Electronic vandalism, fraud and identity theft, hacking, cyber terrorism and extortion; cyber stalking, invasion of privacy, cyber bullying and offensive material. These can be outlined as some of the activities propelled by the digital generation.

These digitally enabled crimes or illicit activities brings about the infringement on an individual’s human rights.

As we get to become a more digitally active citizens, further consideration must be given to the protection of human rights to curb more of the challenges faced in this digital age.

Quoting Pine Pienaar, MD of Afiswitch,“Human rights differ from civil rights, in that this spectrum of rights are recognized as international standards for promoting and protecting an individual’s basic right to a dignified human existence.”

The idea is that all human rights are basic right and freedoms that humans should be guaranteed by virtue of them being a human. They are also universal and unchallengeable within qualified legal boundaries, interdependent, equal and non-discriminatory

Above all, the main duties of protecting human rights rests on the governing states and their authorities or arms. A number of the fundamental human rights are potentially at risk of being infringed on, or negatively affected, as a result of illicit digitally-enabled acts posing a threat to life, dignity, safety, and the right to personal privacy.

To broaden the context on Right to life; Identity theft may not be directly responsible for the physical taking of a life, but it can certainly impact the quality of life and even lead to devastating financial and legal implications for the unwitting victim. Global research notes that on average, industries and consumers lose more than 16 Billion US dollar due to identity fraud each year.

Bearing this in mind, Afiswitch believes that biometrics should form the foundation of any solution aimed at managing identity authentication and digital security. The latest in biometric solutions provides for more accurate identity verification and are able to deliver results in real-time. This offers a real solution to “knowing who you are dealing with” and can significantly help in fishing out fake personae and cyber criminals,” says Pienaar.

On Rights to dignity and safety: Beyond the potential of having one’s dignity attacked as a result of identity theft, cyber-bullying is likewise a growing worldwide phenomenon. This can be detrimental to an individual’s mental and physical health as it affects citizens of all ages, gender, race, culture and religion or faith.

A recent report showed that among 28 countries surveyed, South Africa had the highest prevalence of cyber-bullying. In fact, 54% of parents who took part in the study admitted to knowing at least one child in their community who has been a victim of cyber-bullying – up by 24% since 2011.

Riaan Badenhorst, General Manager of Kaspersky Lab Africa, says, “Although legal regulations across many markets are still developing, with the fast-moving world of social networking online, cyber-bullying can cross over into cyber-crime and the personal effect of this should not be underestimated. All citizens should be protected from cyber-bullying and protecting a human’s right to dignity and safety, should also extend to the online realm.”

Right to personal privacy; This right is possibly the most pervasively infringed on, in the digital age. Currently, the laws are evolving and trying to catch up with how much of a citizen’s personal data is available online, but pen-ultimately who the responsibility falls on to protect this data from breaches.”

Lerato Thekiso, Founding Director, Thekvest Legal Advisory Services, agrees, but also suggests that with the efforts being undertaken by the State and international communities to protect the rights of citizens, careful consideration must also be given to the overarching authorizations of States and security communities to ensure that such authorization do not infringe on the rights of citizens under the guise of national and international security.

Such authorization cannot be unrestricted as this opens the door for invasive surveillance, which can infringe on a citizens’ right to privacy. New laws and regulations around cyber security, protection of data and even biometric or identity-matching are aimed at addressing the challenges raised by new technologies and societal needs for new and added protection in what is becoming the ‘new normal’. However, there needs to be a strong emphasis on ethical principles and behaviour to maintain trust. It will also become increasingly pivotal that sound ethics transcends through every sphere of government, business and citizens. If we must go on to protect our sense of human society and citizenship in the evolving digital age, these emphasis should be figured out.

Badenhorst states that, there needs to be wider acceptance because we are functioning in a world continually shaped by technology and access to the Internet. Then, human rights protection must extend beyond the physical realm and in support of this, more consideration must be given to how we employ IT security and online protection in the digital age to safeguard fundamental human rights and our right to be protected digital citizens.

It is also important to note that every citizen has the human right of responsibility. This can be defined as having a duty to act in a way that still protects the rights and freedoms of other citizens – where no one citizen’s actions should harm or infringe on the rights of another. This message seems to have been forgotten in our societal teachings lately but is certainly one that must be brought to the fore. We must teach our governments, our business sector and all facets of society what it means to be responsible digital citizens and to always take care to protect the rights of others both online and offline.

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