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October 2015

This is the newsletter of the Freedom Online Coalition. The aim of the newsletter is to share information among Coalition members, highlight both emerging threats and positive new initiatives as well as help coordinate action that promotes the Coalition's objectives for a free and secure internet for all. 

FOC Updates

FOC issues statement on restrictive data localisation laws

The Freedom Online Coalition has issued a statement expressing its concern regarding the use of privacy and security considerations by authoritarian governments as a pretext to force Internet companies and service providers to store user data on servers physically located within their domestic borders. Such forced data localisation measures can be used to stifle freedom of speech, restrict user Internet access, and surveil citizens in a manner inconsistent with democratic principles and States’ international human rights obligations. You can read the statement in full by clicking here.

Updates on FOC networks in Paris and New York

In September, the FOC held an inaugural meeting of its New York network, co-organised by the governments of Canada and Costa Rica. In Paris, the FOC UNESCO network met at an event hosted by the government of Germany. FOC network meetings allow Coalition members to coordinate viewpoints, share relevant information, and discuss strategies to advance an open Internet in specific fora.

FOC Working Group updates

        Working Group 1 (WG1)
WG1 held a face-to-face meeting at the Dutch Mission in New York on 10-11 September. At the meeting, the Group finalised its draft normative recommendations on developing rights-based cybersecurity policies and practices. In the upcoming period, the WG will carry out informal consultations on the recommendations, in preparation for their public launch at the IGF.Earlier this month, the WG also published a blog explaining the rationale for a new definition of cybersecurity that WG1 outputs are based on.

        Working Group 2 (WG2)
Over the summer, the WG2 took its work forward via its sub-groups: (A) Rule of Law and Freedom of Expression and (B) Rule of Law, Privacy and Data Protection. Sub-group A is working on the first draft of their workplan, and Sub-group B has produced a memo outlining their scope of work and division of tasks. The co-chairs from Folke-Bernadotte Academy have been working on a concept note for WG2, and the WG is planning to launch a blog series in the near future

        Working Group 3 (WG3)
Following its recent membership renewal, WG3 welcomed Professor K S Park, Lokman Tsui and Alexandria Walden as its new members. Their bios are available here. Building on a scoping exercise carried out among WG members over the summer, WG3 is now in the process of finalising its agenda for the upcoming period. The Group has identified government transparency and qualitative transparency as areas of focus under the new mandate. In addition, WG3 is finalising for publication their paper on transparency about government requests to companies.
© Denis Balibouse / Reuters



Russia: controversial law on personal data storage comes into force

A newly implemented law requires all technology firms with Russian users to set up localised servers to store Russian customers’ data. The law applies to all companies, and is expected to have a particularly strong impact on those based outside of Russia. The law allows the state internet watchdog to blacklist sites that refuse to comply with the new rules and possibly limit access to them. Supporters of the measure claim that the law will prevent foreign states from misusing Russian citizens’ personal data and strengthen Russia’s national security. They also said the new law accords with the current European policy of legally protecting online personal data.

Related news stories:

India: Internet ban affecting 63 million citizens instated amid protests

Mobile Internet services were blocked in the Indian state of Gujarat (home to nearly 63 million people) on September 19, following violent protests led by the Patel community after one of its leaders was detained by local police in Ahmedabad. 22-year-old politician Hardik Patel, the convener of the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti, led a rally to demand Other Backward Class (OBC) status for members of the Patidar community, to level the playing field in the competition for enrollment at universities and jobs in government organisations. "We have decided to ban mobile Internet service in the state to tackle the law and order situation and to curb the rumours across Gujarat for an indefinite period," Director General of police PC Thakur told The Times of India.

Related news stories:

Brazil considering dismantling privacy protections in the Marco Civil

Brazil’s lower house of Congress is considering a bill that would double penalties for libel and defamatory speech when they occur online, and dissolve protections for communications privacy in criminal investigations. The bill has a long way to go before it can reach the desk of President Dilma Rousseff—it needs committee and plenary approval in the lower house, in addition to Senate approval. But if enacted, it would dismantle privacy protections in the Marco Civil (Brazil’s so-called “Bill of Rights for the Internet”) by allowing prosecutors in a criminal case to request users’ personal data, including the content of private messages, without first obtaining approval from a judge.

Related news stories:

Zuckerberg Pushes for Universal Internet Access by 2020

Mark Zuckerberg is teaming up with Bono's One organization to push for universal Internet access by 2020. "I believe Internet access is essential for achieving humanity's #globalgoals" reads the Connectivity Declaration released by One and signed by several high-profile people and philanthrophic organizations, including The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The declaration was released as the United Nations considered the Global Goals, a development blueprint aimed at solving pressing social and economic challenges. Zuckerberg appeared at the UN this week to discuss the Internet component of those goals and explain that "connecting the world is one of the fundamental challenges of our generation."

Related news stories:

French digital rights bill published in ‘open democracy’ first

A proposed law on the Internet and digital rights in France has been opened for public consultation before it is debated in parliament in an “unprecedented” exercise in “open democracy”. The text of the “Digital Republic” bill was published online on Saturday and is open to suggestions for amendments by French citizens until October 17. In its original and unedited form, the text of the bill pushes heavily towards online freedoms as well as improving the transparency of government. “We are opening a new page in the history of our democracy,” Prime Minister Manuel Valls said at a press conference as the consultation was launched. “This is the first time in France, or indeed in any European country, that a proposed law has been opened to citizens in this way.”

Related news stories:

Photo credit: Reuters

Upcoming Events


6th Meeting of the ITU Council Working Group on International Internet-related Public Policy Issues, 01-02 Oct, Geneva

The 6th Meeting of the CWG on International Internet-related Public Policy Issues will be held on 1-2 October 2015 at the ITU Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. The working group identifies, studies and develops matters related to international Internet-related public policy issues, including those issues identified in Council Resolution 1305 (2009).

Annual Privacy Forum 2015, 07-08 Oct, Luxembourg

The European Commission Directorate General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology (DG CONNECT), the European Union Agency for Network and Information Security (ENISA) and, as local host, the University of Luxembourg, is organising a two-day event with the objective of providing a discussion forum for academia, industry and policy makers. This year, the main focus of the Annual Privacy Forum will be on the privacy of electronic communications.

Council of Europe Conference, "Freedom of Expression: Still a Precondition for Democracy?", 13-14 Oct, Strasbourg

A high level conference, organised by the Council of Europe's Secretary General will be held on 13 and 14 October in Strasbourg on the implications of the European Court of Human Rights case-law on freedom of expression on the Internet. The event will be based on three key elements: freedom of expression as a fundamental value of democracy; challenges to freedom of expression posed by the Internet and possible answers; the role of the European Convention on Human Rights and the case-law of the Strasbourg Court in the European legal landscape.

ICANN 54, 18-22 Oct, Dublin

ICANN's 54th meeting - ICANN54 - will take place in Dublin, Ireland, on 18-22 October 2015. ICANN meetings provide the opportunity for an internationally diverse group of individuals and organisations to come together and discuss and develop policies for the Internet's naming systems. A broad range of Internet-related topics are discussed at each meeting with the issue of the IANA transition featuring high on this session's agenda. More information is available here.

WSIS Review: 2nd Stakeholder Consultation and 2nd Preparatory Meeting of Member States, 19-22 Oct, New York

The UN General Assembly, in its resolution 68/302, decided that the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Review will be concluded by a two-day high-level meeting of the Assembly, to be preceded by an intergovernmental preparatory process that also takes into account inputs from all relevant stakeholders of the WSIS. The second preparatory meeting of the Review process will take place from 20-22 October, following the publication of the 'zero-draft' of the outcome document. The meeting will be preceded by the second informal interactive WSIS stakeholder consultations on October 19, held by the President of the General Assembly in order to collect stakeholder inputs for the intergovernmental negotiation process.

Stockholm Internet Forum, 21-22 Oct, Stockholm

Stockholm Internet Forum (SIF) is an international forum for in-depth dialogue and discussions on how a free, open and secure internet promotes human rights and development worldwide. SIF has been arranged since 2012 by The Swedish Government and SIF15 is the fourth forum in the series. SIF15, this year hosted by Sida will take place on 21–22 October in Stockholm.

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