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Source: Tactical Tech on FlickrSource: Tactical Tech on Flickr

Cyber security is essential for the exercise of both online and offline rights, as it is key to privacy and the protection of personal data. At APC we understand the need for a cyber crime and cyber security bill to make South Africa a safer place online. However, we suggest, along with many experts from different backgrounds, that the Bill be rejected in its current form.

As we state in our Written Submission on the Cybercrimes and Cybersecurity Bill, we believe that this Bill has great potential to ensure that the internet becomes a safe environment for citizens to explore and use in their everyday lives and work, particularly as it relates to the safety and privacy of personal data, and in the prevention of online violence against groups such as women. However, we have important reservations regarding the Bill as it now stands. This is why we endorse the submissions by the Mozilla Foundation, Media Monitoring Africa, and the Right2Know Campaign, which stress the fact that the Bill contains deep and fundamental flaws that threaten the fundamental democratic spirit of the internet.

We would particularly like to emphasise that the bill is too vague and all encompassing, to the point that it is likely to impact negatively on personal and public freedoms online. It is not framed from the perspective of public interest and therefore compromises those in possession of information or data, such as journalists, journalists’ sources, bloggers and whistleblowers, with the intention of sharing this data or publishing it to expose corruption or wrong-doing.

In the words of Global Information Society Watch (GISWatch) editor Alan Finlay: “It is clear that this Bill serves two purposes. The first is to legitimately try create a safe online and offline environment for internet users – against fraud or the theft of personal data – or through its clauses against hate speech, and anti-terrorism measures. The second is to strengthen the powers of the state security cluster – and it is here that the Bill entirely forgets about the ordinary and important rights of the citizen, and the state completely forgets its responsibility to protect those rights and to perform its duties in a transparent and accountable way.”

Or, as researcher at Justus-Liebig University in Giessen (Germany) Alex Comninos states in his submission: “There are too many concerns regarding the cybersecurity Bill for it to be adopted in its current form. It is unworkable from both a cybersecurity and a human rights perspective. I suggest that the Bill be scrapped and that a new round of public consultations with the aim of producing another draft Bill be implemented instead of the Bill being sent to parliament.”