Digi Rights: Applying fundamental Human Rights to the Digital Realm

I just bumped into this article by Gerd Leonhard and thought it would be nice to have a discussion on human rights and how they are affected by tech…


Should human rights jurisprudence be updated to take tech into account? Or does it already? Opinions welcome!

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Original title: Should we officially amend the Human Rights charter to account for tech?

I just bumped into this article by Gerd Leonhard and thought it would be nice to have a discussion on human rights and how they are affected by tech…


To summarize the article… these are the rights proposed by Gerd Leonhard:

  1. The right to remain natural, i.e. ‘merely’ biological and organic.

  2. The right to be inefficient if, when and where it defines our basic humanness.

  3. The right to disconnect. We must retain the right to switch off connectivity, to “go dark” on the network.

  4. The right to be, or remain anonymous.

  5. The right to employ or engage people instead of machines.

Should human rights jurisprudence be updated to take tech into account? Or does it already? Opinions welcome!


Thank you for bringing this article to wider attention. I hadn’t even considered the need for numbers 1 and 2.
These bring up some interesting topic of conversation and which may be a bit too long for me to post, though I will bring this up in conversation with some colleagues.

I will say that we absolutely need some sort of laws and these seem very well thought out, I agree with them so far as I consider them now.

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I would add that we need the right to not be duplicated, that is, to have no false identities created using our name, personal data, and other information about us. These identities cannot exist on social media or anywhere else.


That’s a good point @patm, though it may need some reformulation…

Your statement consists of 2 parts: duplification and falsification. Anyone that is collecting personal data about you is effectively duplicating, creating a shadow identity about you. That’s one thing…

Now, if someone decides to abuse that collected information in any way or form, in ways that you don’t agree with, then you should have the right to take back control over it and stop the nefarious use of the data.

IMO the control over shadow identities/profiles is a human rights issue, while the abuse of data is a jurisprudential one. You should be able to enforce the law to stop the abuse.

So maybe it should be formulated something like this:

6. The right to have full control of your digital persona in all its forms.

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Excellent; you are right, as usual :slight_smile:

I think that further than rights mentioned, just to established the idea of “Rights of the user” is a great stuff to consider.

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Yes yes yes!!! I totally agree here- this can be included in the education tech rights list. @Mamie


Thanks for re-opening this conversation, @healthyswimmer!

Reading this with a bias towards action. :slight_smile:

@aschrijver are you suggesting that we amend the Universal Declaration of Human Rights charter of the United Nations? If so, I’d move this to our “advocacy” category on this forum and make sure key members of the CHT see it.

Or is this about adapting and spreading Gerd Leonhard’s “digital ethics manifesto” to a broader audience?

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Thank you @Mamie,

No, this is more about the former than the latter. The fundamental human rights :slight_smile:

To Advocacy I’d say…

This article from Nautilus is very interesting and relevant to the topic of this post too:

It is about the fundamental human right to be ignorant about information that is known about you:

The 1997 European Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine, for example, states that “Everyone is entitled to know any information collected about his or her health. However, the wishes of individuals not to be so informed shall be observed.”
Similarly, the 1995 World Medical Association’s Declaration on the Rights of the Patient states that “the patient has the right not to be informed [of medical data] on his/her explicit request, unless required for the protection of another person’s life.”

With the advent of AI and its possible exploitation by about anyone that has large amounts of data on you, this right is now in danger.

Thank you @aschrijver for bringing this up.

Is there anyone that is looking into how we can make this clearer for compliance? Are we developing standards and guidelines for future organizations based on these principles? I am working with start-ups to integrate Digital Wellbeing and Ethics into their strategic thinking and development. What is lacking is a clear set of guidelines or checklist for compliance. I have been working on one, but if others are as well, would love to collaborate.

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Hi @ForbesOste!

Love your podcasts. You are deep into humane tech fields :slight_smile:

This topic is among the many ideas that sprouted on the forum that is awaiting a follow-up. I have limited time to volunteer to CHT, but I am working on creating additional tools with which we can easily start projects and cooperate on initiatives and ideas that arise here.

All work will be in the public domain, under Creative Commons license, or similar open-source license where appropriate. All projects will be crowdsourced, and participation and contributions more than welcome. Contributors will be properly attributed.

I would be happy to work with you on getting this initiative from the ground, if you are open to that. Digital Wellbeing and Ethics is a good name. It also has a nice acronym: Digi WE

I think amending the Human Rights charter is a far off goal, something on the horizon maybe. A more practical start would be to have a Manifesto and an accompanying Checklist.
The manifesto would be a flat page, with the ability to sign it, and the checklist could be more dynamic (but starts as a flat page too).

I found the transcript of the presentation below via Pearl Harbor to 9-11 to the Panopticon, which describes how traumatic events, together with high-tech social media and ad-tech can lead to a surveillance state (and has some good links to other articles). It mentions this presentation:

What Happens Next Will Amaze You

The presentation ends with an explanation of 6 ‘Fixes’ that should help protect us, that are relevant to this topic:

  1. Right To Download
  2. Right To Delete
  3. Limits on Behavioral Data Collection
  4. Right to Go Offline
  5. Ban on Third-Party Advertising
  6. Privacy Promises

This declaration is interesting, asking for participation at the municipality level:

Cities for Digital Rights Declaration

cities for digital rights

The same Human Rights that people have offline must also be protected online. We ask our city councils to join the coalition for digital rights and protect my rights.

  1. Universal and equal access to the internet, and digital literacy

  2. Privacy, data protection and security

  3. Transparency, accountability, and non-discrimination of data, content and algorithms

  4. Participatory Democracy, diversity and inclusion

  5. Open and ethical digital service standards

This is a continuation of the Human Rights discussion in this topic:

Probably most uses are implicit references to the concept we share about what ‘human rights’ mean, rather than explicit references to the declaration, but it depends on context. At least in Digi Rights: Applying fundamental Human Rights to the Digital Realm the declaration is explicitly the target of the discussion.

Sure. It must be applied to have any meaning. And it has been applied on countless occasions. It has also been violated numerous times, as we all know, and continues to be violated by people and parties all around the world.

I wonder why you have written the response like this. Are you implying that it is a useless exercise to have the declaration? Or that there is another, better way to ensure human rights are universally known. A way that makes application and adherence easier to enforce?

@Free and @Naro, maybe you would be interested to provide more input to the ideas outlined in this thread, and maybe even participate in giving them hands and feet?

Though @Free’s comment is a bit of an over-generalization IMHO, I agree with @Free that Human Rights are giving insufficient handholds for how to behave in the digital realm.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights may have sufficient coverage in its Articles to not require new ones, but an amendment / clarification in the form of an additional document may be in order.

Now, I know it sounds like an overwhelming task for our small community to take on this work, but there are interesting steps we can take to raise awareness to the issue (and secondarily attract much attention to Humane Tech and the community itself):

  • We can create a website displaying the ‘Declaration of Human Digital Rights’ (or similar title)

    • The draft text is crowdsourced, versioned and continuously improved in the public domain
    • The text resides in a Github repository as a simple Markdown document
    • The website is a sub-domain of the community website, e.g. declaration.humanetech.community
  • The site allows people and organizations to sign (the latest version of) the declaration

    • Signatories provide full name, email (private, for validation only), and optional occupation + profile link
    • The list of signatories is public and can be navigated
    • Optionally people can leave a remark, and we show a curated list of the most interesting ones
    • Organizations are encourage to leave an official position statement, which we’ll use in promotion
  • We create an Awareness Campaign Theme and campaigns for the promotion of the declaration text

    • We’ll use our social media channels in a continuous manner to attract attention
    • We’ll approach and involve human rights experts, respectable sources and influencers directly
    • We’ll write, publish, promote blog posts and articles on the subject matter and report on news in the field
    • Any Campaigner and member can join the effort, initiate own campaigns and create deliverables
  • When prior activities gain traction we’ll start running Advocacy projects, organize public / political pressure

    • We could start creating a global petition to adopt the declaration officially (maybe using avaaz.org)
    • We’ll involve the CHT core team who have direct connections to many world leaders and big tech board levels


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Regarding @aschrijver’s Declaration of rights idea, yes good idea! The Declaration could be about better enforcing rights through new laws, but stating it as a Declaration is effective from a marketing perspective. In addition there could be follow-ups to get people involved as activists.

According to the New Zealand Human Rights Commission’s Privacy, Data and Technology: Human Rights Challenges in the Digital Age, published in May 2018:

“the UN General Assembly and UN Human Rights Council resolutions on the right to privacy in the digital age has called for Governments [sic] to:”

  • “Develop or maintain legislation, preventive measures and remedies addressing harm from the sale or multiple resale or other corporate sharing of personal data without the individual’s free, explicit and informed consent.”

  • “Inform users of the collection, use, sharing and retention of data about them.”

This is according to the 19 December 2016 UN General Assembly Resolution on the Right to Privacy in the Digital Age, A/RES/71/199, Resolution 34/7.

Given the UN Resolution and that the UN Human Rights charter of 1948 already mentions privacy, I would say no we do not need to officially amend the charter to account for tech.

However perhaps we could ensure governments are actually making progress to enacting this UN Resolution by creating new human rights laws. I think right now there are few new laws that have arisen out of the UN Resolution. As we have seen, laws such as the European Union’s GDPR and California’s initiatives do not seem to be in the right spirit for actually fixing the largest privacy issues.

The Resolution is open to broad interpretation especially “individual’s free, explicit and informed consent”. Any reasonable person would say that what is going on now is not informed consent. Clicking on a button that says “continue” or “agree and continue” which strips you of all human privacy rights in my opinion is not informed consent, especially when there are no other options given. This is where GDPR fails.

What I would suggest that we need is a law where ANY use of non-anonymised personal information by a company must be explicit (yes / no), with the no option being as at least as easy to select as the yes option, and no always as the default option. This should be for each type of information before it is collected. Selecting no should not affect a person’s ability to use the service at all. For example:

“Can we store your name, email, IP address, geolocation, and page history?”

  • name yes / NO
  • email yes / NO
  • IP address yes / NO
  • geolocation yes / NO
  • page history yes / NO

“Can we share this information with our affiliated companies?”

  • yes / NO

“Can we share this information with third parties?”

  • yes / NO

In order to allow companies to continue making revenues at least 90% of what they made before, we could allow them to collect anonymised information (based on anonymous random ids such as cookies – but device and app ids, browser fingerprints or IP addresses should not be permitted as these are ‘identifiable’) about users and their behaviour without any prior consent at all (easier than GDPR or stupid EU Cookie Law), only under the conditions that information is kept temporarily (say no more than 90 days), never transferred or sold to third parties, and that anonymised information can never ever be combined with any identifiable information.

In addition, companies should be required to ask us say every year or so if we would like them to still keep identifiable personal information about us.
“We’re currently have all of the following information about you: x, x, x… Please reply yes within 180 days for each of these, otherwise they will each be deleted in accordance with criminal law. If we fail to delete information about you after this time we agree that we will be sent to prison as felons.”


Wow, wonderful information @Free, thank you! That New Zealand PDF is a beauty!

I agree. There is enough in the original charter to cover human rights universally. There just needs to be interpretation of these for the digital world to discover - as you say - “the right spirit”, the unclarities and hiatuses to applying them in this realm.

Privacy is the most important aspect where we need fixes, but it is not the only one, as the other aspects mentioned in this thread show.

Regarding “creating law”, I think that may be an overreach of our community abilities, but we can do the crowdsourcing of the important focus points (the topics that must be addressed in law) and facilitate fertile discussions and cooperations among lawmakers, experts, lobbyists and influencers that can make them reality. After that they then follow-up in their their own government bodies, committees, foundations and what-have-you. So we act only as the ‘data-input and communication medium’ - the pollinator if you will.

All of that can happen on top of the project I outlined above - once that is started. And I agree that it will function mostly an effective marketing tool. A lure for the right people to get involved.

The examples you give regarding data collection are just one of many law improvements that are sorely needed. Great examples, BTW. We could create and collect these as a kind of crowdsourced recipes of how we think things should work, and have them be the triggers of the relevant discussions and follow-up.

I can facilitate this idea further, by creating a Github project for it, and creating Theme and Campaign proposal issues in our Awareness Program. Also I could create an Advocacy team within this forum, similar to Campaigners team (which has 26 members currently).

But this would only be useful if there are other members who want to help pushing this forward. As communiity facilitator my main priorities are in community building (i.e. the Aware Prepare and Eventful campaigns).

So, if you are interested to become an ‘Digital Human Rights Declaration’ activist, please give a shout on this thread :slight_smile:

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There are a lot of very interesting organizations to connect to, in the realm of Digital Rights. As part of the project we should build a comprehensive, curated list of these.

For instance, via Twitter I just reached out to the Digital Freedom Fund (who are active in Europe) and added a number of others to following (PS. the DFF has a nice blog on this subject).