Digital Single Market
Digital Economy & Society

How security and protection of networks and systems can be reconciled with freedoms and fundamental rights?



There are many occasions where conflicts can arise between protecting users’ data and providing online security.

For example, national authorities' preparedness and monitoring measures against malicious behaviour online require often to access online data. In some cases, for national security reasons, the deletion of data can be ordered by national authorities and might be interfering which the right of expression. But which are the limits of this control? And what are the rights of the user of being notified of such measures?

Similar concerns could be raised for what concerns the use of personal data made by private companies, and the correspondent rights of users to know/act on this regard.

Lines are sometimes difficult to draw. Have you in mind examples of conflict between security measures and the respect of  human rights?  Can you list some of those? 

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Grainne Kirwan's picture

I think this raises some interesting points regarding the changed perception of online mass communication over the past decade or so. The current ability of individuals and groups to communicate an idea or opinion to a wide and dispersed audience is unparallelled historically.

Previously, those who held minority views could find it very difficult to find others who share that view. The nature of the modern internet makes this extremely easy. While there are many positive aspects to this, there are also negatives. For example, the reassurance to an individual that they are not the only person who holds a particular perspective can be a trigger in moving from words to action. Previously, that person may not have found a like-minded individual in their normal day-to-day life. Now an individual who holds extreme views can find many others who share that view, and because of the nature of the Internet, it may appear to the person that their view is more mainstream than they had previously hoped. This can be a trigger to action.

Regarding deletion of data, this must always be done with caution, so as not to destroy an individual's faith in an authority. It also runs the risk of infuriating a larger group of individuals, who may not initially share the belief of the original author of the message, but who may rise to their defence to present their opinion. In doing so, such a group might fall victim to cognitive dissonance, later defending the author's perspective along with their right to disseminate their opinion. Avoiding such a reaction means that any deletion has to be done with care, and must take into account the nature of online communication styles and mechanisms - the differences between how individuals communicate online and offline (both written and oral) must be carefully considered.

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