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aims and issues

  Digital Rights believe in an Internet where the individual can freely speak, work and associate without fear of surveillance. Access to cryptography and anonymity on Internet should be fundamental rights in the digital world.

Electronic communication raises substantial threats to the individuals right to communication privacy. New ways of surveillance on the Internet allows for widespread and intensive mapping of the life and habits of individuals as more and more services become on-line. What are your buying patterns? Which newspapers are you reading? Which newsgroups and electronic communities are you visiting? What are your political beliefs?

As every digital footstep leave tracks behind, Internet gives access to an electronic surveillance, which by far exceeds the means for surveillance in the physical world. These new means of surveillance might be misused if the individual right to online privacy is not sufficiently claimed in the digital world.

In a number of countries governments have demanded Internet Service Providers (ISP's) to monitor individual e-mails account and to keep user log files. The scope of these privacy violations is most unclear, as no minimum standards for user surveillance protection currently exist. Nor are there any international norms on ISP's duty to openly inform on their user registering procedures. The recent Danish Law on Data Protection (following the EU data directive) principally covers any electronic registering of personal data, but has not so far been used to sharpen demands on ISPī user registering. Neither has it been used to generally protect individual data registering on Internet e.g. in connection with the numerous jobsites, that currently register sensitive user data without any means for the user to demand his or her data deleted after a certain amount of time.

Traditionally the issue of surveillance has concerned state surveillance of citizens but with electronic communication the issue broadens to embrace also private companies e.g. working places.

The discussion of employer's right to monitor employee's Internet access and e-mail correspondence is still unresolved and current practice most unclear. An argument often used by employers is that since access to Internet and e-mail communication are working tools paid by the employer this legitimises control with their use. This might be true regarding the formal work-related e-mail communication (which resembles letters) but the nature of electronic communication is precisely that is it both letters, telephone calls and informal talk in the same media. Perhaps the most common use of e-mail communication is informal (work- or not work-related) talk between colleagues or working parties - in which case systematic monitoring of e-mail resembles eavesdropping. In reality employers might as well bug the offices, the telephone lines or listen in on informal meeting places in the workplace, which is by no means in accordance with Danish employee policy.

Regarding monitoring of employees Internet use, the argument goes, that since employers have legal right to monitor which phone numbers are being dialled (at least the first part of the phone number) they are also entitled to register which websites are being accessed. Without questioning the telephone issue, it is quite obvious that website monitoring is far more comprehensive than telephone number registering. Internet access monitoring reveals information not only on "the number dialled" but also on the information requested - e.g. which site is being accessed, which information is being selected, communicated, ordered etc. - thereby resembling video surveillance.

Digital Rights believe that both e-mail- and Internet monitoring is a treat to basic democratic values and fundamental digital rights. Digital Rights wish to promote a discussion on surveillance and to strengthen the public awareness on issues such as workplace monitoring.