EDPS – Civil Society Organizations Summit: a fond tradition continues

Wojciech Wiewiórowski

Along with EDRi, we are pleased to announce that this year we will host the fifth edition of the EDPS - Civil Society Summit, as a part of the Privacy Camp, an annual conference organized the day before the beginning of the famous CPDP Conference.

The Summit has become a fond tradition which brings together representatives from Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) working on digital rights and experts from the EDPS to discuss existing and looming problems for human rights in the digital environment.

Today, we take this joyful opportunity to look back and review what we discussed last year as these are two gripping issues that are still affecting the privacy of individuals around EU and not only: the draft Regulation on ePrivacy and the ‘upload filters’.

With regard to the first, we could and can only reiterate our position on the need for an ePrivacy Regulation. Such a Regulation must not lower the level of protection as foreseen in the GDPR as we urgently need a higher level of protection for the confidentiality of our communications, also given the particularly delicate nature of metadata.

In the EU there is still considerable uncertainty in this area. Civil Society has already expressed its concerns about the risks of lowering privacy protection and waits for more clarity on the final form of the new privacy legislation. This reflects an increasing anxiety around the globe that the lack of such a legislation may become a disadvantage in economic terms.

In the second session on ‘upload filters’, we wanted to focus on some EU legislative initiatives: from the proposed ‘IPR directive’ to the Regulation on the prevention of terrorist content on line, to fake news.

On this, a frank and multi-stakeholder dialogue is needed.

For such frank dialogue to constructively take place, we need to consider at least four different aspects:

  • Undeniably, there are various interests at stake as well as many different actors: civil society, the publishers/newspapers, the uploaders, the online platforms, etc;
  • Digital markets (online platforms) are characterised by a high level of concentration, market power and by a level of accountability that can and should be improved;
  • Developments on online advertising (personalised ads and newsfeeds; analytics; use of algorithms to promote or demote uploaded content; possibility of having ‘sponsored content) are increasingly making online platforms distant from the “mere hosting provider’s model”.
  • There is growing concern regarding the use of online platforms for the dissemination of content inciting violence, terrorism, hate speech and children abuse.

    It is bearing these elements in mind, that in our comments on the IPR directive we stated that: “Profit-seeking information society services are rightly to be held accountable where they derive value from content transmitted or stored on their platforms and where the dissemination of that content causes genuine harm to the rights and interests of individuals”.

Service providers should therefore take appropriate and proportionate measures to ensure protection of individuals and to be accountable for content which limits or doesn’t respect the rights and freedoms under the Charter.

The question here is therefore not if, but how, online platforms should take action in line with their responsibilities: a complex issue that requires a very delicate balance of the fundamental rights and freedoms at stake (such as data protection and freedom of expression).

Not surprisingly, only a few days ago, the CJEU ruled on the subject, in the case C‑18/18 Glawischnig-Piesczek v Facebook, related to injunctions obliging a service provider to stop the dissemination of a defamatory comment.

Having looked back twelve months makes it possible to underline with greater vigor what the EDPS has tried to show through this mandate: the contribution of Civil Society to these debates, and more generally to ensuring the effectiveness of democratic processes, is key.

This is why, in addition to the annual Summit, the EDPS facilitated the participation of CSOs in the International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners (ICDPPC) that has hosted in October last year, also through the active participation of some representatives in the Advisory Committee.

This is why, on 8 November I will be speaking at Freedom Not Fear, a Conference organized by a coalition of civil society organisations sharing common goals preserve human rights in the digitalized world, by cutting back surveillance measures and ensuring freedom of expression, dialogue and information.
This is why, today, we proudly announce that there will be a 2020 edition of the EDPS- Civil Society Summit.

Stay tuned!