Right2Know flags up privacy issues

Right2Know flags up digital privacy and spying concerns ahead of UNHCR review

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The recent FNB/MTN SIM swap scam has provided an eye-opening example of how data phishing can be put to nefarious use.

Online tools used to invade privacy, harvest data and intercept communications seem terrifying enough when they’re placed in the hands of criminals, but in the hands of authorities and governments, they can seem positively Orwellian.

The Right2Know Campaign, South Africa’s most vocal advocate on the issue of government transparency and access to information, has been banging the drum about government’s electronic intrusion into the lives of citizens for some time now. Today, it’s adding its two cents to a review on the SA administration’s stance on (among other things) human rights, privacy, online security, data harvesting and civil rights.

The United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) begins a review a today concerning South Africa’s position on its implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as its human rights record.

According to R2K, “Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights provides for the right of every person to be protected against arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence as well as against unlawful attacks on his honour or reputation.”

A staunch defender of online and digital rights, the group last month released a joint report on surveillance and privacy issues in South Africa. Together with Privacy International and the Association for Progressive Communications, R2K made submissions to the United Nations Human Rights Committee on the issue.

A full breakdown of R2K”s main points of contention can be found on its site and it makes for interesting reading. A lot of them focus on the lack of transparency concerning South Africa’s Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provision of Communication-Related Information Act (RICA), and how the government’s mass surveillance capabitlities leave it open to abuse.

“We call for RICA to be reviewed to ensure that it is consistent with protections in the Constitution and that it covers all forms of interception, retention and analysis of personal data for surveillance purposes,” R2K said in a statement, “and ensure that interception of communications can only be carried out with specific permission of a judge.”

R2K is also calling for the government to cease unlawful surveillance of citizens – including journalists and activists and for the draft CyberCrimes Bill to be withdrawn due to its assertion that if it is signed into law, the bill could clamp down on citizens’ privacy and freedom of expression online.

[Image – CC by 2.0/Kit]

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