Launch of a cross-party campaign for a Digital Bill of Rights
2.00pm, Thursday 12th May 2016, in Committee Room 16, Houses of Parliament
Over the summer, members of the British public will be invited to crowd-source the text of a Digital Bill of Rights, which is intended to protect and enhance key elements of the Internet (such as privacy, access, education and free speech) from state and commercial infringement. The public will be helped by a range of existing and proposed internet bills of rights from around the world, made available on the project’s website
Expert lawyers will then compile the resulting document into draft legislation to go before the next session of Parliament.
The campaign for a Digital Bill of Rights is led by the digital futures think-tank, Cybersalon. It emerged from a meeting held in Parliament in March 2015 by Cybersalon and the People’s Parliament in reaction to the revelations made by whistle-blower Edward Snowden about widespread invasive spying by the United States’ National Security Agency and the UK’s GCHQ.
Speakers at the launch include:
John McDonnell MP (Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer)
Dr Shahrar Ali (Deputy Leader of the Green Party)
Dr Julian Huppert (former LibDem MP)
Trudi Hammer (Conservative Party Activist)
Birgitta Jónsdóttir MP (Member of Icelandic Parliament)
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“Labour believes that digital technologies should be an opportunity to extend our liberties not an excuse to curtail them.”
John McDonnell MP, Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer
“Anonymity, privacy and personal data protection must be the anchor of the Digital Bill of Rights to protect our democratic processes and ensure that individuals and organisations can use the internet for legitimate political work and campaigning, free from unwarranted interference. A robust, holistic digital liberties framework is needed to protect individuals and ensure the public good. The constantly evolving digital world demands a solution that goes beyond addressing the current known challenges to define an enabling environment that will ensure the benefits of the internet for generations to come.”
Dr Shahrar Ali, Green Party Deputy Leader
“Our rights online matter just as much as our rights offline. In the new digital age, more and more of our information is online, and we need protection from people and organisations misusing it. That’s why in the Liberal Democrats we have called for several years for a Digital Bill of Rights to be passed into law, setting out the framework we deserve to protect our freedom and privacy online. I’m delighted that people from other parties and from no party see the need for this, and hope we can work together to make our vision a reality.”
Dr Julian Huppert, former LibDem MP
Statement of support from Caroline Lucas MP (Green Party):
“Last year I took the Government to court over its surveillance of MPs and their communications with constituents. The case was intended to highlight that data surveillance is widespread and, in the instance of MPs, a breach of something called the Wilson Doctrine that is supposed to protect constituents, whistle-blowers and campaigners when they contact their elected representatives.
The case helped clarify what is and isn’t allowed – blanket surveillance is apparently OK and the Prime Minister has to authorise any spying on MPs. It also highlighted some fundamental problems with a regime that, as in the physical world, justifies pretty much anything in the name of combatting terrorism and keeping us safe.
Edward Snowden’s revelations woke many people up to the extent to which our data rights are being systematically breached and the extent to which every citizen’s communications are being snooped. Yet since then things have got worse – not better. Our basic rights are being breached day in day out in more and more worrying ways. There’s no evidence it makes us safer and, even if there were, rights should not be trampled over like this.
A Digital Bill of Rights setting out basic principles would genuinely safeguard citizens and ensure the digital world is not controlled by the state or private corporations. I therefore warmly welcome this important piece of work from the University of Westminster. The digital world is fast evolving and it’s critical that it is protected as a place of freedom and equality.”
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NOTES FOR EDITORS
In April 2015, after discussions among its activists, Cybersalon drew up the
Digital Bill of Rights UK to encourage debate about digital liberties. The eight clauses of this initial draft covered topics of concern for social media activists, such as big data, mass surveillance, copyright reform and digital education.
This coincided with a call by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the founding father of the world wide web, for a 2015 Magna Carta for the Digital Age.
The British campaign for the Digital Bill of Rights is committed to collaborating with all groups both here and abroad advocating a legal framework for protecting and nurturing individual freedoms within the information society. Over the past year, the Digital Bill of Rights UK has been discussed with ORG (Open Rights Group), Open Democracy, Big Brother Watch, Liberty, Demos and Digital Shoreditch.
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