Digital Rights By Prince Andrew Livingstone Zutah

Digital Rights

In this era of technological advancement, the Internet has become a widespread source of transmission and communication of ideas and information. It has revolutionized the world and provided an opportunity to collect and share data with the help of electronic media. However, the possibility of data being exposed and misused jeopardizes the fundamental rights of an individual. Therefore, it is the need of the hour to secure these rights by adopting certain laws and regulations in the digital world. These rights are referred to as digital rights which are associated with privacy and freedom of expression. They provide an individual with a safe and secure passage to computers, communication networks and digital media without compromising human rights in the digital era.

Evolution of Digital Rights

The rights of an individual to create, retrieve, utilize and share information in the digital world are recognized by cyber rights. The evolution of these rights through various phases led to the establishment of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EEF) in 1990 with an objective to defend civil liberties in the Internet era. John Perry Barlow, one of the founders of the EEF, underscored the incongruity between the basic rights embodied in the Constitution of the United States (US) and the breach of digital rights in an article “A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace” in 1996. This led to the accreditation of digital rights at the international level.

Significance of Digital Rights in the Internet Era

The importance of digital rights, particularly the rights to freedom of expression and privacy, is evident in the era of digitalization where almost everything from shopping to socialization to information sharing is conducted online. There is an exigency to recognize the way how data is being exploited by digital media, governmental organizations and the Internet tycoons, such as, Google, Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp etc. The implementation of digital rights renders it possible that data is being utilized in a scrupulous and irreproachable way.

In an effort to allow secure and transparent access to the digital world, digital technologies are in the pipeline establishing laws in order to safeguard basic rights without violating the code of conduct. The advancement in technology from 5G and the Internet of Things (IoT) to Big Data and Artificial Intelligence (AI) requires an assurance that the basic rights are supervised and managed appropriately.

Universal Declaration of Digital Rights

Digital rights are basically an extended version of human rights in the digital world incorporated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) by the United Nations (UN). By providing secure and transparent access, digital rights are aimed at eliminating digital divide with the help of the Digital Rights Charter (DRC). The general classification based on the DRC of each country is elucidated below.

Right to Universal and Equal Access: Everyone should have a right to access the digital world irrespective of the geographical zone.

Right to Freedom of Expression, Information and Communication: The blockade of certain websites or social networks by governments in any particular area is an infringement of these rights which should be protected at all costs.

Right to Privacy and Data Protection: By appropriating personal information and credentials, the right to privacy is jeopardized on the cyber space in an effort to acquire financial profits. There must be certain standards to preserve these rights.

Intellectual Property Rights: There must be rules and regulations in implementing intellectual property rights by acknowledging work of the authors. In addition, free access to work available publicly should be guaranteed.

Rights of Minors: Efforts must be done in order to protect children on the Internet, be it child pornography or trafficking.

Right to Anonymity: For transparent and reliable transactions, the right to anonymity is inevitable on the Internet. Unencrypted communication must not be allowed.

Right to Digital Protest: Everyone should have a right to engage in protests online either individually or collectively by utilizing the digital world as a medium of communication.

Stumbling Blocks to Digital Rights

The execution of digital rights in many countries is on the way, however, there are some hurdles in its way. These include:

  • Governments are exponentially suppressing the Internet by adopting measures, such as, removing content, blocking or filtering websites and shutting down networks during the time of elections.
  • The overriding of the right to freedom of expression or privacy by the national security is unequivocal.
  • The Internet giants who largely own the data and services are often seen violating the rules and guidelines set by the DRCs.
  • The protection of privacy is not completely possible through standard data regulations. There is a need to develop solid data protection legislations.
  • Finally, the misuse of the Internet with regard to spreading false news has its own repercussions.

Cyber Security to Ensure Digital Rights

In an effort to ensure privacy and freedom of expression, cyber security plays a pivotal role. It helps in exercising digital rights by safeguarding privacy with the help of encrypted messages and communications. In case of violation, these offences are brought to court by cyber rights legislation depending upon the procedure in each country. For instance, in the Europe, the European Data Protection Board (EDPB) is responsible for investigating infringements.

Conclusion

In this era of digitalization, there is an inexorable need to protect digital rights of an individual with the help of standard rules and regulations so that a sense of universal equality, freedom of expression, and information could be perceived.

References

[1]      EFF’s Official Website: https://www.eff.org/

[2]      https://www.eff.org/cyberspace-independence

[3]      EDPB’s Official Website: https://edpb.europa.eu/

[4]      EDRi’s Officla Website: https://edri.org/

[5]      https://www.un.org/en/about-us/universal-declaration-of-human-rights