The European Commission has outlined plans to ensure that citizens globally have access to the internet and other communications services to protect their privacy and facilitate protests against repressive regimes.
Digital Agenda commissioner Neelie Kroes said on Friday ahead of the launch of the EC's No Disconnect strategy today that the EC must help to provide ICT technologies to people when regimes attempt to curb access to key online services.
"It is clear that mobile phones, online social networks and micro-blogging sites have an incredibly important role to play [in] helping activists organise, mobilise and exercise their rights. We should support the use of those tools," she said.
Kroes explained this could include providing technologies that enable dissidents to avoid being tracked by those in power.
"Citizens living in non-democratic regimes need technological tools to help them. Tools which shield them from indiscriminate surveillance. Tools which help them bypass restrictions on their freedom to communicate," she said.
Kroes explained that this could take the form of an "internet survival pack" that provides easy-to-use software or hardware packages allowing populations to bypass censorship.
However, she added that these efforts require private sector companies that develop tracking and surveillance tools to be open about the governments they sell to and to impose self-regulation.
"Companies should be transparent about the technology they are selling in certain countries. If technology is used by certain repressive governments to identify innocent citizens and put their life or freedom in danger, we ought to know," Kroes said.
"In such areas, we can react with legal measures such as sanctions, as we have done in the case of Syria. But ... this is not just a legal issue, it is a moral issue. I think it is high time for the industry to decide where they stand, and what they are going to do."
Rulers in several nations attempted during the Arab Spring uprisings in early 2011 to curb the use of social media and mobile platforms in order to stifle the protestors' attempts to organise demonstrations.
Vodafone, in particular, came in for criticism for sending messages backing former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and shutting down services at his request.
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