015_G18_InSight_GlobalSociety

Global_18

Global Insight Information Society competition and everyone can afford to get online, or in such a way that there’s no competition and it is prohibitively expensive to get online. “There is a rising tide of governments around the world that are trying to restrict what people can say and do on the web in all kinds of different ways, and in some cases it is downright censorship and blocking. But that’s very crude, so governments are also getting much more subtle about the ways they are trying to close down democratic space on the internet.” Some governments are employing economic censorship to prevent their citizens from accessing certain online services, while others have taken to trolling the net, hiring people to post content favourable to them in order to blow any dissent out of the water. Mass surveillance is just the latest in a series of major limitations imposed on the online world, restricting people’s freedom of expression through the implication that somewhere online lurks a virtual Big Brother. “It is frighteningly easy for governments to track what we’re saying, what we’re doing, who we’re talking to,” Jellema says. “While governments need to have compliance from internet service providers to monitor user data and activity, they are able to demand this and the evidence says that they have been demanding it for a very long time. With modern surveillance technology it is incredibly easy and cheap to collect vast amounts of data on almost everybody. And then you don’t have a human being listening to all of those call records or manually reading through the emails, you have software that mines that data for you.” One part of a possible solution is the end-to-end encryption of all internet service provider (ISP) traffic, meaning that the data passing through the system is strongly encrypted at every stage along the way. Edward Snowden referenced the same idea at the South by South West festival in Texas in March 2014, saying that end-to-end encryption would make bulk surveillance impossible. “It may not make it impossible, but it would certainly make it very difficult and expensive to implement,” Jellema says. Every year, the Web Foundation publishes the Web Index report, which covers 81 countries worldwide. The report looks at the countries that have the weakest controls and space guards for online surveillance and spying, and at countries where restrictions on content are the most pervasive. “The disturbing thing that we found was that only about five per cent of these countries met the best practice standards for oversight of surveillance. Even the ones that scored very well may have done so because we had incomplete information, as more and more has been coming to light over the past year about exactly how pervasive this surveillance is,” Jellema says. “There really are very few countries in the world where citizens can just sit back and relax knowing that their freedoms online are fully protected.” But the world’s citizens have not been taking this news lying down. A surge of grassroots activism has recently erupted in countries around the world, from Turkey and Jordan to the Philippines, the USA and Europe. People everywhere are starting to demand democratic accountability and oversight. The ability to monitor people is one of the most easily abused powers that any state could have – but it is also necessary for public security, and while legislation against mass surveillance does not guarantee that it will stop, it would mean that those who are responsible could be held accountable. Furthermore, a distinction must be drawn between the blanket collection of data on an entire population and the surveillance of individual suspects. There is little evidence to suggest that the kind of dragnet surveillance being used online has enabled more The Web We Want The World Wide Web Foundation was established in 2009 by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the web. The organisation seeks to tackle the fundamental obstacles to realising his vision of an open web that is available to everyone. Anne Jellema became the foundation’s CEO in May 2012. “The web right now is really at the frontier of the struggle for democratic rights in many countries around the world,” Jellema explains. The Web Foundation believes that the internet is the most powerful facilitator of communication to have ever existed and the potential it provides for global co-operation and participation are unparalleled. However, it is only a minority of people who are part of the conversation – and they are generally urban, male and affluent. Even with the spread of mobile internet technology, nearly twothirds of the world’s population remains unconnected. Outside of the developing world, governmental controls and restrictive commercial practices threaten what people can and can’t do online. The Web Foundation seeks to establish the open web as a global public good and a basic right, ensuring that everyone can access and use it freely. Its the Web We Want Campaign (https://webwewant. org) works to further the foundation’s ideals of maintaining a free and open web. The Web Foundation relies on donations for its funding, with major donors including Vodafone, the Ford Foundation, the Rockerfeller Foundation and – perhaps unsurprisingly – Google. For more information, visit www.webfoundation.org criminals to be caught than traditional intelligence records, which require there to be a rationale for tailing a given suspect. “In most countries there is a procedure in place for tracking criminal behaviour and that is that the law enforcement or intelligence agency has to obtain a warrant and to show due cause. We It is frighteningly easy for governments to track what we’re saying, what we’re doing, who we’re talking to think that there’s no reason that the same protections shouldn’t apply online as apply offline,” says Jellema. Jellema first got involved with development work when she was living in South Africa in 1991-96, the years just after Mandela was released. Although she arrived to do academic research, she soon became very interested in practical problems, such as the issues surrounding land and housing following the end of Apartheid. She now has more than 15 years of experience in development work and human rights campaigning, having worked as ActionAid’s international director of policy and campaigns in 2006-12, overseeing the organisation’s global programming on women’s rights, education and food rights. It was this pursuit of global equity in accessibility that would eventually lead her to the Web Foundation. “In so many instances around the world, you find that people global second quar ter 2014 www.global -br ief ing.org l 15  Anne Jellema


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