This year, with the onset of the global COVID-19 pandemic, it is apparent that our lives have become even more reliant on technology. Many workplaces have been forced to close temporarily and to shift to an online workspace, while universities and schools have shifted their teaching to online methods through the use of platforms such as Zoom and Google Classroom.

Additionally, our social lives and events have also somewhat shifted to online platforms, where individuals are seeking new ways to connect, mainly through video calls and the online live-streaming of events.

Statistics that have been gathered at a global level have also shown that we’ve become more reliant on online services that provide us with a platform to work, learn, shop and feel entertained from home. We are currently living in a world with an increased reliance on digital communication technologies, which have, in fact, become an integral part of our everyday lives.

Access to information has become increasingly fast, and although this has immense benefits, it also leads to a number of issues. This has led us to a situation where our digital rights and security may become compromised and violated through acts such as cybercrime, cyber­terrorism, hacking and data breaches.

Due to recent advances in the technological sphere, this has also left a great impact on the legal framework of socie­ties, leading to a number of amendments to various laws and regulations.

Digital safety and security is a growing issue in today’s technological era, dealing with a person’s online safety when accessing any type of technology. Moreover, with the phenomena of globalisation and internationalisation, this concept of digital rights has become even more dynamic.

The term ‘digital rights’ includes the access and control of digital information, and the right and freedom to use all types of digital technology (Digital Rights And Responsibilities ‒ Digital Citi­zenship Dferris). This encompasses a number of different rights, including the right to freedom of expression, the right to digital access, the right to privacy and the right to credit for personal works.

Apart from the increase in the number of security breaches, there has also been an increase in their severity

Digital rights management (DRM) is an important tool that may be used in order to protect one’s digital rights. DRM is a “set of access control technologies for restricting the use of proprie­tary hardware and copyrighted works” (‘What Is Digital Rights Management (DRM)? – definition From Whatis.Com). Digital content is protected by copyright laws; however, DRM enhances these legal frameworks by creating certain barriers that would make it difficult for users to steal content.

The internet continues to eliminate physical boundaries of communication and trade, thus making criminal activity no longer confined to a specific area and increasing the risks of the violation of one’s digital rights. With the increased dependence and usage of online digital communications technology, we have also seen an increase in cybersecurity and data breach issues. Furthermore, apart from the increase in the number of security breaches, there has also been an increase in their severity (Rob Sobers, ‘110 Must-Know Cybersecurity Statistics For 2020, Varonis’ (Inside Out Security, 2020) <https://www.varonis .com/blog/cybersecurity-statistics/> accessed June 13, 2020.)

Recent security research has exposed that many companies have unprotected data and unsatisfactory cybersecurity practices in place. It is im­por­tant for companies to begin prioritising cybersecurity awareness and to ensure that they have implemented sufficient security practices in their structures and functioning.

In the 2015 case delivered by the European Court of Human Rights in Delfi vs Estonia, it was stated that “the spread of the internet and the possibility that information once public will remain public and circulate forever, calls for caution” (Delfi AS v Estonia [2015] European Court of Human Rights, Strasbourg, France, ECtHR 64669/09, European Court of Human Rights, Strasbourg, France).

This statement is of an even greater significance in today’s world. The protection of one’s digital rights consists of a threefold system, of elements that must function synchronically in order to provide a secure and protected platform for internet users. Firstly, it is essential that users are aware of their digital rights and responsibilities. These responsibilities include downloading resources in a lawful manner, keeping data and information safe from hackers and reporting any issues, such as online harassment or identity theft. Secondly, as mentioned earlier, it is essential that companies set up and implement comprehensive security measures and ensure the proper protection of data.

Lastly, the legal framework also comes into play here. The protection of our digi­tal rights requires an international and cross-sectoral legal approach dealing with this issue. Data protection and digital privacy in today’s world require the authorities to take bolder legal actions and to set up more a comprehensive framework to deal with such issues.

This must be done at both national and international levels via the networking of the different stakeholders in the field, ensuring better education and awareness on the matter and substantiating the legal framework which is currently in place.

In the digital era, communication technologies have become a platform upon which global, political, economic and social life are increasingly reliant, and thus, this requires a higher level of data protection and privacy measures which must be implemented.

Nina Fauser, fourth year, LL.B. (Hons) student

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