EU: agreement between the Parliament and the 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 in mid-November this declaration reflecting the values ​​of the EU and promoting a sustainable and human-centred vision for digital transformation.

The Declaration aims for all citizens, businesses and society as a whole to 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. She emphasizes the importance of freedom of choice in interactions with AI algorithms and systems and of a fair digital environment. It also calls for enhancing safety and security in the digital environment, especially for children and young people, and supporting the development and use of sustainable technologies. It also gives clear direction to policy makers and businesses when dealing with new technologies.

Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice President for a Europe Fit for the Digital Age, said:

“Digital transformation is about ensuring the safety of technologies and ensuring 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 human-centric digital transformation

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

The signatories of the declaration undertake to:

  • Strengthen the democratic framework for a digital transformation that benefits everyone and improves the lives of all Europeans;
  • Take the necessary measures to ensure that the values ​​of the Union 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, towards 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 technology that is inclusive and promotes their rights.

The signatories undertake to:

  • Ensure that technological solutions respect the rights of individuals, allow their exercise and promote inclusion;
  • Ensuring that digital transformation leaves no one behind. In particular, it should include older people, people with disabilities, marginalized, vulnerable or disenfranchised people and those who act on their behalf;
  • Develop adequate frameworks for all market players benefiting from the digital transformation to assume 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 statement to ensure no one is left behind in digital transformation. These areas include:

  • Connectivity:
    • Ensure access to excellent connectivity for everyone, 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 equip all education and training institutions with connectivity, infrastructure and digital tools,
    • Support efforts that enable learners and teachers to acquire and share all the digital skills and competences needed to actively participate in the economy, society and democratic processes.
    • Give everyone the opportunity to adapt to the changes brought about by the digitization of work through professional development and retraining.
  • Working conditions :
    • Ensure everyone is able to disconnect and benefit from safeguards for work-life balance in a digital environment.

Digital public services:

  • Ensure that all Europeans are offered an accessible, secure and trusted digital identity that gives access to a wide range of online services;
  • Ensure broad accessibility and reuse 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 citizens’ needs.

freedom of choice

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

  • Ensure transparency around the use of algorithms and AI and ensure people are empowered and informed when interacting with them;
  • Ensure that algorithmic systems are based on appropriate data sets to avoid unlawful discrimination and allow human oversight of outcomes affecting people;
  • 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 also means being free to choose the online services you want to use, based on objective, transparent and reliable information. This involves ensuring that everyone is empowered to compete and innovate in the digital world.

Therefore, the signatories undertake to:

  • Ensure a safe, secure and fair online environment in which fundamental rights are protected and where the responsibilities of platforms, in particular big players and gatekeepers, are well defined.

Participation in the digital public space

Everyone should have access to a reliable, diverse and multilingual online environment and know who owns or controls the services they use. Everyone should be able to express themselves online without fear of being censored or intimidated, which would encourage 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 are committed to protecting the interests of all against cybercrime, including cyberattacks and data breaches, and to confronting those who seek to weaken the security of our online environment.

To this end, they will:

  • Protect the interests of individuals, companies and public institutions against cybercrime, including data breaches and cyberattacks. This includes protecting digital identity against identity theft or manipulation.
  • Fight against and hold to account those who seek to undermine the online safety and integrity of Europeans’ online environment or who promote violence and hatred through digital means.
  • Ensuring 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:

  • Promoting a positive, age-appropriate and safe digital environment for children and young people;
  • To provide all children with the opportunity to learn the skills and competencies necessary to navigate the online environment actively, safely and to make informed choices while online;
  • Protect all children from harmful and illegal content, online exploitation, manipulation and abuse, 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, care must be taken to ensure that they themselves do not contribute to the problem: digital products and services must be designed, produced and disposed of in ways that reduce their impact on climate change. environment and society. On the other hand, more information is needed on the environmental impact and energy consumption of these services.

The statement commits to:

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

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EU: agreement between the Parliament and the Council on the European Declaration on digital rights and principles

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