Research Handbook on Human Rights and Digital Technology
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Research Handbook on Human Rights and Digital Technology

Global Politics, Law and International Relations

Edited by Ben Wagner, Matthias C. Kettemann and Kilian Vieth

In a digitally connected world, the question of how to respect, protect and implement human rights has become unavoidable. This contemporary Research Handbook offers new insights into well-established debates by framing them in terms of human rights. It examines the issues posed by the management of key Internet resources, the governance of its architecture, the role of different stakeholders, the legitimacy of rule making and rule-enforcement, and the exercise of international public authority over users. Highly interdisciplinary, its contributions draw on law, political science, international relations and even computer science and science and technology studies.
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Chapter 8: First do no harm: the potential of harm being caused to fundamental rights and freedoms by state cybersecurity interventions

Douwe Korff

Abstract

The chapter is a response to a 2016 paper of scholars from the Global Cyber Security Capacity Centre of the University of Oxford that sought to define ‘cyber harm’ and associated concepts and provide a taxonomy and means to measure such harm (I. Agrafiotis et al., Cyber Harm: Concepts, Taxonomy and Measurement (Saïd Business School, 2016)). The chapter starts with a discussion of that term and those concepts, and that taxonomy. However, it then focuses on the potential harm that can be caused – and the actual harm that has already been caused – by the actions in cyberspace of state actors aimed (or purporting to be aimed) at countering ‘cyber harm’ by others; on what the Oxford paper calls ‘cybersecurity interventions’ by states and state agencies, or demanded by such agencies of private actors. It looks at those in five overlapping contexts: ‘cyber warfare’; mass surveillance by intelligence agencies; blocking of Internet content; policing by algorithm; and the gathering by law enforcement agencies of information and evidence relating to criminal investigations in cyberspace. The aim of the chapter is to warn: we should not, in trying to protect the world and our countries and citizens from ‘rogue states’, terrorists and cybercriminals, harm the values underpinning societies based on the rule of law. The chapter is intended simply to stimulate debate on that dilemma.

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