Belgium, (Brussels Morning Newspaper) The European Commission pointed out on Wednesday that fundamental human rights apply online.
In an address on the Declaration on Digital Rights and Principles, Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice President of the European Commission for a Europe Fit for the Digital Age, asserted the Commission’s belief “in a human-centred digital transformation.”
Stressing the importance of empowering EU citizens to take an active role in society, she said this meant that “their rights must be respected and protected online and offline.”
The document spells out online rights at a time when many EU citizens remain unaware that they have rights in the digital sphere. The Declaration on Digital Rights “gives us a clear reference point to the official set of rights and principles in the online world”, offering a “secure, inclusive and open digital environment”, Vestager said.
She observed that the EC is not creating new principles or rights with the declaration, but rather it acknowledges that principles and rights to privacy, freedom of through and expression apply online as well.
“So what we are doing with the declaration is to set these rights in stone, so that they are respected”, Vestager declared, enabling ” all of us to rely on these rights no matter where we live in Europe, who we are, and what we do in the online world.”
The EC, she said, wants to “make sure that our technologies respect democratic values and allow us to pursue our aspirations in full security and in respect of fundamental rights.” In furtherance of this, the EU had allocated 21 billion euro for providing digital education across the bloc, since “without digital education, we risk falling behind in this transformation.”
Citizens, she insisted, must be allowed to “make their own informed choices”, which includes transparency about the use of AI and algorithms.
“Our Digital Services Act also includes provisions to protect our freedom of speech, without fear of being censored or intimidated while being online”, Vestager pointed out, citing the General Data Protection Regulation that protects citizens’ privacy rights.
Pointing to the EC’s insistence on the green push being part of the transformation, Vestager said digital technologies must also become greener.