IGF 2022 WS #224 Ethical and legal boundaries for OSINT practices

Wednesday, 30th November, 2022 (14:30 UTC) - Wednesday, 30th November, 2022 (15:30 UTC)
Press Briefing Room

Organizer 1: Civil Society, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)
Organizer 2: Civil Society, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)
Organizer 3: Civil Society, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)

Speaker 1: Bertoni Eduardo, Civil Society, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)
Speaker 2: Ksenia Bakina, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 3: Dave Maass, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)


Panel - Auditorium - 60 Min

Policy Question(s)

What risks do OSINT practices pose to human rights? What are or should be the criteria for determining the regulatory limitations for OSINT or cyber patrolling practices? Should those limitations be the same for both public and private sector practices?

Connection with previous Messages:


9. Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure

Targets: 9.c. Significantly increase access to information and communications technology and strive to provide universal and affordable access to the Internet in least developed countries by 2020 The proposed panel aims to raise awareness of the potential risks that OSINT practices pose to human rights. When employed by government forces, OSINT diminishes the expectation of privacy and limits people’s ability to express freely online. This ultimately restricts the exercise of the right to freedom of expression and access to information as recognized by international human rights laws and standards. The panel will contribute to the discussion on the appropriate regulatory solutions to this issue, aiming to improve the information ecosystem and the protection of human rights online.


OSINT practices come in different forms, shapes, industries, and sectors, as open-source data is a key resource of public information across the online environment. Its use allows for the discovery of public interest information that remains a specially protected form of content as part of the right to freedom of expression and information. It is because of its availability that strategic information can be derived as part of online research, which allows for journalists, activists, and human rights defenders to gather information about public servants -who they are and what they do, in particular- and of other people that are of interest to our democracies. The more significant they are, especially being an elected representative or exercising a public function, the more they should be subject to, and tolerant of, the highest levels of scrutiny in accordance with the principles of democratic pluralism. At the same time, the privacy of personal data of journalists, activists, and human rights defenders is also a source of interest for governments and public figures. Whilst digital technologies have been central to the facilitation of the exercise of freedom of expression and the sharing of information, they have also greatly increased the opportunity for violations of the right to privacy. The discriminant collection, analysis, and storage of information of journalists, activists, and human rights defenders has deep consequences for their safety and the security of our democracies. OSINT practices without specific individual reasonable suspicion by state actors impinge on the very essence of the right to privacy. It has a chilling effect on the exercise of the right to freedom of expression and the right to hold and form an opinion by searching and accessing and disseminating information online. The search of individuals’ online accounts is often the first step to targeting them and continuing with other incompatible practices that violate the right of privacy, such as the collection of their metadata, any seizure of information, and/or their harassment. This panel will address the risks and challenges that OSINT practices carry around the world. It will first focus on the Latinamerican region, as presented in the report on the Legal Framework for OSINT in Latin America (expected to be published by July 2022), elaborated by former IACHR Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression, Eduardo Bertoni, at the request and with the support of CELE, Fundación Karisma and ARTICLE 19. It will later address the challenges regarding the use of OSINT and cyber patrolling practices by Governments and private actors around the world, focusing on the risks posed to privacy, freedom of expression, and other human rights in different contexts. Along with Eduardo Bertoni, the panel will be joined by Dr. Ksenia Bakina (Legal Officer at Privacy International) and Dave Maass (Director of Investigations at the Electronic Frontier Foundation).

Expected Outcomes

The main idea for this panel is to kick off a conversation about OSINT, discussing its pros and cons, from which participants will gain a diverse and robust initial approach to the issue. Participants will be invited to share possible cases of OSINT practices in their countries of origin, so as to contribute to the discussion of its ethical and legal boundaries stemming from current real-world scenarios. The panel will encourage them to intervene if they consider that the practices under scrutiny do not infringe human rights, providing them with the opportunity to explain and develop their argument. This panel aims to promote further study and dialogue on OSINT and cyber patrolling risks and their possible limits. It will therefore encourage participants to be not only aware of these practices, but also to investigate, shed light and share possible new practices that might put human rights at risk.

Hybrid Format: The presentation of the problem identification and main questions on the topic, by Eduardo Bertoni, will take place orally in a 10-minute timeframe, after which Dr. Ksenia Bakina and Dave Maass will have equal time for their remarks and presentations. During the following time period, we would like to allow for open participation by mixing digital and physical participation, being conscious about the time, and seeking that these do not exceed the 3-minute mark. The discussion will be open to online and on-site attendees who would like to intervene and share their experiences with the panel. Both moderators will take turns to make participation as equitative as possible between people online and people on site. The rapporteur will take notes on her computer that will be projected/shared on the screen; so that participants can follow up on the conversation. This helps to be more efficient, respectful and it makes it easier for people to see if an idea has already been mentioned. Panelists can use Sli.do tools for polls and other forms of participation. This will allow attendees at home and on site, via their computers or smartphones, to participate simultaneously via chat or answering live poll questions. Sli.do responses and tools can be used anonymously, which can be useful to improve online participation.

Online Participation


Usage of IGF Official Tool.