Artificial intelligence and ‘pseudonymity’: the Government presents the first version of the Digital Rights Charter

M. Victoria S. Nadal
November 17, 2020

Originally published in Spanish in El País

The Secretary of State shared the document with the public so that citizens could make contributions that will be considered in the final drafting of the Charter

The Government has presented a first version of the Digital Rights Charter this Tuesday, which is a document that includes a list of rights related to life in the digital world. "The goal is to transfer the rights that we already have in the analog world into the digital world and to be able to add some new ones, such as those related to the impact of artificial intelligence and neurotechnology", explained Carme Artigas, Secretary of State for Digitization and Artificial Intelligence, who presented the document this afternoon.

On June 15, the drafting process began by a group of experts in the fields of digital rights and internet rights. The text was opened for public consultation this Tuesday so that citizens could make contributions, which will be taken into account for the final drafting of the text, scheduled for December 4. The Digital Rights Charter will thus become the first document nationwide that allows the contribution of the public.

The text does not have a direct normative character, but rather it aims to define what rights must be taken into account when developing laws related to the digital environment. "This charter is a reference to define what rights we want to preserve, how this will be guaranteed, and under what legal framework," explained Artigas.

These are some of the most prominent issues that the Digital Rights Charter includes:

Right to pseudonymity. The Charter maintains that digital environments must allow "access under conditions of pseudonymity." This means that users should have the right to use a pseudonym if they do not want to provide their first and last names. This, in addition, must ensure "the possibility of re-identifying" people "in the cases and with the guarantees provided by the legal system."

Right to not be located and profiled. The document protects the right to free individual self-determination and the guarantee of freedom. In addition, it must include "the right to neither be traced, nor to be subjected to analysis of personality or behavior that involves creating a profile of the person." The only way this could occur would be if the affected person gave their consent or that it be done under the conditions provided by law.

Right to digital inheritance. The text recognizes the right to inherit all digital assets and rights that belong to the deceased person. Access to the content and services owned by the deceased person will be granted in accordance with the general rules of the Civil Code and the laws of the Autonomous Communities.

Protection of minors in the digital environment. It will be the responsibility of the parents or guardians that minors make a "balanced and responsible use of devices, digital environments, and information society services", in order to "guarantee an adequate development of their personality and preservation of their dignity and fundamental rights.” The processing of information of minors aimed at establishing personality profiles in digital environments and practices that may manipulate, disturb, or advertise the will of minors, are forbidden.

Right to Internet neutrality. Public authorities must guarantee the right to users to Internet neutrality, the Charter states. For this, providers must propose "a transparent set of services without discrimination for economic or technical reasons.”

Freedom of expression and freedom of information. The Charter ensures citizens the right to freedom of expression and information in digital environments in the terms provided by the Constitution. This chapter refers to those in the media and those "in digital environments.” They must ensure that users know "when information is processed by automated processes,” "when information has been classified or prioritized by the provider through profiling techniques or an equivalent,” and “when this information has been sponsored by a third party.”

It also includes the right to not have “analysis techniques” that share information that affects “ideological or religious freedom” and “the right to exercise rectification.”

Users will also have the obligation to request the media to include a sufficiently visible update notice next to the news that concerns them when the information contained in the news does not reflect their current situation due to circumstances that took place after publication.

Rights in the workplace. In the workplace, the Charter guarantees workers and public employees a “digital disconnection” and the protection of their privacy against digital devices made available to them by their employer. In addition, it protects them against video surveillance, recording devices, and geolocation systems.

"When the nature of the job and the capacities of the organization allow it, access to online work will be granted," the Charter states. In this case, the ordering of the labor provision will be developed “with full respect for the dignity of the worker, guaranteeing his/he personal privacy, the privacy of their home and of the people who reside in it and the right to a balanced personal and family life.”

Rights in the use of Artificial Intelligence. The Charter guarantees the right that no citizen is discriminated against for decisions based on algorithms and maintains that “transparency, auditability, explicability and traceability” will be ensured. It also adds that people have the right to not be the subject to a decision based solely on automated decision processes, thus recognizing the right to "request human supervision and intervention and challenge automated or algorithmic decisions." The text recognizes that citizens must be explicitly informed when they are talking to an AI system and that assistance from a human being must be guaranteed if the person were to request it.

Rights in the use of neurotechnologies. The use of neurotechnologies will be regulated by the law with the goal of preserving the individual’s identity, guaranteeing autodetermination and decision making freedom and assuring confidentiality and security of mental data. Decisions based on these technologies will not be conditioned by digital programs.

The use of neurotechnologies for cognitive enhancement or enhancement of mental capacities will also be regulated "to guarantee the dignity, equality and non-discrimination" of citizens.

Translated by Paloma Rodríguez Páramo