By Andrew Scott
On April 28, 2022, the United States with 60-plus partners from around the globe launched The Declaration for the Future of the Internet. This Declaration sets out the vision and principles of a trusted Internet.
The 60-plus partners that signed the Declaration made a political commitment to “support a future for the Internet that is an open, free, global, interoperable, reliable, and secure.” In the White House Fact Sheet, the US stated the Declaration reaffirms and recommits its partners to fostering privacy.
The Declaration recognizes that “people have legitimate concerns about their privacy and the quantity and security of personal data collected and stored online.” As such, the Declaration indicates that its partners intend to work toward an environment that secures and protects individuals’ privacy.
In its vision, the Declaration aspires to have an internet that “is developed, governed,
and deployed in an inclusive way so that unserved and underserved communities, particularly those coming online for the first time, can navigate it safely and with personal data privacy and protections in place…” Moreover, the Declaration states that “[d]igital technologies should be produced, used, and governed in ways that enable trustworthy, free, and fair commerce; avoid unfair discrimination between, and ensure effective choice for, individual users; foster fair competition and encourage innovation; promote and protect human rights.”
The principles stated in the Declaration are not legally binding; however, the principles should be used “as a reference for public policy makers, as well as citizens, businesses, and civil society organizations.” The principles include commitments to the following:
• Protect human rights and fundamental freedoms of all people;
• Promote a global Internet that advances the free flow of information;
• Advance inclusive and affordable connectivity so that all people can benefit from the digital economy;
• Promote trust in the global digital ecosystem, including through protection of privacy; and
• Protect and strengthen the multistakeholder approach to governance that keeps the Internet running for the benefit of all.
What global privacy needs, ultimately, is a multilateral solution. While this Declaration does not provide a robust framework that can be embedded into a legal system, there does appear to be a vision and a set of principles that could lay the groundwork for countries, including the United States, to work more cooperatively with industry, academia, and other global stakeholders.
Interestingly, the US signing this Declaration shows another recent “commitment to protecting and respecting human rights online and across the digital ecosystem.” (see United States and European Commission Joint Statement on Trans-Atlantic Data Privacy Framework, see Executive Order on Ensuring on Ensuring Responsible Development of Digital Assets).
Of note, the following countries endorsed the Declaration: Albania, Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cabo Verde, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Estonia, the European Commission, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Kosovo, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Maldives, Malta, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Moldova, Montenegro, Netherlands, New Zealand, Niger, North Macedonia, Palau, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, Trinidad and Tobago, the United Kingdom, Ukraine, and Uruguay.