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Analyzing Digital Human Rights

To deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity.- Nelson Mandela, South African civil rights activist

What Are Human Rights?

Human Rights are the rights we simply have because we are Human. Rights which all human beings have irrespective the part of the world they live in are called Human Rights. These Rights are synonymous to the very existence of human beings. Any violation of such Rights will lead to gross violation of justice.

The minimum standards which need to be respected, protected and fulfilled to live a dignified life. Human Rights do not have to be given, bought, earned or inherited. Nobody has the authority to take them from us. We all have economic rights, political rights, social and cultural rights which revolve around every aspect of our life.

Various Conventions and Treaties have been ratified by the States to officially recognize Human Rights such as ICCPR, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, European Human Rights Convention and other regional treaties. This means that such treaties and conventions are legally binding upon such parties and if they violate any such right, they can be sued at the International Level.

Digital Security And Human Rights

The internet has provided altogether a new medium of communication, interaction and transmission of information. People all around the world are connected with each other more than ever. Whenever we use the internet for browsing or installing an application on our mobile phone or sending an email, we are transmitting information about ourselves.

Companies store such information and make billion out of it by selling it to the advertising agencies. Our devices, which have made everything so easy, are also a threat to our privacy. It stores information which can be easily hacked or tracked.

The government may practice mass surveillance in order to control the dissemination of information or targeted surveillance on Human Rights Defenders (HRD's), activists, journalists in order to monitor what they share with others over the internet or what plans do they have for future which might cause disturbance to government. The Ruling government can also monitor the activities of the ministers in opposition in order to curb dissent.

Other means of reaching out to the user of a device is Malicious Softwares and apps. You must have heard that you should never disclose your OTP to anyone or should not click on links which look suspicious? That's Phishing ( like a fish is given a bait and trapped). The other person might send some link which takes you to the imitated page (like Facebook, Gmail etc) and obtains your username and password. The URL which starts from HTTPS (where S stands for secure) is safer than the other links, so look out for https while using the link.

Is Incognito Mode All The Protection You Need?
Private browsing or the Incognito mode encrypts NOTHING! Your ISP and government agencies can still monitor your browsing activities. Third-party groups such as GOOGLE can still track your location and identity. It only prevents your browser history from being stored on your device. It does not encrypt data or metadata.

HTTPS websites do not encrypt the metadata however they do encrypt the data. Websites using HTTP are not secure and can make your device vulnerable to threats and viruses, so make sure the URL you use starts with HTTPS.

Virtual Private Networks (VPN) help not only in encrypting your data but also the metadata. VPN hides your online activity by redirecting the information from ISP servers to VPN servers i.e. while the information is hidden from ISP, your information is still visible to VPN provider and therefore it is important to have a trustworthy VPN provider.

A good antivirus program can help to avoid threats from the Malware. These programs like QuickHeal are up to date and help in blocking the malicious application and software from harming the device.

However, there is no software which can help in avoiding Phishing, It is all about the digital prudence, you must look for the typos in the links or messages sent or maybe an abnormal URL. If some known person tries to communicate in a strange way, try to contact him through any other medium.

Claiming Our Rights
Right to Privacy: I have nothing to hide
Right to free speech and expression (Sharing your opinions and views online): I'm not communicating to achieve illegal ends.
Right to assemble ( making online groups): I am not associating with dangerous elements.

Some people think that it is okay for the government to monitor their activities since they have nothing to fear or hide. This is a misconception. It is not about hiding but about protecting your privacy. With the change in government, there is a change in the general fabric of ideology and what becomes against that ideology is not known. Today's assent might become tomorrow's dissent.

Whatever we share online or even the calls we make can easily be tapped and monitored by the government. Social media platforms such as Gmail, Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, etc record all our activities and thought they might provide end-to-encryption, the government can still demand decrypted information from your service provider. Digital Security is important because when it is there, we can share our stories with a sense of security and confidence.

When we choose to neglect our rights, we give birth to victims all around the world, but when we claim our rights, when we stand for our rights, we give voices to those numerous victims of Human Rights violation.

All our rights are interdependent, when we choose to let go of one right, we choose to let go of all of them. But when we claim any right, we have taken a step towards the protection of all. Although there is no specific legislation on Digital Human Rights however there are certain provisions in the Information Technology Act, 2000 which tend to achieve the same ends. The Hon'ble Supreme Court of India through K.S. Puttaswamy Judgment (Writ Petition (Civil) No 494 Of 494 OF 2012) held that Right to privacy is a part of Right to life and personal Liberty and no individual must be denied this basic right.

Conclusion And Suggestions
In this global era, it has become impossible to disconnect yourself from social media and the internet. The developed economies and also the emerging ones have transformed themselves into cashless and digital economy wherein the use of cash and paper has been reduced tremendously and people are relying on the online platforms and media to communicate and interact with each other more than ever.

While we are sharing our intimate information online, we must not forget that there are people and agencies who can have access to all our information, messages, phone calls, etc. Even using double or multiple authentication app comes with its own pros and cons. It protects us from the possible digital threat but at the same time, it stores all our usernames and passwords which might get leaked if someone gets access to our multiple-authentication app passcode.

One must not stop using the internet due to the possible threats, rather educate himself and make himself aware of digital security and human rights. One must act prudently in order to escape the security threats. It is not okay for the government to exercise mass surveillance even when it is for national security, as it creates a lack of security in the minds of people and they self-censor what they post on social media.

They are restricted, in a way, from sharing what and how they feel in the fear of action by the government. Even targeted surveillance on HRDs and journalist endangers our fundamental right to free speech and expression. It is the need of the hour that we all stand for what is most important to our existence, our rights. It is time that we claim our digital rights and uphold the importance of Human Rights.

Written By: Aastha Khanna (LL.B. candidate, Law Centre-1, University of Delhi)

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