Respondents show a broad support for the Commission’s initiative in this area, which will inform and empower all Europeans, regarding the rights, freedoms and principles enshrined in the European Union’s legal framework, and set a reference framework for guiding future action by policy-makers as well as companies developing digital technologies.
As part of the vision presented on 9 March 2021 in its Communication on the Digital Compass: the European way for the Digital Decade, the Commission committed to presenting a set of digital principles. These principles cover areas such as access to internet services, to a secure and trusted online environment, to digital health services and to human-centric digital public services and administration.
A key deliverable of the preparatory work for the upcoming Declaration on digital rights and principles for the Digital Decade was the public consultation on digital principles, which ran between 12 May and 6 September 2021 and invited all interested people and parties to share their views on the formulation of digital principles. The following 9 areas of principles were listed in the open public consultation:
- Universal access to internet services
- Universal digital education and skills for people to take an active part in society and in democratic processes
- Accessible and human-centric digital public services and administration
- Access to digital health services
- An open, secure and trusted online environment
- Protecting and empowering children and young people in the online space
- A European digital identity
- Access to digital devices, systems and services that respect the climate and environment
- Ethical principles for human-centric algorithms
Respondents were also invited to propose alternative formulations or elaborate on other possible principles.
Main takeaways from the respondents
609 responses were received, of which 65% were from citizens, and 10% from civil society organisations. A more detailed breakdown, along with other information is available in the summary report (.pdf).
Overall, a large number of respondents showed broad support for a European Declaration on digital rights and principles as well as on the first set of suggested principles outlined under the 9 specific areas.
These respondents welcomed the initiative, and several indicated that Europe’s digital society should be based on European values, namely plurality, inclusivity, non-discrimination, openness, privacy, democracy, and sustainability. Several respondents indicated that it is key for a digital society in the ‘European way’ not to leave anyone behind.
While the full results are available in the summary report (.pdf), the main highlights from the individual areas include the following:
- Universal access to internet services: 96% of respondents find it important (83% - very important) that everyone has access to the internet through an affordable and adequate connection;
- Digital education and skills: 85% of respondents consider it important (72% - very important) that everyone should have the possibility to have access to high-quality and inclusive digital education;
- Digital public services and administration: 93% of respondents consider it important (71% - very important) that everyone should benefit from human-centric and accessible public services at all levels, including for those that are most vulnerable and at risk of exclusion;
- Digital health services: 92% of respondents find it important (74% - very important) that everyone should have secure, digital access to their electronic health records;
- Open, secure and trusted online environment: 95% of respondents find it important (84% - very important) that everyone should benefit from the confidentiality of their electronic communications and protection of information on their electronic devices;
- Children and young people in the online space: 91% of respondents find it important (70% very important) that children and young people should be equipped with digital literacy and the necessary skills and competences to navigate the online environment safely and responsibly;
- European digital identity: 84% of respondents consider it important (66% - very important) that everyone should have access to a secure and trustworthy digital identity that can be used anywhere in the EU to access a broad range of public and private online services;
- Digital products and services that respect the climate and the environment: 84% of respondents consider it important (58% - very important) that digital products and services should be produced and used with the lowest possible environmental impact;
- Human-centric algorithms: 92% of respondents find it important (77% - very important) that no one should be limited or purposefully misguided by algorithmic systems against their autonomy and free will.
A large number of respondents (43%) indicated that there are other relevant digital principles. For example, several of them elaborated on the need to have principles that would set out the possibility of alternatives (or choice) in a digital society. They indicated that such principles could, for example, specify that persons should not be overly dependent on, or monitored by digital technologies (from large corporations) to determine their future or actions. Several respondents also indicated the need for more transparency on the use of (personal) data by companies, and to limit targeted content and advertising.
The contributions to the public consultation are feeding into a proposal from the Commission for a joint inter-institutional solemn declaration on digital rights and principles of the European Parliament, the Council, and the Commission. These principles will echo and complement existing rights that already protect and empower Europeans online such as the protection of their personal data and privacy, freedom of expression, freedom to set up and conduct a business online or the protection of their intellectual creations.
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