What digital rights are at imminent risk? All of them.

By EDRi · September 7, 2016

Our civil rights in the digital environment are based on our rights to protect our personal security and data, our right to communicate freely, and our right for any restrictions to be necessary, predictable and proportionate. Every one of these rights is now under imminent threat.

Electronic Privacy in danger

The ePrivacy Directive is there to protect our security and the confidentiality of our communications. The big telecoms lobby and online companies have launched a massive campaign for this legislation to be repealed.

Telecoms companies want to be able to use your phone’s location data and web browsing data generate revenue from advertisers, while online companies are keen to avoid limits on their ability to track individuals online.

Security under threat

The integrity, security and privacy of online communications relies on encryption. However, governments across the EU (for example in France, Germany and Hungary) are seeking to undermine it both at the national and the EU level through, for example, the ePrivacy Directive reform and the draft Terrorism Directive.

More and more surveillance

Unsurprisingly, proposals on surveillance are coming from every possible angle. The EU has just adopted its Directive on air passenger profiling (Passenger Name Records, PNR), and the “smart borders” proposal is moving forward. We are only starting to feel the scale of threat to our personal security by “internet of things” surveillance, and the EU is now working again on the thorny issue of export controls.

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Legal safeguards for law enforcement data sharing may disappear

When the illegal data retention Directive was proposed over a decade ago, we were told that it was because urgent action was needed as a contingency measure, as international legal assistance treaties (Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties, MLATs) did not work. Now, mainly as a result of pressure from the USA, there are efforts to overturn this legal framework, and to replace it by a more informal and potentially dangerous system, with no tangible explanation as to why MLATs have not been reformed.

Private censorship and abandonment of the law

The European Union is encouraging “voluntary” projects to put (mostly American) companies into the role of free speech regulators. These are just a few examples:

  • The draft Terrorism Directive demands arbitrary deletion of content by internet companies. It is now going in untransparent, rushed “trilogue” negotiations between the EU institutions.
  • The European Commission will have to monitor the decisions of the four US online companies that committed to use their terms of service to take the lead in censoring ill-defined “hate speech”.
  • A leak of the new Copyright Directive shows that the Commission wants to require companies to invest in “effective” tools to filter the upload of any copyrighted content, following YouTube’s model of allowing rightsholders to arbitrarily uploads, even if they are fully legal. Industrial-scale censorship.
  • The European Commission is using “follow the money” efforts whereby companies like Paypal and Google will eliminate online services that they – as judge, jury and executioner – decide are allegedly breaching copyright (as envisaged in SOPA and ACTA).
  • The proposal for reforming the “Audio Visual Media Services” Directive gives EU Member States the right to regulate the contracts agreed between online video sharing platforms and their customers. This is supposed to be a means of applying the law, but a recital (i.e. an explanatory note) says that alignment with the law is not necessary. The right of appeal for unjustified censorship provided for in the Directive is logically unimplementable. The “safeguard” that people can complain when their videos are censored will not be implementable in practice, as internet companies will always say that the files are in breach of terms of service rather than in breach of the law, as this option is easier, quicker, cheaper and less legally risky.

The open internet under threat by the Telecommunications Reform

If the European Commission keeps supporting the the big telco industry 5G Manifesto and integrate parts of it in the Telecoms Review proposal, net neutrality may be in danger again.

Trade agreements undermining data protection

Digital rights are also being discussed outside a democratic framework in international trade negotiations. In addition to the headline Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) discussions, the less well-known Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) between the EU and Canada will undermine your privacy, data protection and freedom of communication, if adopted. While there are rumours that TTIP might be dead, most of the risks highlighted for digital rights in TTIP are being reproduced in the catastrophic TiSA (Trade in Services Agreement), which is being negotiated by the European Union with 22 countries, including the USA, Turkey and Israel, as well as CETA.

EDRi: Data Protection Reform – Next stop: e-Privacy Directive (24.02.2016)

EDRi: Massive lobby against personal communications security has started (27.07.2016)

EDRi: France and Germany: Fighting terrorism by weakening encryption (24.08.2016)

EDRi: Hungary: New government proposals raise concerns (18.05.2016)

EDRi: Position paper on encryption: High-grade encryption is essential for our economy and our democratic freedoms (25.01.2016)

EDRi: Rush to “fight terrorism” threatens our fundamental rights and security (04.07.2016)

Secret report urges treaty forcing US web firms’ cooperation in data sharing (02.06.2015)

Commissioner Jourová’s speech at the meeting of the EP’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (Libe) (28.04.2016)

Guide to the Code of Conduct on Hate Speech (03.06.2016)

Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on copyright in the Digital Single Market

EDRi: Towards a corporate copyright reform in the EU? (31.08.2016)

EDRi: ENDitorial: Is 5G as terrible as the telecoms providers claim it is? (27.07.2016)

EDRi: BREAKING: TTIP leaks confirm dangers for digital rights (02.05.2016)

EDRi: CETA will undermine EU Charter of Fundamental Rights (04.05.2016)

Trade in Services Agreement, EDRi’S position

(Contribution by Joe McNamee, Diego Naranjo and Maryant Fernández Pérez, EDRi)