30.11.2016 - Communication & Information Sector

Human rights and Encryption: UNESCO launches the eighth title in its Internet Freedom Series


Human rights and encryption, the eighth title in the UNESCO Series on Internet Freedom, will be launched at the 11th Internet Governance Forum in Guadalajara, Mexico, to be held from 6 to 9 December 2016. This study addresses the relevance of encryption to human rights in the media and communications field and offers policy recommendations for state practice and other stakeholders.

The present research was elaborated in order to implement Internet Universality framework. It also responds to the option recommended by the CONNECTing the Dots Outcome Document that UNESCO “recognizes the role that anonymity and encryption can play as enablers of privacy protection and freedom of expression, and facilitates dialogue on these issues”. In addition, the research draws on the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye, which was presented to the Human Rights Council in June 2015.

The research, authored by Prof. Wolfgang Schulz and Dr Joris van Hoboken, was commissioned by UNESCO and made possible thanks to the support of the German Federal Foreign Office.

The study provides an overview of encryption technologies and their impact on human rights. It analyzes in-depth the role of encryption in the media and communications landscape, and the impact on different services, entities and end users. It highlights good practices and examines the legal environment surrounding encryption as well as various case studies of encryption policies. Built on this exploration and analysis, the research provides recommendations on encryption policy that are useful for various stakeholders. These include signaling the need to counter the lack of gender sensitivity in the current debate, and also highlighting ideas for enhancing “encryption literacy”.

The publication will be launched at the UNESCO workshop on “Encryption and safety of journalists” (15:00-16:30, Guadalajara time) on 7 December 2016, in the framework of the 11th Internet Governance Forum (IGF). More details about the workshop are available at:


The book is downloadable here.

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