EU: Agreement between Parliament and Council on the European Declaration on Digital Rights and Principles

EU: Agreement between Parliament and Council on the European Declaration on Digital Rights and Principles

Last January, the European Commission proposed a Declaration on European Digital Rights and Principles complementing existing rights, such as data protection, privacy and online privacy, and the Charter of Fundamental Rights. The European Parliament and the Council of the European Union adopted this declaration in mid-November, reflecting the EU’s values and promoting a sustainable, people-centered vision for digital transformation.

The Declaration aims to ensure that all citizens, businesses and society as a whole benefit from digital technologies, to support solidarity and inclusion, to ensure connectivity, education, training and digital skills, as well as access to online digital services. It stresses the importance of freedom of choice in interactions with algorithms and AI systems and of an equitable digital environment. It also calls for enhancing safety and security in the digital environment, especially for children and youth, and supporting the development and use of sustainable technologies. It also provides clear guidance to policymakers and businesses when dealing with new technologies.

Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice President for a digitally enabled Europe, said:

“Digital transformation is about ensuring that technologies are safe and that they are in the interest of citizens and respect our rights and values. The principles set out in the declaration will continue to be supported by EU legislation.”

The six key areas of the Declaration:

A people-centric digital transformation

Technology must serve and benefit all Europeans, empowering them to pursue their aspirations, but not undermine their security or fundamental rights.

The signatories of the declaration commit to:

  • Strengthen the democratic framework for a digital transformation that benefits all and improves the lives of all Europeans;
  • Take the necessary steps to ensure that the Union’s values and the rights of individuals, as recognized by Union law, are respected online and offline;
  • Encourage responsible and diligent action by all digital actors, public and private, for a safe and secure digital environment;
  • Actively promote this vision of digital transformation, including in international relations.

Support solidarity and inclusion

Everyone must have access to inclusive technology that promotes their rights.

The signatories commit to:

  • Ensure that technological solutions respect and enable people’s rights and promote inclusion;
  • Ensure that digital transformation leaves no one behind. In particular, it should include the elderly, people with disabilities, the marginalized, vulnerable or disenfranchised, and those who act on their behalf;
  • Develop adequate frameworks to ensure that all market players benefiting from the digital transformation meet their social responsibilities and contribute fairly and proportionately to the costs of public goods, services and infrastructure for the benefit of all Europeans.

There are a number of areas covered by the declaration to ensure that no one is left behind in the digital transformation. These areas include:

  • Connectivity :
    • Ensuring access to excellent connectivity for all, wherever they live and whatever their income;
    • Protect a neutral and open Internet where content, services and applications are not unjustifiably blocked or degraded.
  • Digital Education and Skills:
    • Promote and support efforts to provide all educational and training institutions with digital connectivity, infrastructure, and tools,
    • Support efforts that enable learners and teachers to acquire and share all the digital skills and competencies needed to actively participate in the economy, society, and democratic processes.
    • Empower everyone to adapt to the changes brought about by the digitization of work through professional development and retraining.
  • Working Conditions:
    • Ensuring that everyone is able to disconnect and benefit from work-life balance guarantees in a digital environment.

Digital Public Services:

  • Ensure that all Europeans are offered an accessible, secure and trusted digital identity that provides access to a wide range of online services;
  • Ensure wide accessibility and re-use of government information;
  • Facilitate and support seamless, secure and interoperable access across the Union to digital health and care services, including health records, designed to meet the needs of citizens.

Freedom of choice

People must be empowered to make their own informed choices online. The statement aims to ensure this by committing to:

  • Ensure transparency around the use of algorithms and AI and that individuals are empowered and informed when interacting with them;
  • Ensure that algorithmic systems are based on appropriate data sets to avoid unlawful discrimination and allow for human oversight of outcomes affecting individuals;
  • Ensure that technologies, such as algorithms and artificial intelligence, are not used to determine people’s choices, for example, regarding health, education, employment, and their privacy;
  • Provide safeguards to ensure that artificial intelligence and digital systems are safe and used with full respect for people’s fundamental rights.

Freedom of choice is also about being free to choose which online services to use, based on objective, transparent and reliable information. It means ensuring that everyone is empowered to compete and innovate in the digital world.

Therefore, the signatories commit to :

  • Ensuring a safe, secure and equitable online environment in which fundamental rights are protected and the responsibilities of platforms, especially large players and gatekeepers, are well defined.

Participation in the digital public space

Everyone must have access to a trusted, diverse, multilingual online environment and know who owns or controls the services they use. Everyone should be able to express themselves online without fear of censorship or intimidation, thereby encouraging pluralistic public debate and participation in democracy.

The Digital Principles commit to achieving this by:

  • Supporting the development and optimal use of digital technologies to stimulate citizen engagement and democratic participation;
  • Continuing to protect fundamental rights online, including freedom of expression and information.

Digital transformation, safety, security and empowerment.

Everyone should have access to safe, secure, and privacy-protecting digital technologies, products, and services. The Digital Principles commit to protecting the interests of all against cybercrime, including cyberattacks and data breaches, and confronting those who seek to weaken the security of our online environment.

To that end, they will:

  • Protecting the interests of individuals, businesses, and public institutions from cybercrime, including data breaches and cyberattacks. This includes protecting digital identity from identity theft or manipulation.
  • Combat and hold accountable those who seek to undermine the online security and integrity of Europeans’ online environment or who promote violence and hatred through digital means.
  • Ensure the ability to easily move personal data between different digital services.

The Digital Principles also aim to keep children and young people safe online. They commit to:

  • Promote a positive, age-appropriate and safe digital environment for children and young people;
  • Provide all children with the opportunity to develop the skills and competencies necessary to navigate the online environment actively, safely and make informed choices while online;
  • Protect all children from harmful and illegal content, exploitation, manipulation, and abuse online, and prevent the digital space from being used to commit or facilitate crimes.

Sustainable technologies.

The digital and green transitions are closely linked. While digital technologies offer many solutions to climate change, we must ensure that they do not themselves contribute to the problem: digital products and services must be designed, produced and disposed of in ways that reduce their impact on the environment and society. In addition, more information is needed on the environmental impact and energy consumption of these services.

The declaration commits to:

  • Support the development and use of sustainable digital technologies with minimal environmental and social impact;
  • Develop and deploy digital solutions that have a positive impact on the environment and climate.

Translated from UE : accord entre le Parlement et le Conseil concernant la Déclaration européenne sur les droits et principes numériques