14 December 2017

Digital Rights Advocacy

'The Israeli Digital Rights Movement's campaign for privacy' by Efrat Daskal in (2017) 6(3) Internet Policy Review [PDF]
explores the persuasion techniques used by the Israeli Digital Rights Movement in its campaign against Israel’s biometric database. The research was based on analysing the movement's official publications and announcements and the journalistic discourse that surrounded their campaign within the political, judicial, and public arenas in 2009-2017. The results demonstrate how the organisation navigated three persuasion frames to achieve its goals: the unnecessity of a biometric database in democracy; the database’s ineffectiveness; and governmental incompetence in securing it. I conclude by discussing how analysing civil society privacy campaigns can shed light over different regimes of privacy governance.
Daskal comments
The digital era has expanded the boundaries and meanings of basic human rights such as freedom of expression, the right to privacy, and the right to information. These changes have triggered constant deliberations between national governments, global internet corporations, inter- and nongovernmental entities over the scope of these rights (Benedek, 2008; Kay, 2014). This paper focuses on one of these actors: civil society organisations which advocate for digital rights, also known as digital rights advocates. These organisations advocate for computer and internet-related civil liberties on parallel tracks: on the one hand, they confront governments and internet corporations in the constitutional, political, and judicial arenas, and on the other, educate the public about their rights. Thus, they are among the few social actors with the potential to challenge and sometimes even change the rules decided upon by powerful social actors (Breindl, 2011; Postigo, 2008).
In order for them to achieve their goals, digital rights advocates have to persuade other stakeholders, including the public. Yet such persuasion is not easy and usually requires them to reframe issues to their advantage. This is why, for example, the American Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) frames copyright issues as issues of fair use in order to legitimize expanding consumer privileges in copyrighted works (Postigo, 2008). This is also why, when dealing with net neutrality digital rights advocates worldwide have recently framed their campaigns as essential to saving the internet (Fernández Pérez, 2015; Kosoff, 2017; Panwar, 2015). Yet, only few studies explored in depth the persuasion techniques used by digital rights advocates, especially concerning the right for privacy (Bennett, 2008). This study wishes to contribute to the literature in the field by asking: “what are the persuasion techniques employed by Israel’s Digital Rights Movement organisation (DRM) in its campaign for privacy and against the biometric database in Israel?”
To do so, I have analysed the organisation’s textual products and involvement in legislation initiatives, judicial rulings, and public discourse in 2009-2017. This research sheds light on the role civil society organisations can play in constructing the boundaries of digital rights. Second, it contributes to the literature dealing with the right to privacy in a specific sociocultural context. Finally, it deepens our understanding of the global issue of privacy governance. In what follows, I will elaborate on the role civil society organisations play in protecting digital rights, especially the right to privacy. I will then address the Israeli case, and present the research questions and methods. My findings will describe the main activities of the DRM against the biometric database, as well as the persuasion techniques employed thereby. I will conclude by discussing how the study of civil society privacy campaigns can assist in conceptualising and understanding issues of privacy governance