Cyber-security and human rights

Wednesday 11 April 2018

15:00h – Hotel Brufani, Sala Priori

Angelica Bonfanti (University of Milan) and Riccardo Noury (spokesman Amnesty International Italy)

The wiretapping, the online collection of user data and the involvement of the institutional bodies and companies in the transmission of sensitive data: here are the main topics discussed by the two speakers during the meeting. The intervention of Riccardo Noury, spokesperson of Amnesty International Italy and therefore particularly interested in the human rights issue, was complemented by the academic view of Angelica Bonfanti, professor of international law at the University of Milan.

The goal was to understand whether – and how – it was possible to avoid the spread of spyware and interception of communication, especially in countries where this involves a state interference in the rights of its citizens, which goes well beyond the public interest and the official use.

An important role to this direction, is played by the WTO (World Trade Organization), created precisely to supervise the main commercial agreements between the member countries. The organization, however, over the years it has shown little interest to evaluate this type of issues, preferring instead to encourage the non-tariff barriers and the liberalization of trade. Therefore the uncontrolled spread of this type of software remains a problem. The spyware is able to gather information not only about the sensitive data of users, but also about the personal data protected by national laws.

In Europe, the protection of privacy is fairly safeguarded, but it is not the same for the rest of the world. In particular, countries such as China (symbolic case which involved Apple), Mexico, Middle East and dictatorial regimes often use virus or phishing to spy activists and political dissidents, seriously violating fundamental rights.

For the moment – concludes Bonfanti – the only possible solution is the self-control by the manufacturers of software, which, before the commercial transaction, should assess and consider possible privacy violation issues. It would be desirable, however, an action at international level by the WTO: an indispensable preamble to the legislation of each nation.

Author: Rebecca Mellano

Translation: Pau Llosa