Monthly Archives

December 2014

Freedom on the Net 2014: New Controls, Arrests Drive Internet Freedom Decline

By | ICT Policy

Washington – December 4, 2014 –   Global internet freedom declined for a fourth consecutive year, according to a Freedom House report released today. New laws criminalized online dissent and legitimized overbroad surveillance and data collection, while more people were arrested for legitimate online activities than ever before.

“Authoritarian and democratic leaders alike believe the internet is ripe for regulation and passed laws that strengthen official powers to police online content,” said Sanja Kelly, project director for Freedom on the Net. “The scramble to legislate comes at the expense of user rights, as lawmakers deliberately or misguidedly neglect privacy protections and judicial oversight.” The situation is especially problematic in less democratic states where citizens have no avenues to challenge or appeal government’s actions.

“Countries are adopting laws that legitimize existing repression and effectively criminalize online dissent,” the report concludes. “More people are being arrested for their internet activity than ever before, online media outlets are increasingly pressured to censor themselves or face legal penalties, and private companies are facing new demands to comply with government requests for data or deletions.”

Freedom on the Net 2014 found 36 of the 65 countries assessed experienced a negative trajectory in internet freedom since May 2013, with major deteriorations in Russia, Turkey, and Ukraine. Revelations of widespread surveillance by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) bolstered nondemocratic regimes that spy on their opponents, but also inspired civil society activists to mount legal and technical challenges against invasive monitoring.

The worst abusers of internet freedom were Iran, Syria, and China. Very few countries registered lasting policy improvements. One exception was Brazil, where a long-debated bill known as the Marco Civil da Internet passed with strong privacy protections and important provisions governing net neutrality.

“Policies implemented at the national level change the internet for everyone,” Kelly said. “Restrictions could transform the worldwide network we rely on into a fragmented mosaic.”

Key Findings:

  • Between May 2013 and May 2014, 41 countries passed or proposed legislation to penalize legitimate forms of speech online, increase government powers to control content, or expand government surveillance capabilities.
  • Since May 2013, arrests for online communications pertinent to politics and social issues were documented in 38 of the 65 countries, most notably in the Middle East and North Africa, where detentions occurred in 10 out of the 11 countries examined in the region.
  • Pressure on independent news websites, among the few unfettered sources of information in many countries, dramatically increased. Dozens of citizen journalists were attacked while reporting on the conflict in Syria and antigovernment protests in Egypt, Turkey and Ukraine. Other governments stepped up licensing and regulation for web platforms.

Emerging Threats: 

  • Data localization requirements—by which private companies are required to maintain data storage centers within a given country—are multiplying, driven in part by NSA revelations, which spurred more governments to bring international web companies under domestic jurisdiction. These measures could expose user data to local law enforcement.
  • Women and LGBTI rights are undermined by digital threats and harassment, resulting in self-censorship that inhibits their participation in online culture.
  • Cybersecurity is eroding as government critics and human rights organizations are subject to increasingly sophisticated and personalized malware attacks, documented in 32 of the 65 countries examined.

To view the summary of findings, click here.

To download the full report, including detailed chapters for the 65 countries covered, click here. 

To download high resolution map of internet freedom, click here.

Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.

Paradigm Initiative Nigeria Advocates Fair Cybercrime Legislation

By | ICT Policy

PRADIGM INITIATIVE NIGERIA

info@pinigeria.org | 234-1-342 62 45                                                                             26th November, 2014

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Ladies and gentlemen of the press, you are welcome.

The focus of this Press Briefing is to drum support for a much-needed Cybercrime Bill for Nigeria. Paradigm Initiative Nigeria (PIN) has worked on this need since 2008, and with our eyes set on the need for a firm but fair legislation that does not hurt Internet Freedom.

The offence known as cybercrime involves using electronic devices by individuals to commit crimes ranging from cyber-terrorism, identity theft, to spam, among many others. There is no gainsaying the fact that cybercrime has assumed alarming dimensions in the country, constituting a menace to economic development.

Nigeria as a country is susceptible to all sorts of online attacks due to the absence of appropriate legal framework for the prohibition, prevention, detection, response, investigation and prosecution of offences in the cyberspace. In 2003, Paradigm Initiative Nigeria’s “Economic Cost of Cybercrime in Nigeria” report revealed an annual loss of N2.15 trillion due to cybercrime.

Perpetrators of this offence often get away with the crime because there are no laws in place to prosecute offenders. Hence, the need for a fair, comprehensive and proactive legal regime to curb the menace.

In response to this missing link in the law on cybercrime, the office of the National Security Advisor and the Ministry of Justice completed work on a Cybercrime Bill 2014. This came from a revise of the earlier Cyber Security and Information Protection Agency Bill, which had provisions that had potential to restrict users’ rights to free expression and privacy, by allowing security officials apprehend and prosecute users based on suspicion and without Court Order.

The Senate has passed the cybercrime bill. The next urgent step is for the lower Legislative Chamber, the House of Representatives, to concur to its passage, before President Goodluck Jonathan will eventually sign it into law for proper implementation.

As the polity switches into election mood for February 2015, there is urgent need to make hay. Over the next eight weeks, PIN plans a range of activities to improve awareness across the public, political and business spaces to mobilize pressure on the legislature and executive to fast-track the passage of the ‘Cybercrime Bill, 2014’ before Parliament is dissolved in May 2015. Failure to achieve this will bring to waste the huge work and resources that have gone in the bill.

Specifically, we plan the following activities:

  1. Advocacy visits to lobby key stakeholders at Parliament to fast-track debate on the Cybercrime Bill 2014
  2. Roundtable workshop for opinion leaders on cyber crime
  3. Advocacy visit to political parties and key candidates to lobby them to make commitments to actions and policies to address cybercrime if they won the election as a way to make cyber security a campaign issue
  4. Capacity building for bloggers to help pressure political parties and candidates to make public commitments to address challenges of cybercrime if elected to office
  5. Information share to local journalists to aid publications highlighting the adverse effects of lack of cyber crime act on the Nigeria polity, as a way to keep the momentum on and pressure Nigerian authorities to expedite action on the bill passage
  6. Advocacy visit to media outlets to drum up support for the Cybercrime Bill 2014.

PIN, therefore, calls on all – citizens, media, businesses and governments – who value our rights to use the Internet without fear and risk, to join in partnership in this endeavor.

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If you would like more information about this topic or further project description on PIN’s ICT Policy Office, please visit www.pinigeria.org. For more information please contact: King James, Project Manager, ICT Policy on +234 9 291 63 01, or e-mail info@pinigeria.org

 

NIMC denies FOI request on ID Card Project Involving MasterCard

By | ICT Policy

Media and civil society fought to ensure the passage of a Freedom of Information Bill into law in Nigeria to ensure more transparency in governance. Unfortunately, it appears that some government agencies will do anything not to comply with the provision of the law on freedom of information. It is no news that a couple of cases have had recourse to the courts for the enforcement of this right.

On the 4th day of September, 2014, PIN had written to the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) on behalf of itself and the Public and Private Development Centre and in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act 2011, requesting for copies of all documents relating to Procurement and Contract for the Provision of Payment by MaterCard for General Multi-purpose Card including the grant document and the grant agreement between MasterCard and NIMC, contract currency, the effective (start) date of the contract and the end date of the contract, the terms and conditions of the contract, payment schedule, the payment terms, etc.

This legitimate request was however not conceded by the Commission despite several follow-up and reminders to that effect. NIMC only responded on the 24th of October, after more than one month, contrary to the provision of the FOI Act, which stipulates one week. In refusing to grant the applicant their request, NIMC cited Trade Secret and National Security as the reasons for such denial. This excuse by NIMC holds no water as the procurement and contract details or information requested for, as listed in their letter dated 4th September, 2014, relates to public expenditure simpliciter, which by virtue of Section 2 of the FOIA 2011 ought to be made readily available.

As aptly observed by Seember Nyager, CEO of the Public and Private Development Centre: “In view of Section 11 of the FOIA 2011, the request for contract and procurement records for the provision of identity card solutions for all Nigerians is information whose disclosure should not be denied because NIMC has not shown that the release of such information is injurious to National Defence. It is however clear that the release of details of contract and procurement records which would require the collection and storage of details of all Nigerians is in the public interest, an interest which clearly outweighs any injury that may be caused from its release, by virtue the enabling provisions of Section 11 (2) FOIA.”

Edetaen Ojo, Executive Director of Media Rights Agenda agrees. “Even if NIMC got a grant from MasterCard, that does not preclude the information from being disclosed.  Indeed, information regarding any such grant ought to be proactively disclosed under Section 2(3)(c)(v) of the FOI Act,” he stated. He continued, “I really do not see how the issue applies or becomes a justification for non-disclosure. Information can only be legitimately withheld if it falls within one of the exemptions contained in the Act and even so, such information should still be disclosed if a public interest in the disclosure exists and if the public interest in the disclosure outweighs any harm that might be caused by the disclosure.”

PIN Executive Director, ‘Gbenga Sesan, asked: “Is the NIMC implying that it did not conduct the procurement in accordance with the process stipulated in the Public Procurement Act (PPA) because of the national security implications or that it followed the PPA but cannot give the applicant the information because it falls within the national security exemption?”  King James, PIN ICT Policy Program Manager stated: “Even if national security was a legitimate exemption, the onus is on NIMC to demonstrate how national security applies to the information PIN requested for. There is no attempt to do that beyond a blanket reference to and invocation of national security. There is nothing PIN has asked for in its FOI request that would require NIMC to disclose privileged, proprietary and confidential information or trade secrets that it obtained from MasterCard. PIN is not asking for the technology that MasterCard is using, except information relating to the process or procedure for the award of the contract the contract sum and the terms of the contract. There is absolutely nothing PIN is asking for that falls within this exemption. NIMC is simply using avoidance tactics, which usually suggests that they have something to hide.”

Even without the FOI Act, all the information PIN requested could still have been legitimately asked for under the PPA. “We trust that NIMC will do the right thing as PIN and PPDC have now sent another request to the organization, requesting for specific information under the provisions of the FOI Act. The national ID card project has raised a lot of privacy concerns and we believe that the lack of a Data Privacy law in Nigeria should make organisations like NIMC consider the weight of their actions more seriously. With diverse institutions – banks, INEC, Immigration Service, FRSC, telecommunications companies – holding the private data of Nigerian citizens, it’s time to ask the tough questions around the absence of Data Privacy law”, ‘Gbenga Sesan added.

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If you would like more information about this topic or further project description on PIN’s ICT Policy Office, please visit www.pinigeria.org. For more information please contact: King James, Project Manger, ICT Policy on +234 9 291 63 01, or e-mail info@pinigeria.org

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