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A rights-based approach to cybersecurity has gained currency in recent years at multistakeholder processes like the UN Internet Governance Forum. Progress has been made at human rights-oriented forums like the Freedom Online Coalition, which has developed recommendations for a free and secure internet. Yet at the same time, threats to cybersecurity are on the rise, with significant human rights implications. Massive data breaches violate people’s right to privacy; malware attacks are targeting human rights defenders and journalists, and also paralysing hospitals and public services; draconian cybersecurity laws are being proposed that could have chilling effects on freedom of expression, in particular political dissent; and the spaces where decisions on cybersecurity are being made are increasingly militarised, opaque, and unaccountable to the public.

To further explore this conundrum, the Association for Progressive Communications (APC), together with the Centre for Communications Governance (CCG) at the National Law University, Delhi, the Centre for Internet and Society, Derechos Digitales, the Citizen Lab, Global Partners Digital (GPD), the Internet Society (ISOC), the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and Privacy International, organised a Day 0 event at the 2017 UN Internet Governance Forum. The event, entitled “A rights-based approach to cybersecurity: A pipe dream or a critical means to a secure and stable internet?”, aimed to deepen understanding of the human rights dimensions of cybersecurity policy by:

1) Identifying what is meant by a human rights-based approach to cybersecurity

2) Mapping out current initiatives in cybersecurity and stability

3) Exploring the human rights dimensions of cybersecurity threats and initiatives

4) Identifying possible approaches towards consolidating a rights-based and inclusive approach to cybersecurity.

The format for the event was four panel discussions on the aforementioned topics, with interactive discussions following each panel. Speakers and participants came from academia, civil society, government, international organisations, the private sector and the technical community.