With fresh allegations and revelations over the extent of governments' surveillance of their citizens around the world, we ask whether there are instances when the concerns over privacy can be overruled.
Yes Internet freedom is a controversial topic, particularly in South Africa at the moment. The government has finalised its National Cyber Security Policy and Strategy and this year there will be a public participation process so that we can get input from all interested parties on their concerns before any regulation of the internet is considered. Presently there are concerns about the effects of cybercrime on the economy, child pornography, and the damage that hacking can have on business and government. But we are dealing with something that we haven't confronted before, making it necessary that we first understand what's going on – you can't just say no it's not a good idea to regulate, nor can you regulate if don't understand what you are regulating. Regarding spying, the world is run by accessing intelligence. People are always looking for information, which is most often not in the public domain. You can call it spying, but what it is, is protecting a country's national security interests. Whether you are getting this information from your neighbours or from your citizens, it is something no nation can survive without. Eavesdropping has been in business since the dawn of time. Of course it is possible to go overboard. ● Cecil Burgess - Chairperson of the South African Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence.
No If what we are talking about is the kind of wholesale extra-judicial interception of communications of the like that was exposed in America, then that is not justified. I do think that lawful and monitored interception of telecommunications for law enforcement purposes is acceptable. There is a huge difference between the interception of telecoms within a legal framework, and governments carrying out broad sweeping data gathering, which is not targeted and which is limited only by technical and financial restrictions. What I am hoping is that the review of the practices in the US will make people around the world aware of how vulnerable they are to cyber attack. It is not just the US government that carries out this kind of internet monitoring. This happens in Africa too. People around the world are woefully unaware of the security risks associated with the internet and this awareness is probably slightly lower in Africa. Many people in Africa are unwilling to rely on African Internet infrastructure, so they use Yahoo and Google, but this means that their highly sensitive information is open to interception while transiting through America. People used to think that there was confidentiality through anonymity – that their information would get lost among the rest – but people need to know that this is questionable protection. ● Mike Silber - Management Committee member of the Internet Service Providers' Association of South Africa.