State Security, Internet Principles, and Human Rights

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Session description

In this plenary we consider the overlaps, and disconnects, between three sorts of aspirations for internet design, access, and use. For some these three concerns are non-reconcilable. For others they must be reconciled if the internet is to remain viable and accessible for more than a wealthy and educated minority; and remain a democratic rather than oppressive medium.

For others, declarations of intent and high-level agreements on broad principles do not deal adequately with how to (re)design the internet in a rights-based and principled way. The devil here is in the details and knowledge of these details is not accessible for all. What everyone does agree on is that internet design, access, and use lie at the heart of political, economic, and everyday life whether we like it or not. And recent events underscore the need to ensure that human rights and freedoms can be protected and enjoyed online not only today but also in the future. As a number of high-level meetings produce statements recognizing that human rights online matter (e.g., NETmundial), and that internet governance processes need to work with agreed–upon and transparent principles, experts and lay-persons are mobilizing to see these aspirations put into practice in palpable ways. However, opinions differ markedly on what the priorities are (e.g. state security versus personal privacy), how to achieve these goals, by whom, by what means, and for whose benefit.

The plenary will consider the interrelationship between security priorities, internationally agreed sets of principles for internet governance, and international human rights norms from a range of perspectives. It will unpack different understandings of these three goals and their implications for the future of the internet that can be accessed and enjoyed by all. The plenary will engage the various views of political representatives, the technical community, intergovernmental organizations, internet businesses, and ordinary people on the relationship between these three concerns and whether this implies a zero-sum game, Catch 22, or a Faustian Pact.

Key participants will be invited to speak from the floor and from the podium in response to the following questions, listed below in a preliminary formulation and so open for input before the meeting.


1) Security: How do we understand security in an internet age? Do we need to rethink what we mean by security? Are these three goals interdependent, or mutually exclusive in practice? How to balance state security concerns with the legal responsibilities power holders have (governmental and business, public institutions like schools) to protect human rights of citizens, customers, and other constituencies?

  • How to do so when citizens’ data and digital footprints and online practices straddle more than one national border?
  • What other sorts of security are at stake online? For children, people with disabilities, socioeconomically disadvantaged groups?

2) Working Principles: What sorts of present, and past decisions on internet design, access, and use (over-)securitize parts of the internet, or unintentionally enable practices that undermine rights and freedoms (e.g., mass surveillance, data retention, flaming) and so lead to a “chilling effect” for people’s ability to speak, move, and think freely online? International/intergovernmental Sets of Internet Principles (e.g. NM, IRPC Charter, CoE Guide, PACE; inter alia): How to balance universality with particular – local – needs and priorities?

  • All sets of principles mention, or articulate human rights as fundamental, integral, and therefore indispensable to the future of the internet. How to identify principles that are human rights compliant?
  • If such agreements are embedded in law, or agreed to as non-binding, or self-regulated undertakings, what are the implications for R&D and design decisions in the deeper layers of code and internet’s technical architecture: what should come first, the rights-based principles or the technical solution?

How & Who

Recognition than human rights online must be protected and internet design, access and use must be able to ensure that people can enjoy human rights and freedoms online is one thing, but implementation is another.

  • How to implement these decisions, terms of use, R&D in technical and legal terms?
  • Who undertakes to ensure that rights and freedoms are upheld and if they are not where can people go? Is it an either-or between regulation and rule of law, or “self-regulation”?
  • What sorts of mechanisms are in place, or are needed to ensure accountability and transparency, and intelligibility for non-experts looking for redress? E.g. privacy violations, takedown requests, misuses of personal data, bullying and online hate speech


  • Human rights as a principle of internet governance/security measures as a means to protect human rights, these assume that all users are aware of the issues.
  • In terms of education, awareness raising, and literacy (broadly defined): who needs to be educated about these issues? Children or their parents? Local government officials or politicians? Engineers or Shareholders?

How can we reconsider these three issues, security in particular, for the next generation whose understanding of privacy, propriety, and security are forming online and through social relationships online?

Where do public service commitments and sustenance of public spaces online relate to security (state, personal, commercial) priorities where the internet is central?

Format and Key Participants

This plenary is organized in order to ensure depth and breadth of content and participation. Key participants comprise two groups, on the podium and from the floor. Interventions will be brief and in response to thematic themes for this session. Participants from the floor and on the podium have equal speaking rights. Other members from the audience are also welcome to contribute.

Key participants on the podium:

Key participants on the floor:


RP Moderator


Final report from working group

PDF (approx. 2 weeks after event)

Preparatory meetings and thematic inputs

Protocol. Discussions

See the discussion tab on the upper left side of this page

Further reading

  1. (Brazilian Internet Steering Committee), 2009, Resolution CGI.Br/RES/2009/003/P—Principles for the Governance and Use of the Internet,—Regulations, (signed into law by Brazilian President. Dilma Roussf, April 2014)
  2. Council of Europe, 2014, Recommendation CM/Rec(2014)6 of the Committee of Ministers to member States on a Guide to human rights for Internet users, adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 16 April 2014 at the 1197th meeting of the Ministers’ Deputies;
  3. Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand, 2014, Internet Rights and Freedoms Bill,
  4. Hivos International IG-MENA Project, 2014, Click Rights Campaign;
  5. Internet Rights and Principles Coalition (IRPC), 2014: Charter of Human Rights and Principles for the Internet Booklet, 3rd Edition;
  6. Internet Rights and Principles Coalition (IRPC), 2014, The IRPC Charter of Human Rights and Principles for the Internet, Contribution to the Net Mundial Global Multistakeholder Meeting on the Future of Internet Governance, 23-24 April 2014;
  7. Kleinwaechter, Wolfgang, 2014, “PINGO: NETmundial Adopts Principles on Internet Governance, 10 May 2014,
  8. Netmundial: Global Multistakeholder Meeting on the Future of Internet Governance, 2014, NETmundial Multistakeholder Statement, April, 24th 2014;
  9. OECD, 2011, OECD Council Recommendation on Principles for Internet Policy Making, 13 December 2011, Paris: OECD;
  10. UN General Assembly, 1948, Universal Declaration of Human Rights;
  11. United Nations Human Rights Council, 2012, Resolution A/HRC/RES/20/8: Promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development, UN General Assembly: OHCHR,
  12. United Kingdom House of Commons Home Affairs Committee, 2014, Home Affairs Committee – Seventeenth Report: Counter-terrorism, 30 April 2014,
  13. US White House – Executive Office of the President, 2014, Big Data: Seizing Opportunities, Preserving Values, May 2014; (Chapters 3 & 6)

Live stream / remote participation

Pictures from working group

Session twitter hashtag

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