This project will analyze the societal risks of network virtualization and autonomation in new digital communication infrastructures.
The introduction of 5G (fifth generation cellular network technology) will have a significant impact on the flow of data streams and the information architecture. 5G will alter the characteristics of how information is sent, transported, filtered, and routed, as well as the parties that have access to it. Current approaches that enhance privacy, anonymity, security, and freedom of expression are based on transporting datagrams over IP, by adding layers of encryption (such as TLS) and routing through different interconnected networks (such as Tor), or by adding network overlays (such as I2P). The new 5G infrastructure (and the protocols that enable it) could significantly hamper the usage and workings of these protocols. On the other hand, the development of a new communication infrastructure allows for the implementation of human rights protections from the beginning, and thus not repeating the mistakes that were made with the Internet and past cellular network technology generations.
This project will analyze the risks and opportunities of 5G for human rights in general, and freedom of expression and the right to privacy in specific. The research will focus specifically on countries where human rights are under severe threat where 5G will be implemented: Brazil and South Africa. This project also aims to identify and communicate ways to mitigate negative impacts and make use of the opportunities, to policymakers, technologists, and civil society advocates. Both countries' leading role in their respective regions provides a strong opportunity to shape future policy making in this area, that can also be translated to other countries.