Ground Rules for a Sustainable Digitalization

(1)  Digitalization must serve the common good within the planetary boundaries. Therefore, it can only be sustainable if it is decoupled from the exploitation of people and planet, and does not further promote deregulation and privatization, or the growth of a few all-powerful state and corporate monopolies. In order to be truly relevant for all, digitalization has to be based in global democratic discourse. Along with this comes the fundamental understanding that digitalization is not something completely new per se, or a break in our social, economic and political lives, but follows trends that have been ongoing for decades.

(2)  In any case, technical advancements have to serve humanity and be embedded in the protection of fundamental and human rights, rule of law and democratic principles. This is very much the case for the digital world as well. Governments and private actors have to be hold accountable to this.

(3)  Digital technologies can be tools for massive surveillance, with the power to silence free speech and freedom of information. They are also the basis for an ever growing business model. The control of data has to lie with people providing the data. Governments and international or regional institutions, such as the EU, have a responsibility to protect the rights, privacy, self-determination and autonomy of its citizens and ensure a free basic democratic order. Governments and corporations must follow the maxime of data minimization. Governments have to prosecute offences against data privacy violations by commercial enterprises and government intuitions. Data-driven business models need to be regulated.

(4)  Even in a tech- and algorithm-based world, responsibilities of decisions must always lie with and be controlled by humans. In order to ensure sovereignty of decisions and self-determination of individuals we need to have transparency on commercially and state-run technology, and especially on algorithms. We need public discussion on what happens once algorithms excel human comprehension both in ethical and legal terms as well as in terms of responsibilities of governments and private entities.

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