Digital News

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Martin Schulz Demands a Charter for Fundamental Digital Rights 

Last year, the President of the EU Parliament made an effort to discuss fundamental digital rights. In the newspaper Die Zeit, he calls for an open dialogue on the subject. He argues that we should think more about digital rights. He said of digitalisation, that it cannot “lead to a dangerous concentration in key areas. As the basis of democracy is plurality.” Moreover, he added that there are some internet firms which have a market share of over 90%. A “winner takes all” market rule should therefore be avoided. Data is the commodity of the 21st century, thus, according to Schulz, it is of greatest importance that data is not solely in the hands of a few private companies. He warns that controlling people with Big Data becomes more and more easy. In conclusion, Schulz demands a Fundamental Digital Rights Charter which clearly defines what companies and the state are allowed to know about people. Nevertheless, he emphasises that this is not directed at successful companies like Google, Amazon or Facebook. Indeed he argues that we need creative and innovative companies such as these. Overall, Schulz advocates for a web where everybody can move freely and securely, which supports plurality and offers alternatives.

The Digital Fundamental Rights Charta by Heiko Maas

Following Martin Schulz’s demands, Minister of Justice Heiko Maas created a first draft for a Fundamental Digital Rights Charter, which consists of 13 points and addresses important topics. The article by Maas, published last December in Die Zeit, can be summarised as follows:
Read the full Zeit article here.

Article 1
Every person has the right to access to the internet

Article 2
Every person has the right to their own digital data

Article 3
Every person has the right to choose their own digital identity, every person has right to be forgotten

Article 4
No person can be object of an algorithm

Article 5
Every person has the right to express and spread their opinion freely on the internet and to inform themselves through publicly available sources. No censorship can take place.

Article 6
The freedom of expression includes respecting the general principles and personal rights of fellow man

Article 7
Every person has the right that their services, which are created or distributed via the internet, are fairly paid for

Article 8
All copyright owners and performing artists have the right to a fair share of the revenue from their works which are distributed digitally

Article 9
The State guarantees net neutrality

Article 10
No one is allowed to abuse their economic power. The state prevents monopolies and cartels, and supports diversity and competition.

Article 11
Every person has the right to data security

Article 12
States establish international law to secure the freedom of the internet worldwide

Article 13
Every person has the right to an analogue world. No one is allowed to be unjustifiably discriminated because they do not use digital services.

In the Die Zeit article, Maas mentions many important points, which we as an online voting provider only welcome. The participation of people, and thus access to the internet for everyone is a significant matter for us. Moreover, it is undoubtedly important to secure the sensitive data of our clients. By the way, this is already the case with Polyas and its election software Polyas Core 2.2.3, which has been certified according to Common Criteria Standards by the Federal Office for Information Security. Read more about online voting security with Polyas!

Enemies of the New Legislation

However, there are also enemies of fundamental digital rights. One of them is the EU Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, Günther Oettinger, who says on Die Zeit Online: “We have basic rights which are written in the Lisbon Treaty, for example. It’s not about new basic rights. It’s only about applying the known basic rights to digital technologies.” He aims to modernise and update the current legal position, which is why he wants to adjust the existing set of rules and create standard European regulations.

We are of the opinion that the debate about fundamental digital rights is important food for thought, and merely adjusting existing laws should not be the only answer. Our world is digital and our life already takes place online as well, therefore, the internet must not be an area unregulated by law.