Internet Freedom Software and Illicit Activity: Supporting Human Rights without Enabling Criminals

Internet Freedom Software and Illicit Activity: Supporting Human Rights without Enabling Criminals

Internet Freedom Software and Illicit Activity: Supporting Human Rights without Enabling Criminals

Internet Freedom Software and Illicit Activity: Supporting Human Rights without Enabling Criminals

Synopsis

The State Department's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL), as part of its broader effort to protect and advance political and economic freedoms and human rights, champions the United States' strategy for cyberspace to advocate for fundamental freedoms of speech and association through cyberspace; empower civil society actors, human rights activists, and journalists in their use of digital media; and encourage governments to limit neither the freedom of expression nor the free flow of information.

To this end, DRL funds the development of many cyber security and privacy software programs. However, there are trade-offs associated with any such investment. On one hand, security and privacy tools can provide safe, reliable, and anonymous Internet access to people who would otherwise be censored, filtered, or punished for communicating electronically. On the other hand, these tools could also be used to conceal or commit illegal activity. This report examines the portfolio of tools funded by DRL that help support Internet freedom and assesses the impact of these tools in promoting U.S. interests.

First, we note the benefits of these tools in promoting DRL's mission of Internet freedom across the world. Second, we examine their potential for, and examples of, their illicit use. Third, we consider the ability of comparable tools, not funded by the DRL, to be used for such purposes. And fourth, we examine safeguards and design and service models that could limit or restrict the use of the technologies for illicit purposes.

The report concludes that DRL's support for Internet freedom tools has not made them more likely to be used for illicit purposes, relative to alternative technologies not funded by DRL.

Excerpt

This research was conducted within the International Security and Defense Policy Center of the rand National Security Research Division (NSRD) for the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, at the request of the U.S. Congress. nsrd conducts research and analysis on defense and national security topics for the U.S. and allied defense, foreign policy, homeland security, and intelligence communities and foundations and other non-governmental organizations that support defense and national security analysis.

For more information on the International Security and Defense Policy Center, see http://www.rand.org/nsrd/ndri/centers/isdp.html or contact the Director (contact information is provided on the web page).

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