The 2015 Pakistan Cyberspace Conference, a two day conference (February 26-27) hosted by Bytes for All, convened government officials, human rights activists, media professionals, and business leaders to discuss a range of issues related to cyberspace in Pakistan. The conference sought to encourage government officials to formulate informed policy on cyberspace issues, in light of input from civil society and business leaders.
Panel discussions focus on five topics, including “The Media and the Internet: Opportunities and Obstacles” and “Surveillance, Privacy and the State Security Narrative in Pakistan.” Deibert weighed in on the panel entitled “Cyber Warfare: A New Battleground,” moderated by Shahzad Ahmad, Director of Bytes for All, and includes speakers such as Mushahid Hussain Syed, the Chairman of the the Pakistani Senate Standing Committee on Defence; Ammar Jafri, the Chairman of Cyber Security Task Force of Pakistan; Aamir Atta, the editor of ProPakistani.com; and Quratulain Zaman, an author with Global Voices. Panelists discussed the possible shaping of online space into a new battleground for military, intelligence and corporate agencies.
When asked about ways in which the global community is responding to increasingly invasive technology based surveillance, Ahmad offered the example of evidence-based public interest litigation. In particular, Ahmad cited Citizen Lab research revealing the presence of FinFisher Command and Control servers in Pakistan [PDF], which in turn prompted legal action by Bytes for All.
Citizen Lab Director Ron Deibert was also in attendance, and delivered a keynote address outlining how online censorship in Pakistan has been used to suppress political dissent and free speech. In the same vein, he explained that governments throughout the world have had “backdoors” built into major telecommunications companies for easy access to consumer information. Deibert concluded his remarks in the keynote by placing emphasis on the fact that “for a truly open, free, [and] secure cyberspace, individuals and societies will actively have to strive for it.”
Media Coverage: Daily Times.