that if ISPs need to retain internet users data they need to include judicial oversight and only retain data of criminals and terrorists once they have reasonable suspicions.

Even to retain data for those criminals they need a judicial warrant and follow procedure mentioned in the Fair Trial Act. Dad also pointed out that while larger ISPs could afford the cost of retaining so much data, smaller ISPs would not be able to do so. Ultimately, the burden of that cost will be thrown to the average user who will end up paying a lot more for their online presence.

As an advocate of privacy our organization is of the view that there is no evidence to support the assertion that data retention leads to a decrease in terrorist activities.

Research has demonstrated that many countries have rejected data retention, including Austria, Belgium, Greece, Sweden, Germany, Bulgaria etc. Serious crimes continue to exist in these countries, and they continue to tackle them without data retention that hurts civil liberties. This clause should be omitted as it violates the right to privacy.

Section 34, which gives powers to PTA to block anything they want, also came under discussion. For a little background readers should know that PTA’s ability to block content at will is already being challenged in court.

The civil society present said that it should be removed but some of the senators said that deletion is not a proper solution and some powers should exist. They proposed that these powers be not added to this legislation and instead the PTA act should be amended to include these powers.

However, this solution is facing resistance because of the lengthy process involved.

Members of the civil society also asked that Section 10 be removed from the bill. The section has to do with cyber terrorism.

Dad said that there is no need for this section when the entire section already exists in the Anti Terrorism Act 1997 and the section is 11 W.

Apart from this it was also mentioned that this section mentions a 14 year penalty, whereas the ATA only mentions 6 months. So an offline act of terrorism, which includes many things, only 6 months are mentioned but for online terrorism act they are mentioning 14 years of imprisonment.

The reason for pointing this out was to highlight that there is a replicability between laws and there is a lack of consistency. Why can’t they implement existing legislation instead of making new ones, Dad questioned.

Dad further said that amendments need to be made to existing legislation to include new provisions that are needed - there is no agreed definition of cyber terrorism globally, she explained and further asked how it would be defined in Pakistan.

It is also disheartening that repetitions and provisions that are glaring examples of what should be removed from the bill are being allowed to only go through 'amendments' by the sub-committee. Despite the civil society stakeholders having submitted their recommendations and highlighting how this law could backfire later, redrafting has been restricted to actions that are simply not enough.

The speculations that civil society actors were not prepared and didn't submit formulations is incorrect. Farieha Aziz from Bolo Bhi read out many alternative formulations of clauses at the meetings.
DRF believes that civil liberties should not a be a casualty in the name of security and the fight against terrorism under such legislations. Pakistan should set a good precedent by enacting a cyber crime law that is a balance between security and human rights

Published by: Digital Rights Foundation in Uncategorized

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