Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Seminar 5 Position Statement: Dr.Yuwei Lin

National and regional differences in responding to privacy and surveillance issues in a post-Snowden era

Yuwei Lin

University for the Creative Arts

After the Snowden revelations in 2013, the Freedom House and others highlighted the issue of 'surveillance' in the Joint Statement of Civil Society Delegates to the 2013 Internet Governance Forum. They called for an end to illicit online surveillance by any government. “To be legitimate and lawful, any surveillance must be limited, targeted, used to deter or investigate criminalized activity, and subject to independent judicial oversight.” They also emphasised transparency and accountability: “Governments likewise should ensure that their policies and practices are fully transparent as a means of preserving their legitimacy, credibility, and moral authority with their own citizens and the international community” (Freedom House 2013).

Despite the existence of the Internet Governance Forum (a multistakeholder platform that enables the discussion of public policy issues pertaining to the Internet), the IGF offers no negotiated outcomes and hence there is no global regulatory frameworks for regulating global information flows. As such, the discussion about human rights, freedom of expression, privacy, and free flow of information on the Internet has limited influence on global policies and fails to resonate in many less developed countries outside Europe and the USA. China, for one, has remained untouched at such kind of global forums. There is a need to develop more agile strategies to tackle local perceptions and concerns about human rights online. The first step would be to understand the truly local voices about surveillance in a post Snowden era. 

At this seminar, I wish to learn more about how citizens in the countries outside Europe and the USA view and perceive human rights online after the Snowden revelations. How the Snowden revelations were covered in local newsmedia and what are the audience feedback? What are the regional and national differences in responding? Do Chinese people worry about state-controlled media, content censorship, surveillance, shutting down or deliberate slowing down of networks, and other methods of internet control? It seems that when the Chinese government announced their social surveillance gameSesame Credit” (a game the Chinese government has created to evaluate how good a citizen someone is) as a light handed way of controlling online speeches and content, few Chinese people questioned its role as a thought control tool. They ignored the conspiracy theory all too quickly, perhaps.

The discussion about veillance and surveillance need to be placed in an international context to understand how these local concerns or non-concerns emerge and transpire. We need to learn more about non-Western centric perspective on human rights on the Internet, especially concerning privacy and surveillance. After all, the concepts of privacy and surveillance have different cultural meanings in different regions and countries. As an educator, I am also keen on learning how colleagues initiate such discussion with their international students and what pedagogical approaches colleagues adopt to deepen the discussion in university classrooms.


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