Thursday, May 21, 2015

How to Lasso the Information Beast Emailgate, the Cybercrime Bill

Legislating rights and responsibilities, privacy and freedoms in the age of information:
The Ongoing circus....

How to Lasso the Information Beast Emailgate, the Cybercrime Bill and Legislating rights and responsibilities, privacy and freedoms in the age of information

The ongoing circus surrounding what the media has dramatically dubbed emailgate is reason enough to take a second look at the proposed Cybercrime Bill 2014, though not only for the reasons being touted by parts of the media fraternity.
The #CybercrimeBill has far reaching effects and impacts for a range of stakeholders, if not virtually everyone who uses a #computer or indeed #smartphone, and requires a more targeted approach to achieve the Bill’s purported primary purpose “to provide for the creation of offences related to cybercrime and for other related matters in Trinidad and Tobago.”
The reality is that the impact of the Bill will not be limited to #TrinidadAndTobago just as the information and communication technologies cannot be confined to borders. Solutions to the challenges the bill attempts to address have to encompass this understanding. It is a reality to which the proposed Bill seems oblivious.
Within what are measures to impact a USD400 billion #illicit #global #industry of trading in ill-gotten information and an attempt to secure an environment that challenges all curtailment, should also be measures for a small island country like Trinidad and Tobago as a member of the Caribbean community, to secure its environment as far as is possible. There is much yet to be done towards leveraging the technologies towards achieving this, whether at national or regional levels.
The unfolding #emailgate circus is only but a clear indication of the high level of confusion and ignorance among public offices and officials who should be better advised and informed, about matters concerning the #internet, #security, #privacy, #rights, #responsibilities and #civilliberties – all of which the Cybercrime Bill impact on - much beyond the few clauses identified by the media in its focus for concerns surrounding the Bill.
This is far beyond claims of vindication and accusations, that the emailgate fiasco has netted which threatens to hold hostage the entire governance system – #Government and #Opposition as well as the Constitutional watchdogs in the office of the #DirectorOfPublicProsecution and the #IntegrityCommission, the #judiciary and #law fraternity, the police and the #fourth estate, the #media. That only hints at the wide ranging implications of internet-related issues of which we have only brushed the surface. There is all the more reason for a closer eye on this Bill.
Clearly, in this #informationage, it is not business as usual in treating with public information and the rights, roles and responsibilities of #State and other institutions, agencies and individuals, as it is not business as usual in treating with #governance, #elections, #partypolitics, the law, #crime and #criminality, #information and #communication and the persons and institutions charged with guarding our #democracy.
Several of the clauses in the Bill have far reaching implications, many of them yet unexplored, for indeed the national community, other than the media and the ones singled out as victims of #internetabuse, #sexualabuse, unauthorised use of information and the like. The Bill has implications for the information and communication technology industry, #business sector and #employers; #employees, #technicians, #engineers, #researchers, #scientists, and every citizen who uses and will use online communications and technologies. It therefore requires a radically different approach that takes into consideration the impact on each user community rather than the current broadbrush one of trying to be all things to all persons being attempted by the Bill.
That wkements of the Bill’s language are also already archaic even as it is being piloted speak to the volatile and dynamic environment in which the Bill is meant to function and which ought to contain flexibility to ensure continued relevance in the face of such dynamism.
Why hasn’t the media more adequately explored the Bill and its implications beyond how it directly impacts on the journalism profession one may ask – a direct indication of the gaps in education and awareness that have to be bridged among members of the media themselves on how to treat with the internet and matters of internet security, privacy and rights and responsibilities of the public and of the media. An informed media generates an informed public. Perhaps much in the emailgate circus could have been arrested if public institutions were better informed by a more mature media and a more discerning public.
It is a position I have consistently maintained, even as a former member of the now somewhat-in-abeyance #MediaComplaintsCouncil (#MCC) , which was created as a watchdog over the media watchdogs and guide on media related issues, albeit with an archaic code of practice and underdeveloped self-regulating mechanisms. It hardly embrace the new media environment and the kinds of challenges that have surfaced with the internet that strike at core and fundamental practices of  convention #journalism and media. The media industry has to hold itself up to scrutiny as much as it holds others to the same.
The nature of the internet and the infectious information and communication environment it has spawned – explosive is a mild term – and the #revolution it is creating in the way we do business, interact with each other, how we communicate, even how we eat and conduct other daily habits, is not only novel to us. Other societies, even more technologically advanced ones, are grappling with its magnificence and its monstrosity. We have seen the uproar #JulianAssange’s #WikiLeaks caused (Now a major motion picture!), and #EdwardSnowden in sharing NSA data and the recent #Sony expose of 2014.
The cyber environment has also brought sharply into focus the role and responsibilities of media and #mediaworkers, when almost every man woman and most children can have immediate access to his/her personal mass multimedia studio. It is putting pressure on all to devise workable solutions in shifting expectations of governance, politicians, the law and its officers, the media and citizens. It is demanding sharper focus on responsibilities as it has in relation to rights of providing security and guarding privacy in the face of hard won #freedoms of expression and #access to information.
The need for societies to strive for balance between public rights to information and rights to privacy is an age old one. It has evolved to various laws and instruments to guard freedom of the media and journalist; as well as exemption laws that protect the rights of citizens to privacy against intrusiveness of the media has been well aired following what is believed to be the paparazzi-driven death of #PrincessDiana. 
As a maturing democracy, Trinidad and Tobago will be well served, as will serve the global community itself struggling to find and maintain that balance between rights and responsibilities; privacy and the right to know against overwhelming odds, to evolve a Cybercrime Bill that benefits from an understanding and appreciation of the nature of the beast it is trying to lasso.

Dr Kris Rampersad is an independent international development media and cultural heritage consultant:
Email visit blog: Demokrissy: Website: