Using Computers: Upholding Rights and Freedoms while Fighting Crime – Sunday, 18.7.2010

Posted on 21 July 2010. Filed under: *Editorial*, Week 673 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 673

The Ministry of Defense hopes that the use of computers will help better to cut down the names of ‘ghost soldiers’ from the salary lists of the military. This was expressed by the spokesperson of the Ministry of Defense, Lieutenant General Chhum Socheat, who said that the present census of all soldiers will be more accurate and thorough this year than in previous years. “It is an annual census to find out the real number of soldiers and of the children of those soldiers, and to cut out the names of soldiers who have retired or who died, or are not present anymore.” There are some traditional elements in this process, even surprising ones – if one assumes that soldiers would be known, present, and listed at their command posts: “All soldiers of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces are required to show up at their command posts. The soldiers will there be asked to identify themselves by showing themselves and their ID numbers, as well as to specify the number of children they have at present in the lists… the names of soldiers who do not show up will be deleted from the salary lists of the Ministry of Defense.”

Considering the results of a similar exercise in 2008, where – according to Mr. Cheam Yeap, a member of the National Assembly from the Cambodian People’s Party – the government found 10,000 ghost soldiers and 10,000 ghost police, for whom salaries were regularly paid out (to whom?), the new findings might again bring considerable savings to the national budget.
Lieutenant General Chhum Socheat added that there is confidence that this year, the data will be accurate, because of the use of a computer system to store all documents.

The newly created Anti-Corruption Unit of the government will start with to collect about 100,000 declarations of assets, and this process is to be implemented before November 2010, “to facilitate a quick enforcement of the law.” Though the Anti-Corruption Unit is to keep all these documents, it has not been announced how this is going to happen practically. Even trusting the capacities of computer systems, it will be difficult to receive and file more than 1,000 asset declarations per day during the remaining days before November.

But the past week brought also a different reminder about the power of computer systems: Cambodian authorities began creating legislation against cyber crimes. “A workshop about the creation of legislation against cyber crimes was held on 13 July 2010 at the Council of Ministers, and government officials, officials of national and international organizations, and representatives of Internet Service Providers, of telecom companies, of technology companies, of publication institutions, and of other relevant fields participated in the workshop… The advancement of technology is a double-edged sword. It can make many things easier and provides abundant benefits for quick development. But it also creates opportunities for criminals to use it to commit various offenses.” This double reality was pointed out: that by now communication technology plays an ever growing role in society – but on the other hand, Cambodia is also experiencing similar problems and threat as they happen in other countries also, which can be a threat for security, economy, and the general and political life of a society.

This Cambodian workshop was held also to consider how other countries are dealing with this new world wide problem. The head of the Economic Crime Division of the Council of Europe, Mr. Alexander Seger, referred to the Budapest Convention on Cyber Crime of 2001, which had been developed during four years before it was presented to the member states of the Council of Europe, but which is also open for other states to sign and to access, so that among the 47 countries which signed it, there are also non-European countries: Canada, Japan, South Africa, and the United States of America.

These preparatory efforts in Cambodia are considering the same range of criminal activities which happen also in other countries around the globe. “Cambodia has already experienced many problems that allow cyber criminals to commit offenses using such technology. There are many cases where all must pay attention, to prevent cheating on the Internet, to receive the inheritance from someone illegally, not to respond to electronic messages asking for passwords, or messages threatening someone, stealing of passwords, and the distribution of child pornography into computer systems, or the sending of spam mails.”

What is remarkable is the fact that the Budapest Convention on Cyber Crime does not only point to the threats which can come from criminal use of the Internet, and to the need to protect society from them. Included in this document of 28 pages is also a warning that the need for criminal prosecution shall not violate fundamental rights of the citizens to be protected:

The member States of the Council of Europe and the other States signatory hereto,… Convinced of the need to pursue, as a matter of priority, a common criminal policy aimed at the protection of society against cyber crime, inter alia, by adopting appropriate legislation and fostering international co-operation;…

Mindful of the need to ensure a proper balance between the interests of law enforcement and respect for fundamental human rights as enshrined in the 1950 Council of Europe Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, the 1966 United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and other applicable international human rights treaties, which reaffirm the right of everyone to hold opinions without interference, as well as the right to freedom of expression, including the freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, and the rights concerning the respect for privacy;

Mindful also of the right to the protection of personal data, as conferred, for example, by the 1981 Council of Europe Convention for the Protection of Individuals with regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data;…

Have agreed as follows:

Each Party shall adopt such legislative and other measures as may be necessary to establish as criminal offenses under its domestic law, when committed intentionally…

followed by chapters on Illegal access, Illegal interception, Data and System interference, Misuse of devices, Computer-related forgery and fraud, Offenses related to child pornography and to infringements of copyright, etc.

When representatives of governments, of the business community, and of civil society – according to the multi-stakeholder principle introduced by the United Nations for dealing with questions of the present Information Society – met in June for an Asia-Pacific Regional Internet Governance Forum in Hong Kong, the issue of cyber security was also high on the agenda. While there was an emphasis on legal measures to assure the security and stability of the Internet, and on technical facilities to implement such controls, a group of civil society representatives from Southeast Asia made their common concern public in a 2010 Southeast Asia Civil Society Declaration on Internet Governance.

This Southeast Asian reflection starts with a references to the UN Summits for the Information Society of 2003 and 2005, especially with their Declaration of Principles, which the representatives of governments from around the globe had voted upon:

We, the representatives of the peoples of the world, assembled in Geneva from 10-12 December 2003 for the first phase of the World Summit on the Information Society, declare our common desire and commitment to build a people-centered, inclusive and development-oriented Information Society, where everyone can create, access, utilize and share information and knowledge, enabling individuals, communities and peoples to achieve their full potential in promoting their sustainable development and improving their quality of life, premised on the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and respecting fully and upholding the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Building on this guideline, which had led to the setting up of the Internet Governance Forums, this civil society declaration says among others in a longer text:

Key Observations of the Asia Pacific regional Internet Governance Forum

In response to the first Asia-Pacific Regional Internet Governance Forum Roundtable in Hong Kong on 15-16 June 2010, we, netizens, journalists, bloggers, IT practitioners and nongovernmental representatives from across Southeast Asia, offer the following observations from the Roundtable:

Critical issues of Internet governance in Asia should guide future discussions on Internet governance policy:

Openness

Open access to information is the right of every individual, a right that serves as a fundamental venue for one’s knowledge- and capacity-building. Access to information ultimately helps foster creativity and innovation, thus promoting sustainable human and economic development. Openness is key to a democratic and open society. Restrictions on freedom of opinion and expression online, such as state censorship which blocks Internet intermediaries, is one of the threats to open societies. Intimidation and state censorship facilitate self-censorship, a hazardous social phenomenon that further undermines democracy and openness.

Access

The Internet is for everyone; it is a public good. Yet a Digital Divide between those countries and communities with Internet access and those without persists, and has not been sufficiently addressed in discussions on Internet governance. Proceedings at the Asia-Pacific Regional Internet Governance Forum indicated a higher priority must be placed on addressing not only the global digital divide, but also regional and national ones. While Singapore enjoys high Internet access rates (70% penetration), countries like Burma and Cambodia are at the other end of the spectrum (0.22% and 0.51% penetration, respectively), ranked the lowest of 200 countries studied in the World Bank.

Internet access is fundamental for progress. Various factors, such as political, economic and social development, poverty levels, and technological infrastructure affect whether and how often people can access the Internet. Internationally coordinated efforts must be made to address domestic policies that contribute to the digital divide in Southeast Asia and find solutions to bridge the gap.

Cyber Security

Definition of cyber security must include elements that address the right to privacy and to civil and political freedom.

An individual’s right over his/her own privacy, including personal data and information, must not be sacrificed…

Today’s information society connects personal IT devices directly to the outside world, no longer storing personal data on a single server. Given the involvement of the government and businesses (especially state-owned enterprises) in running such technologies, surveillance and identity theft remain a constant threat against Internet users.

In this regard, any national security policy must not deviate from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and all international human rights covenants to which states are parties…

The references of the Budapest Convention on Cyber Crime and of the Southeast Asia Civil Society Declaration on Internet Governance to human rights and freedoms, not only threatened by criminal action, but also by efforts to impose extensive control, are important reminders that security must be human security.

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