EU Digital Services Act: Industry and government interests prevail over citizens’ digital rights
After 16 hours of discussion, negotiators from the European Parliament and EU governments have just made deal on a new EU Digital Services Act. Pirate Party MEP Patrick Breyer sat at the negotiating table as Rapporteur for the Committee on Civil Liberties (LIBE) and summarises:
“We were able to prevent removal obligations for search engines. We could also prevent the indiscriminate collection of the cell phone numbers of all uploaders to adult platforms, which would have endangered their privacy and the safety of sex workers due to foreseeable data hacks and leaks. Minors will be protected from surveillance advertising on online platforms. However, the ban on using sensitive personality traits (e.g. a person’s political opinion, diseases or sexual preferences) for targeted manipulation and targeting was heavily watered down.” The new rules on personalised targeting will apply to all online platforms for sharing user content such as Facebook, Instagram or eBay, but not to sites hosting self-generated content, such as news websites.
“The new set of rules as a whole does not deserve the name ‘Digital Constitution’. The disappointing outcome fails in multiple respects to protect our fundamental rights online. Our online privacy will not be protected by a right to use digital services anonymously, nor by a right to encryption, a ban on data retention, or a right to generally opt-out of surveillance advertising in your browser (do not track). Freedom of expression on the Internet is not protected from error-prone censorship machines (upload filters), nor from arbitrary platform censorship. Cross-border removal orders issued by illiberal member states without a court order can take down media reports and information that is perfectly legal in the country of publication. The monopoly power of consumer-hostile social media like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter will not be tackled by interoperability obligations. Users will have no alternative to the toxic engagement-based corporate algorithms that spread hate, violence and misinformation in the interest of commercial profits. Industry and government interests have unfortunately prevailed over digital civil liberties.”
Marcel Kolaja, a Czech Pirate, Member and Quaestor of the European Parliament, explains: “Today, the Parliament wasted a great opportunity to make the Internet fairer and more user-friendly for European citizens. Internet users will not be given a chance to generally refuse tracking in their browsers and apps as the Pirates proposed. The “do not track” option would have put a stop to annoying consent banners and dark patterns that companies abuse to collect data. But for users, it should as easy to refuse consent as it is to give it and that is exactly what we were fighting for during the negotiations. Unfortunately, the national governments favored the voices of digital giants over the support for the fundamental rights of European citizens. And by that, I am truly disappointed. As I have been pointing out from the very beginning, Internet rules need to be human-centered in the first place. And that is certainly not the case of today’s result,” Kolaja says.