European citizens are given digital rights as extensions of their own human rights. Many human rights are relevant to use of the Internet. Some of these being the protection of information, freedom of association, expression, and privacy. In a sense, it is also an extension of consumer rights and the right to an education. It is believed that access to the Internet is something that should be available to everyone.
In 2009, France declared that access to the Internet is a basic human right. This blocked certain laws, which would have allowed disconnecting users from network access. Other countries have gone further. For example, Finland’s Ministry of Transport and Communications announced that every citizen is to have access to a basic broadband connection. Over time they guarantee more connections and faster download speeds for all. In Spain, citizens must be guaranteed “reasonably” priced Internet connection. This is a move in the right direction for a country that had their broadband controlled by a state monopoly. It is difficult to protect all digital rights as new laws pass. While more people have access to the Internet, there is a growing threat to those user’s privacy and security.
The European Union has measures in place to assure the confidentiality of its citizen’s communications. The ePrivacy Directive is one such measure to protect European’s online security. Telecommunication and online companies are lobbying for the repeal of this directive. These companies would prefer fewer limits on being able to use your personal information. They would use personal location data and web browsing history to generate advertising revenue at the expense of your privacy. It would be easier to track individuals online activity with fewer restrictions for these entities.
Encryption is necessary to make any online communication secure and private. Both national and EU governments are attempting to undermine encryption for “security” reasons. Allowing themselves to see all broadband communication. Putting backdoors into encryption will only make it unsafe and allow anyone to access private information. Unsurprisingly this would allow both local and foreign powers to monitor all Internet communications.
The Internet gives individuals the opportunity to find, receive and give information and ideas. Content is not hindered by national borders. It is a medium which expands the capacity in which one can enjoy their right to freedom of opinion and expression. Private censorship threats this open sharing of ideas. Companies are taking the role of free speech regulators. Web sites providing user media, filter uploads of any copyrighted content. They can choose to block what is considered hateful and not viewer friendly. This takes away the right for a person to decide if they want to expose themselves or partake in a certain type of thought.
European citizens should not be forsaken their digital rights. They should be a clear extension of their human rights, seeing that so much of life involves the use of the Internet. The power of how one can use the Internet is up to the individual, not an organization. All members of society deserve to use the public good, that is, the Internet.