The Community-Linux Training Centre, 2001

Paul Mobbs & MEIR:

Civil Society Internet Rights Toolkit

During 2000 I undertook a length writing commission, from GreenNet and the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, to help them produce a series of briefings as part of their ‘Internet Rights Tookit’. These are the first editions – and were subsequently used by the Association for Progressive Communications to develop similar digital rights projects in other regions around the world.

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The purpose of the 'toolkit briefings' is to explore areas relating to the use of the Internet and Internet rights. They cover a wide range of issues of general and specialist interest. There are fifteen briefings available in the 'toolkit' series:

Unit 1: An Introduction to the Internet – How it works and what it can do for you
This is a general introduction for those new to the Internet. It explains basic concepts of what the Internet is, how it works, and the different services that are available for you to use. For those new to the Internet, this briefing provides a good starting point to begin working through the other briefings in this series. It also introduces other more technical areas such as scripting, multimedia and streaming/web casting.
Unit 2: Data Protection – The protection of privacy and your rights to information held by others about you
A review of the laws on data protection, and the rights of the individual to find out about those organisations who hold personal information about them. The different types of personal information protected under the law are outlined. There are also examples of how to find out the contact details of an organisation holding personal information, and how to request copies of the information they hold about you. There are also details of how to contact the Data Protection Commissioner to complain when you feel that the information collected about you has been misused.
Unit 3: Using Encryption and Digital Signatures – How to protect privacy, and your identity, online
The use of encryption and digital signatures to protect your privacy and identity. The briefing looks at how encryption works. In particular, the use of the popular public key encryption program PGP. It also reviews the laws on the use of encryption, and the potential future developments in the use of encrypted services.
Unit 4: E-Consumer Protection – Buying and carrying out business transactions online
How to ensure that you can enforce your rights as a consumer online. The briefing outlines the requirements of the Distance Selling Regulations, and how they apply to buying goods online. Links are also provided to other guides and accreditation schemes that help you ensure the organisations you buy online from will be able to deliver the goods.
Unit 5: Privacy and Surveillance – How and when organisations and the state can monitor your actions
The use of surveillance and data profiling techniques by the state and corporations, and how it may affect your privacy. The briefing looks at the way in which both passive and directed surveillance are being used to monitor the activities of citizens, and what is done with the data this produces. It also considers how the routine surveillance of the Internet is becoming a key part of the security activities of states through mechanisms such as the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 and the Cybercrime Convention.
Unit 6: Campaigning Online – Using the Internet to get your point across
Documents the growing significance of the Internet as a media for campaigning and lobbying. It considers how the different elements of the Internet can be used for developing online campaigns and collaborative working, and provides examples of current successful online campaigns. It also considers the increasing importance of multimedia to the development of online campaigns, especially the streaming of video.
Unit 7: Intellectual Property – Protecting ideas in the new information economy
Intellectual property laws are the core of the new information society. This briefing looks at what intellectual property is, how the laws work, and ways in which problems with intellectual property can be avoided. The briefing also considers the challenge to the traditional notion of intellectual property by the open content movement.
Unit 8: Computer Crime – The law on the misuse of computers and networks
A look at the law on computer crime, and how it applies to the deliberate or accidental use of computers. The briefing looks at the Computer Misuse Act, as well as other legislation on fraud, forgery and racial or sexual abuse.
Unit 9: Expression and Defamation – Your rights to free speech online, and when free speech transgresses the boundary of defamation
A review of the rights to free expression and privacy, and when expression can cross the boundaries fo the law and become defamation. The laws on slander and libel are outlined. There is also an outline of the use of defamation actions to curb legitimate free speech, and on the increasing use of blocking and filtering systems to limit free expression.
Unit 10: Electronic Rights in the Workplace – Changes to workers rights and employers responsibilities in the new information economy
A short briefing on the rights of employees in the workplace. It covers the rights of those employed to use information services, and the regard to be had to their privacy by employers. It also covers the role of freelance and contract workers in the IT industry.
Unit 11: Media Regulation and Convergence – The impact of the new digital media on society
An examination of how digital technology is changing the nature of the mass media. Also, how the convergence of different communications technologies will provide civil society with a new opportunity to access the mass media. It also considers the current UK and European policies on regulating the new digital media, and the role civil society has in this process in lobbying for open access to the new digital media.
Unit 12: Civil Rights and Internet Regulation – How proposals to control the Internet affect our civil rights
A discussion of the need to extend the existing scope of human rights into the digital domain. How the current human rights legislation supports the use of the Internet by civil society, but how this use is being increasingly restricted by corporations and states afraid of the power it gives. The content of the APC's Internet Rights Charter, and the process by which it was devised, is also discussed.
Unit 13: Interception and Surveillance – The RIP Act and its implications for individuals and service providers
The impacts on privacy of new laws requiring communications service providers to copy traffic data and other information to the security services. In particular, the threat that the mass collection and databasing of traffic data represents to civil liberties. The briefing also reviews the legal position of service providers to comply with the government's orders to tap communications, the new legal principle of 'common purpose', and the implications at the European level of the Cybercrime Convention.
Unit 14: Keeping Your System Secure – Basic information on how to protect systems and networks when working online
A brief guide to information and network security for the average Internet users, for those with web site, and for those who run servers connected to the Internet. It looks at basic security measures for connecting to the Internet and running a web site. It also considers the range of threats to those who run computers continuously connected to the Internet.
Unit 15: New Terrorism Legislation – How new terrorism legislation may criminalise the work of protest groups
A review of the new terrorism legislation introduced in the UK, and its implications for protest action. In particular, how the approach of the UK on terrorism has shifted from defining terrorism as violence against the state to any type of action that involves some type of property damage and that'seeks to change the mind of government'.

After almost a decade and a half after publication, many aspects of these publications are rather dated. However, the general principles outlined in the publications are still sound – and can provide useful pointers for where to find further, more up-to-date information.