Sign the Digital Trade Statement
+++ Sign the statement below +++
We demand an immediate stop to the E-Commerce negotiations at WTO level and the Ability to Use Data for the Public Interest
In recent years chapters on “digital trade” and “e-commerce” have been introduced in bilateral and plurilateral trade negotiations worldwide. Although WTO rules do not allow for plurilateral negotiations, several WTO members have started them on E-Commerce in 2017. Ever since monthly meetings are taking place to push for an agreement of big-tech wishes. At MC12 in Geneva, its negotiations want to go one step further and include all WTO members in the process. These negotiations have been pushed by large corporations seeking to use trade agreements to legally entrench their monopolistic practices through access to and control of what has become the world’s most valuable resource, data.
But private corporations for private profit maximization must not control data. All countries and communities should have the right to use their data, as well as technology and digitalization generally, to foment industrialization, decent jobs, and for the general public interest, such as improving access to quality public services.
In addition, corporations are seeking to use digital trade negotiations to consolidate their damaging business model of avoiding regulation, exploiting labor, evading the payment of taxes (both corporate taxes and trade taxes or tariffs) and demonstrating a total lack of accountability to the communities from which they profit. Appropriate, democratic, and participatory internet governance, and rights to privacy, people’s economic rights to their data, and data protection, must not be subsumed to private commercial interests.
Current negotiations go far beyond e-commerce and would jeopardize our privacy and people’s economic rights to their data; exacerbate inequalities including through the digital divide; promote tax avoidance by digital corporations; decimate micro-, small-, and medium enterprises (MSMEs); cement monopolistic control of first-movers; make us less safe by proscribing appropriate oversight over source codes and algorithms; and forever abrogate policy space for digital industrialization.
We demand from the European governments to:
As a first step, stop the plurilateral negotiations on E-Commerce and not start multilateral negotiations on the matter.
Any further policy processes on digital trade and E-Commerce must be based on the following principles:
- Data subjects must own their data – individually and collectively
Citizens, workers and economic actors – from peasant farmers, to small economic actors – must be able to individually and collectively control their own data. These needs and rights over data must be recognized (data sovereignty). Data-creating work ought to come with data rights.
- We need rules, standards, and new institutions to control and to share our data as well as to protect it from abuse
Data should be processed close to the point of its origin. Digital standards must be developed by public interest bodies. This requires an open, inclusive, and participatory policy-making process from global-to-local levels that center on digital justice. Cross-border data flows must be decided nationally or in the case of the EU within the EU. We need collective legal protection against damages caused by unfair, discriminatory, and/or exploitative processing of data.
- Data commons need appropriate governance frameworks
Environmental, genetic, weather, agronomic, and other publicly-generated community data need to be governed by commons-based frameworks. This data needs to be free from enclosures or commercial exploitation.
- Key digital infrastructures need to be governed as public utilities
We need a pluralistic internet grounded in a constellation of translocal connections, open-source innovation, and diverse knowledge, countering the homogenizing Silicon Valley narrative. We should own our software and be able to control it. To govern the internet as a global public good, we need an independent, representative multilateral mechanism, backed by an international treaty.
- The digital has to be governed in a local-to-global manner
Indigenous peoples, local communities, farmers, fisherfolk, and social movements must participate in global-to-local digital policy processes. We also need to re-imagine the relationship between digital technology, society and nature. The core of digital social organisation must be southern epistemic traditions and feminist ethics rooted in socio-ecological wellbeing. We need data governance and regulation that takes into account racial, gender and other biases.
- Techno-structures need to be personal and public spaces and must be decentralised for open use, with interoperability
We need transnational alliances of practitioners engaged in collaborative and cooperative platform models. We also need a fair digital economic order that creates the enabling conditions for digital industrialization of the Global South. Digital innovation should be funded publicly.
- Global digital monopolies should be broken.
We need a Global Convention for Data and Cyberspace to dismantle the power of the Big Tech oligarchy and to promote peace, security, human rights, and global justice. We need regulations to rein in the runaway power of transnational digital corporations. This includes global digital taxation rules to prevent regime shopping by technology companies.
- Societies’ datafication needs to be managed democratically
This requires sovereignty and public interest based governance of digitalized infrastructures in food, health, finance, welfare, and other socio-economic sectors. We need institutionalized norms and principles for evaluating and determining the limits of data extractivism. AI policies that extend beyond the axes of accountability, non-discrimination, and privacy, must ensure equitable redistribution of the gains of data and digital intelligence.
- Adopt a Manifesto of Workers Digital Rights
- Worker’s voice
- Worker concerns and interests should always be at the heart of the development, application and implementation of AI at work.
- Everyone at work should have a say in deciding whether AI is introduced to make important decisions about people. There should be genuine and active consultation with unions and workers before new technologies are introduced.
- Employers and trade unions working together to put in place collective agreements on new technologies and data is the most effective way to ensure worker interests are respected.
- No unlawful discriminatory decisions should be made using technology. We know workers are suffering discrimination and other forms of unfairness resulting from use of AI at work. For example, there may be discriminatory outcomes when facial recognition technology has been trained on data comprising only white faces. Discrimination by algorithm must stop. There must also be equal access to AI at work for all, regardless of characteristics such as age or disability.
- Health and wellbeing
- No new technology should be introduced at work that has a negative impact on workers’ physical or mental health, or their safety.
- Work/home boundaries
- When implementing new technologies, employers should respect the importance of clear work/home life boundaries. Without these boundaries, work intrudes on private life. Workers report to us that they increasingly feel constantly scrutinised and monitored, which can lead to stress and ill-health.
- Human connection
- It is crucial to maintain some degree of human involvement in decision making at work. Without this, unfair decisions made by technology are more likely to go unchallenged and unquestioned. We also acknowledge the fundamental importance of human contact and interaction at work, and the value of human agency. Human beings should not feel they are subject to absolute technological control.
- Transparency and explainability
- It should be clear to people when technology is being used to make decisions about them at work. The way in which these decisions have been made must also be easy to explain and understand. And there should be enough information available to workers and job applicants about the technology to ensure they can trust it will operate fairly. Otherwise, it will be impossible for workers to challenge unfair and discriminatory decisions made by technology, or to know when inaccurate or misleading data has been used.
- Data awareness and control
- Workers should be educated about the value of personal data, how this is used by their employer, and how data is used to inform AI systems. They should also have control and influence over how their data is used. Data that is used in AI systems must be fair and accurate
- Data reciprocity
- Data equality and justice is a principle that all modern, forward-looking workplaces should support. There is an increasing public expectation of equal power and rights over data, and this should be reflected in the workplace. As employers collect and use worker data, workers should have a reciprocal right to collect and use their own data. Trade unions are uniquely placed to help workers and employers redress the imbalance of power over data at work.
- Education and communication
- We all need to help educate each other about technology, artificial intelligence, algorithms, machine learning and the power of data, and equip ourselves with the language to communicate about this. When we all understand these terms and can communicate effectively about technology, we will be a significant step closer to solving the problems associated with it.