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02 October 2015

Legal Experts Concerned About Human Rights in Cyberspace

Development of technology, while offering unprecedented opportunities to exercise the freedom of expression, can easily lead to human rights infringements, say top international law experts. About 50 lawyers from governments, academia and NGOs discussed human rights and cyber space in Tallinn upon the invitation of the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence.

“The Internet presents unprecedented challenges to human rights through cyberattacks and surveillance. It also functions as a platform for crime and incitement of violence through hate speech and recruitment to terrorism,” highlights visiting Professor Gabor Rona from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, former International Legal Director of Human Rights First. “States are drawn between obligations to ensure privacy and free expression online while having to police the Internet for human rights violations such as incitement to hate crimes, fraud, child pornography, and threats to national security,” Professor Rona explains.

“The Internet provides new means for enabling governmental privacy intrusions and causing national security and economic harm. At the same time it gives States tools to keep tabs on different actors,” explains Professor William C. Banks, Founding Director of the Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism at Syracuse University. “International law should and will have an important role to play in bringing some order, predictability, and stability to these aspects of the cyber domain,” says Professor Banks.

“Law is playing catch-up with technology and nations are running the risk of undermining human rights instead of strengthening them,” explains Lorena Trinberg, a legal researcher at the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence. She emphasizes that all governmental measures need to be in line with human rights norms.

The workshop on human rights in cyberspace (https://ccdcoe.org/workshop-human-rights-cyberspace.html) focused on how to apply the established principles of human rights law in the face of rapid technological developments. Jointly organized by the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence and Syracuse University's Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism, it brought together top international human rights law experts.  Findings from the workshop will be published on the NATO CCD COE’s publication library as well as in the Journal of National Security Law & Policy (http://jnslp.com/).

The Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism at Syracuse University is a multidisciplinary, university-based centre for the study of national and international security and terrorism, offering law and graduate certificates of advanced study and conducting incisive research and timely policy analysis.

The Tallinn-based NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence is a NATO-accredited knowledge hub focused on interdisciplinary applied research and development as well as consultations, trainings and exercises in the field of cyber security. The Centre’s mission is to enhance capability, cooperation and information-sharing between NATO, Allies and Partners in cyber defence. The Centre is staffed and financed by sponsoring nations and contributing participants.