Thursday 17 December 2015

Draft Cybercrimes Bill Would Be a ‘Sin’ For South Africa

South Africa, draft Cybercrimes and Cybersecurity Bill, legislation, government surveillance, civil liberties, human rightsSouth Africa has spoken: the draft Cybercrimes and Cybersecurity Bill made public in September is not what she wants. The criticism poured in as the comment submission deadline approached:

Right2Know, a movement focused on freedom of expression and access to information, submitted a significant rebuttal to the Bill, and also condensed its complaints to “Seven Deadly Sins”, as the Bill would:
  1.  Hand over control of the internet to the Ministry of State Security
  2.  Give the state security structures the power to effectively declare ‘national key points’ of the internet—and potentially grant backdoor access to any network
  3. Criminalise journalists and whistleblowers by sneaking in the worst parts of the “Secrecy Bill”
  4. Increase the state’s surveillance powers and be even more invasive than RICA
  5. Undermine South Africans’ civil liberties and particularly the constitutional right to privacy.
  6. Contain 59 new criminal offences involving computer usage—many of which are so broad that they could ensnare ordinary computer users. The Bill considers suspects guilty until proven innocent.
  7. Contain anti-copyright provisions so harsh you could be criminalized for even posting a meme. 
In a more concise statement, PEN South Africa expressed “extreme concern” over the Bill’s potential for harm: “We have submitted feedback to the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, requesting that the Bill be withdrawn and redrafted with input from civil society. We have asked that the Bill be reformulated in such a way that it achieves the protections sought in the safest way and which takes into consideration the freedom of expression clauses in the Constitution and protection of the public interest.” PEN South Africa, an affiliate of PEN International, defends free expression and encourages literature.
Similarly, the concluding remarks of the Freedom of Expression Institute’s submission argued, “The Cybercrimes and Cybersecurity bill is a ‘necessary evil’ addition to South Africa’s legislations; however, there are aspects of the Bill that unreasonably infringe on the rights of access to information and freedom of speech. These infringements must be expeditiously remedied in the revised versions of the proposed legislation.”
The Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) of Cape Town, which focuses on improving the security of software, provided a detailed analysis that noted a close-to-home concern for SumRando Cybersecurity: “[The Bill] offers no protection to whistleblowers or personal privacy, and adds significant risk to any person or business who wish to operate in the information security field…The result will be that the very people that we need to develop to enhance cybersecurity will find other alternatives rather than run the risk of bad legislation possibly criminalizing their actions. Those that are interested in cybersecurity will in all likelihood leave the country to pursue their profession elsewhere.”

In short, a cybercrimes bill is very much needed, but concerned citizens and organizations are not about to bite the apple that has been offered. Now that the public comment period has closed, expect the real discussion to begin.

Want to know more about government infringements of citizens' rights? Read on!

SumRando Cybersecurity is a South Africa-based VPN, Web Proxy and Secure Messenger provider. Surf secure and stay Rando!

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