VOICE, a human rights-based research and advocacy organization conducted a press conference titled `Online safety and privacy of journalists, women and human rights defenders (HRDs)’ on 30 December 2023 at Civic Centre, Shyamoli in the capital. VOICE expressed concerns over online safety, right to privacy and data protection in the emerging digital world dominated by technology, especially for human rights frontliners. A number of journalists, women and HRDs attended the event while Ahmed Swapan Mahmud, Executive Director of VOICE chaired at the occasion. Musharrat Mahera, deputy director of VOICE read out the keynote paper.
Musharrat told, VOICE has observed that, internet users in Bangladesh do not have appropriate skill-set to critically assess what they share online and to appropriately gauge the security of the applications they use. So, often they are attacked by privacy invasion through spam, malware, etc. by unethical hackers. Hospitals and other service-oriented businesses often lag behind in protecting big amount of consumers’ data and are seen to sell them to third parties without notifying the data providers for financial benefits. Even, one of the national e-governance sites was hacked and personal data of 50 million citizens were leaked in a messaging apps namely Telegram, she read. Lately, before the national election 2024, defaming political leaders in social media has become a trend through leaking audio records of call, disinformation campaign, doctored photos or videos, and so on. Furthermore, there has been reports on data theft in ATM booths and hidden cameras capturing unwanted photos or videos which are sheer violation of every human’s right of maintaining own privacy.
VOICE has raised concern on the recently enacted Data Protection Act 2022 (DPA) the clarity, efficacy, inclusiveness and acceptance among the fellow citizens. Ahmed Swapan Mahmud said, “there should be clear understanding of the process of data protection according to the latest law. There are substantial laws and policies in place, but, appropriate mechanism for implementing those is the real challenge.” The keynote paper cited that, fair and transparent process should be introduced in terms of targeted surveillance under an independent judiciary system. Especially, privacy invasion and online harassments of journalists, women and human rights defenders should bring under investigation and justice should prevail. Public awareness, moral values and education on digital rights need to be increased to comply with such laws because, crimes cannot be stopped through the law alone. Civil society organizations, media and human rights defenders along with government should come forward to safeguard citizens’ confidential data and ensure online safety.
Among others, senior journalist, Kawsar Uddin, Ismail Hossain, and Priangka Acharjee took part in the discussion.