A group of privacy campaigners is calling for clearer online rights, ahead of today’s cyber security conference
As the London Conference on Cyberspace shifts into gear, a group of advocates for freedom of expression and online privacy have written to the Foreign Secretary, stating that Britain’s desire to promote these ideals internationally is currently being undermined by domestic policy.
Signed by high-profile campaigners such as the Open Rights Group, Index on Censorship and Privacy International, as well as individuals such as Claire Perry MP, Evgeny Morozov and Heather Brooke, the letter urges the UK government to show leadership in promoting the rights of citizens online.
“The government now has an historic opportunity to support technologies that promote rather than undermine people’s political and social empowerment,” states the letter.
“We call for the UK government to seize this opportunity to reject censorship and surveillance that undermines people’s rights to express themselves, organise or communicate freely. That is the only way to both enshrine the rights of citizens in the UK and to support these principles internationally.”
London Conference on Cyberspace
The news comes as the government kicks off a two-day conference on cyberspace, bringing together political leaders, such as US secretary of state Hillary Clinton and EU vice president for the Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes, with leading cyber security experts and technology entrepreneurs such as Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales.
The aim of the conference is to discuss what should be done about the increasing number of attacks on government and industry systems, which the head of British intelligence agency GCHQ says has reached “disturbing” levels.
In an article for The Times newspaper yesterday, Iain Lobban, director of GCHQ, spoke of attacks targeting the IT, technology, defence, engineering and energy sectors, referencing a “significant” but unsuccessful attempt on the The Foreign Office over the summer.
“Most experts see cyberspace as tomorrow’s theatre of war but, in the absence of specific international legal rules on cyber warfare, we are left with very little guidance as to how to deal with a cyber attack originating from other states,” said Dr Marco Roscini, reader in international law at the University of Westminster, commenting ahead of the conference.
“Cyber attacks don’t employ traditional weapons, but in this day and age there is no reason why only those attacks involving physical weapons with explosive effects should be treated, potentially, as an act of war,” he added. “The use of other non-kinetic dual-use weapons, such as chemical and bacteriological, would undoubtedly be treated as an ‘armed’ attack and a cyber attack should not be treated any differently should the consequences be comparable.”