Trust and Security digest (September 2022)

17 Oct 2022

This extract is taken from the September 2022 issue of The digest, GPD’s newsletter. Sign up here.


Digital issues at the UN: an update

September was a busy month for cyber-related discussions at the UN. A few developments to highlight:

  • The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) published a widely anticipated report on the right to privacy in the digital age, which identified three main areas of concern: the abuse of intrusive hacking tools (‘spyware’) by state authorities; threats to strong encryption; and the impacts of widespread digital monitoring of public spaces, both offline and online. The report features arguably the strongest endorsement of encryption ever issued by the OHCHR, heavily drawing on joint input of the Global Encryption Coalition (GEC), of which GPD is a member.
  • The 2022 ITU Plenipotentiary wraps up tomorrow. Our Head of Global Engagement and Advocacy, Sheetal Kumar, has been in attendance—stay tuned for her insights and analysis next week. In the meantime: three reasons why human rights defenders should be paying close attention to the ITU.
  • Cybersecurity, cyber threats and disinformation were dominant themes across discussions at the 77th Session of the United Nations General Assembly  (13 – 27 September 2022). Several states noted the damaging impacts of online disinformation and cyberattacks, particularly within the context of the war in Ukraine (as we highlighted in a recent piece); with many calling for further action to advance peace and security in cyberspace, including via the Ad Hoc Committee on Cybercrime and Open Ended Working Group on ICTs. The UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, specifically referenced ‘hate speech, misinformation and abuse’ in his statement; while Special Rapporteur Irene Khan published a report examining the challenges posed by disinformation to freedom of opinion and expression during armed conflict. The Freedom Online Coalition (FOC) also co-hosted a side session on ‘Upholding Democracy and Human Rights in the Face of Rising Disinformation’.
  • On the margins of the Human Rights Council’s 51st session (12 September – 7 October), the 2022 Chair of the Freedom Online Coalition (FOC), Canada, co-hosted a multistakeholder roundtable with GPD on how the obligation of non-discrimination (particularly on the grounds of gender and race) applies to the risks posed by digital technologies, including AI. Key findings from the event will be published soon. There were also three resolutions of note that were adopted during this session: on countering cyberbullying (A/HRC/51/L.17); neurotechnology and human rights (A/HRC/51/L.3); and the human rights implications of new and emerging technologies in the military domain (A/HRC/51/L.25).