All Europeans – regardless of their age, gender, abilities, position or where they live – should be empowered to “take full advantage of” the opportunities presented by digital change. This is at the center of a draft on “digital rights and principles for the digital decade” that the EU Commission has presented for a joint “celebratory” declaration together with the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament.
“All people should have access to affordable and fast digital connectivity anywhere in the EU”, it says, among other things, on the eight pages. It is about a claim for an “excellent” connection to the Internet. The paper does not contain details such as requirements for the connection. In this country, the legislature has already created a right to “fast” Internet. According to the Federal Network Agency, the download rate should be at least 10 Mbit/s.
Net neutrality and freedom of speech
With the declaration, the EU bodies are also supposed to secure net neutrality, for which there is already a separate requirement. It is important to protect an “open Internet in which content, services and applications are not unjustifiably blocked or impaired”.
“Everyone has the right to freedom of expression online without fear of censorship or intimidation,” reads another commitment. Everyone should also be able to find out who “owns or controls media services”. Very large online platforms must “support free democratic debate in the online environment” and reduce risks with regard to disinformation campaigns.
Digital technologies, products and services should be “secure and designed to ensure privacy protection”. Everyone has the right to the confidentiality of their communications and the information in their electronic devices. No one should be subjected to “illegal online surveillance” or illegal wiretapping. The Commission does not mention the rights demanded by the EU Parliament, such as encryption and anonymous use of services.
According to another promise, all Europeans will be offered an “accessible, secure and trustworthy digital identity” that enables access to a wide range of online services. A “broad accessibility and reuse of information from the authorities” must be guaranteed as well as secure access to digital health and care services such as patient files. An option to be unavailable outside of working hours is also needed.
Transparency in the use of AI
Everyone should be able to benefit from the advantages of artificial intelligence (AI) in order to make their own well-founded decisions in the digital environment, according to another commitment. Protection against risks and impairments relating to “one’s own health and safety as well as fundamental rights” must be guaranteed. The EU bodies should ensure transparency in the use of algorithms and AI.
The declaration, which is closely linked to the “digital compass”, should create “both a frame of reference for people and a guideline for companies and political decision-makers”, emphasized the commission. Member States and their authorities, all interested parties, civil society at all levels and the EU institutions are jointly responsible for implementing the goals.
MEP Patrick Breyer (Pirate Party) welcomed the fact that the Commission wanted to specify fundamental rights. If you look at their actual politics, the announcement seems hypocritical. One cannot, on the one hand, preach the right to confidential communication and, at the same time, want to use chat control to monitor private mobile phone messages of all EU citizens without suspicion. In addition, there is the course taken by the Commission on data retention and its rejection of a ban on biometric mass surveillance. The FDP member of the Bundestag Mario Brandenburg praised the fact that the project guarantees citizens the same rights online as offline.