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Exploring bill of rights for the internet

By Patrick Nelson

Felicity Gerry QC … “At its cornerstone would be the basic legal principles of fairness, balance and justice” Felicity Gerry QC … “At its cornerstone would be the basic legal principles of fairness, balance and justice”

A Charles Darwin University law lecturer says a global bill of rights for the internet is possible and necessary, despite complex questions relating to its form and enforcement that remain unresolved.

Legal eagle Felicity Gerry, QC, said that with more than 2 billion internet users in an ever-watching ever-sensing world, the need had never been greater for a modern international document that balances the online rights and responsibilities of individuals, corporations and governments.

“It would need to be based on common values that respect the diversity of cultures and traditions and it would need to be open for signatories creating obligations in a similar way to existing human rights treatises,” Miss Gerry said.

“One of the challenges would be to establish the exact ingredients, but at its cornerstone would be the basic legal principles of fairness, balance and justice.”

Miss Gerry, who maintains an active professional interest in “the rule of law online” and “using data as a force for good”, pitched the idea to delegates at the Defining the Sensor Society Conference in Brisbane recently.

“We explored questions about the role of privacy, power and surveillance and examined who has control of the infrastructure, the databases and the platforms that determine who uses information and who benefits.”

Miss Gerry said the administration of justice in a world of hacking and data collection was a vexed question that all nations must grapple with to achieve “a peaceful data future”.

“It can be done and it is being done but piecemeal, in different ways in different places.

“We challenged ourselves to imagine an instrument that defines a sensible set of values that transcends questions of jurisdiction and territoriality, and which could be interpreted and enforced globally in a manner that embraces the principle of freedom and the imperative for security.”

Miss Gerry will present her paper again at the Faculty of Law, Education, Business and Arts “Food for Thought” session at Casuarina campus on August 13.