The European Commission Wednesday adopted a proposal, titled the “European Declaration on Digital Rights and Principles for the Digital Decade,” to act as a framework to guide European policymakers, companies, and the EU in dealing with digital transformation.
The declaration follows the commission’s Digital Compass, which contains specific targets for the digital transformation set to occur by 2030. The first chapter of the declaration “puts people at the center” of this transformation. This is elaborated in the second chapter, which provides that technologies respect individual rights and do not exclude the elderly, the marginalized and people with disabilities.
More specifically, it champions affordable and high-speed digital connectivity across the EU, an open internet, opportunities for lifelong digital education and online access to public services while stating that no one must be forced to provide more data than necessary to avail of these facilities. It also seeks to ensure that everyone is “able to disconnect” from the digital work environment to enjoy healthy and safe work conditions and a work-life balance.
The third chapter seeks to enable people to make free and informed decisions when dealing with algorithms, artificial intelligence and the online environment and ensure that such technologies are not used in violation of fundamental rights. The following chapters stress online platforms’ responsibility to ensure freedom of speech while curbing disinformation and hateful or violent content.
The fifth chapter also stresses the right to privacy and confidentiality over one’s data, including shaping one’s “digital legacy” after one’s death. It also provides for protecting institutions, companies and individuals—especially children—from cybercrime. The sixth and final chapter affirms the principle of sustainability, promoting a circular economy where technology causes minimal damage to the environment.
In a speech the same day, the commission’s Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager welcomed the declaration since it would help inform people of their rights, noting a Eurobarometer survey where 40 percent of 26,000 Europeans stated they were unaware of their digital rights. She clarified these rights were not new but merely transposed from the offline world into the online world and built on previous European Council declarations at Tallinn and Berlin.
The declaration, which follows the commission’s, will be discussed for endorsement by the European Parliament and the Council by this summer.