Introduction to digital rights

Part 1

The goal of this introductory course is to learn some basic notions important for an understanding of the sphere of digital rights. Depending on what your background is some of these things are not entirely new. However, if you are new to the topic, please do look at these materials carefully.

The tasks:

  1. Learn some basic information about the Internet
  2. Get introduced to the topic of Digital Rights

1. The Internet – but how is it even possible?

If you are new to the topic and if computers and the Internet seem to be something pretty close to magic, you might want to learn a little bit about all this geeky stuff actually works. Don’t worry, you don’t need to know what what HTTPS, TLS, ICMP, SMTP and TCP and UDP stand for – we all use the Internet and are pretty familiar with what it makes possible. However, some technical knowledge really helps to be able to judge some of the more political issues.

The first two videos give a short introduction on how computers in the Internet connect to each other and how all this actually works. The third video is a short summary of the history of the Internet and why it got created.

2. Digital Rights

So now that you know what the Internet is we move to looking why it is worth protecting and what protecting it means.

This first video gives a short general introduction to digital rights. In addition to it we also recommend this very nice article.

This video is a TED talk about the more specific topic we will address in our seminar; it talks about the apparent tension between security and privacy online.

Part 2

For this second part we invite you to watch a very interesting documentary: Citizenfour. Laura Poitras, the director, was one of the first people contacted by Edward Snowden. When he went underground she traveled to Hong Kong to meet him. The film chronicles the Snowden revelations and the wider context of mass surveillance.

When you’ve finished watching the movie, think about how you would answer the following questions:

  • Should Edward Snowden have not leaked the documents? Leaked them differently?
  • Give one argument for mass surveillance and one against. Tell us why you think they are good/bad.
  • Do you think the fight against terrorism justifies mass surveillance? If so, when?

Part 3

After having been introduced to some basic notions in the first part, and having gone a bit more in-depth with the documentary Citizenfour during the last part, it is now time to turn our attention to our local contexts. For this we ask you to do two things:

  1. Find out whether there are any Digital Rights organisations in your country or region.
  2. Find out what your local laws say about data retention.

1. Digital Rights organisations

There are many Digital Rights organisations in Europe, though most of them are small and not very well-known. We think it is important we find out about these organisations so that we can collaborate. These organisations are all interested in finding new collaborators and will help you get active and learn more. Don’t hesitate to contact them!

Therefore we ask you to do a little online research to try to find out whether there are any Digital Rights organisations in your country or region. Try to find out what they have been active in and shoot them an email to find out if they have any activities in the near future!

One way of starting your research might be EDRi’s website.

2. Local data retention laws

Many countries have laws that say that information about everyone’s online activities must be stored for a set amount of time. You can find out more about this on EFF’s website. What we’re interested in is finding out are what the data retention policies in your country. Use your favourite (privacy-aware) search engine to find out:

  • Is there data retention?
  • How long is it stored?
  • What data is stored?
  • Who has access to it?

Part 4

Welcome to the final part of this introductory course! This time there’s only one small things that we ask you to do:

  1. Some research on the digital rights situation in your country

1. Digital rights situation in your country

State-mandated digital surveillance and censorship are unfortunately both very common and little known. Do you know what’s the situation in your country? If not, we invite you to do a little research on it.

  • Have you heard about worrying cases of Internet censorship that happened in your country? Do you know how it is regulated? By law or not?
  • Laws and regulations regarding surveillance. What was implemented recently?

If you don’t find any information about this online, maybe write an email to the digital rights organisations you found out about in the previous part of this course?