The Data Localization Paradox

//Tatevik Sargsyan, a doctoral candidate at the School of Communication at American University, explores the economic and trade implications of data localization on governments and citizens. In lieu of the recent ‘Safe Harbor’ agreement, Sargsyan considers localization within the contexts of human rights and commercial exchange. 

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) decision to invalidate the Safe Harbor agreement on October 6, 2015, and the subsequent legal uncertainty surrounding data transfer between the United States and European Union (EU), have sparked conversations about data localization. As the US and EU negotiate a new transatlantic data transfer regime and internet companies consider moving data to Europe, it is worth reflecting on the potential consequences of data localization.  

Most commonly, “data localization” refers to legal restrictions on data location and export, which mandate online service providers to physically locate servers containing data belonging to a country’s residents within that country’s jurisdiction, and/or ban the export and processing of data elsewhere. China, Indonesia, Vietnam, South Korea, Russia, Canada, and Australia are among the many countries where such restrictions exist or are being considered.

The 2013 revelations about the US National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance PRISM program have particularly pushed countries to turn to data localization as a reasonable solution to privacy and security concerns related to intrusive foreign intelligence. This is the rationale behind German authorities’ proposal to store Europeans’ data on servers inside EU. This is also the claim that Russian authorities used to enforce the Data Localization Law on September 1st of this year.

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How are the African nations of Mauritania and Rwanda doing when it comes to human rights online?

//This blog post by Ephraim Percy Kenyanito was originally published on Access, an online international human rights organization focused on extending digital rights to users around the world. Click here to read the original post. 

Right now the United Nations Human Rights Council is holding its 23rd Universal Periodic Review (UPR) working group session (November 2nd-13th, 2015). The Universal Periodic Review is the cooperative process by which the Human Rights Council reviews the human rights records of all 193 U.N. member states.

Here’s a look at the digital rights landscape in Mauritania and Rwanda, and the implications for people at risk of human rights violations in these countries.

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Mauritania – domestic and international human rights obligations

Mauritania has signed on to various international human rights instruments, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the Convention against Torture (CAT), the Convention against Enforced Disappearance (ICCPED), and the Optional Protocol to the CAT (OPCAT).

Article 10 of Mauritania’s constitution (PDF) guarantees to all citizens the freedom of expression, assembly, and association. However, according to the UPR, these rights are being violated.

Violation of digital rights in Mauritania

There has been systematic disregard of digital rights in Mauritania. These include:

  • Violation of access to information/ freedom of expression

June 13–21, 2011: The Emirati government applied pressure on an Emirati company to block the website of a Mauritanian newspaper El Badil Al Thalith. This censorship took place after the newspaper published articles criticising Arab leaders, including the United Arab Emirates government.

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Introducing a New Project: The Economic and Social Impacts of Network Disconnection in Pakistan

The Center for Global Communication Studies (CGCS) at Annenberg is supporting a new study being carried out by The Institute for Human Rights and Business (IHRB) in the UK and the NGO Bytes 4 All in Islamabad, Pakistan.

The purpose of the study, the first of its kind, is to gather and present data on the impacts of mobile and internet shutdowns in Pakistan, and on human rights issues such as health, education, and work. The government in Pakistan has often required companies to shut down access to the internet or mobile communications in the interest of public safety and security. This study aims to assist the government and telecommunication companies in developing strategies that are consistent with commitments to protecting human rights and ensuring public safety and security without compromising access to communications. The telecommunications company Telenor Pakistan has agreed to be the subject of the case study, which will reflect on…

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The ‘Balkanisation’ of Russia’s Internet

//Alexandra Kulikova analyzes the current situation of Russian internet regulation. This post was originally posted on openDemocracy Russia on May 19, 2014 and can be found here.

Most reactions from the expert community to recent government initiatives affecting Russian internet regulation bring to mind an old joke about the difference between an optimist and a pessimist: while a pessimist moans and groans that, ‘It can’t possibly get any worse!’ an optimist happily reassures him ‘Oh yes, of course it can!’

For the last few years, the Russian government has been developing an arsenal of regulatory tools devised for Russia’s online space. Starting with a series of laws aimed at child protection and combating piracy, it has recently moved on to blocking online access to alleged extremist content. This has been broadly seen by commentators as another attempt to impose control over an online space, which had developed fairly organically for two decades (on 7 April 2014, the RuNet celebrated its 20th birthday).

These regulatory moves have been recently followed up with a law requiring popular bloggers to register as media outlets; and a set of anti-terrorist laws – introduced into the Parliament as a response to the Volgograd terrorist attack in December 2013 – requiring online platform operators to retain user communications data for up to six months. A bill requiring almost the same of telecoms is also being considered.

Tightening the digital screws

From 1 August 2014, bloggers whose websites have over 3000 followers/visitors per day (the methodology of calculation is not clearly specified) will have to register as mass media outlets. In effect, this imposes…

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