On 15 June, Spain began a participatory process for the creation of the Digital Rights Charter, in which civil society, as well as entities and public administrations, such as the City Council of Barcelona, were able to respond to a public consultation launched by the Spanish Secretary of State for Digitalisation and Artificial Intelligence (SEDIA) which is leading the elaboration of the Charter. Five months later, SEDIA has published a first draft of the document, granting a period of public consultation to all citizens until 4 December.
The main purpose of this Charter is that, through an inclusive and transparent process, individuals' rights in the offline dimension will also be preserved in the online dimension. This purpose takes up (almost literally) the proposal of the Coalition of Cities for Digital Rights in its Declaration of 2018.
The preparation of this Charter maintains Spain in a leading position at a European level in the protection of digital rights, contributing to what has already been achieved through the regulation of rights in the digital environment, as contemplated in Title X of the Organic Law of 3/2018, of 5 December, of the Law on the Protection of Personal Data and the Guarantee of Digital Rights.
This draft is divided into different sections led by a category of rights:
- The Rights of freedom, among which we can highlight the protection of privacy and security of digital information, and the newness of the Right to pseudonymity, which guarantees access to digital environments under a pseudonym and Right to digital heritage, which preserves that digital goods can also be inherited.
- The Rights of equality, which of course regulate equality of people in digital environments and non-discrimination, as well as the protection of minors, the elderly and people with disabilities.
- The Rights of participation and conformation of the public space, in this section, in addition to the Right to Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Information, the Right to the neutrality of the Internet (and an open Internet), the Right to citizen participation in digital media, as well as the Right to digital education and the digital Rights of citizens in their relations with Public Administrations are preserved.
- The Rights in the work environment, in which the right to digital disconnection by the worker is guaranteed, as well as protection of privacy in the work context regarding the worker's exposure to video surveillance or geolocalisation. - This right is set out in the Spanish Organic Law 1/18 on Data Protection and the Guarantee of Digital Rights.
- In the last section, the draft aims to incorporate Digital rights in specific environments, addressing access to data for research and development purposes as well as freedom of creation and the right to access culture in the digital environment always within the limits of intellectual property law. There is also a specific mention in this section of the Rights in relation to Artificial Intelligence, seeking to guarantee the right to algorithmic non-discrimination and to ensure transparency, auditability, explicability, traceability, as well as access, use and reliability. We point out that this is an area of work in which the Coalition has worked intensively and has proposed a register of IA-based administrative systems.
This step forward in the participatory process of the Declaration of Digital Rights in Spain is undoubtedly good news in the context of digital rights protection. From Barcelona City Council, we encourage the Spanish Government to also incorporate three specific aspects that would give the Charter of Digital Rights the ambition to protect rights that we have been demanding from the Coalition of Cities for Digital Rights:
- Reference to citizen participation in the processes of designing digital public services;
- Consideration of certain essential data as a "public good";
- Inclusion of the possibility of using open and interoperable technologies, with standard formats that allow for informational self-definition and non-discrimination.
In any case, the pioneering initiative of the Government of Spain in developing a legal mechanism for the protection of digital rights is to be applauded, and we urge it to collaborate closely with local councils for its development and implementation.
The final text of the Digital Rights Charter is getting closer. All responses to the public consultation of the Digital Rights Charter must be submitted before 4 December of this year to firstname.lastname@example.org.