Civil society calls on the EU to put fundamental rights first in the AI Act

Today, 30 November 2021, European Digital Rights (EDRi) and 119 civil society organisations launched a collective statement to call for an Artificial Intelligence Act (AIA) which foregrounds fundamental rights. 

By EDRi · November 30, 2021

Today, 30 November 2021, European Digital Rights (EDRi) and 119 civil society organisations launched a collective statement to call for an Artificial Intelligence Act (AIA) which foregrounds fundamental rights. 

The statement, drafted by European Digital Rights (EDRi), Access Now, Panoptykon Foundation,, AlgorithmWatch, European Disability Forum (EDF), Bits of Freedom, Fair Trials, PICUM, and ANEC, outlines central recommendations to guide the European Parliament and Council of the European Union in amending the European Commission’s AIA proposal. 

The signatories call for: 

  • A cohesive, flexible and future-proof approach to the ‘risk’ of AI systems.

Including robust and consistent mechanism to update the AI systems falling under the categories of ‘unacceptable’ (Article 5) and limited (Article 52) risk, and ensuring that the ‘high risk’ area headings (Annex III) can also be updated.

  • Prohibitions on all AI systems posing an unacceptable risk to fundamental rights

Including a full ban on: social scoring systems; remote biometric identification in publicly accessible spaces (by all actors); emotion recognition systems; discriminatory biometric categorisation; AI physiognomy; systems used to predict future criminal activity; systems to profile and risk-assess in a migration context.

  • Obligations on users of (i.e. those deploying) high-risk AI systems to facilitate accountability to those impacted by AI systems

Including a mandatory obligation on users of high-risk AI systems to conduct and publish a fundamental rights impact assessment, including the impact on people, fundamental rights, the environment and the broader public interest.

  • Consistent and meaningful public transparency 

Including an obligation on users to register use of high-risk systems on the Article 60 public database.

  • Meaningful rights and redress for people impacted by AI systems

Such as the right not to be subjected to AI systems in violation of the regulation and prohibited practices, the right to an explanation for decisions taken with the assistance of AI systems, and the right to a judicial remedy.

  • Accessibility throughout the AI life-cycle

Including accessibility requirements for all AI systems.

  • Sustainability and environmental protections when developing and using AI systems

Including public transparency requirements on the resource consumption and greenhouse gas emission impacts of AI systems.

  • Improved and future-proof standards for AI systems

Limiting the harmonised standardisation process only to genuinely technical aspects, and ensuring civil society participation in the process.

  • A truly comprehensive AIA that works for everyone

Ensuring privacy for persons with disabilities; removing the wide exemption for AI systems part of large scale EU IT databases; and ensuring a robust and resourced enforcement process that centres fundamental rights.

Artificial intelligence (AI) systems are increasingly being used in all areas of public life. However, the lack of adequate regulation on the development and deployment of AI-powered technology poses a threat to our digital and human rights. In Europe, we have already witnessed the negative impact of AI when governed incorrectly. For example, discriminative AI uses at the border have facilitated the deportation of people on the move and denied them access to vital services such as health-care and social security. We have also seen how the use of predictive policing systems has led to increased over-policing of racialised communities, and how poor, working-class and migrant areas are being wrongfully targetted by fraud detection systems. The use of facial recognition and similar systems have been used across Europe in ways that lead to biometric mass surveillance.

By fostering mass surveillance and amplifying some of the deepest societal inequalities and power imbalances, AI systems are putting our fundamental rights and democratic processes and values at great risk. That is why the European Union (EU) institutions’ proposal for an AIA is a globally significant step. But the AIA must address the structural, societal, political and economic impacts of the use of AI. This will ensure that the law is future-proof, and prioritises the protection of fundamental rights.

We, the undersigned organisations, urge the Council of the European Union, the European Parliament, and all EU member state governments to ensure that the forthcoming Artificial Intelligence Act achieves the goals set in our statement and puts our fundamental rights first.

Drafted by: European Digital Rights (EDRi), Access Now, Panoptykon Foundation,, AlgorithmWatch, European Disability Forum (EDF), Bits of Freedom, Fair Trials, PICUM, and ANEC (European consumer voice in standardisation).

Signed by: 

  1. European Digital Rights (EDRi) (European)
  2. Access Now (International)
  3. The App Drivers and Couriers Union (ADCU) (United Kingdom)
  4. Algorights (Spain)
  5. AlgorithmWatch (European)
  6. All Out (International)
  7. Amnesty International (International)
  8. ARTICLE 19 (International)
  9. Asociación Salud y Familia (Spain)
  10. Aspiration (United States)
  11. Association for action against violence and trafficking in human beings – Open Gate / La Strada Macedonia (North Macedonia)
  12. Association for Juridical Studies on Immigration (ASGI) (Italy)
  13. Association for Monitoring Equal Rights (Turkey)
  14. Association of citizens for promotion and protection of cultural and spiritual values – Legis Skopje (North Macedonia)
  15. Associazione Certi Diritti (Italy)
  16. Associazione Luca Coscioni (Italy)
  17. Baobab Experience (Italy)
  18. Belgian Disability Forum asbl (BDF) (Belgium)
  19. Big Brother Watch (United Kingdom)
  20. Bits of Freedom (The Netherlands
  21. Border Violence Monitoring Network (European)
  22. Campagna LasciateCIEntrare (Italy)
  23. Center for AI and Digital Policy (CAIDP) (International)
  24. Chaos Computer Club (CCC) (Germany)
  25. Chaos Computer Club Lëtzebuerg (Luxembourg)
  26. CILD – Italian Coalition for Civil Liberties and Rights (Italy)
  27. Controle Alt Delete (The Netherlands)
  28. DataForGoodBCN (Spain
  29. DATAWO (Greece
  30. D3 – Defesa dos Direitos Digitais (Portugal)
  31. D64 – Zentrum für digitalen Fortschritt (Center for Digital Progress) (Germany)
  32. (European)
  33. Digital Defenders Partnership (International)
  34. Digitalcourage (Germany)
  35. Digitale Freiheit e.V. (Germany)
  36. Digitale Gesellschaft (Germany)
  37. Digitale Gesellschaft (Schweiz) (Switzerland)
  38. DIMMONS Digital Commons Research Group (Spain)
  39. Disabled Peoples Organisations (Denmark) 
  40. DonesTech (Spain)
  41. Državljan D / Citizen D (Slovenia)
  42. Each One Teach One e.V. (Germany)
  43. Elektronisk Forpost Norge (EFN) (Norway)
  44. (Austria)
  45. Equinox Initiative for Racial Justice (European)
  46. Eticas Foundation (Spain)
  47. Eumans (European)
  48. European Anti-Poverty Network (European)
  49. European Center for Not-for-Profit Law Stichting (International)
  50. European Civic Forum (European)
  51. European Disability Forum (EDF) (European)
  52. European Network Against Racism (ENAR) (European)
  53. European Network on Religion and Belief (European)
  54. European Network on Statelessness (European)
  55. European Sex Workers’ Rights Alliance (European)
  56. European Youth Forum (European)
  57. Fair Trials (European)
  58. FAIRWORK Belgium (Belgium)
  59. FIDH (International Federation for Human rights) (International)
  60. Fundación Secretariado Gitano (Spain)
  61. Future of Life Institute (International)
  62. GHETT’UP (France)
  63. Greek Forum of Migrants (Greece)
  64. Greek Forum of Refugees (European)
  65. Health Action International (The Netherlands)
  66. Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights (Poland)
  67. Hermes Center (Italy)
  68. Hivos (International)
  69. Homo Digitalis (Greece)
  70. Human Rights Association (Turkey)
  71. Human Rights House Zagreb (Croatia)
  72. HumanRights360 (Greece / European)
  73. Human Rights Watch (International)
  74. ILGA-Europe – The European Region of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (European)
  75. Implementation Team of the Decade of People of African Descent (Spain)
  76. info.nodes (Italy)
  77. Interferencias (Spain)
  78. International Commission of Jurists (NJCM) – Dutch Section (The Netherlands)
  79. Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) (Ireland)
  80. IT-Pol Denmark (Denmark)
  81. JustX (European)
  82. JustPeace Labs (International)
  83. KOK – German NGO Network against Trafficking in Human Beings (Germany)
  84. – organitzacions per a la justícia global (Spain)
  85. Ligue des droits de l’Homme (LDH) (France)
  86. Ligue des droits humains (Belgium)
  87. Maruf Foundation (The Netherlands)
  88. Mediterranea Saving Humans Aps (Italy / International)
  89. Melitea (European)
  90. Mnemonic (Germany / International)
  91. Moje Państwo Foundation (Poland)
  92. Montreal AI Ethics Institute (Canada)
  93. Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland (MASI) (Ireland)
  94. Movimento SOS Racismo (European
  95. Netwerk Democratie (The Netherlands)
  96. NOVACT (Spain / International)
  97. OMEP – Oraganisation Mondiale pour l’Education Prescolaire / World Organization for Early Childhood Education (International)
  98. Open Knowledge Foundation (International)
  99. Open Society European Policy Institute (OSEPI) (International)
  100. OpenMedia (International)
  101. Panoptykon Foundation (Poland)
  102. The Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (PICUM) (International)
  103. Privacy International (International)
  104. Privacy Network (Italy)
  105. Racism and Technology Center (The Netherlands)
  106. Ranking Digital Rights (International)
  107. Refugee Law Lab, York University (International)
  108. Refugees in danger (Denmark)
  109. Science for Democracy (European)
  110. SHARE Foundation (Serbia)
  111. SOLIDAR & SOLIDAR Foundation (European)
  112. Statewatch (European)
  113. Stop Wapenhandel (The Netherlands)
  114. StraLi (European)
  115. SUPERRR Lab (Germany)
  116. Symbiosis-School of Political Studies in Greece, Council of Europe Network (Greece)
  117. Taylor Bennett Foundation (United Kingdom)
  118.  UNI Europa (European)
  119. Universidad y Ciencia Somosindicalistas (Spain)
  120. (The Netherlands)
  121. WeMove Europe (European)
  122. Worker Info Exchange (International)
  123. Xnet (Spain)


  1. Cities Coalition for Digital Rights (European


* This statement outlines the baseline agreement amongst the signatory civil society organisations on the EU’s proposed Artificial Intelligence Act. However, some of the signatories have positions that are in places more specific and extensive than those outlined here; this statement does not serve to limit this in any way.

Image credit: Trevor Messersmith /

(Contribution by:)


Sarah Chander

Senior Policy Advisor

Twitter: @sarahchander

Ella Jakubowska

Policy Advisor

Twitter: @ellajakubowska1