Human Rights in the Digital Age - Final Program

The European Pirate Party stands for the protection of fundamental rights both in the physical and digital world. We stand against measures targeted to undermine the personal liberties and freedoms of individuals. The protection of fundamental freedoms has always played a vital role within the legal order of the Union. Whereas significant progress had been made to extend the freedoms of Union citizens, the protection of fundamental rights in the digital world requires further scrutiny.

The Right to Internet Access

The respect for fundamental freedoms and liberties should naturally flow to the digital world. Internet access allows us to participate in an increasingly digitally-driven society. Whereas access to the internet has rapidly become a standard within the European Union, there are still many that have not been able to enjoy its potential.

We believe that the right to internet access should be effectively guaranteed across the EU, both in terms of coverage and quality. Digital transformation and progress should not leave anybody behind. Everyone should be able to enjoy access to affordable high-speed internet under favorable conditions. In keeping with current standards, the quality of internet access should be sufficient to allow persons to be able to sufficiently partake in digital affairs.

Access should be provided without unreasonable difficulties, burdens, or costs.

The Right to Privacy

Everyone should have the right to privacy, which includes the right of individuals to control their personal information and to be free from pervasive surveillance. As a fundamental human right, respect for privacy is essential to safeguard the interests of individuals and prevent abuse. Privacy includes the right to discretion and the right to remain anonymous, both online and offline. Anonymity does not relieve any person of responsibility for their actions.

Individuals who constantly feel watched and under surveillance cannot freely and effectively exercise their rights and stand against abuses. Surveillance, distrust, and fear risk transforming our society into a community susceptible to the erosion of rights. We do not want to live in such a society. We believe in accountability in the collection and use of personal data and advocate for robust data protection laws that give individuals control over their personal information.

To preserve our rights and freedoms, and to ensure the effectiveness of law enforcement, Pirates demand that the retention of personal data be limited to persons who are suspected of committing or preparing a crime (targeted investigations). Pirates wish to abolish the practice of routine, automated, and untargeted data processing. We advocate for a moratorium on new legislation for mass surveillance or systematic data collection of the population, be it on our communication, movement, internet use, biometrics, or other data.

Specifically, we defend the right to privacy of digital data against policies that generally and indiscriminately search private chats, messages, emails, or photos automatically for suspicious content (Chat Control). We defend the right to communicate anonymously against mandatory age verification policies. Publicly accessible spaces should be free from biometric mass surveillance, including biometric identification and automated behavioral monitoring. Pirates oppose the automated profiling of people to divide them into risk categories. We reject the blanket and indiscriminate collection of traffic data (Data Retention). Every person should have the right to use the internet without being pervasively tracked.

Pirates oppose the exchange of personal data with countries that lack effective safeguards. Such transfers may be permitted only under exceptional circumstances, where this is done in an emergency and subject to appropriate safeguards and limitations.

Adequate protection against crime is an important responsibility of the state. We must ensure this responsibility is fulfilled through an intelligent, rational, and evidence-based security policy. We, therefore, want the European Fundamental Rights Agency to systematically examine all current and future surveillance powers and programs as to their effectiveness, cost, adverse side effects, alternatives, and compatibility with our fundamental rights.

Pirates support the funding of research through the EU, however, the frequent funding of surveillance and control technologies (such as iBorderCtrl) demonstrates a clear intention to use such technologies in a way that dismantles civil rights. We, therefore, argue that the EU must not fund technologies that interfere with fundamental rights, that human rights-defending bodies and NGOs should be involved in drafting tenders and selecting applicants, and that all publicly funded project results be fully disclosed.

Everyone should be entitled to access key public services in the EU. The EU digital identity proposal provides a gateway to easily access services and authorities under a single digital pass. Such a system should provide for the independent processing of personal data and ensure that strict technical measures are in place to prevent tampering and abuse by states or 3rd parties. Such a system should respect the personal integrity of Union subjects.

Freedom of Expression

Individuals shall have the right to express themselves on the internet without fear of censorship or retribution. The freedom of expression shall be safeguarded without restrictions to the extent to which it does not encroach on the rights and liberties of others. Large online platforms should respect legitimate online discourse and provide an open space for persons to express themselves.

It has become the case that states mandate the censorship of dissent expressed online in order to curtail protests and whistleblowing against restrictive policies. The use of such measures should only be permissible in extreme circumstances, where there is a particular risk of causing adverse effects to the personal integrity of other persons as long as these measures are proportional and necessary to avoid legitimate harm, and not as a means of pursuing government policy or to curtail rights. Online platforms shall take proportional measures to tackle illegal content published online while paying due regard to societal interest and the rights of others.

We advocate for the use of open-source software, decentralized platforms, and other software that helps to facilitate the utilization of the freedom of expression. We advocate for greater protection of whistleblowers, and for laws that protect the freedom of the press and information.

Personal Integrity

Individual interests shall be safeguarded from interference by public authorities or corporations. Personal identity should not be used as a tool for political or economic propagation. Discriminatory algorithms and unreasonable disclosure of personal data shall be prohibited. Personal data shall not be used for profiling purposes in circumstances where clear behavioral and personal attributes of persons can be ascertained. Public authorities shall not retain or request personal information that is not essential or incompatible with the mandated purpose.

Developments in AI in recent years have resulted in increased reliance on the technology. Whereas AI serves as a useful tool for humanity, it should not work to undermine the freedoms and privileges of individuals. AI development should respect the highest ethical standards and preclude discriminatory biases or profiling. Artificial intelligence should not curtail the capacity to make individual choices.

The Right to Self-Determination

We consider the people’s right to responsible self-empowerment and self-determination as self-evident. We advocate for using digital infrastructure to enhance citizen participation in decision-making processes.

In order to safeguard the freedom of self-determination, states shall ensure that sufficient respect is paid to the transparency and legitimacy of the voting process. Sufficient safeguards must be in place to ensure ballot secrecy. The influence of foreign actors in the voting process is unacceptable.

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Here is the semi-final version for the HR program. I have taken into consideration several comments and made further modifications. Deliberations will be open until the end of Sunday (4th) to submit any final observations or comments. It should be assumed that the program published here by Monday morning will be the final program.

I had dismissed some categories (such as net neutrality or open data) since they are sections meant for other categories within the CEEP. I had also dismissed some suggestions, namely the push on the Commission to target breaches by member states, as this in my opinion does not belong within a declaration of fundamental rights, but should be reserved to political policy pursued by MEPs and other stakeholders.

I personally like the notion of digital citizens and role models to which we can refer to. However, I do not believe that this is the place where this should be done. The CEEP should mainly serve to provide an overview of the fundamental values that we as pirates stand for, which we can all consent to and that serve as a basic guide for our MEPs when carrying out their functions.

I also believe that the Declaration on Digital Rights and Principles adopted by the EU in 2022 is a strong document that helps us reinforce our position, but I do not think that simply because we as Pirates pay significant regard to the digital realm, we should “have more than they do in order to be better”. More does not always mean better, and merely repeating principles that are codified in other legal texts will have limited value. I believe that an overview of the fundamental principles that we as Pirates mostly feel close to is the proper way to go. However, I reflected on several points addressed within the Declaration when drafting this program.