Some comments on the Preamble of the Italian Internet “Bill of Rights”

Last July 2015, the Italian parliament approved, through a motion, an Italian Internet “Bill of Rights”. We greatly admire and support the motives of the drafters, many of which are friends, but we believe it necessary to highlight some serious shortcomings to its approach, starting with its Preamble.

PREAMBLE

It has fostered the development of a more open and free society.

This is very arguable. A large majority of digital rights activists and IT security and privacy experts would disagree that, overall, it has.

The European Union is currently the world region with the greatest constitutional protection of personal data, which is explicitly enshrined in Article 8 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.

This is correct, although Switzerland may be better in some regards.Nevertheless, even such standards to date have not at all been able to stop widespread illegal and/or inconstitutional EU states bulk surveillance, until Snowden and Max Schrems came along. Furthermore, even if the US and EU states fully adhered to EU standards, it would significantly improve assurance for passive bulk surveillance, but it would do almost nothing for highly scalable targeted endpoint surveillance (NSA FoxAcid, Turbine, hacking Team, etc), against of tens and hundreds of thousands of high-value targets, such as activists, parliamentarians, reporters, etc.

Preserving these rights is crucial to ensuring the democratic functioning of institutions and avoiding the predominance of public and private powers that may lead to a society of surveillance, control and social selection.

“May” lead?! There is a ton of evidence available for the last 2 years that to a large extent we have been living for many years in a “society of surveillance, control and social selection.”

Internet … it is a vital tool for promoting individual and collective participation in democratic processes as well as substantive equality

Since it has emerged to be overwhelmingly a tool of undemocratic social control, it would be more correct to refer to its potential to “promoting individual and collective participation in democratic processes”, rather than a current actual fact.

The principles underpinning this Declaration also take account of the function of the Internet as an economic space that enables innovation, fair competition and growth in a democratic context.

By framing this at the end of the preamble, it makes it appear that privacy and civil rights needs are obstacles to innovation, fair competition and growth, which is not the case, as the Global Privacy as Innovation Network has been clearly arguing for over 2 years.

A Declaration of Internet Rights is crucial to laying the constitutional foundation for supranational principles and rights.

First, there have been about 80 Internet Bill of Rights approved by various stakeholders, including national legislative bodies. Second, a “declaration of rights” can very well be just smoke in the eyes, if those rights are not defined clearly enough and meaningful democratic enforcement is also enacted. There are really no steps towards proper “Supranational principles and rights”, and related enforcement mechanism, except a number of nations bindingly agreeing to them, similarly to the process that lead to creation of the International Criminal Court.

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