IGF 2018 WS #311 Has it become a luxury to disconnect?

Salle IX

Organizer 1: Cathleen Berger, Mozilla

Speaker 1: Mishi Choudhary, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 2: Ephraim Percy Kenyanito, Civil Society, African Group
Speaker 3: Julia Kloiber, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 4: Cathleen Berger, Private Sector, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Additional Speakers

Shashank Mohan, SFLC


Cathleen Berger

Online Moderator

Jairus Khan


Jairus Khan


Round Table - 60 Min


Speakers will be invited to each set the scene from their particular regional and personal perspective, each of them focusing on the economic aspect of protecting our privacy in the digital age. The moderator will make sure they stick to the time limits and also invite all other participants to join in the conversation, while ensuring that the conversation is moving forward, generating insights for everyone present.


We aim to have speakers from all regions, so far Asia, Africa, Europe are confirmed, speakers from the Americas will be invited to (still waiting for confirmation from the American speakers re their attendance). At the moment we have 2 female and 2 male speakers, 3 from civil society and 1 from private sector. We also invited government representatives to join our session.

The session will be moderated by Cathleen Berger, who has been researching the phenomenon of “luxury to disconnect” for over a year now, running multiple sessions at events across all regions to gather input and perspectives; the IGF is a fabulous platform to expand this conversation and reach a critical audience if we want to see policy change in the future. Shashank Mohan will talk about India’s Aadhaar project but also share other stories he has encountered in his extensive efforts to protect privacy for everyone. Ephraim Kenyanito will share his experiences from Kenya looking into digital government initiatives but also a deeply rooted sense of human dignity, which is only possible when people remain free to enjoy privacy.  Solana Larsen will share personal experience of parenting in the digital age, consider income in relation to excessive technolgy use, and discuss how social norms and perceptions change over time. Since the session is designed as conversation, all participants, including remotees, will be warmly invited to share their perspectives. The moderator will make sure that discussants keep their insights tight and to the point in an effort to shed light on this new dimension of digital divides.

Our moderator is an experienced speaker and facilitator, she will make sure interventions are timely and focused and nudge the audience back to the topic of the discussion, if necessary.

Discussions and policies in recent years have focused on increasing connectivity, particularly in the Global South -- and have made progress, if not yet to the extent many have hoped for and the SDGs called for. The continued push for meaningful access comes against the background of a new digital divide: the one where protecting your privacy comes at significant economic cost. While privacy is a fundamental human right, technological developments such as smart cities, smart homes and other connected devices, or digital ID initiatives all seem to raise the bar -- and the economic cost -- of being able to disconnect, to go off the grid, to choose an “offline vacation” or simply to afford devices that grant you better controls and security settings. In a journey across the world, this roundtable invites participants to share their stories and perceptions about the economics of privacy. Who can still afford better protection? Which initiatives undermine people’s ability to opt-out and where is coercion creeping into our daily lives?

Online Participation

We'll monitor any incoming questions and comments from remote participants via Discourse and also keep an eye on Twitter in case people choose to send comments via that platform, our online moderator will have a separate microphone and make sure that interventions are included equally.


Welcome, setting the scene and introduction of speakers (5min)

4 speakers, each will share their story for about 5min (20min)

Exchange between panel on implications of luxury to disconnect from their region (20min)

Q&A with audience (10min)

Concluding remarks from each panelist (5min)

Session Time
Session Report (* deadline 26 October) - click on the ? symbol for instructions

- Session Type (Workshop, Open Forum, etc.):

Round Table, 60min

- Title:

Has it become a luxury to disconnect?

- Date & Time:

12 November 2018, 12:30-13:30

- Organizer(s):

Cathleen Berger, Mozilla

- Chair/Moderator:

Cathleen Berger, Mozilla

- Rapporteur/Notetaker:

Solana Larsen, Mozilla

- List of speakers and their institutional affiliations (Indicate male/female/ transgender male/ transgender female/gender variant/prefer not to answer):

Ephraim Kenyanito, Article 19, male

Shashank Mohan, SFLC, male

Solana Larsem, Internet Health Report, Mozilla, female

- Theme (as listed here):

Cybersecurity, Trust, and Privacy

- Subtheme (as listed here):

Data Privacy and Protection

- Please state no more than three (3) key messages of the discussion. [150 words or less]

The continued push for meaningful access comes against the background of a new digital divide: the one where protecting your privacy comes at significant economic cost.

While privacy is a fundamental human right, technological developments such as smart cities, smart homes and other connected devices, or digital ID initiatives all seem to raise the bar of being able to disconnect and assume one's agency.

Agency is a precondition to reinstate trust in technological change and the ongoing digitisation of our lives, protecting privacy is therefore of paramount importance.

- Please elaborate on the discussion held, specifically on areas of agreement and divergence. [150 words]

We discussed the paradox of wanting to connect everyone, while understanding that ubiquitous technology carries a risk of permanent loss of choice, the inability to opt out of digital technology and tracking by corporate or public entities.

We agreed that privacy is important, but acknowledged that convenience and social norms hold high currency in human society. We are only beginning to push back as civil society on excessive use of technology in the family realm as well as in public and civic spaces.

Disconnecting is a luxury that is increasingly unattainable at all levels of society, but disproportionately affecting the most vulnerable worldwide. We touched on national digital ID systems, such as Aadhaar, children’s rights, mobile finance, LGTBTQ+ rights, free speech, and we lamented public and private expectations that all movements and interactions must be recorded in the name of commerce, national security or efficiency.

- Please describe any policy recommendations or suggestions regarding the way forward/potential next steps. [100 words]

- Encourage the changing of social norms around sharing information, for instance parents sharing images of children.

- Hold governments accountable to continuously revise and improve digital services and policies with the input of civil society and technical community.

- Without privacy there is no human dignity, which is an absolute right. On that basis policies should challenged in courts on necessary and proportionate principles.

- Support arts, culture, and storytelling that challenges norms and helps envision a positive future with technology and the internet.

- Empower public libraries as educational centers to support digital security and web literacy, and help disseminate curriculums.

- What ideas surfaced in the discussion with respect to how the IGF ecosystem might make progress on this issue? [75 words]

- IGF can contribute to international solidarity by reaching out to governments in support of the work of civil society allies who face closing of civic spaces.

- Safer Internet Day should be strengthened and promoted to continue raising awareness worldwide and create a window for local civil society allies to engage with government actors.

- To resist fear-mongering in communications, and focus on empowerment and responsibility.

- Please estimate the total number of participants.


- Please estimate the total number of women and gender-variant individuals present.


- To what extent did the session discuss gender issues, and if to any extent, what was the discussion? [100 words]

Gender was not a primary focus of the conversation, but it surfaced as part of a conversation around who is vulnerable in society when it comes to excessive tracking or inability to disconnect, as well as in education and family dynamics surrounding childcare.