Category Archives: Paradigm Initiative Nigeria

Paradigm Initiative Nigeria (PIN) is working towards enriching the debate on cyber security, while also providing materials that will encourage citizens to protect their online rights and demand safer online experiences.

Paradigm Initiative Nigeria releases “Digital Rights in Africa” report

Cyber Stewards Network partner Paradigm Initiative Nigeria (PIN) has released the 2016 Digital Rights in Africa report, reviewing governments restrictions on Internet freedom this past year. The report analyzes 11 documented shutdowns across the continent, and a number of legislative developments that threaten digital rights.

PIN  goes on to identify common trends in the Internet shutdowns, including orders to private telecommunications companies and Internet providers to cut citizens off from the Internet. This, the report explains, is the result of very few individuals having broadband access, with most customers using mobile networks. These shutdowns often coincide with moments of political significance, including elections. These are often justified by references to national security, or even preventing students from cheating on exams.

The report provides an account of key events in over 25 countries in the continent, and concludes with strategies on mobilizing against digital right abuses.

Read the full report.

Cyber Stewards at RightsCon 2015

The Citizen Lab will be hosting two sessions, “Asia Chats” and “Filtering Free Expression,” at the RightsCon 2015 conference in Manila, Philippines.

(1) “Asia Chats: Security and Privacy of Asian Messaging Apps”

Abstract: “In Asia, mobile chat apps like WeChat, LINE, and KakaoTalk are hugely popular and rapidly expanding into new markets. The growth of these applications and strategies from the companies behind them to attract an international user base raise questions regarding the kind of pressures they may face in specific jurisdictions to censor or monitor communications and provide governments with user data and how they will respond to these demands. The Citizen Lab at the Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto has been actively researching privacy, security, and censorship in popular Asian chat apps. Join Citizen Lab and partners to share latest findings on these apps and explore strategies for helping users make more informed decisions about the apps they use and engaging companies to improve privacy and security.”

The “Asia Chats” session will discuss the Citizen Lab’s analysis of information controls and privacy in mobile messaging applications used in Asia, with a focus on WeChatLINE, and KakaoTalkRead the background information regarding the project. This session will take place on Tuesday, March 24, at 11:30-12:45 in room Ruby A.

(2) “Filtering Free Expression in Southeast Asia: Challenges and Opportunities”

Abstract: “Governments have increasingly sought to impose information controls (e.g., censorship and filtering) on the Internet as more and more people are seeking and sharing information, running campaigns, and engaging in political discourse online. Information controls can be applied in highly dynamic ways that respond to events on the ground—particularly around major events such as elections or transfers of powers, global conferences, and armed conflicts—and may include multiple actors, such as states, private companies, criminal or militant groups, and civil society organizations. In this session, ARTICLE 19, the Citizen Lab, and a number of civil society representatives from the Southeast Asian region will engage in discussions about the legal and technological forms of information controls, and the instances in which they have been applied.”

A joint event between the Citizen Lab and ARTICLE 19, the “Filtering Free Expression” session will discuss the two organizations’ research and advocacy on censorship and filtering in the Southeast Asian region. The event is part of the Citizen Lab’s study into event-based information controls, in which we’ve examined information controls during the 2014 coup in Thailandin Iraq in reaction to ISIS insurgency, and during the 2013 Internet Governance Forum in Bali, Indonesia. This session will take place also on Tuesday, March 24, at 17:00-18:15 in room Emerald C.

Other sessions of interest at the RightsCon 2015 conference

Citizen Lab Senior Security Researcher Morgan Marquis-Boire will be presenting a session entitled “Real World Threats for Human Rights Workers, Activists, and Journalists,” which will examine the commercialization of offensive technologies and the targeting of journalists, human rights workers, and activists.

Citizen Lab partner organization ASL 19 will host a “lightning talk” on the issue of restrictive controls implemented during politically or socially sensitive periods (e.g. right before an election) in Iran in a session called “Responding to Iran’s ‘Just-in-time’ Information Controls.”

Cyber Stewards Network member Paradigm Initiative Nigeria will also host “a lightning talk” in a session entitled “Positive Rights in Africa: The Nigerian “Digital Rights and Freedom Bill” Example,” which will discuss the process that led to this positive rights campaign, provide information on work done so far (especially lessons from the campaign) and discuss positive rights in Africa.

Cyber Stewards Network member Bytes for All will give brief introductions and practical demonstrations to introduce the key tools for secure mobile and web communication, such as basic PGP encryption, ToR, Text Secure, and using proxies among other tools, in a session entitled “Digital Tools to Evade Surveillance.”

Cyber Stewards Network member ICT Watch will conduct a tech demo to illustrate the operation and end use of OpenBTS for community run telecom in a session called “OpenBTS for Grasroots Telco Infrastructure.”

View the draft schedule and program highlights.

Cyber Stewards Network 2013 Year in Review

Introduction

Since 2012, the Citizen Lab with the support of the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) has been working on building bridges between researchers and activists in the global North and South to form a space of peers for collaboration and organization at local, regional, and international levels. This space emerged as the Cyber Stewards Network, and since then, members from the global South have been involved in key cybersecurity and Internet governance debates, policy discussions, litigation and advocacy campaigns. The following is a review of major outcomes in advocacy, litigation and public policy in 2013.

Research and Advocacy

Advocacy is broadly defined and in this context, Stewards who engage in advocacy are deeply rooted in evidence-based research as a foundation from which any good advocacy campaigns are developed.

Stewards speak out against Snowden revelations

Following the United States’ National Security Agency (NSA) spying revelations, the Cyber Stewards Network partners were involved in awareness-raising activities on issues of cyber surveillance and privacy.

Partners in the Cyber Stewards Network joined the chorus of voices speaking out against the NSA program and its implications on domestic safeguards for data protection across the world. Alberto Cerda, International Program Director of Chilean NGO Derechos Digitales, wrote in an op-ed that the “violation of fundamental rights has a global character. What good is it for me to be protected in Chile if it’s actually the US government that’s violating my rights?” Derechos Digitales has cautioned users to be mindful of what content they upload on any network.

Ramiro Alvarez Ugarte, Director of Access to Information for Asociación por los Derechos Civiles, has also suggested that the PRISM revelations should force netizens in countries outside of the US—such as his native Argentina—to look at the powers that domestic intelligence agencies wield, especially where governmental oversight of these organizations is lacking.

CIPESA criticized the Ugandan government for its plans to use surveillance technology to monitor the social media accounts of citizens. On May 30, Ugandan Security Minister Muruli Musaka announced that the government would establish a “Social Media Monitoring Center”as a matter of national security. To assuage the public’s fears, a government spokesperson later clarified that the surveillance centre would only target cyber criminals. Civil society remains skeptical given the government’s track record of shutting down media or removing online content under the pretext of terrorism or other security grounds.

7iber challenges online censorship in the Middle East

In early 2013, 7iber started a blog series titled Wireless, where they continue to publish regular blog and multimedia content on media, censorship, and cyber security issues in the Middle East. This ongoing series includes short updates, articles, creative infographics, and videos that deal with relevant issues from the region.

Besides the busy research work, the group received significant media attention when in June, their website was blocked in Jordan along with over 250 other news sites. Subsequently, in July, 7iber was recognized as one of the top ten Arabic Blogs of 2013 [Arabic]. In December, the group worked closely with Global Voices to coordinate the 4th Arab Bloggers Meeting, which took place in Amman.

Training, Education, and Capacity-building worldwide

In 2013, the Tibet Action Institute (TAI) participated in several panel discussions to discuss cybersecurity and targeted threats as part of their “Safe Travels Online” campaign. In June 2013, TAI hosted an event in Dharamsala, India. This “Safe Travels Online: Tech Meet” with Cyber Steward and TAI Field Coordinator Lobsang Gyatso Sither and other TAI staff explaining security concepts and the use of security tools to members of the Tibetan community. Citizen Lab Research Manager Masashi Crete-Nishihata gave a presentation on the Lab’s Targeted Threats research and what they have learned about online threats targeting the Tibetan community. Lhadon Thetong, the director of the Tibet Action Institute, then gave a talk on the importance of digital security, activism and action in the Tibetan community in the context of the movement and struggle for independence. A second “Safe Travels Online: Tech Meet” was held in Toronto and was hosted by Students for a Free Tibet Canada. The meeting revolved around online targeted threats against activists, the Tibetan diaspora community, and their supporters.

As part of the “Safe Travels Online” campaign, TAI has developed a video series hosted on their website. The series stars Tibetan comedian Sonam Wangdue and shows him promoting security best practices for users of digital technology.

In Pakistan, Bytes for All continued their “Access Is My Right” advocacy campaign, which calls on Pakistani citizens to raise awareness about  Internet censorship, privacy, and freedom of expression in the country. B4A describes the campaign as “a call for [a] larger human rights movement in the country and [for] citizens to fight the ongoing censorship as it will further take its toll on already compromised civil liberties in the country.” In the past year alone, the campaign produced posters criticizing the blocking of mobile phone services to prevent sectarian terrorist attacks, highlighting research by the Citizen Lab with the assistance of B4A on the presence of Netsweeper in Pakistan, and supporting privacy rights in Pakistan after research showed the presence of surveillance software FinFisher in the country.

In Colombia, Colnodo held a public cybersecurity workshop in in September 2013. The workshop brought together participants from women’s organizations, civil society organizations, government bodies, and the private sector in order to raise awareness and capacity building for women leaders and defenders of human rights regarding online security issues.

In India, the Centre for Internet and Society (CIS) launched its CIS Cybersecurity video series, a video documentary project featuring interviews with cybersecurity stakeholders from various sectors on hotly debated aspects of cybersecurity. The project aims to encourage wider public discussion around cybersecurity issues. Interviewees include: members of European Parliament, Mariejte Schaake and Amelia Andersdotter; Chief Security Officer for ICANN, Jeff Moss; Director of the Tibet Action Institute, Lhadon Tethong; Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer of Afilias Limited and member of the ICANN Board of Directors, Ram Mohan; Principal Technologist and a Senior Policy Analyst with the Speech, Privacy and Technology Project at the American Civil Liberties Union, Christopher Soghoian; former Policy Advisor to the Netherlands government, Jochem de Groot; and Global Policy Analyst at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Eva Galperin. CIS’s Cybersecurity series has informed the producton of a full-length documentary called DesiSec: Cybersecurity and Civil Society in India.CIS released a trailer for DesiSec in November 2013 and held a special screening for the documentary in December 2013.

Research and Litigation

Several members of the Cyber Stewards Network have adopted public interest litigation (PIL) as part of their research strategy. Regardless of whether a given lawsuit proves successful, civil society organization may use PIL to bring issues like violations of human rights and free speech to the forefront of national attention. Moreover, PIL can serve to educate a country’s judiciary on issues about which they may not understand.

Bytes for All lawsuits

B4A currently has several cases before the Pakistani courts and one before the UK courts in conjunction with Privacy International.

In January 2013, B4A submitted a petition to the Lahore High Court claiming that the rights of Pakistanis have been violated through the government’s censoring of various popular sites on the Internet. The censorship of YouTube as a consequence of the site hosting the controversial “Innocence of Muslims” video was highlighted in this case. This petition was initiated in collaboration with the Media Legal Defense Initiative, a non-governmental organisation which supports the rights of journalists and independent media. The Youtube case has received 19 hearings over the past year and a half. Most recently, B4A met with the Federal minister and other stakeholders, and the National Assembly passed a  resolution on unbanning the popular video-streaming site, however the site remains blocked. B4A remains committed to their long-standing anti-censorship/no-filtering stance and will oppose any options promoting censorship as a solution as they continue their advocacy work on this case.

Along with the so-called “YouTube case,” B4A filed a petition with the Lahore High Court on the possible use of the FinFisher product suite in Pakistan. The first hearing took place on May 13, 2013 and resulted in a court decision ordering the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to investigate the use of FinFisher software in the country. The court order further stipulated that the PTA must make a statement to the court by June 24, 2013. In October 2013, B4A submitted a contempt charge against the government for not reporting to the court with regards to the petition. B4A’s case is based on evidence revealed by the Citizen Lab on the presence of FinFisher software in 36 countries across the globe, including Pakistan.

B4A is also actively collaborating with Privacy International to sue the UK government over its Tempora surveillance program, which would allow GCHQ to wiretap networks passing through the UK. B4A and PI are arguing that the program violates the European Convention on Human Rights’ privacy safeguards as well as the limits of lawful surveillance outlined in the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act. The suit, which was filed with the UK’s Investigatory Powers Tribunal, asks that the program be made illegal and that GCHQ destroys all unlawfully obtained material.

For these and other efforts, B4A and its Director, Shahzad Ahmed, have received international recognition. In March 2013, B4A received an Avon Communications Award “for organizing campaigns for the betterment of women” through their Take Back the Tech campaign. One year later, Shahzad Ahmed won the Doughty Street Advocacy Award as part of the Index on Censorship’s 2014 Freedom of Expression Awards. The award recognized Ahmed as “one of the leading voices in the fight against online censorship in Pakistan.”

PIN vs. the Nigerian government

PIN initiated its own legal action against the Nigerian government. In April 2013, Premium Times, a Nigerian English-language newspaper, reported that President Goodluck Jonathan had awarded a USD 40 million contract to Elbit Systems, an Israeli company that markets itself as an “international defense electronics company.” PIN responded by filing a Freedom of Information (FoI) request, demanding that the Nigerian government provide details of the process through which the contract was awarded and any information that could shed further light on the substance of the contract itself. After the government failed to respond to the FoI request, PIN applied for an order of mandamus from the Federal High Court in Abuja, which in turn asked the National Assembly to amend Nigeria’s 2011 Freedom of Information Act to henceforth bar unjustified requests for information. PIN’s lawyers filed an appeal against the Federal High Court’s ruling, but on November 26, 2013, Premium Times reported that Elbit Systems officials had begun installing its surveillance system in Nigeria.

Data Privacy and Retention in Argentina

Members of the Cyber Stewards Network are active in efforts to raise awareness on the use of surveillance technologies such as the Federal System of Biometric Identification (SIBIOS) in Argentina. SIBIOS is a centralized biometric identification system created in 2011 as part of an upgrade to Argentina’s National Registry of Persons (RENAPER). It is designed to be used by several government agencies, including the Federal Police, the Argentine National Gendarmerie, the National Coast Guard, and the Airport Security Police, and connect them into one database. Ramiro Álvarez Ugarte of Asociación por los Derechos Civiles (ADC) in Argentina has warned that SIBIOS lacks accountability and independent oversight, and has been actively investigating the extent and scope of the system’s capabilities.

During Argentina’s 2013 presidential election, the country’s electoral registration took photo’s of Argentine’s citizens from RENAPER without obtaining permission. In October 2013, ADC  formally requested the Contentious Administrative Proceedings Tribunal to remove these photos from the electoral database. The vulnerability of this database was revealed in late October 2013 when a teenager discovered a way break into the database which hosts the photos of voters and circulated the information on his blog [Spanish] to highlight the government’s lax security measures around personal data. (A translation can be found here.) This issue was brought to the attention of United Nation’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in a report published in December 2013 and co-authored with Privacy International discussing surveillance and poor privacy protection in Argentina.

Research and Public Policy

One of the key goals of the CSN is to conduct evidence-based research with the goal of influencing local, regional and global policy debates. Over the past year, Stewards have engaged in direct meetings with high-level officials, participated in key decision-making conferences and engaged governments and the general public.

FinFisher in Mexico

In Mexico, Cyber Steward Renata Avila has joined the chorus of voices calling for government accountability regarding the its purchase of surveillance software. In March, the Citizen Lab published “You Only Click Twice: FinFisher’s Global Proliferation,” which found FinFisher command and control servers on two Mexican Internet service providers, including UniNet, one of the largest ISPs in the country. Following the release of “For Their Eyes Only: The Commercialization of Digital Spying,” two Mexico-based human rights groups, Propuesta Civica and ContingenteMx, filed a verification procedure with Mexico’s privacy authority (IFAI) regarding FinFisher’s presence in the country. The IFAI subsequently opened a preliminary inquiry asking ISPs whether they were hosting FinFisher servers, while Federal Deputy Juan Pablo Adame proposed a resolution before the Mexican Senate and Congress encouraging the IFAI to investigate the deployment of FinFisher. In July, documents leaked by YoSoyRed implicated the Mexican Federal Government in purchasing FinFisher software from a security contractor for up to USD 15.5 million. One month later, the Mexican Senate and Congress passed a joint resolution in which they demanded full investigation into the contracts for the purchase of surveillance and hacking systems capable of monitoring mobile phones, electronic communications, chats, and geolocation data. Congress also called for laws to regulate and restrict purchases of surveillance equipment, extensively quoting the Citizen Lab report in their request. The commercial entities named have not yet responded. IFAI also informed Congress that they would continue the investigation.

Regional and Global Internet Governance Discussions

In 2013, the Cyber Stewards were heavily involved in both worldwide and regional discussions on Internet governance. Cyber Steward and ICT Watch Director Donny B.U was one of the main organisers of the 2013 Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Indonesia in late October. Donny spoke to Detik about Internet governance in Indonesia. ICT Watch used the 2013 Internet Governance Forum in Bali, Indonesia as an opportunity to facilitate involvement among Indonesian CSOs and call for government attention toward Internet governance issues. As part of the organizing process, Donny also established the Indonesian CSOs Network For Internet Governance (ID-CONFIG) as a forum for civil society organizations to exchange information and coordinate strategies to explore and address Internet governance-related issues in Indonesia. This forum united civil society organizations to participate in the IGF in a more cohesive way, and as a result, they were able to significantly influence the agenda and the degree to which the Indonesian government resisted pressure to comply with international norms on freedom of expression.

The CSN used the opportunity of the 2013 IGF to engage in a kind of “just-in-time” research project, by monitoring information controls in and around the IGF itself.  The exercise was undertaken by Citizen Lab researchers attending the IGF and remotely in Toronto and elsewhere, as well as local Indonesian CSN and Privacy International partner . We published a framework post, that set out the terms of the research, and then subsequently, Professor Sinta Dewi Rosadi (Faculty of Law, Padjadjaran University, Bandung, Indonesia), published our report and its initial findings during the IGF itself.

Almost every network member participated in the IGF. Immediately following the event, a coalition of civil society organizations and individuals (including other Cyber Stewards Network members Renata Avila and Paradigm Initiative Nigeria) delivered astatement to the co-chairs of the Open Government Partnership (OGP). The OGP aims to promote transparency and adopt new technologies to strengthen governance.The statement, which was informed by discussions at the IGF in Indonesia, calls for greater transparency among all governments, especially the OGPparticipating countries, regarding the use of surveillance technology and the export and import of such technology.

CSN members also played a key role in organizing or participating in regional Internet governance discussions. Walid Al-Saqaf participated in several high-level meetings, including the Second Arab Internet Governance Forum (AIGF) in Algiers, where he moderated a session on freedom of expression on the Internet in the Arab world. It was the highest level pan-Arab meeting that critically discussed violations against cyber activists in the region. He also co-founded ISOC-Yemen, the first ISOC chapter in Yemen, in order to advance Internet accessibility and awareness in the country.

PIN and CIPESA co-hosted a series of online internet freedom discussions during November and December 2013. Over four weeks, the discussions focused on a variety of online safety and Internet governance issues particular to Africa, including the African Convention on Cybersecurity and surveillance between countries on the African continent. Following the discussions, CIPESA published a report analyzing participants’ responses and making a number of recommendations.

Finally, B4A and ICT Watch participated in the “Asia Regional Consultation on ‘Freedom of Expression for Civil Liberties’” held in Bangkok, Thailand from November 21-23, 2013. The event focused on three issues relevant to free expression cyberspace in Asia: access to the Internet, online surveillance, and political-electoral communication. The event featured

It was attended by 137 participants from 26 countries, including Frank La Rue, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression.

For more information on any of these events, campaigns and cases, visit the Cyber Stewards site as well as individual Stewards’ websites, which are listed here.

Exploring The State of Internet Freedom in Africa

What is the price of security? Should it be your online freedom? 

By Juliet Nanfuka

Where do human rights and online rights meet? Is there a clash between online freedom and human rights? Is there room for self-regulation? These are some of the questions that a recently concluded online discussions report on Internet freedom in Africa explores.

Participants from Uganda, Kenya and Nigeria used online platforms to discuss these issues over a four week period at the end of 2013.

A key theme that came out of the report is the recognition of the increased numbers of internet users across the continent and parallel to this, increased measures taken by governments on surveillance of citizens. This, in turn, has brought to the fore many questions about freedom of expression and privacy.

Many countries are faced with contradictory policies when it comes to freedom of expression especially when it is placed alongside national security and stability. As a result, freedom of expression is threatened by restrictive legal measures that infringe on the access and sharing of information. In addition to these are the legal permissions granted to governments with regards to accessing information about users. Requests from African governments, although few, appear to be politically motivated according to the Google Transparency Reports.

In light of this, a participant asked a key question that also raises concerns about censorship, “How much can you restrict if those with no restriction can interact with and pass on information to the restricted using alternative methods of communication?” This led to the recognition of the conflict that exists between online freedom of expression and the state. Such was seen in the 2011 politically motivated ‘Walk to Work’ protests in Uganda in which the national communications regulatory authority, the Uganda Communications Commission, instructed ISPs to block access to social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook for 24 hours. More on this can be found here Internet Freedom in Africa Under Threat.

The report, prepared by the Collaboration on International ICT Policy in East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) in partnership with Paradigm Initiative Nigeria (PIN) can be downloaded here.

Argentina’s Biometric Identification System Causes Concerns

Governments’ use of biometric systems have raised privacy concerns and the need for greater transparency and accountability. This is because these systems collect and store individuals’ physical traits such as fingerprints, facial recognition, iris scans, and other personal characteristics. Several countries have already implemented biometric data collection in their national identification cards and passports. Finger-based voting machines have been used in elections in Brazil since 2008 and were introduced in municipal elections in Colombia in 2009. In 2005, Brazil also introduced machine-readable biometric passports. Ingenico, a global electronic transaction company, will be deploying devices where clients can withdrew funds through fingerprint identification in Colombia and the Dominican Republic. Biometric identification has been criticized as being error-prone and unreliable, as well as being fundamentally detrimental to privacy, free expression, and the right to anonymity, especially with regards to vulnerable individuals such as dissidents, whistleblowers, and journalists.

In 2011, Argentina’s President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner issued a decree for the creation of a centralized biometric identification system, called the Federal System of Biometric Identification (SIBIOS). Part of an upgrade to Argentina’s National Registry of Persons (RENAPER), the system will be used by several government agencies, including the Federal Police, the Argentine National Gendarmerie, the National Coast Guard, and the Airport Security Police, and connect them into one database. A promotional video of the system claims that it is capable of identifying physical characteristics such as fingerprints and faces, as a means of identification, and therefore, they claim, increasing the capability of these organizations to combat crime.

Members of the Cyber Stewards Network are active in efforts to raise awareness on the use of surveillance technologies such as SIBIOS. Ramiro Álvarez Ugarte of Asociación por los Derechos Civiles in Argentina, a Cyber Steward Network member, has warned that SIBIOS lacks accountability and independent oversight, and has been investigating the extent and scope of the system’s capabilities. In November 2013, a statement signed by several civil society organizations and individuals (including other Cyber Stewards Network members Renata Avila and Paradigm Initiative Nigeria) was delivered to the co-chairs of the Open Government Partnership (OGP). The OGP aims to promote transparency and adopt new technologies to strengthen governance.The statement calls for greater transparency among all governments, especially the OGP participating countries, regarding the use of surveillance technology and the export and import of such technology. It also advocates legal reform to existing laws to better protect privacy and human rights. The statement is one of many civil society efforts to raise awareness of the dangers of pervasive government surveillance and we will continue to provide updates as they become available.

 

Online Discussions on Promoting Internet Freedoms in Africa

The Collaboration on International ICT Policy in East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) and Paradigm Initiative Nigeria (PIN) to co-host discussion on online safety matters in Africa, during November and December 2013.

Background

Africa’s internet usage continues to grow steadily, with an estimated 16% of the population on the continent using the internet. The increased availability of affordable marine fiber optic bandwidth, a rise in private sector investments, the popularity of social media and innovative applications, and increased use of the mobile phone to access the internet, are all enabling more people in Africa to get online. In turn, there are numerous purposes to which users in Africa are putting the internet‐from mobile banking, to connecting with fellow citizens and with leaders, tracking corruption and poor service delivery, innovating for social good, and just about everything else.

The increasing usage of the internet, however, has in some countries attracted the attention of authorities, who are eager to provide caveats on the openness of the internet and the range of freedoms which citizens and citizens’ organisations enjoy online. The popularity of social media, the Wikileaks diplomatic cables saga and the Arab Spring uprisings have led many governments including those in Africa to recognise the power of online media. In a number of African countries, there are increasing legal and extra-legal curbs on internet rights, in what portends tougher times ahead for cyber security.

PIN and CIPESA to Lead on Internet Freedom Discussions

The Collaboration on International ICT Policy in East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) and the Paradigm Initiative Nigeria (PIN) will co-host an online internet freedom forum during November and December 2013. The purpose of this forum will be to discuss key online safety matters in Africa. The forum aims to attract discussions from key ICT experts both within Africa and outside Africa.

The outcomes of the discussions will feed into a report that will be presented at the first African Internet Freedom Forum to be held in 2014. Furthermore, it will inform the work of CIPESA, PIN and their partners that are working in the area of online freedoms.

Format of the discussions

Discussions will be hosted on selected online platforms in Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria and a mailing list comprising Africa Internet Governance experts. Identified platforms are:APC Africa IG Mailing List; KICTANet (Kenya) mailing list; Information Network (Uganda) mailing list; Naija IT Professionals mailing list; West African IGF mailing list; and FOI Coalition (Nigeria) mailing list.

The lists will be moderated by a representative from both CIPESA and PIN. Each week, a new topic with guiding questions will be introduced on the listserves and a summary provided at the end of each week. A draft report will be made available at the end of the fourth week.  This too shall be posted back on the mailing lists to capture feedback from participants as well as seek clarification on any issues that might not have been captured well. A final report shall then be made that will feed into the face to face meeting as well as be shared on the targeted platforms and onpartners’ websites. 

Discussion Outline

Week 1: November 11-15             Status of Internet Freedom in African Countries: Focus shall be on seeking participants’ views on issues of Freedom of Expression both online and offline; Internet Intermediary Liability; censorship and surveillance incidents; regulations, laws and policies governing freedom of expression online and perspectives on the African Convention on CyberSecurity.

Questions to explore:

  1. What are the major issues surrounding online freedom of expression in Africa?
  2. What convergences and tensions exist between freedom of expression and privacy?
  3. What are the implications of approaching the balance between freedom of expression and privacy from a freedom of expression–centric point of view?
  4. What actions can governments, civil society, media and the private sector take to balance privacy with freedom of expression online?
  5. What is the best way to empower users to stay safe online while protecting their freedom of expression?

Week 2: November 18-22 Global Surveillance Revelations and Impact on Africa: Focus will be given to global surveillance incidents like the NSA/Edward Snowden drawing lessons for Africa stakeholders i.e. governments, activists, CSOs and private sector; how to balance privacy while maintainingsecurity for citizens.

Questions to explore

  1. What can African governments learn from the NSA surveillance and Snowden revelations?
  2. What are the current technology trends and which cybersecuritythreats raise the greatest concern?
  3. How are evolving Internet services and technologies, such as mobile and cloud computing services, affecting these security threats?
  4. Is there any country data, across the continent, on how surveillance has really helped to curb – or prevent – acts of terrorism?
  5. Are African countries spying on each other? Are there countries that have shown a tendency to breach the rights of other sovereign nations on the continent?

Week 3: November 25-29             Best Practices on Internet Policy in Africa: Discussants will be called to share best practices on internet policies in Africa.

Questions to explore:

  1. What policies are working in your country and what needs to be streamlined or strengthened?
  2. Are there African countries that offer a model, or close enough to Best Practice scenarios that can be highlighted for other countries to learn from, or emulate
  3. What are the signs to look out for in our various countries’ ICT policies, to be sure that the country plans to improve Internet Freedom?
  4. What worked well for countries that have shown steady progress in the annual Freedom House ratings?
  5. What can other countries learn from those that have, or are developing, crowdsourced (and citizen-led) Internet Freedom Charters?

Week 4: December 2-6        Recommendations for Africa:Participants shall be called upon to suggest ways to improve internet security, data and privacy protection in Africa.

Questions to explore

  1. What elements need to be put in place to ensure all Internet users (including citizens, companies, government, etc) continue to have confidence in the Internet?
  2. How can African civil society organisations engage ICT policy processes to ensure that rights are not traded for security?
  3. Considering the ongoing discussions around the African Convention on Cybersecurity, what recommendations should be made to improve the text?
  4. How do activists and rights’ advocates protect themselves in scenarios where government clampdown could affect their work?
  5. Should African academia incorporate this new reality into classroom discussions? If they should, is there a model to learn from?

Join the conversation

For more information about the online discussions forum, please write to CIPESA viaprogrammes@cipesa.org or Paradigm Initiative for Nigeria via info@pinigeria.org

Download the full information here.

The Cyber Stewards Network Speak Out on PRISM

In June 2013, news broke out in media outlets around the world of a secret program operated by the United States’ National Security Agency (NSA) regarding the collection of information directly from several major U.S. Internet companies. The program, referred to as “PRISM”, involves data collection on a large scale from phones, streams of Internet traffic, and content stored by Internet companies. Despite denials by major Internet companies of their complicity with the NSA regarding this program, leaked reports have also indicated the agency paid millions of dollars to major technology companies to cover the costs of the program.

The revelation of the NSA’s PRISM program has raised concerns around the world over potential harms to online privacy. As the program’s efforts are directed primarily at non-American citizens, it is clear this is an issue of global concern, especially considering the dependence so many Internet users have worldwide on products and platforms developed by U.S. based companies such as Google, Yahoo, and Facebook.

In a CNN op-ed Ron Deibert, (Director, Citizen Lab) suggested that the revelation of the program’s existence will ultimately prove detrimental to Internet freedom. Authoritarian regimes may now cite PRISM as an excuse to tighten and restrict Internet access for their citizens while simultaneously engaging in a digital arms race to offset the United States’ intelligence capabilities. Deibert explained that it is incumbent on the United States to fully “consider the international implications” of actions done by government agencies in the pursuit of domestic security. In a separate article on the use of metadata by security agencies, Deibert also emphasized the need for citizens to ask the “big questions about the appropriate checks and balances of security agencies in a liberal democratic society as we undergo such a profound Big Data revolution.”

Partners in the Cyber Stewards Network have joined the chorus of voices speaking out against the program and its implications on domestic safeguards for data protection across the world. Alberto Cerda, International Program Director of Chilean NGO Derechos Digitales, wrote in an op-ed that the “violation of fundamental rights has a global character. What good is it for me to be protected in Chile if it’s actually the US government that’s violating my rights?” Derechos Digitales has cautioned users to be mindful of what content they upload on any network.

Ramiro Alvarez Ugarte, Director of Access to Information for Asociación por los Derechos Civiles, has also suggested that the PRISM revelations should force netizens in countries outside of the US—such as his native Argentina—to look at the powers that domestic intelligence agencies wield, especially where governmental oversight of these organizations is lacking. Ugarte has also participated in discussions on privacy rights in Argentina with other like-minded organizations in the context of the PRISM revelations.

The PRISM revelations have encouraged other Stewards to advocate for greater knowledge on data protection techniques. Lobsang Gyatso Sither of the Tibet Action Institute has placed increased emphasis on the use of encryption technology in his own everyday work and when training Tibetans on practices for securely transmitting sensitive information. Nathan Freitas, Director of the Guardian Project (an initiative to develop secure mobile applications) and  a member of the Tibetan Action Institute, expressed concern that the disclosure of the United States’ surveillance activities will erode the “moral high ground” from which the country has pressured the Chinese government to curtail its own digital spying.

The PRISM controversy is one of many issues involving surveillance that is part of the global campaign for Internet freedom and the freedom of citizens from unwanted privacy violations. ‘Gbenga Sesan, CEO of Paradigm Initiative Nigeria has warned of the dangers to citizens of increased government surveillance in the context of the Nigerian government’s multi-million dollar contract with Elbit Systems. Pakistani organization Bytes for All has also submitted a court petition challenging the use of the FinFisher software suite in the country.

Paradigm Initiative Nigeria Seeks Information on Surveillance Systems in Nigeria

Recent research from The Citizen Lab has detected the presence of devices capable of surveillance on networks operated by Nigerian Internet service providers. In January 2013, Citizen Lab researchers found installations of Blue Coat Systems’ PacketShaper device on netblocks associated with IPNX ISP and Cobranet. In April 2013, Citizen Lab released “For Their Eyes Only: The Commercialization of Digital Spying,” in which researchers identified FinFisher servers on a network operated by Suburban Telecom.

The Nigerian government’s procurement of Internet surveillance capabilities attracted local media attention on April 25, 2013, when the Premium Times reported that President Goodluck Jonathan had awarded a USD 40 million contract to Elbit Systems, an Israeli company that markets itself as an “international defense electronics company.” One day earlier, Elbit Systems announced in a press release that it would supply its “Wise Intelligence Technology (WiT) System for Intelligence Analysis and Cyber Defense,” a device tailor made for digital data collection and reportedly capable of harvesting network traffic, to “a country in Africa.” Premium Times’ sources within the Jonathan administration confirmed that the country in question was Nigeria.

‘Gbenga Sesan, a Cyber Steward Network partner and Executive Director of the Paradigm Initiative Nigeria (PIN) called attention to the issue on Twitter by highlighting Section 38 of the Nigerian Budget Office’s 2013 Appropriation Act, which clearly detailed that the Nigerian government had allocated N 4,312,479,720 (USD 27.6 million) to the “Wise Intelligence Network Harvest Analyzer System,” in addition to similarly large allocations toward an “Open Source Internet Monitoring System” and a “Personal Internet Surveillance System.”

On May 6, 2013, PIN filed a Freedom of Information (FoI) request with the Nigerian government regarding the USD 40 million Internet surveillance contract to Elbit Systems. The FoI filing requested that the government provide details of the process through which the contract was awarded and any information that could shed further light on the substance of the contract itself.

As of May 23, 2013, President Jonathan was reportedly considering the option of canceling the contract with Elbit Systems and had convened a meeting with the company’s management to discuss their potential breach of confidentiality in publishing the initial press release.  However, the government failed to respond to PIN’s FoI request, and the group subsequently applied for an order of mandamus through the Federal High Court in Abuja. In response to the request, Federal High Court Justice Gabriel Kolawole asked the National Assembly to amend Nigeria’s 2011 Freedom of Information Act to henceforth bar unjustified requests for information. In a press release, PIN challenged the High Court’s dismissal and called on the National Judicial Institute to address the issue. As of September 2013, PIN’s lawyers have filed an appeal against Justice Kolawole’s ruling and are awaiting a response.