Visibility and secrecy: Data protection, privacy and gender in Pakistan

Does technological progress support or hinder the human rights of women and gender diverse people? And what about their privacy rights? On the one hand, the right to privacy protects online spaces where people can securely navigate their sexual and gender identity. Yet, on the other hand, privacy has historically been considered a tool to control sexuality and gender identities by patriarchal institutions.   

My interest in online privacy started with a very simple reflection: as a feminist activist, what is my online footprint, who has access to that information, and can it be used to harm myself or others? It got me thinking about all the online petitions, and even online shopping, that I have participated in during the last years, and how this information could be collected for many different reasons other than its original intent.  I could not silence the question in my head: Where does this information go? How does it get stored? Is it protected and if so how? How were other rights activists negotiating these questions? Who were some of the global organisations seeking the same answers and how were they protecting online privacy?  What are some of the things that we need to inform women about?

My search for answers brought me to Pakistan, where digital rights activist Shmyla Khan from Digital Rights Foundation (DRF) has been working on identifying how data collection impacts the real privacy rights of Pakistani women and LGBTQ communities. From her home in Lahore, Pakistan, via teleconference, Shmyla shares her thoughts and concerns about privacy rights and gender equality in Pakistan.

Read the full interview at GenderIT.org.

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