European Ombudsman surveillance

Access Now presents the European Human Rights agenda for the digital age

After elections in May 2019, and Brexit in January 2020, the European Union is now launching its new agenda of reform for the five years to come, and so are we. In “the European Human Rights agenda for the digital age”, we are asking EU lawmakers to put human rights at the center of any upcoming digital policies and to uphold and enforce existing frameworks protecting these rights such as the EU Net Neutrality law and the EU General Data Protection Regulation.

Access Now has put forward concrete policy objectives for EU lawmakers in the areas of data protection, content governance,  artificial intelligence, surveillance, and connectivity. You can read below a summary of these objectives or the full agenda here.

Objective 1 – Data Protection: The EU must protect people against the exploitation of data by private entities

Privacy and data protection are the cornerstones of human rights in the digital age. As public and private entities increasingly collect, retain, analyse, and track people’s data, the EU has a duty to rein in the unlawful data and privacy-invasive practices that have multiplied online.

Among other actions, Access Now calls on the EU to regulate the online advertising economy to limit the pervasive overbroad collection of data that leads to profiling and targeting of people.

Read our full list of recommendations on data protection here.

Objective 2 – Content Governance: The EU must strengthen the protection of freedom of expression and opinion on the internet

The internet is a tool for global access to information and an unparalleled public space for individuals, communities, and organisations to express themselves. In recent years, the amount of illegal online content has triggered numerous regulatory responses across the EU. While concerns about such content are legitimate, addressing societal phenomena such as online hate speech or terrorist content is not a simple matter of deletion or blocking. Without effective protection of the right to freedom of expression, oppressive behaviours and censorship will diminish its democratising force.  In addressing these matters, we call on the EU to avoid incentives that lead to censorship and refrain from illegitimate restriction of freedom of expression online.

Read our full list of recommendations on content moderation here.

Objective 3 – Artificial Intelligence: The design, development, and deployment of AI systems in the EU must respect human rights 

With the increasing investment in and proliferation of automation-based technologies, the EU must enforce and develop the highest human rights compliance standards for emerging technologies and AI systems that are designed, developed, or deployed in the European Union. We urge the EU to require that all AI projects and initiatives that are funded by the European Union or by public investment conform to the standards of the EU Charter of fundamental rights and “Trustworthy AI”.

Read our full list of recommendations on artificial intelligence here.

Objective 4 – Surveillance: The EU must reform government surveillance to respect human rights

The EU and its member states are increasingly seeking to solidify and exercise control over internet infrastructure and services. A large number of security measures are reshaping the internet into a fragmented, militarised space and putting freedoms at risk. With populism on the rise and at a time where authoritarian regimes double down on repressive policies and practices online, it is essential for the EU to uphold its democratic values and move away from simplistic approaches that undermine human rights and civil liberties under the pretext of preventing terrorism and protecting national security.

For instance, we call on the EU to resist attempts to re-introduce disproportionate data retention regimes.

Read our full list of recommendations on surveillance here.

Objective 5 – Connectivity: The EU should foster connectivity and protect the openness of the internet

By adopting its Net Neutrality law in 2015, the EU has become a global leader in the protection of a free and open internet for everyone. Access to the unfettered internet is the precondition to the exercise of human rights online. Guaranteeing the openness of the internet will only become more vital as the internet is further integrated into every aspect of our lives. Building on this success, we call on the EU to actively condemn internet shutdowns and network discrimination, both inside the EU and around the world.

Read our full list of recommendations on connectivity here.

Let’s get to work!

We look forward to implementing this European Human Rights Agenda for the Digital Age across the next five years and engaging with our partners and policymakers to support the development of laws, policies, and practices that safeguard the digital rights of those at risk in Europe and all around the world.