Rising Concerns Over Online Security

December 9 2013 | 09:22 AM

On December 7th, 2013, the May Chidiac Foundation-Media Institute (MCF-MI) held its “Free Connected Minds” conference under the patronage of H.E. Nicolas Nahas, Lebanese Minister of Economy & Trade. The one-day conference aims at fulfilling the FCM concept that is designed to cover three core areas: freedom, connectivity, and thought leadership.

The ceremony began with Dr. May Chidiac’s speech, in which she reflected on the Arab Revolutions in light of on-going criticism of government censorship and privacy violations. She stressed that the Internet has given the Arab population a means of expressing and debating issues of concern since access to information is limited.  She pointed to the fact that this new means of communication might be used inappropriately, which provides governments a sufficient excuse for violating individual privacy and resorting to surveillance, the inevitable excuse being national security and fighting regional terrorism. Achim Vogt; the resident representative of Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Lebanon reflected on the changing political dynamics in the Middle East due to the massive appropriation of social media as an outlet for social and political demands, yet he expressed concern over the responsibility that follows such increasing usage.

The first panel tackled the following questions concerning connectivity, business, and social change: How does connectivity drive social change and to what extent does it create sustainability? How does the business world evolve with the usage of Internet and are legal framework keeping up with the change? Is the Arab world becoming a more dynamic place for business and social development due to higher connectivity? Where do the key challenges lie and how can they be addressed in a hyper-connected world from the Arab region’s point of view? Osman Sultan; CEO of du was adamant that the business world is driven by the technological change, hence the claim that business can or cannot catch up with the evolution is moot.

In the second panel, Farid Chehab; Honorary Chairman and advisor of Leo Burnett, Ali Jaber; Director of MBC Group Television and Dean of the Mohammad Bin Rashid School Communication, Edouard Monin; Ipsos MENA Chairman and CEO, as well as Dani Richa; Chairman and CEO of Impact BBDO MENA shared their insights on an MCF led experiment entitled: “The Media Absorption Experiment”/Info proliferation “richness or chaos”. The presentation was prepared by IPSOS, the company that implemented the research and compilation of the data showcased. The research presented was not only incredibly interesting, but also meticulous, and informative. The analysis was based on a large-scale online experiment that involved nationals from around the middle east, which tested their abilities to absorb multiple digital media in a space of time.

The presentation provided profound insights on the following questions: Can people really absorb and retain all information thrown at them? Are we swimming in a vast pool of information or are we drowning in it? What is the value of different media to different audiences? How do individuals engage with the different types of media, and what influences their behavior? Is multimedia access and proliferation enhancing or hindering the world of advertising? How do advertisers determine the value of each channel? How do different media rank in terms of viewer credibility from user generated to plan and produced content? Are there universal behaviors, or do they change from one society to another?

(You can find the detailed results of this experiment in the publications section of this website)

The third panel tackled: “New Media: From promoting social change to discrediting change agents: a viewpoint from young activists”: Do activists feel that they are one connected mind or did social media fragment their effort? Is the level of credibility of blogs and social media increasing or is it being countered by more organized propaganda? Have social networks impacted the minds of young people in the region positively or is it dragging them into cyber conflicts

Proving that FCM is an event that can involve humor, Samira Ibrahim, the Egyptian Activist exchanged a few jokes with the famously comical Blogger and commentator on the Middle East; Karl Sharro.

The fourth panel talked about: Cyber Security Vs. Cyber Freedom – Government surveillance and personal data protection: Will there be privacy in 2020? Are we destroying individual freedom in the name of security? Is Europe conformable with the level the US government and companies’ intervention in the privacy and security of European citizens? What are European legislators doing to protect individual freedom? Can this model be applied to other countries in the world?

The conference ended with the fifth panel: “In the Mind of a Hacktivist”: What can be known about individuals, companies, and organization through organized hacking? How are active users taking advantage of their online freedom? Are lines being crossed? If yes, what are those lines (Definitions of boundaries)? What are government and large organization capable of achieving when they hack into society? Are these boundaries in the interest of the public? Is cyber freedom a form of induced anarchy or a proper practice of democracy? When is it ok to breach security? Are there ever any valid reasons to leak personal or public secrets just because one has the skills to attempt it? Is it worth hacking and breaching security when so much of the online activism is turning into ‘slacktivism’?

This conference’s inquiries are even more relevant in 2016 due to rising concerns over online security and breaching of national and global information systems.

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