By Laureline Lemoine

EDRi wishes all readers a happy new year 2020!

In 2019, we had a number of victories in multiple fields. The European Parliament added necessary safeguards to the proposed Terrorist Content Online (TCO) Regulation to protect fundamental rights against overly broad and disproportionate censorship measures. The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled that clear and affirmative consent needs to be given to set cookies on our devices. Member States have been increasingly issuing fines under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Also, Google was fined for its abusing online ad practices, and new security standards for consumer Internet of Things (IoT) devices were introduced.

However, 2019 was also the year when some governments positioned themselves against encryption and started to normalise facial recognition in public spaces without adequate safeguards, public debate or fundamental rights assessment (France, Sweden, the UK). Mandatory upload filters were approved at EU level, and data breaches and privacy scandals frequently made the news.

For 2020, we need to ensure that the EU pushes forward policies that will lead to a human-centric internet rather than data exploitation models which deepen inequalities and enable surveillance capitalism. We are sending our wishes to the fresh new European Commissioners, so that they can help us defend our rights and freedoms online.

In 2020, we wish for President Ursula von der Leyen to:

  • Start implementing a human-centric vision for the internet to ensure the protection of fundamental rights online (and offline);
  • Define high privacy, security, safety and ethical standards for the new generation of technologies that will become the global norm;
  • Ensure that EU decision making is strengthened by ensuring transparency in the Council;
  • Ensure that any future measures on Artificial Intelligence (AI) leads to AI systems in Europe are based in the principles of legality, robustness, ethics, and human rights and where current data protection and privacy laws are not circumvented, but strengthened;
  • Ensure that the upcoming proposal Digital Services Act (DSA) (reforming the current e-Commerce Directive) creates legal certainty and introduce safeguards that will enable users to enjoy their rights and freedoms.

In 2020, we wish for Executive Vice President for A Europe Fit for the Digital Age Margrethe Vestager to:

  • Provide clarity on safeguards, red lines, and enforcement mechanisms to ensure that the automated decision making systems — and AI more broadly — developed and deployed in the EU respect fundamental rights;
  • Assess the fundamental rights and societal impacts of facial recognition and other biometric detection systems, and propose criteria to assess or define domains or use cases where AI-assisted technologies should not be developed;
  • Tackle exploitative business models and their violation of personal data protections through the Digital Services Act and any other necessary legislative or non-legislative initiatives;
  • Promote equality and fight discrimination in the development and use of technology;
  • Guarantee and promote the respect of fundamental rights through competition policy by investigating abuses by dominant platforms and exploring cooperation with data protection authorities.

In 2020, we wish for Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton to:

  • Unlock the ePrivacy reform through discussion with the EU Council and the Member States;
  • Develop a sustainable, human-centric and rights-promoting Digital Services Act;
  • Ensure privacy by design and by default in current and future tech-related proposals;
  • Achieve digital sovereignty by ensuring the development of the necessary free and open hardware and software;
  • Ensure that the strategy on data developed as part of the EU’s approach on AI respects fundamental rights.

In 2020, we wish for Vice President and Commissioner for Values and Transparency Věra Jourová to:

  • Ensure transparency in trilogue negotiations;
  • Address the harms caused by hate speech, political disinformation and the abuse of internet controls by authoritarian states;
  • Analyse the risks of targeted political advertising and the online tracking industry;
  • Protect and promote freedom of expression online.

In 2020, we wish for Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson to:

  • Ensure that illegal mass surveillance is not deployed, for example in any future attempts to implement data retention in Member States;Review all PNR frameworks in light of the jurisprudence of the CJEU;
  • Reassess the “e-evidence” proposal and its necessity or to include meaningful human rights safeguards;
  • Ensure that the safeguards adopted by the European Parliament and advocated by human rights groups are part of the final TCO Regulation.

In 2020, we wish for Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders to:

  • Ensure the full enforcement of the GDPR in Member States by ensuring that data protection authorities have the necessary funding, resources, and independence to protect our rights;
  • Promote the European approach to data protection as a global model;
  • Contribute to legislation on AI to ensure that fundamental rights are fully protected, and especially, equality for everyone, by adopting rules that mitigate the harms caused by discrimination.

The new year is a time to reflect on the past year and pledge to do better in the next. Looking for new year’s resolutions? You can do more to stay safe online or donate to EDRi, to help us continue defending your digital human rights and freedoms in 2020 and beyond.

CJEU on cookies: ‘Consent or be tracked’ is not an option (01.10.2019)
https://edri.org/cjeu-cookies-consent-or-be-tracked-not-an-option/

Light at the end of the cyber tunnel: New IoT consumer standard (27.02.2019)
https://edri.org/light-at-the-end-of-the-cyber-tunnel-new-iot-consumer-standard/

The Dangers of High-Tech Profiling, Using Big Data (07.08.2014)
https://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2014/08/06/is-big-data-spreading-inequality/the-dangers-of-high-tech-profiling-using-big-data

EU Commissioners candidates spoke: State of play for digital rights (23.10.2019)
https://edri.org/eu-commissioner-candidates-spoke-state-of-play-for-digital-rights/

A Human-Centric Digital Manifesto for Europe
https://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/publications/a-human-centric-digital-manifesto-for-europe

Cross-border access to data for law enforcement: Document pool (12.04.2019)
https://edri.org/cross-border-access-to-data-for-law-enforcement-document-pool/

(Contribution by Laureline Lemoine, EDRi)