We, the citizens of the world need a free and open internet. As Free Press Unlimited our company slogan is “People deserve to know”. The people need to be self-empowered to take decisions that are relevant to their lives. And for this they need unrestricted access to quality information. In order to achieve this we need a safer internet. That is why we launched “A call to action” in cooperation with Hivos during the Google Big Tent event, December last year.
WHY A SAFER INTERNET?
I would like to emphasize to you today why we need a safer Internet with increased ethics from all stakeholders:
1. 100% of the GSM networks are hackable with a $1500 toolkit. All conversations can be rerouted and recorded. Mobile ICT is great... Really. They allow us access to important things: to consume news, express our opinions and allow us to enjoy ourselves.
2. 100% of all the activity on mobile phones and smart phones can be intercepted. 71% of mobile users don't use a PIN or password to lock their mobile device.
So, I am telling you that we have become communication exhibitionists, stripped of any privacy or anonymity. Willingly or not, we're exposed. Everything we do on our mobile device, we're sharing with others, even without being aware of it. Companies, governments and perhaps your neighbors whizz kid knows the content of your e-mails, visited websites and GPS locations.
It's like all of us here today standing naked before the window, without knowing who's watching. But we can be sure of one thing: it's quite a large audience. How does that make you feel?
PERSONAL SAFETY OF USERS SUB STANDARD
If you don’t take my word for it, look into the recent leakage of passwords of linked in, a popular social media site. In the top ten of most used passwords we find “god”, “love”, “sex” and 1234. And you know as well as I do that is how serious we take digital safety. We're exhibitionists, and we're not even trying to cover ourselves. Until such time that it will be too late.
A CALL TO ACTION
As mentioned, during the Big Tent Event, Free Press Unlimited launched a call to action. We called on developers, telco's, companies and governments to integrate protection of human rights into their policies. It called for an export ban on dual-use technology and called for better cooperation between organizations.
Since December last year we have seen progress on all fields:
1. The EU and the US put in place sanctions against Syria, although implementation modalities could be improved. This is a big step forward. And it was needed because ‘ict-security’ specialist companies continued to provide the Syrian regime with hard & software for filtering, throttling, profiling, digital repression.
2. ICT companies are starting to adapt best practices like those formulated in the Silicon Valley Standards, but the process is slow. International telecom providers like Orange and MTN are walking a thin line adhering to data retention and surveillance laws in less democratic countries such as Ethiopia and Iran. Larger companies are under pressure from public opinion. They don’t want to harm their users but ask for international standards to be implemented.
3. Governments are under-performing in the field the protection of privacy of internet users. Data retention laws, filtering as a standard policing tool, ACTA, SOPA, PIPA, TPP have become symbols of restricting the internet. Countries need to be held accountable for every potential harm to the open, free and unfiltered internet that connects us all.
Users need to be made aware of the risks, companies need to be either heralded or named and shamed, and governments need to be less emotional about web-based criticism from their citizens.
The famous German Poet Berthold Brecht formulated his communication dream in 1924. At the time ‘radio’ was a new medium that promised increased participation and civil influence on policy: He said that the full potential of radio only could be realized if the audience could talk back.
Now is the time that citizens are fulfilling this dream:
Sudanese and Russian officials where filmed while stuffing ballot boxes. Civilian web-criticism has influenced constitution writing in Morocco, and what about the horrifying images coming from Syria. Citizens are reclaiming their space in decision-making. If we want to protect these courageous citizens and aspiring and professional journalists, we need to step up our actions to increase privacy and anonymity. Not only for a specific target group in a far away country, but in all countries.
Strong encryption should be standardized on all devices; e-mail encryption and two factor authentication needs to be simplified and implemented as a standard, and data retention laws should be abolished. When journalist sources are revealed through internet surveillance, when activists are profiled and persecuted, the whole sense and purpose of freedom of expression and press freedom is in the line of fire. That is why we have worked hard to follow up on our call to action.
In the coming month we will announce the creation of the Internet Protection Lab, a public private partnership dedicated to protect the vital rights of citizens. If we don’t want to stand naked at the window, we should realize that we're showing too much to be decent. We should get dressed for action.
Thank you and have a great conference.
Nairobi, 6 September 2012