Freedom not Fear: High time for European (digital) civil rights

By EDRi · September 21, 2011

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Deutsch: [Freiheit statt Angst: Hochsaison für (digitale) Bürgerrechte in Europa |]

European policy making has long been blind to the digital environment,
ignoring the potentials of the Internet and the positive impact of the free
flow of information in society.

Over the last 10 years, an increasing number of surveillance measures have
restricted civil liberties and have promoted fear rather than freedom. A
large number of measures have been or are currently being introduced and
result in a restriction of the fundamental rights of all citizens in the EU:
the data retention directive, the SWIFT and PNR agreements, the
Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, data exchanges with the USA without
proper data protection laws or the blanket collection of our biometric
data – just to mention a few.

After a couple of attempts to launch a series of European digital civil
rights events, the necessary preconditions for its success are now better
than ever. National governments are more and more aware of the various
issues involved by the Internet and are getting involved in addressing these
issues. However, since they seemed to have had only fear to offer in the
last decade, one of the main goals of the movement is to provide a positive
discourse. The international Freedom not Fear week laid another stone for a
counterbalance to the well organised and influential industry lobby. The
week started on 10 September 2011 in Berlin, Dresden, Vienna, Brussels,
Luxembourg and Warsaw. It ended with a final weekend in Brussels from 17 to
19 September 2011.

On the initiative of talks workshops were organized in
Vienna to discuss civil rights and modern data protection laws. Sessions
were dedicated to topics including the right to information, open data, PNR,
web blocking and current situation regarding data retention in Austria.

The three-day event in Brussels was organised by the German working group on
data retention (AK Vorrat) and the Belgian Net Users’ Rights Protection
Association. It was supported by many European organisations including
EDRi-members Bits of Freedom, FoeBuD, Liga voor Mensenrechten, Digitale

On 17 September, protesters descended on Brussels for the first time to
confront European policies and to call on the European institutions to
preserve their freedom and civil rights. The protesters want their
fundamental rights to be respected in the networked world. Furthermore, many
of the protesters feared that information stored by governments was not
secure and was bound to be hacked, leaked, abused or misinterpreted. In a
speech in front of the European Commission, Patrick Breyer (AK Vorrat)
underlined the importance of the weekend to contribute to a free and open
society that we want our children to grow up in.

The three-day event in Brussels also included an international conference on
Sunday where a series of working groups on data retention, CCTV
surveillance, net neutrality and PNR were held. On Monday, the participants
shared their concerns in discussions with representatives from the European
Commission and Members of the European Parliament regarding the revision of
the data retention directive and the current negotiations on passenger name
record agreements. Activists from all over Europe took the opportunity to
network and to launch an international platform for all future campaigns
under the banner “Freedom not Fear”.

Freedom not Fear platform

Events in

#unteilbar – Demo in Berlin





(Contribution by Kirsten Fiedler – EDRi)