statement at WSIS

Privacy as an Essential Human Right

2005-02-25 00:00:00

Privacy is an essential human right, enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant of Political and Civil Rights.

Privacy should be a key element in every issue in the agenda of the Working Group on Internet Governance.

In an ‘Information Society’, where almost all attributes of an individual can be known, interactions mapped, and intentions assumed based on records, the need for protection of privacy is more crucial than ever.

Privacy encourages co-operation and trust. Privacy is essential for on-line support groups, in consultations with doctors and counsellors, as well as in the marketplace.

Following from the WSIS declaration in Geneva in 2003 and the work of the WGIG, we insist that privacy is not only protected offline, but also on the Internet and we illustrate this with the following examples:

* Next generation internet protocol, IPv6. There are plans to include in the IPv6 address field the ethernet address of the network card. That would mean that every packet you send out to the public Internet using IPv6 would have your fingerprints on it. And unlike your IPv4 address, which you can change and which can be assigned dynamically, this address is embedded in your hardware permanently. Anonymous Internet access would no longer be possible.

* Marketing and advertising regimes and various web-services can seriously endanger privacy unless effective measures are taken to protect it.

* Voice-over-IP policies and standards that promote surveillance over confidentiality may inhibit the growth potential of this technology.

* Initiatives on unlawful speech and excessive measures to protect intellectual property may threaten privacy.

* Regulatory or technical requirements to disclose your identity prior to speaking or even accessing information will unnecessarily hamper free expression.

* Agreements, standards and protocols on network security that do not first protect the privacy of individuals will affect all conduct within the Information Society.

Privacy protects human dignity and individual autonomy. Total information about someone reduces that person to a set of known facts, an object of control and manipulation. In contrast, a zone of autonomy around the individual limits the opportunities for abuse and oppression. Privacy is a core pre-condition to participation, a most basic civil liberty and thus a fundamental component of freedom and development.