The cities of Barcelona in Spain, New York City in the United States and Amsterdam in The Netherlands have launched a global “Cities Coalition for Digital Rights” to protect data sovereignty, privacy, democracy, and universal access to the Internet. The three cities formally came together to form the Coalition ,and adopt a Declaration to protect and uphold human rights on the internet at the local and global level
The Coalition, in its Declaration of Cities Coalition for Digital Rights contends that though the internet has become inseparable from our daily lives, there are however new cases of digital rights abuse, misuse and misinformation and concentration of power around the world including freedom of expression being censored; personal information, including movements and communications, monitored, being shared and sold without consent; ‘black box’ algorithms being used to make unaccountable decisions; social media being used as a tool of harassment and hate speech; and democratic processes and public opinion being undermined.
The cities declared their commitment to eliminating impediments to harnessing technological opportunities that improve the lives of our constituents, and to providing trustworthy and secure digital services and infrastructures that support our communities. They also expressed strong belief that human rights principles such as privacy, freedom of expression, and democracy must be incorporated by design into digital platforms starting with locally-controlled digital infrastructures and services.
The coalition, with the support of the United Nations Human Settlements Program (UN-Habitat), expressed its readiness to share best practices, learn from each other’s challenges and successes, and coordinate common initiatives and actions. Ready inspired by the Internet Rights and Principles Coalition (IRPC), the work of 300 international stakeholders over the past ten years.
The coalition said it is committed to five evolving principles as follows:
- Universal and equal access to the internet, and digital literacy
Everyone should have access to affordable and accessible internet and digital services on equal terms, as well as the digital skills to make use of this access and overcome the digital divide.
2. Privacy, data protection and security
Everyone should have privacy and control over their personal information through data protection in both physical and virtual places, to ensure digital confidentiality, security, dignity and anonymity, and sovereignty over their data, including the right to know what happens to their data, who uses it and for what purposes.
- Transparency, accountability, and non-discrimination of data, content and algorithms
Everyone should have access to understandable and accurate information about the Technological, algorithmic and artificial intelligence systems that impact their lives, and the ability to question and change unfair, biased or discriminatory systems.
- Participatory Democracy, diversity and inclusion
Everyone should have full representation on the internet, and the ability collectively to engage with the city through open, participatory and transparent digital processes. Everyone should have the opportunities to participate in shaping local digital infrastructures and services and, more generally, city policy-making for the common good.
- Open and ethical digital service standards
Everyone should be able to use the technologies of their choice, and expect the same level of interoperability, inclusion and opportunity in their digital services. Cities should define their own technological infrastructures, services and agenda, through open and ethical digital service standards and data to ensure that they live up to this promise.