Egypt kicks off int'l human rights conference on challenges facing right to privacy

Nada Nader, Thursday 21 Jul 2022

The Arab Organisation for Human Rights (AOHR), in cooperation with Egypt's Supreme Standing Committee for Human Rights (SSCHR), launched on Thursday a two-day conference on the challenges facing the right to privacy amid the rapid development of artificial intelligence.

First day of the international human rights conference discussing challenges facing right to privacy
First day of the international human rights conference discussing challenges facing right to privacy in Cairo.


The conference touches upon the effects of artificial intelligence on the right to privacy and how any potential breach of this right would adversely affect other human rights. It aims to explore the boundaries of state and corporate responsibility in protecting personal data and guaranteeing the right to privacy for all citizens, according to a press release.

The conference also addresses reinforcing legislative and legal frameworks relating to the protection of personal data and information.

Minister of Social Solidarity Nevine El-Qabbaj and former minister of information and former head of the National Council for Human Rights Mohamed Fayek were among the attendees.

El-Qabbaj asserted during her speech at the conference on Thursday that “artificial intelligence has breached all limits, even our mental privacy.”

The minister said that 556 million cyber security attacks took place in 2017 alone, causing great financial losses for governments around the world. She also emphasised that according to the latest reports, one out of 10 social media users is threatened with blackmail or harassment.

El-Qabbaj pointed out around 38.9 percent of cyber-attacks targeted the medical field, 35 percent went for businesses and trade, and 10.7 percent for education.

She referred that the Egyptian law is considering these attacks as crimes, where artificial intelligence victim appeals are looked at, and the state is obliged to compensate them.

El-Qabbaj also asserted that the Egyptian constitution protects citizens’ rights to privacy, noting that the Global Cyber Security Index ranked Egypt 24th worldwide on the cyber security list.

The conference, which is organised by the AOHR and the SSCHR, is attended by experts in human rights, media, communication technology, and law from 23 countries, in addition to government representatives and the leaders of 32 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) from 16 Arab and seven European countries.

For his part, Assistant Foreign Minister for Human Rights in Egypt Ambassador Khaled El-Bakly said on Thursday that the conference comes in light of the National Strategy for Human Rights  and President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi’s declaration of 2022 as the year of civil society.

El-Bakly noted that the National Strategy for Human Rights includes goals to be achieved by 2026 that include amending a law that could protect the private life of victims, witnesses, those accused of crimes, and whistleblowers. The strategy also includes launching awareness campaigns about the importance of privacy and enhancing the role of the Supreme Council for Media Regulations in receiving complaints.

El-Bakly affirmed the need for holding fruitful discussions to raise awareness about the right to privacy in the digital era.

The president of AOHR Alaa Shalaby said that AI has provided great benefit in a short period of time, such as enhancing communication for deaf and blind people, operating critical surgeries and early detection of tumours, which are eventually good for humanity. On the other hand, Shalaby said that AI threatens individuals’ right to privacy.

Shalaby pointed out that the biggest industrial countries benefit the most from artificial intelligence, whether politically or economically.

Meanwhile, Head of the Human Rights Committee at the House of Representatives Tarek Radwan lauded the importance of the conference to introducing ways to counter this threat, noting that there are around 30 law drafts that are being looked into in the regard.

The conference is the first of its kind to be held in Cairo and will conclude on Friday.

Among the prominent participants are the Vice President of the Jordanian Supreme Court Mohamed Al-Tarawenah, President of the Arab Institute of Human Rights in Tunisia Abdel-Basset Ben Hassen, Head of the Human Line Organisation in Kuwait Maha Barjas, and Vice President of the National Diwan for Human Rights in Kuwait Dr. Siham Al-Furaih.

The conference is also attended by the Head of the Independent Commission for Human Rights of Palestine Essam Younis, the Vice President of International Federation for Human Rights Shawan Jabarin, Vice-President of the National Council for Human Rights in Egypt Ambassador Mahmoud Karem, and Head of Egypt's State Information Service and Journalists Syndicate Diaa Rashwan.

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