“Our digital rights are the basis for everything we do.”
In January 2019, Bits of Freedom awarded Kirsten Fiedler, former Managing Director of European Digital Rights, the Felipe Rodriquez Award. We give this award annually to someone who has had a positive impact on our right to privacy. This week we are celebrating rebels, so we thought it fitting to share Kirsten\'s acceptance speech with you. Scroll down for the video.
Kirsten Fiedler: \`European Digital Rights has been fighting for over 15 years to defend digital human rights at the EU-level. We have been involved in many struggles and have won some major battles – like getting strong new European data protection rules adopted, getting EU-wide Net neutrality protections, and convincing Parliamentarians to reject mandatory internet filters back in 2011.
I’m very grateful that, with the Felipe Rogriquez Award award, Bits of Freedom recognizes the work done behind the scenes. The award recognises the supporting role played by our office managers, fundraisers, community & communications people, interns, and volunteers. Therefore, I would like to accept the award on behalf of the entire EDRi team and network, especially all those who are rarely mentioned or credited publicly.
Our society nurtures a pretty individualistic culture and sustains the idea that success is due to one person, one hero (often a white male). I believe that this is why it is even more important to give credit to the collective. There are many people at EDRi and in our network who surrendered for many years to an ideal that is bigger than them. Not in order to boost their ego, or because they can look forward to some public fame and glory. They work hard, often for much less than what they would get paid in the private sector, because they believe in our cause. Many activists have worked tirelessly all these years to grow EDRi and to make the European defense of our rights and freedoms sustainable.
I cannot stress enough how important it is to make our cause sustainable, both financially and in terms of human resources. Legislative proposals often take years and years until they get adopted. Long-term efforts are therefore essential, not only at a European level but in every single member state. Even more so because we’re often up against tens of thousands of industry lobbyists – and I’m not exaggerating – who have vastly more resources.
Data collection and exploitation in our most intimate spaces and in the public spaces will bring corporate and state surveillance to an unprecedented scale.
Crucial times lie ahead and digital rights NGO’s need your support.
Despite massive protests, the European Parliament just adopted a proposal that introduces so-called upload filters, and there is another proposal on the table featuring an even worse obligation. These proposals force Internet services to install automated surveillance and censorship tools.
Algorithms would be given the power to decide what can be expressed online and what not, without any human involvement. This poses serious risks to our democracies. It is not too late to get involved. We should remember that we did win battles in the past even though the odds seemed against us or other side seemed bigger or more powerful than us.
Another looming issue is how we deal with an increasing number of “smart devices”, with smart homes and smart cities. Data collection and exploitation in our most intimate spaces and in the public spaces will bring corporate and state surveillance to an unprecedented scale. This has real consequences for our democracies as dissent and protest will become more difficult.
Our digital rights are the basis for everything we do.
Maybe you\'ve asked yourself why we should defend digital rights and freedoms when there are really pressing and often life-threatening issues out there to fight for, like clean oceans, social justice, global warming, migrants rights, LGBTQI rights, gender equality… and so on.
The reason is that the internet and digital communications have seeped into every part of our lives, making our digital rights the basis for everything we do.
The work of civil society in many sectors relies on digital rights organisations, like Bits of Freedom here in the Netherlands. To ensure that basic rights are guaranteed when we use digital communications. Because if we lose our right to privacy, our right to freedom of information and of expression, we will lose all the other fights too.
Our strength is in collective, collaborative action in order to continue building a resilient and effective movement to protect, promote and uphold human rights.
I believe that we can and we will succeed in protecting human rights online. Our cause is slowly becoming more mainstream, people’s awareness is growing, slowly but steadily.
In these difficult times for democracy and the rule of law, we need to cultivate kindness towards each other. We will not win the end-game by going separate ways. Our strength is in collective, collaborative action in order to continue building a resilient and effective movement to protect, promote and uphold human rights.
Don’t wait. You can start right now. Every single contribution counts.\`
This is a lightly edited version of the speech Kirsten Fiedler gave at the Big Brother Awards 2018 on January 22nd, 2019.