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Internet privacy as important as human rights, says UN’s Navi Pillay

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Navi Pillay compares uproar over mass surveillance to response that helped defeat apartheid during Today programme
Tim Berners-Lee, Navi Pillay

Sir Tim Berners-Lee and Navi Pillay, during a press conference in Geneva earlier this month. Photograph: Martial Trezzini/AP

The UN human rights chief, Navi Pillay, has compared the uproar in the international community caused by revelations of mass surveillance with the collective response that helped bring down the apartheid regime in South Africa.

Pillay, the first non-white woman to serve as a high-court judge in South Africa, made the comments in an interview with Sir Tim Berners-Lee on a special edition of BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, which the inventor of the world wide web was guest editing.

Pillay has been asked by the UN to prepare a report on protection of the right to privacy, in the wake of the former National Security Agency analyst Edward Snowden leaking classified documents about UK and US spying and the collection of personal data.

The former international criminal court judge said her encounters with serious human rights abuses, which included serving on the Rwanda tribunal, did not make her take online privacy less seriously. “I don’t grade human rights,” she said. “I feel I have to look after and promote the rights of all persons. I’m not put off by the lifetime experience of violations I have seen.”

She said apartheid ended in South Africa principally because the international community co-operated to denounce it, adding: “Combined and collective action by everybody can end serious violations of human rights … That experience inspires me to go on and address the issue of internet [privacy], which right now is extremely troubling because the revelations of surveillance have implications for human rights … People are really afraid that all their personal details are being used in violation of traditional national protections.”

The UN general assembly unanimously voted last week to adopt a resolution, introduced by Germany and Brazil, stating that “the same rights that people have offline must also be protected online, including the right to privacy”. Brazil’s president, Dilma Rousseff, and the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, were among those spied on, according to the documents leaked by Snowden.

The resolution called on the 193 UN member states “to review their procedures, practices and legislation regarding the surveillance of communications, their interception and collection of personal data, with a view to upholding the right to privacy of all their obligations under international human rights law”. It also directed Pillay to publish a report on the protection and promotion of privacy “in the context of domestic and extraterritorial surveillance … including on a mass scale”. She told Berners-Lee it was “very important that governments now want to discuss the matters of mass surveillance and right to privacy in a serious way”.

Berners-Lee has warned that online surveillance undermines confidence in the internet, and last week published an open letter, with more than 100 free speech groups and leading activists, to protest against the routine interception of data by governments around the world.

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/dec/26/un-navi-pillay-internet-privacy

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AMAZON ERROR ALLOWED ALEXA USER TO EAVESDROP ON ANOTHER HOME

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A user of Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant in Germany got access to more than a thousand recordings from another user because of “a human error” by the company.

The customer had asked to listen back to recordings of his own activities made by Alexa but he was also able to access 1,700 audio files from a stranger when Amazon sent him a link, German trade publication c’t reported.

“This unfortunate case was the result of a human error and an isolated single case,” an Amazon spokesman said.

The first customer had initially got no reply when he told Amazon about the access to the other recordings, the report said. The files were then deleted from the link provided by Amazon but he had already downloaded them on to his computer, added the report from c’t, part of German tech publisher Heise.

 

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CRYPTOCURRENCY INDUSTRY FACES INSURANCE HURDLE TO MAINSTREAM AMBITIONS

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Cryptocurrency exchanges and traders in Asia are struggling to insure themselves against the risk of hacks and theft, a factor they claim is deterring large fund managers from investing in a nascent market yet to be embraced by regulators.

Getting the buy-in from insurers would mark an important step in crypto industry efforts to show that it has solved the problem of storing digital assets safely following the reputational damage of a series of thefts, and allow it to attract investment from mainstream asset managers.

“Most institutionally minded crypto firms want to buy proper insurance, and in many cases, getting adequate insurance coverage is a regulatory or legal requirement,” said Henri Arslanian, PwC fintech and crypto leader for Asia.

“However, getting such coverage is almost impossible despite their best efforts.”

Many asset managers are interested in digital assets. A Greenwich Associates survey, published in September, said 72% of institutional investors who responded to the research firm believe crypto has a place in the future.

Last month, Mohamed El-Erian, Allianz’s chief economic adviser said that cryptocurrencies would gain wider acceptance as institutions began to invest in the space.

Most have held off investing so far however, citing regulatory uncertainty and a lack of faith in existing market infrastructure for storing and trading digital assets following a series of hacks, as well the plunge in prices.

The total market capitalisation of crypto currencies is currently estimated at approximately US$120bil (RM502bil) compared to over US$800bil (RM3.3tril) at its peak in January.

“Institutional investors who are interested in investing in crypto will have various requirements, including reliable custody and risk management arrangements,” said Hoi Tak Leung, a senior lawyer in Ashurst’s digital economy practice.

“Insufficient insurance coverage, particularly in a volatile industry such as crypto, will be a significant impediment to greater ‘institutionalisation’ of crypto investments.”

Regulatory uncertainty is another problem for large asset managers. While crypto currencies raise a number of concerns for regulators, including money laundering risks, few have set out clear frameworks for how cryptocurrencies should be traded, and by whom.

Insurance might allay some of the regulators’ concerns around cyber security. Hong Kong’s Securities and Futures Commission recently said it was exploring regulating crypto exchanges, and signalled that the vast majority of the virtual assets held by a regulated exchange would need insurance cover.

Custody challenge

Keeping crypto assets secure involves storing a 64 character alphanumeric private key. If the key is lost, the assets are effectively lost too.

Assets can be stored online, in so-called hot wallets, which are convenient to trade though vulnerable to being hacked, or in ‘cold’ offline storage solutions, safe from hacks, but often inconvenient to access frequently.

Over US$800mil worth of crypto currencies were stolen in the first half of this year according to data from Autonomous NEXT, a financial research firm.

Some institutions have started working to solve this problem, and may provide fierce competition to the incumbent players.

This year, Fidelity, and a group including Japanese investment bank Nomura have launched platforms that will offer custody services for digital assets.

Despite the industry’s complaints, insurers say that they do offer cover. Risk advisor Aon, received some two dozen inquiries this year from exchanges and crypto vaults seeking insurance, according to Thomas Cain, regional director, commercial risk solutions, at Aon’s Asian financial services and professions group.

“It is not difficult to insure companies that hold large amounts of crypto assets, but given the newness of the asset class and the publicity some of the crypto breaches have received, applicants need to make an effort to distinguish themselves,” Cain said.

The industry also says it is getting closer to solving the custody problem.

“This year there have been a number of developments, and some providers have developed custody solutions suitable for institutional clients’ needs,” said Tony Gravanis, managing director investments at blockchain investment firm Kenetic Capital.

“Players at the top end of the market have also been able to get insurance,” he said.

But this is not the case for all.

One cryptocurrency broker, declining to be named because of the subject’s sensitivity, said insurers struggled to understand the new technology and its implications, and that even those who were prepared to provide insurance would only offer limited cover. “We’ve not yet found an insurer who will offer coverage of a meaningful enough size to make it worthwhile,” he said. – Reuters

 

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CTECH’S THURSDAY ROUNDUP OF ISRAELI TECH NEWS

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WeWork strikes a delicate religious balance with Jerusalem site. Shared real estate company WeWork launched its first Jerusalem location just two weeks ago and had already managed to dodge a bullet in the form of wide-ranging protests from the city’s large community of ultra-Orthodox Jews.Read more

WeWork in Jerusalem. Photo: Eyal Marilus
WeWork in Jerusalem. Photo: Eyal Marilus
How the U.S. embassy attempts to boost Arab tech entrepreneurship in Israel. While Israeli Arabs make up roughly 21% of Israel’s population, they only hold 3% of the country’s tech jobs. Read more

Scrapped London Skyscraper set to dominate Tel Aviv skyline. A tower ditched mid-construction in London due to the economic downturn of 2008 is now being resurrected in Tel Aviv in the midst of the city’s unprecedented tech boom. Watch the video

Acquisition by Medtronic complete, Mazor delists. Medtronic paid $1.3 billion in cash for the Israeli surgical robotics company. Including Medtronic’s existing stake, the deal is valued at $1.7 billion. Read more

Israelis receive 8.5 spam calls a month, according to Truecaller. The country ranked last among the top 20 countries affected by spam calls in 2018, according to a new report released by the company. Read more

Innoviz expands globally, sets up a commercial manufacturing line in China.The Israel-based LiDAR maker has doubled its employee count in the past year and intends to recruit additional personnel for research and development, business and sales. Read more

Particle analyzer company PML sold following liquidation. The company developed electro-optical systems for monitoring and measuring fluid particle sizes and concentration.

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