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November 14, 2014 - Comments Off on Press Release: 1st National Conference on Privacy Rights and Digital Surveillance in Pakistan

Press Release: 1st National Conference on Privacy Rights and Digital Surveillance in Pakistan

Islamabad, November 14, 2014: Digital Rights Foundation organized country’s first National Conference on privacy rights and digital surveillance today in Islamabad. The focus of this national conference was to start a debate around the lack of legislation and laws pertaining to cyber space with a focus on privacy. During this conference, Waqas Mir, a lawyer from Lahore having expertise in constitutional laws and free speech, presented a comprehensive whitepaper on surveillance in Pakistan. This whitepaper took the audience and readers through the history and development of legislation around privacy and surveillance in the country with a focus on recently drafted Fair Trial Act 2013.

DRF in partnership with Privacy International and Freedom Network organized this event to bring together members from all stakeholders including lawyers, parliamentarians, journalists, civil society, and the public to create a serious and continuous debate around having a consistent approach between surveillance and privacy. Multiple panels and session talks were held discussing global and local perspectives of surveillance in the digital age. Panelists also talked about solutions that could be employed taking examples from other countries world over while going over the case studies where common citizens, journalists, feminists, and dissidents at large have been harassed and attacked.

Senator Afrasiab Khatak, former member of National Assembly Bushra Gohar, and Ben Wagner, international expert on export of surveillance technologies were also part of the panels among other distinguished speakers. The conference concluded by recommending public to use their Right to Information more assertively and frequently and by demanding government to ensure transparency and publish annual report on the number of warrants granted for surveillance, and the number of offences prevented by surveillance or interception of information.

The key points that were raised during this national conference on privacy and surveillance include:

  • Growing concerns over tools / mechanisms employed by government especially after FinFisher’s license expiry in 2013
  • Concerns shared by the journalism community over how surveillance has negatively impacted the standards of journalism in the country
  • Urgent need of legislation around digital security to safeguard citizens
  • Understanding of government’s need to employ legal surveillance in the face of serious terrorism threats, however, with strict definitions of ‘national security’ and ‘national threats’ while being proportionate to citizen’s privacy
  • The need to rethink the process of creating the laws putting protection before punishment and not the other way around
  • Palpable urgency felt to have a strong relationship between activists and political parties on privacy and surveillance concerns

National conference on surveillance this year tried to gear start the debate around privacy and surveillance in the country. However, it will be furthered by the support of stakeholders and will be held annually to create a strong network producing tangible results and putting forward suggestions for the government.

Contact: [email protected]

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Digital Rights Foundation (DRF) is a research based advocacy organisation based in Pakistan focusing on ICTs to support human rights, democratic processes and better digital governance. DRF opposes any and all sorts of online censorship and violations of human rights both on ground and online. We firmly believe that freedom of speech and open access to online content is critically important for the development of socio-economy of the country. @digitalrightsPK

April 15, 2014 - Comments Off on An open letter to Senate of Pakistan regarding Pakistan Protection Ordinance 2014 "Pakistan’s new law: no free speech… and you’re a terrorist unless you can prove otherwise"

An open letter to Senate of Pakistan regarding Pakistan Protection Ordinance 2014 "Pakistan’s new law: no free speech… and you’re a terrorist unless you can prove otherwise"

Irfan-Cybercrime1-660x330 Respected Senators,

The recent uproar over the Pakistan Protection Ordinance 2014 has created quite a stir in the country’s digital media platforms, and rightly so. The Government of Pakistan has recently passed, what appears to be, the most draconian and regressive anti-terror law in the National Assembly. The Pakistan Protection Ordinance 2014 has already been signed by the President and will soon be presented - and most likely approved - by the Senate on April 20, 2014.

The proposed law clearly inhibits fundamental rights to freedom of speech, privacy and peaceful assembly on the Internet. In its current form, the law could be used to suppress peaceful political opposition and criticism of government policy online, on social media for instance. In its schedule of offences, the law also lists “crimes against computers including cyber crimes, internet offenses and other offenses related to information technology etc". Also, instances where a person who commits any crime mentioned in the scheduled offenses becomes a cognizable and non bailable offense.

Any person accused within the sphere of scheduled offences will be liable to face a charge on grounds of reasonable evidence against him/her, and will be assumed to be engaged in waging a war or insurrection against Pakistan, unless he/she establishes his/her non-involvement in the offence, which reverses the burden of proof and undermines the right to due process and fair trial. The scheduled offence shall be punishable with imprisonment, which may extend to 10 years, with fine and confiscation of property.

The provision regarding internet crimes is so vague that it can be abused against  journalists, politicians, minorities, students, activists, political dissidents and groups who are using the internet for activities which would not in any way be counted and ascertained as terrorism. From a due process perspective, there doesn’t seem to be a very strong case for introducing cyber crimes in the PPO 2014, when a separate Electronic Cyber Crime bill is already being drafted. So, what is the true intent of introducing an additional or supplementary provisions with regard to “Internet Crimes”?

The state of open access to internet in our country is dismal. In the 2013 Freedom on the Net report, Pakistan’s Internet freedom status in 2012-13 was ‘Not Free.’ The introduction to the report states: Successive military and civilian governments have adopted various measures to control the internet in Pakistan, which they frame as necessary for combating terrorism. In Freedom of Press, Pakistan ranks 159 among 179 countries. In the planned Ordinance, provision related to warrant less raids is in violation of Article 14 of our Constitution.

With the Electronic Cyber Crime bill, Pakistan has the momentous opportunity to set the benchmark in South Asia and the Global South in right to free speech online. This right necessitates freedom from persecution for all citizens who use digital communications platforms to express opinions, dissent, or critique against the state. As Benjamin Franklin said, “Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech.” 

In an era where individuals, non-governmental organizations and international institutions rely on the multiplier effect of social media and digital news outlets to highlight issues of injustice and human rights violations, it doesn’t augur well for the country’s freedom of speech and human rights index to even consider this Ordinance.

Digital Rights foundation demands and calls on the senators to protect the rights to freedom of speech and privacy in accordance with Pakistan's obligations under international conventions, remove the clause of cyber crimes from Pakistan Protection Ordinance 2014 and revise the law with the consultation of relevant stake holders.

Contact: [email protected]

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Digital Rights Foundation is a research based advocacy organisation based in Pakistan focusing on ICTs to support human rights, democratic processes and better digital governance. DRF opposes any and all sorts of online censorship and violations of human rights both on ground and online.  We firmly believe that freedom of speech and open access to online content is critically important for the development of socio-economy of the country.



Meet Betty, a young woman from Morelos, Mexico. Her story speaks about the different connections and interactions that she encounters through online social networking – some of them expected and welcomed, some of them a little less straightforward. It’s also about how Betty exercises her judgment and discretion in dealing with them.

How do you exercise your judgment and right to privacy in online social networking spaces?

Access to and use of social networking services like Facebook is increasingly an important aspect of participating in public and political life. We have heard many recent examples of how social networking platforms have become valuable sites of social and political mobilizing and democratic participation. At a more personal level, they are becoming an important part of how we interact and connect with our communities. They can also be a space for us to construct representations of our “selves” through the things we share, including photographs, what we do, interests and personal information. For women and girls who are constrained in other spaces because of culture or norms, this can be especially important.

At the same time, there are certain safety risks when it comes to social networking sites. Because of the wealth of personal information available, it can be possible to make assessments about a particular person and target them for specific reasons. For example, based on what a person shares about her employment situation, or her relationship status, she can be targeted for financial scams involving fake employment and migration opportunities or “romantic relationships”. In countries such as Mexico where human trafficking is recognised as a serious issue, women’s rights activists are critically assessing the role of social networking sites in targeting potential victims.

How can we participate in shaping a social networking environment that enables us to fully participate in community and public life, without compromising our safety? How can our right to privacy be prioritised – from the development of technology, to corporate policy, to laws, to our own practices?



  • Take a dive into fine-tuning your privacy configuration in Facebook.  Segment your friends into lists and learn how to specify which audience you want for each post.
  • Play tech-tag: you show a friend how to improve her privacy settings, and ask her to share with another friend.
  • Together, bring the conversation to your social networking forums: What do we love about them, and what turns us off or away?
  • Share some stories and experiences about social networking spaces and privacy, and map them onto the Take Back the Tech! Map.


  • Find out more about trafficking in your country. You can start with the International Migration Organisation.
  • If you think it is not happening, you are wrong. And you can bet traffickers are taking advantage of social networking platforms to find women and girls who "fit their profile".
  • Understanding and sharing how traffickers operate debilitates their chances of success.


Take Back the Tech! in Mexico took the November 25 "Festival de las vivas" fair-goers to the test, putting up banners with "quizzes" to test internet safety practices and detect tech-related violence against women and girls. Facebook awareness campaigns via flyers and radio spots share tech-tips, like: "Have a sexy photo you just have to share? Then segment your Facebook friends into lists first".

Surveys on tech-related violence are being applied at youth workshops and cine debates throughout Morelos.   Virtual activities include online daily actions to increase digital security for women journalists and human rights defenders, reaching 100's of women throughout Mexico and Central America. The campaign will close this year  with a tech-fest on mobile security for women journalists and social communicators.

Take Back the Tech! partners in Mexico include youth sexuality and reproductive health activists, DDESER; anti-cyberbullying and child pornography initiative Social 2.0 for A Safer Internet; CIMAC women's news agency and network of journalists, and women human rights defenders throughout Mexico and Central America.