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The Right to Privacy in the Digital Age

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Abstract

Presented on behalf of Pirate Parties International Headquarters, a UN ECOSOC Consultative Member, for the Report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights Our Dystopian Present Living in modern society, we are profiled. We accept the necessity to hand over intimate details about ourselves to proper authorities and presume they will keep this information secure-only to be used under the most egregious cases with legal justifications. Parents provide governments with information about their children to obtain necessary services, such as health care. We reciprocate the forfeiture of our intimate details by accepting the fine print on every form we sign-or button we press. In doing so, we enable secondhand trading of our personal information, exponentially increasing the likelihood that our data will be utilized for illegitimate purposes. Often without our awareness or consent, detection devices track our movements, our preferences, and any information they are capable of mining from our digital existence. This data is used to manipulate us, rob from us, and engage in prejudice against us-at times legally. We are stalked by algorithms that profile all of us. This is not a dystopian outlook on the future or paranoia. This is present day reality, whereby we live in a data-driven society with ubiquitous corruption that enables a small number of individuals to transgress a destitute mass of phone and internet media users. In this paper we present a few examples from around the world of both violations of privacy and accomplishments to protect privacy in online environments. The examples provided are not exhaustive, representative, nor the gravest examples. Further research is necessary that will incorporate a systematic review to categorically identify universal values of digital rights and promote policies to thwart perpetrators of them. We conclude with a recommendation that the UN host free, open-access, digital platforms that will promote transparency among organizations that collect users' data and assist everyone to safeguard their identities. We must recognize the
The Right to Privacy in the Digital Age
April 9, 2018
Dr. Keith Goldstein, Dr. Ohad Shem Tov, and Mr. Dan Prazeres
Presented on behalf of Pirate Parties International Headquarters, a UN ECOSOC Consultative
Member, for the Report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
Our Dystopian Present
Living in modern society, we are profiled. We accept the necessity to hand over intimate details
about ourselves to proper authorities and presume they will keep this information secure- only to
be used under the most egregious cases with legal justifications. Parents provide governments with
information about their children to obtain necessary services, such as health care. We reciprocate
the forfeiture of our intimate details by accepting the fine print on every form we sign- or button
we press. In doing so, we enable second-hand trading of our personal information, exponentially
increasing the likelihood that our data will be utilized for illegitimate purposes.
Often without our awareness or consent, detection devices track our movements, our preferences,
and any information they are capable of mining from our digital existence. This data is used to
manipulate us, rob from us, and engage in prejudice against us- at times legally. We are stalked by
algorithms that profile all of us. This is not a dystopian outlook on the future or paranoia. This is
present day reality, whereby we live in a data-driven society with ubiquitous corruption that
enables a small number of individuals to transgress a destitute mass of phone and internet media
users.
In this paper we present a few examples from around the world of both violations of privacy and
accomplishments to protect privacy in online environments. The examples provided are not
exhaustive, representative, nor the gravest examples. Further research is necessary that will
incorporate a systematic review to categorically identify universal values of digital rights and
promote policies to thwart perpetrators of them. We conclude with a recommendation that the UN
host free, open-access, digital platforms that will promote transparency among organizations that
collect users' data and assist everyone to safeguard their identities. We must recognize the
violations of human rights that are taking place in digital environments and engage in pragmatic
steps as an international community to ensure the right to privacy.
I. Violations of Privacy
a. Search and Seizure of Digital Property
Governments and militant organizations utilize internet censorship to shape the public's beliefs
and curb dissent. From the most developed countries to the least, examples are prevalent of
bloggers, activists, and political opponents being harassed and silenced [1]. In the name of internet
security, users are analyzed for characteristics that predict problematic behaviors. Data is saved,
which can be used to profile individuals or groups who appear rebellious. During major protest
movements around the world, such as the Arab Spring, Occupy protests, and the Umbrella
Movement, governments were able to extract data from mobile phone users. Social media and
other online correspondence were routinely blocked or tracked to dissuade protesters. While laws
exist in most nations to protect search and seizure of physical property, such laws often do not
abide for digital property. As a result, without a search warrant, it becomes permissible to insist
that individuals forfeit access to social media accounts to gain services such as a visa to visit
another country. Repressive regimes scrutinize specific individuals as a method of discrimination.
b. Profiling of Marginalized Groups
Police in the modern age can target specific ethnic, gender, and age groups. The Chicago police
department implemented a "Strategic Subject List", which predicts potential perpetrators and
victims of gun violence [2]. Individuals can be intimidated or arrested based on characteristics
about them or those they associate with. There is a dangerous potential for big data mining to be
used to repress minorities. Online profiling enables police to invade the digital property of strategic
subjects [3]. These policing practices broaden disproportionate incarceration of marginalized
groups. China has started a "Police Cloud", which appears capable of tracking social and ethnic
groups [4]. Not only the police profile marginalized groups, legal and illegal organizations do so
as well. Some of them aim to exploit, such as by luring women into prostitution rings or refugees
into forced labor. Disadvantaged groups are easy targets of financial scams and more easily taken
advantage of.
c. Biometric Dangers
We have an overarching concern for the fate of the free world in a computer, cloud-driven society
that preserves biometric data. Such data will develop the capability to penalize vast amounts of the
population for minor infractions, especially those that lack the technological and financial means
to protect their privacy. The discrimination of Nazi Germany reminds us how dangerous it can be
for countries to collect registries that track minorities. Biometric data is a centralized command
that pretends to have complete control, but in reality unlocks a door for data to be hacked and
abused. In Brazil it is now obligatory to be included in the biometrical database, which also enables
voting in elections [5]. In an example of how biometric data is abused, the Brazilian Federal Police
in 2017 made a deal with the Electoral Court for sharing this database without announcing the
practice previously [6].
d. Censorship
It was more difficult for autocracies to track down and burn books than it is for modern
governments to remove content from the internet. In Turkey, China, and many other countries the
internet is censored to such a point that self-censorship takes place. Individuals willing to express
themselves online are exposed to reciprocity. In most countries, some level of censorship exists.
In Israel a bill was introduced recently that would provide the court with automatic access to
remove content from online platforms [7]. Such actions are justified as a defense against conflicts
with organizations such as Hezbollah in Lebanon that use internet platforms to initiate violent
actions and recruit agents among Arabs who hold Israeli citizenship [8]. However, the Israel
Democracy Institute (IDI) argued against the law, as it is liable to create disproportionate
censorship in an improper legal process that has no precedent in other countries [9]. Governments
attempt to restrict social media, but companies themselves also censor content. The internal rules
of such censoring also deserve oversight [10].
e. Business Surveillance
Facebook today has over two billion users. It enables people to share private data about themselves
with others they know and trust. The company protects a large amount of user data. However,
owing to unclear consent and sharing of data with third-party applications, many have discovered
that detailed information about them, such as contacts, phone numbers, and likes, was being
collected and shared without their consent or awareness [11]. Furthermore, Facebook provided
administrative staff controls to erase messages, while users do not have the same controls over
their own information [12]. Facebook is not alone in being accused of violating users' privacy.
Agencies such as Equifax, which collected credit ratings for millions of people allowed its systems
to be breached. Health insurance companies purchase big data from health care facilities to create
predictive formulas for identifying risk pools and determining rates [13]. More and more
businesses are utilizing big data for customer analytics. The USA, once a leader of restricting
invasions of privacy, adopted regulations in 2017 that will remove the tradition of net neutrality.
The ramifications of this decision will reduce freedom of expression [14] and increase the power
of big data businesses to conduct mass surveillance and sell information about users' viewing
content, purchases, and other personal information. Google and other large internet search sites
already engage in such practices. They sell our information to advertisers, insurers, and lobbying
groups, crafting the world that we are exposed to with almost no external ethical oversight.
II. Efforts to Protect Privacy
a. Multinational Efforts to Protect Privacy
Despite negative trends in the digital age, the right to privacy is still championed as an ideal by
most of us. Multinational collaboration to protect digital rights is on the rise. Nations are bonding
together to establish privacy-by-design controls that will protect data according to commonly
agreed fundamentals. Governments, businesses, and criminal organizations have profited by
invading our privacy, and supranational bodies are a potential buffer- a last line of resistance. The
European Union recently adopted the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which will go
into effect in 2018. The regulation demands that individuals retain control of their data, that they
can see the information about them that is being collected and ask to remove this information from
internet platforms [15]. Organizations that collect data must employ a data protection officer, who
will oversee that privacy standards are upheld and personal data of those who request to be
forgotten are removed. A variety of multinational organizations aim to protect our digital rights,
including the organization that we represent, Pirate Parties International [16]. Multinational
initiatives are made possible by member states who participate. The International Conference for
Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners (CDPPC), for example, has been bringing together
government stakeholders since 1979 to assist them fulfill their mandates [17]. Each member state
sends data protection officers to collaborate, which furthers our goal of harmonizing data
protection. The present UN Resolution on the Right to Privacy in The Digital Age also exemplifies
a positive multinational effort to protect privacy.
b. Government Efforts to Protect Privacy
While governments are demonized as infiltrators of our privacy, they are also guarantors of our
digital rights and can reprimand those who violate them. Legislation that safeguards sensitive data
is important, and many countries are struggling to keep pace with innovations in information
technology that have expanded the realm of digital rights. Governments must both protect privacy
and promote transparency, tasks that may seem at odds with one another but often function in
tandem [18]. Governments can ensure that citizens are made aware of private information that is
collected about them, as well as displaying information about what it does with that data and its
own work. Medical data, for example, is private data that governments often enact legislation to
protect. Otherwise, individuals could be discriminated against for employment and insurance.
An important question that has been posed on the right to privacy is whether to provide people
with access to medical records that show genetic dispositions to disease, as this information may
not provide positive assistance when preventative precautions do not exist [19]. Governments must
debate the levels of privacy and transparency that are in the best interests of its citizens. Voter
rights to privacy are also important in democratic nations, as they guarantee the free choice
underlying the spirit of elections. Cybersecurity is also a national responsibility as international
conflicts between nation-states often spill over into digital environments. Recent examples of
government legislation to provide greater transparency of privacy practices, include the Canadian
Parliament's Privacy Commisioner's Guidlines for Online Consent [20] and Brazil's "Internet Bill
of Rights" [21]. Such legislation often seeks to regulate user consent and establish oversight into
the interactions of individuals with internet providers and platforms.
c. Business Efforts to Protect Privacy
Effective online businesses realize the importance of customer trust, and they often provide their
users with data protection and transparency about how they collect and use data. Single-sign-
on frameworks present a challenge and opportunity for protecting individuals' privacy. Users are
accused of a "privacy paradox", whereby they are willing to give up their rights to privacy for the
sake of convenience but are nonetheless outraged to learn their data was utilized [22]. By allowing
users to opt-in, companies are mitigating some privacy invasion, but they must carefully weigh the
advantages and disadvantages of trading customer data with external services [23]. Data-driven
technology is an important phenomenon, which can assist us in our lives. Standardizing the privacy
policies for single-sign-on frameworks helps to ensure that user data is not misused by secondary
service providers [24]. Privacy enhancing technologies assist us to protect our data, and such
services are often provided free of cost. Facebook, which has already been utilized as a negative
example of violating privacy, has also made positive efforts to protect our privacy by allowing
users to delete accounts [25] and promising to enable users to also be able to delete specific data
in the future [12]. The development of encryption services has also expanded the right to be "out
of the system", providing individuals with a digital platform to congregate without fear of
government interference. Furthermore, blockchain technology is expanding the right of individuals
to establish financial networks that are not government regulated. Efforts by businesses to protect
digital privacy must provide mutual benefits for individuals and organizations.
Conclusion
We hope that the situation might improve for the right to privacy, but the future appears bleaker.
Since the advent of a digital society with online accounts, organizations that harvest user data have
amassed tremendous powers. While certain merits can be argued for collecting user data, an
equivalent responsibility remains to regulate and secure any stored personal data. Our identities
are the most valuable thing we own. They are a form of wealth: identity capital. We should expect
our identities to be protected from embezzlement and exploitation.
Unfortunately, both staggering breaches of privacy take place and personal data is used for corrupt
purposes. We would like to believe that infringements are rare and negligible, but we have all been
victims of privacy invasion. Our identities are abused by companies who track customers to sell
products, interest groups who manipulate social media to shape elections, and governments that
seek omnipotent powers. Online businesses are often multinational and can hide between borders.
Neither small organizations nor large governments can be trusted to restrict themselves. The right
to privacy in the digital age demands a united, multinational alliance that will ensure all individuals
in the world share an inalienable right to protect their identities.
We urge the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and international community
to enforce accountability measures that ensure privacy invasions are monitored according to
universal regulations. We must admonish governments who conduct indiscriminate mass
surveillance and curtail their abilities to collect and utilize private information about individuals.
We must penalize companies and individuals who steal our information or use it for illegitimate
gains. While there are valid utilitarian reasons to enable minimal surveillance to enforce protective
and punitive laws against heinous criminal activity, we must not allow individuals to become
slaves of an oppressive system akin to George Orwell’s Big Brother [26].
The UN must be proactive and provide a forum for those whose privacy is threatened. It is the
responsibility of the international community to foster privacy-enhancing technologies that will
protect all individuals equally. Regulations must restrict online entities from accessing all of our
personal information. Unwitting users should not be compelled into giving up their privacy or not
having access to a technology. We must ensure that our data is not used without our knowledge or
consent, nor for purposes that were not explicitly stated. Positive efforts are being made, but we
are playing a game of catch-up.
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About the authors
Keith Goldstein is the General Secretary of Pirate Parties International and International
Coordinator of the Pirate Party of Israel, Ohad Shem Tov is the Chairperson of the Pirate Party
of Israel, and Dan Prazeres is Alternative Board Member of Pirate Parties International and
General Secretary of the Pirate Party of Brazil. Questions regarding this submission may be sent
to the lead author: keith.goldstein@pp-international.net
... Our categories corresponded well to the seven privacy risk dimensions proposed by Karwatzki et al. [25] whose multidimensional privacy risk scale was developed through consumer research. Furthermore, our subcategories closely matched the negative consequences associated with connected cars that Cichy [8] identified. We decided to adopt their categorizations to arrive at an integrated system of privacy risk dimensions and specific negative consequences relevant in the connected car context. ...
... We could detect all of the seven privacy risk dimensions Page 4418 put forward [26], namely psychological, social, freedom-related, prosecution-related, financial, career-related, and physical risks in our interview data as well. What is more, we were able to reproduce findings of [8] on the various connected car-specific threats even though our interview setting and design differed significantly. This increases the confidence in the validity of our final set of connected car-specific threats that we use to create a measuring instrument. ...
... Second, we develop the first holistic categorization linking perceived IS-specific threats with privacy risk dimensions and privacy-invasive practices, contributing to a precise understanding of privacy risks. Third, we are able to validate the privacy risks dimensions put forward [26] and the negative consequences associated with connected cars [8] identified in a more real-life investigation setting. Beyond perceived connected car threats, the interviews indicated a number of contextual factors that might impact the intention to disclose car data, like driver's age, smartphone ownership or mobility habits. ...
... On March 22, 2017, the United Nations Human Rights Council expressed concerns regarding profiling in modern society. It stated that individuals may be discriminated against through profiling and that individual rights are likely to be violated in digital environments [6]. If these changes are permissible, it may undermine and interfere with the freedom of expression and opinion. ...
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China: Police 'Big Data' Systems Violate Privacy, Target Dissent
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