Information & Communication Technology

Discussion Paper: No Trade Off - Restrictions on the Free Flow of Data, World Trade and Human Rights

01 May 2014

Fiber optic cables

The Swedish Foreign Affairs Ministry requested IHRB apply learning from the Digital Dangers project to the issue of how restrictions on the free flow of data could negatively affect both human rights and worldwide trade.

The Trade Policy Department at the Swedish Foreign Affairs Ministry asked IHRB to apply learning from the Digital Dangers project to the issue of how restrictions on the free flow of data could not only negatively affect trade worldwide but also adversely impact human rights.

This discussion paper was prepared in advance of the Stockholm Internet Forum in May 2014, which formed the basis of a panel discussion on reconciling privacy and security for global growth and economic development.

The Paper presents ten emerging trends and examples of governments applying restrictions to the free flow of information, which not only negatively impact human rights but also trade:

  1. Forced data localisation (governments ordering companies to place their servers in-country)
  2. Development on "national" email services
  3. Building new undersea cables to avoid US surveillance
  4. Content censorship through filtering and website blocking
  5. Blocking/disconnecting networks
  6. Prohibition or blocking of certain technologies of applications and services (eg. Skype and Twitter)
  7. Requirements that Internet users register with the government
  8. Requirement that companies install filters or other types of screening or surveillance mechanisms in imported hardware
  9. Requiring intermediaries (such as Internet service providers) to block and filter content by imposing civil and criminal penalties on intermediaries if they do not comply.
  10. Restrictions on cross border data flows as part of data protection

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