IGF 2021 – Day 2 – Lightning Talk #81 Encryption and human rights: towards a total obligation to protect privacy and freedom of expression.

The following are the outputs of the captioning taken during an IGF virtual intervention. Although it is largely accurate, in some cases it may be incomplete or inaccurate due to inaudible passages or transcription errors. It is posted as an aid, but should not be treated as an authoritative record.



>> We all live in a digital world.  We all need it to be open and safe.  We all want to trust.

>> And to be trusted. 

>> We all despise control. 

>> And desire freedom. 

>> We are all united. 

>> Hello, good morning.  I am the Chief Officer of the Youth Foundation.  It's a great pleasure to be here.

>> Hi, everyone.  My name is Ben from Benin.  I serve as Communication Official for Internet Society Benin chapter.  Thank you.

>> Hi, everyone.  My name is Jose.  I am the General Coordinator of IGF and coordinator of youth for Africa.  Thank you. 

>> Hello, everyone.  I am from Ghana, and I am the (?) of the Ghana Youth NGO Steering Committee.  Thank you.

>> Hello, everyone.  I am from Sudan, Human Rights defender, doctor, many things.  Thank you.

>> Hello, everyone.  My name is Jackie Ackello.  I'm from Nairobi, Kenya, and I'm a member of the IGF Youth Ambassadors.  Thank you.

>> Hello, everyone.  Good afternoon to you all.  I am from Uganda.  I coordinate the Uganda Youth IGF.  Thank you.

>> Hello, everybody.  My name is Carson Gabriel.  I'm from Tanzania, and I'm Founder and Director of the Emerging Youth Initiative. 

>> Thank you so much, everyone.  I'd like to know from your context, what does encryption mean to you, in one word? 

>> Safety.

>> It means life for me.

>> Confidence for me. 

>> Security. 

>> Protection. 

>> Transparency. 

>> Privacy. 

>> I would say protection. 

>> Freedom.

>> VALERIE: Thank you so much.  And now I'd like to give the mic to take us through encryption and Human Rights, especially in the context of being a Uganda Human Rights defender.  Tell us more about encryption and Human Rights in your context.

>> All right.  Thank you very much, moderator.  It is evident that the digital age has come with so many challenges.  That is the issue of, of course, freedoms that are being infringed, mostly by outside actors, because most of the Human Rights defenders are being followed up by state actors.  The freedoms of expression and even access to information, sometimes, yeah, often when I talk about, for example, perspectives of open data.  And some of these groups are the ‑‑ okay, I would say the most affected groups are human rights defenders.  So, when we talk about encryption, the way our colleagues have said, encryption means a lot to them, security and all that, protection.  So, encryption comes in to try and bridge the gap, yeah? 

If a Human Rights defender or journalist is able to communicate and someone is maybe not able to tap the information, or they're able to safe guard their information and data from some of these particular actors who would like to access this data, then it makes them safe, it makes them secure, as every young person here has just said.  So, the concept, basically, is to look at how encryption can be able to bridge the gap, the challenges that have come with the digital age have created.  Thank you

>> VALERIE: Thank you so much.  Why encryption?  Why is it important to you? 

>> Thank you for that.  It is interesting what my colleague here said.  For me, encryption is more of a tool.  It's like when you're home in your own room, you're most free, the best version of yourself.  That's why you get there.  You don't need to lock the door, but you're safeguarding your reality and your identity.  So, encryption in human rights really correlates with who you are as a person, characteristically, and how you plan yourself to be out there.  So, it's not just about the data; it speaks to you as a person and as a significant member of society.  So, encryption on the internet today, which are visual extensions of ourselves, is something that can safeguard our own identities, as well as our modes of expression that we are able to correlate with the society that we are in.  So, for me, it's really important having that level of freedom, knowing that it is safeguarded with the ownership that one has.

>> VALERIE: Thank you so much.  And Jackie, over to you.  Why is encryption important?  I know you're doing some research on it.  And why should we have young people adding their voices to this conversation? 

>> JACKIE ACKELLO: Thank you so much for that, Valerie.  So, my point is to what Cason was saying.  So, with encryption, you get to realize that all other rights are protected because the right to privacy is tight tied to it and the right to associate is tied to it.  So, if communication and other transactions are not protected, people will not be able to freely express themselves only, but even to communicate because they fear that their communication is being intercepted by other third parties.  And also, encryption also ties to democracy, because without encryption, actually people cannot freely express themselves on how they feel that things should be run.  So, they go hand in hand.  And I feel like it should not be interfered with, or rather, it should not be affected or intercepted.  Thank you.

>> VALERIE: Thank you.  Moving to the landscape in Uganda, tell us more about encryption. 

>> Thank you very much, Valerie.  We have an Access to Information Act in Uganda, and it's one of those laws that I think was crafted with all the best minds available.  It provides for a lot of ‑‑ it has a lot of provisions through which information can be accessed.  And one of them ‑‑ and then there are three provisions of information that you cannot touch.  One is one regarding privacy.  I think that was done in the spirit that people needed to have their own space.  So, if we have provisions of the law where privacy's guaranteed, and yet, state information is provided for, then I think it really meant well. 

Now, if we open it up, then you restrict the performance of how people behave and how they relate with democracy

>> VALERIE: Thank you so much.  And we've seen that when you break encryption, you can't break it on one side only.  What do you think about encryption and what we're seeing now? 

>> For me, when we are talking about encryption, it is really important, and it helps people to feel more secure online.  So, you have to permit technical encryption everywhere we are so more people can get online.  Thank you.

>> VALERIE: Thank you.  Let's hear more.  Tell us about encryption.

>> Thank you, Valerie.  Just to put it in simple words, encryption is about people's rights to privacy, to safety, and also security, offline and online, not just only online.  You know, it's about our privacy, the privacy of the text messages that are stored in our smartphones, for example.  It's about our medical records that are stored in the hospital software devices.  And also, it's about our banking information.  You know, they are stored in our mobile phones.  So, it's about our most essential daily lives and the services that we get from the digital technologies.  And all of us must, not only should we have the right for the encryption to be protected, but also, we should have a say in this protection.  So, it's really important for young people in the civil society to get more involved in the encryption, especially coming from my country, where the government is like the sole dominant force that is, you know, governing the internet.  So, I believe it is a huge Human Rights violation for the civil society and other actors to not get involved in the governance.  Thank you.

>> VALERIE: Thank you so much.  Now we would like to listen to more about encryption, being a Human Rights defender. 

>> The situation in Sudan, basically, we're lacking the encryption right.  We're lacking the freedom of expression.  I join my voices to him that civil society should do the work on behalf of the government because the government, obviously, keep violating the human rights by violating the encryption right. 

Our government basically work on limiting the rights of the population, especially on the (?) that we have on the 25th of October.  It's a work of a young tech digital activist and researcher to obtain this right, but we cannot trust the government because of the continuous violation of rights

>> VALERIE: Thank you so much.  And now, Shadrack, being a youth convenor in terms of the Youth IGF, what would you say about encryption and how young people can contribute in this space? 

>> SHADRACK JEANLUS: Okay.  Thank you for the opportunity.  So, I would basically talk about encryption in the context of advocacy and the underprivileged community.  So, talking about encryption in Ghana.  We have the Data Protection Act that's been in existence, but these actually do not open the window for those who are less privileged, and actually in the digital world, most people now use smart devices because of the mobile money transactions.  Now people are able to use smartphones to transact business because of these means of sending money.  So, people are now using these, and also social media.  But then they do not know about privacy and encryption, anything, so they do not know about PGP, that is Pretty Good Privacy.  They send emails, they go online, send messages, but they don't know anything about how to use these encryption tools to encrypt their communication between each other. 

So, I would like the youths and the civil society to really do more in the area of encryption to create more awareness about this for people to be aware that their data, their information can be hacked or leaked when they're online.  Thank you

>> VALERIE: Thank you so much.  And now, moving back to you, Jackie, especially now because Kenya's moving into an election year.  Why do you think encryption is important in the context of a country like Kenya? 

>> JACKIE ACKELLO: Okay.  Encryption is very important because it protects people's ways of expressing themselves, to particularly government practices. 

So, what I'd like to add is that there is no way the government can break encryption and prevent unauthorized parties from accessing the post communication.  So, once you break encryption, it means that you've provided access to unauthorized parties to access people's private communication, and it also affects security in a very big way. 

So, I think right now, now that you are in an election period, I think encryption is something that should be highly safeguarded so as to enable democratic processes to go on as they should.  Thank you. 

>> VALERIE: All right, thank you.  And now, give us your voice on encryption.  Thank you.

>> Okay.  As far as I'm concerned, as I said, encryption is about securing digital data.  So, globally, we should promote, like, secure and sustainable access to internet.  Thank you.

>> VALERIE: Thank you so much.  I'd now like to hear from Cason on the linkage of encryption and human rights.  Tell us more about that.

>> CASON: There is a role that corporations should play, in terms of having encryption open as a standard that's available to each and everybody that they can understand.  We are here as a multi‑stakeholder approach ‑‑ government, corporations, and civil society.  We see EU has a standard about data protection, which is really interesting, I think.  Coming to that realization, they set some sort of global standard where we could all profit from that.  Because in the end of the day, our data is our own.  It's your data.  But in being pragmatic about data, you should understand that there are some levels, even speaking from a legal perspective, there are some levels where you should not be selfish about that data, you know.  You have to protect it, but you have to reach some sort of a synergy so you can kind of create more better and inclusive policies. 

So, at a Human Rights point of view, corporations should be more open in their encryption standards that they have, but there should be high investment in creating independent thinkers and a labor force that actually understands their rights on encryption, meaning that you can bring your own encryption, but do you understand what encryption really means?  And now we are pivoting to emerging technologies with quantum computing.  It will be really easy to break all of the mathematical algorithms that have been existing before.  But also, we have solutions like blockchain.  But the normal user does not understand.  It comes from a privileged point of view where only some brand of the population understands that. 

So, for us as young people here at this panel, we should cascade this message at a personal institutional level, at a corporation institutional level and at a government institutional level, rather than saying that we have these problems and let's find ways and channels to create synergies in how we can cascade this message to all the multi‑stakeholder approach, because that would be the only way where we can work in creating sort of a plain level playing field where encryption has to be equal for all.  Because if EU has the best encryption and Africa doesn't have it, I don't think that's quite equal and I don't think that's quite fair.  So, I think it's more we should work together, because data is global and it's universal, and it's about time that we create some sort of a level playing field that each and every citizen of the world, it's the Internet United, as we say.  Each and everybody should understand their rights, be savvy enough to protect them, and most importantly, take ownership of your data and all the skills you have and protect each other.  At the end of the day, we are our brother's keepers

>> VALERIE: Yes.

>> I have a question for him.  So, taking it from theoretical to practical, how about authoritarian government targeting the human rights defenders and activists, or independent thinkers, under the law of threatening the national security.  That's why they violate the right and the encryption right of the defenders.  What do you say about that, how we can target it practically, how we can encrypt or save the Human Rights defenders from those authoritarian governments? 

>> Systems processes and institutions are really important in this matter.  We need to know how it goes.  Because if I am violated right now in Tanzania, saying my data has been abused, I do not know where to go.  But I do have someone who might understand where I should go.  So it's important we set standards which are really open in nature and which are really pragmatic in how we could, you know, how we could report it and how it could create impact. 

You know, for something to be meaningful, it needs to be attached to a certain kind of purpose, and that purpose is driven by a community consensus, a street consensus.  So, a brand of activists needs to come together.  If you can unify and have a consolidated message, it's way better than being alone.  So, if I have a problem in Tanzania right now and I say, my friend, can I help, I say, "Can you help me out?" I believe that they can speak from my perspective, they can speak from my agenda because they know Cason not as a Tanzania or leader, they know me as a person.  So, if I'm standing for the rights of encryption for each and everybody and each and every youth, it's easy that my message can be passed to him.  It's important to unify and create these coalitions of impact together as young people and as Internet leaders here.  That's the responsible we need to have and fight for

>> VALERIE: Thank you so much.  And I couldn't help but listen to Cason talk about the GDPR and what the EU has done.  And I know that in Kenya we have a Data Protection Act.  But what's interesting is in Uganda, we have the Regulation for Interception of Communications Act as well.  Let's hear more about that, how it affects encryption.

>> Well, thank you, Valerie.  The Regulation of Interception of Communications Act 2010 in shortform known as the Phone‑tapping Act, was a law that was pushed through by the politicians to ensure that they locked out competitors from vying for top office.  And what this law effectively did was to provide for the State to legally tap all communications going over telecommunication channels.  So, while we are here talking about the need to discuss encryption, we have instances where a law was literally passed that made it legal for the State to listen in to all your communications. 

So, maybe we need to include in conversations how we can try to have some of these laws repealed and maybe we can champion this from a young person's perspective or push it on to civil society and see that maybe some of these antiprogress laws can be repealed.  Because as we speak, it's still in force.  And I know, personally know some people who have actually fallen victim to this law

>> VALERIE: Thank you so much.  And hearing about government and government intervention, maybe you can move it to (?) and tell us how discussions we make here at the IGF make sense, to our government and to our context.

>> All right, thank you very much, moderator.  Just as last time I talked about the fact that governments are letting us down, we as young people talk a lot here.  But for example, right now I don't think there's a government official inside here.  But still, we have regional and national ideas.  We usually talk a lot about these issues.  But whenever you are talking about these issues, the representatives you have on the ground actually show you that they are willing to work with the young people to address some of these challenges. 

But unfortunately, when they step out of the venue, it's a different story.  When you go to their offices, it's a different story.  So, the question is, how do we get governments to do what has been agreed upon?  How do we get governments to know the right thing, note what they think?  Because I think they do it more in terms of politics.  We know how African politics is, for example.  Why I like to use Africa is because our politics is a bit messed up.  Like, someone can just feel like, okay, this Human Rights defender is a threat to me being the President or the Minister, so I need to shut him down.  That is why a number of competent legislators are going to sit down and agree that we shouldn't be tapping phone calls, forgetting that they are going to be part of the people affected by such kind of policies and laws that they have put in place, yeah? 

We've seen, for example, in Uganda a number of them falling victim.  I mean, it's not that every time you're going to be on the right side.  There's a day you're going to be on the other side.  It might not be the wrong side, but it might be the opposite side, yeah?  So, maybe they should understand that it's not about who's against me, but it's about what is right. 

So, all I can ask us as young people to do is ‑‑ Cason already talked about collaboration.  If you have a problem in Tanzania, if there is a problem in Sudan, how do we as young people, the global youth, see that she is heard?  The Internet is very powerful.  COVID has proved that.  I mean, our voices can be heard.  And there is always someone who will come out to help. 

So, I know it was called making noise.  I love making noise on the Internet, because for what is right, noise has to be made.  Yeah, thank you

>> VALERIE: Thank you very much, Innocente, for that contribution.  I'd like to cross the table once more and just listen to how can young people plug into the issue of encryption and Human Rights.  We've already seen the work being done by the Internet Society in terms of encryption and trying to build capacity by writing laws and engaging other groups.  We've seen what's happening globally with the Encryption Network and alliances.  We're even seeing the work done on encryption.  Across the table, if I start with you, how do you think young people can plug into empowerment in terms of understanding what encryption is and how it affects us? 

>> Yeah, thank you, Valerie.  So, just before I get that, I would like to talk a little bit, like give you some context about how encryption is in my country.  So, actually, encryption and cybersecurity is extremely poor, because, like, it's managed, as I mentioned, it's governed only by the government, and there is no space for the other actors to get involved at all. 

For example, like, there is a new cybersecurity law that went into affect a few months ago.  So, it literally imposed heavy prison sentences and hefty fines against peaceful critics and activists who express themselves online.  So, it ranges from murdering them or kidnapping them to destroying their lives and families.  So, it's a devastating setback for the freedom of expression and human rights violation. 

So, I think the answer to that, to the answer of the question of how can we hold governments accountable, is like a massive civil society educational campaign.  We need that.  We need to educate people about their own rights and how encryption is affecting their lives. 

For example, as an activist for health care and gender equality, I have a few examples.  I want to talk about some issues very prevalent in my country and other countries as well.  So, for example, I mean, encryption's not only about human rights, but it's also about our health, the health and rights of adults and women, young people, and marginalized communities.  Because you know, literally, it's about protecting our lives from abuse, from exploitation, and even murder.  And that's why I chose the word "life."

For example, talking from a gender equality perspective.  So, there is like a lot of cases of honorable killing, especially of girls and women in my country, due to decoding or the decryption, because their data has been leaked and they had been exposed to honorable killing on all of the types of, you know, human rights violation.  Especially on LGBTQ individuals as well, especially if their identities get leaked.  Or talking from a mental health perspective on how it affects young people.  For example, there have been like a lot of suicide cases because young people's data have been leaked, and the society will bully them and judge them, and also they will lead to mental health violation.  So, that's another extremely important factor that we need to educate people about. 

So, yeah, I do believe encryption is life and people should know about that.  And also, when it comes to us, our role as young people, we have to organize, you know, start with this, like an IGF, in our own countries.  We have to start in the local levels, go to the national levels, to hold governments accountable and also hold these international ‑‑ there should be like international cybersecurity alliance that will hold governments responsible to their responsibilities when it comes to encryption in their countries.  Thank you. 

>> Okay, thank you, Valerie.  I would like to add to what my colleague's saying, that we need to educate more people in the Internet Society Benin chapter.  We are trying to do this with giving tips to people.  So, I will add that we can do it also in our local area so more people can get more knowledge about encryption and they can be safe online.  Thank you. 

>> I think it must be a global commitment where multistakeholders must get involved in solutions.  Thank you.

>> So, to just add, I would say we have to really advocate for encryption.  As the Internet Society Ghana chapter, we did, I think, two months now, we had original awareness program about encryption, which was submitted to the Internet Society for this year.  So, we should go down to the represented communities, if the government not really have been the issue moved and do it, because many people, many local people use the Internet nowadays, but they don't know about the dangers of them using their devices.  For instance, someone can just record his or her nakedness on a device.  Maybe it's sports.  The person tries to send it ‑‑ the person might think he or she has related that information, but they can just go into maybe the recycle bin and just see this information.  But if you encrypt such data, it will be hard for these persons to have access to your data.  So, thank you.  That's all. 

>> Apart from recommendation, I think we share similar problems for our governments.  And I agree with most of what they have said, but I can add with the civil society and its donor, that NGOs should press governments for the right to encryption and freedom to internet, as most of those countries are assigned the law‑binding treaties of the ICCPR, which is the International Convention of the Public and Civil Rights.  And most African countries signed the Human Charter for the People's Right.  So, it's the law‑binding treaties.  And from there, we can start to pressure our governments, also to urge the governments to be transparent with the telecom companies by letting them publish connectivity data, like other international ISP.  Also provide trainings for people of Human Rights defenders on network measurements tools.  And we should know there is not enough data in the telecom sector in Sudan, so there is a real need to collect more data.  We should also train the Human Rights defenders on how to document the Human Rights violations during the network disturbance, like the net shutdowns by the authoritarian governments. 

For our government, as we said, we don't have government officials to have a confrontational discussion with them, but we would like to this government, keep the Internet connectivity, and any other forms of connections safe for people. 

The legal reforms should be advocated also for the civil society and Human Rights defender, and also the digital activist.  Basically, that's what I can add.  Thank you. 

>> Thank you so much for that.  To add to what everyone else has said, I think the first step in ensuring encryption is protected is creating awareness.  You realize that most people in society actually don't know what encryption details.  So, I think the first step in dealing with this is creating awareness to show them what rights are at stake.  Then the next step after this is now participation in the policy‑making process.  Now, participation ensures that encryption is protected and all of the rights tied to it are also protected in the process.  Thank you.

>> All right.  Thank you very much.  I'd like to talk about, for example, what we've done as digital situated trainers and being a situated trainer in Uganda.  So, what we did to cover up the awareness gap, we have worked the digital security curriculum.  So it has a topic on encryption.  So, we're able to train like journalists, toe the curriculum basically focuses on journalists and Human Rights defenders.  So, we train these people on how they can secure their devices, and then their communications, like, of course, the normal hardware they have, like for example, flash discs, how they can encrypt them.  And then their email communications and all that, and then all the other types of communications that they use, like amongst themselves or maybe with other stakeholders. 

So, yeah.  And it's giving.  So it's good to have these people actually understand how they can protect their devices, how they can protect themselves, like, for example, maybe if there is theft of a device.  They are very sure that maybe that device can't be accessed, yeah?  So, that gives you that security that we are talking about, gives you that protection that we are talking about. 

Also, of course, some already talked about pressing the government.  We need to see that governments really understand that it is two‑sided, government side and civil society side, whereas, of course, we are not against the government being able to control some things, for example, misinformation, which is always the challenge that sometimes causes maybe violence and something.  The government needs to understand that Human Rights defenders are there, are not to be against them, but to see that everything is being checked.  Governments need to be checked.  If a government wants to be independent, then who is going to check you, right?  Who is going to tell you this is wrong and this is right, because that is what we need to know.  Government needs to accept that, we did this wrong; maybe next time we should do it this way.  Yeah, thank you. 

>> Decentralize and equalize.  We need to decentralize these central parameters that actually control and actually create forms of technologies. 

In terms of digital literacies, we should equalize globally so everybody can understand what encryption is and what it means to them.  And for the ones creating the standards, the technical community, it's easy for us to also equalize it that everybody has access to it, because that's how we will create a self‑regulating society.  Because in the end, a few corporations still own the most advanced technologies with AI and all the emerging technologies.  We are the pawn.  Digital colonialism will come, and we will be the pawns.  So, it's important when we are able to understand and take ownership of our own data and actually secure ourselves, because we are securing our own identities and the future of humanity.  Big brother is always watching, so be careful. 

>> VALERIE: All right.  Thank you so much, and thank you for being part of this Lightning Talk with us.  Again, my name is Valerie.  I've been your moderator.  And my plea would be to continue the conversation on encryption on a local level and also engaging regional levels and even at the international level.  Thank you, everyone, and thank you, panel, for coming.  Thank you.


(Session concluded at 1234 CET)