By Maren Schmid

It’s (nearly) holiday time. And with holidays, there come the family’s holiday gatherings holding forth the possibility of awkward or tense moments. But fear not – it is time to take over the conversation and educate your family about digital rights!

We have prepared some talking points that will facilitate the process of bringing your family closer to privacy, security and surveillance related issues. (Yes, this is a fun conversation you definitely want to have!)

1. As soon as the good mood threatens to turn bad, casually change the topic and inform your relatives about how this past October the ePrivacy regulation was approved by the European Parliament – a big win for privacy, citizens’ rights, competition, innovation and security! Explain that this is only the first step, though, and that in 2018, the European Commission, the Council and the Parliament have yet to reach an agreement during the trilogues. (However, we suggest to avoid going into depth explaining what this obscure process called “trilogues” is – you don’t want to lose your audience at this point already!)

2. Your family might be baffled because of your sudden change of topic and might not know what to respond – a perfect opportunity for you to continue! Make sure to tell them about another big win from July where the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) confirmed that the EU/Canada deal on indiscriminate collection of air travellers’ data and sharing it breaches European law. This was the third time that the European Court had ruled against arrangements for mandatory storage of personal data. This is great news for EU citizens, as the risks associated with massive and unnecessary databases of sensitive personal data are unacceptable. Blindly collecting data, hoping it will magically protect our society, is bad for security and bad for fundamental rights! It would be better not to mention that the European Commission keeps proposing and defending illegal restrictions on fundamental rights, your family should enjoy the holidays.

3. Ignore any objections your family might have (such as “I have nothing to hide anyway”, see Bullsh*t Bingo below – or ask to read their bank records, text messages and ask for their credit card) and carry on! At this point, you can briefly mention the EU Directive on combating terrorism. (If you do not feel brave enough to use buzzwords like “terrorism” as they might trigger deep-rooted arguments, skip this point and continue at 4.) The European Parliament voted in favour of this worrisome Directive in February 2017. And what makes the Directive so worrisome? Its use of unclear and weak wording. For instance, it criminalises “glorifying terrorism”, without defining what it means. This creates the risk of excessive punishment and censorship. Beware: A lot of people seem to assume that fighting terrorism is inevitably connected to giving up fundamental rights like privacy or freedom of speech (see Bullsh*t Bingo, again). Your family might have similar beliefs, so be prepared to face some opposition. The answer is simple, though: We can’t bravely defend our freedoms by meekly abandoning them.

4. If you followed point 3, you might be met with an awkward silence – make use of this gap in the conversation by expounding on how important digital rights are and why they are under threat. An example for this could be the ongoing Copyright Directive which may actually become the biggest censorship machine ever. The proposed Directive 1) requires internet companies to install filtering technology to prevent the upload of content that has been “identified by rightsholders” 2) seeks to make internet providers responsible for their users’ uploads and 3) gives internet users no meaningful protection from unfair deletion of their creations. Sounds quite alarming, right? Make sure your family understand that the EU will make their decision on this scary Directive in early 2018 and that it is time to speak up now! Tell your family to contact your MEPs and ministries asap.

5. Finally, as they become more and more enthusiastic about the defence of digital rights, explain to them that there is a high chance they might have paid more money for one of their present than other people – because of how their data is used to profile them. How? Explain to them that it is a common practice for companies to use personal data to charge different people different prices for the same product. Companies do so in different ways. They might gain information about you from your type of device (Mac vs. Windows), your IP address, and your browser’s cookies. Hilariously, some companies even defend this practice by saying that they’re only discriminating in favour of some people and not against the people that they’re not discriminating in favour of! Sadly, explaining to people that privacy and freedom online matter because they might end up being charged more than other people is very effective: Appealing to people’s wallet usually works better than to their loss of their fundamental rights. But yay, if you reached this point – you have successfully convinced your family and have collected enough good karma for 2018!

More fun activities

Bullsh*t Bingo

Convincing your family of the importance of digital rights might be a long, tiring and rough process… So have some patience and don’t forget to keep track of the battle with our Bullsh*t Bingo! Check off each block when you hear these overused phrases and arguments. And when you get three blocks horizontally, vertically or diagonally, stand up and shout BULLSH*T!


Download a printable PDF!

(Contribution by Maren Schmid, EDRi intern)

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