Forum explores how internet data is used


THERE HAS been a lack of proportionality around how governments seek access to internet users’ data as part of their security agenda, the Dublin Conference on Internet Freedom heard yesterday.

Deputy data protection commissioner Gary Davis was speaking as part of a session entitled Towards a Shared Understanding on Internet Freedom: New Media, Social Media and Social Networks on the second day of a two-day conference held in Dublin Castle.

“The security agenda is obviously important to governments and I don’t wish to . . . minimise it but the way in which it is being pushed, pretty much relentlessly in terms of people’s use of the internet I think is wrong. And thus far there hasn’t been the voice for proportionality in terms of how that’s done,” he said.

He referred to the controversial UK draft communications Bill which seeks to extend the type of data internet service providers retain, something the UK government has said is necessary in the fight against terrorism. Mr Davis said he would “worry” if similar legislation were introduced here.

While he said people do not have an inviolable right to anonymity, Mr Davis said it was important people had the right to “go about the internet generally without having to identify themselves every step of the way”.

He said a point not well-understood by governments was that if they “increasingly push the envelope”, users would stop using those services.

Dr Ian Brown, associate director of the Oxford University Cyber Security Centre, said internet companies entering markets with weak human rights records needed to consider how they roll out servicesand how they retain personal data.

Other speakers included Icelandic MP Birgitta Jónsdóttir; innovation director of Storyful Gavin Sheridan; Tunisian journalist Afef Abrougui; and head of policy at Facebook for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Richard Allen.