vestager2_JOHN THYSAFP via Getty Images_declaration digital rights JOHN THYSAFP via Getty Images

Declaring Our Digital Rights

While Europeans understand that digital technologies will continue to play a growing role in their lives – for better or worse – many seem not to realize that they are entitled to the same rights online as offline. But that could soon change.

BRUSSELS – Whether it’s a place to do business, study, shop, keep in touch, find a partner, or sustain a lifeline to family and friends, we did not need a pandemic to show us why the internet matters. But the pandemic has reminded us that when we act to shape the online experience, we need to get it right. How we manage the digital world says a lot about who we are.

But how should we manage it? For starters, it helps to know specifically what we hope to achieve. For example, we want people to have access to affordable networks and the skills to use technology. We want to choose which data we share, and when and with whom we share it. We want to know the carbon footprints of our tablets and the videos we stream. We want to be protected as much online as we are offline. And we want to be able to disconnect.

Everyone in Europe – and in the rest of the world – should be able to rely on these basic principles. Everyone should know that these rights exist and deserve protection. In addition to national governments and members of the European Parliament, 82% of people across all 27 EU member states say they want the European Commission to define and promote a common framework of digital rights and principles.