- New York City, Barcelona and Amsterdam are the founding members of the Cities Coalition for Digital Rights, a commitment to develop policies and resources to protect citizens’ rights when using the internet, in line with the Charter for Human Rights and Principles for the Internet.
- The cities will work together on a set of shared policies: universal and equal access to the internet; privacy and data protection; transparency, accountability and non-discrimination; participatory democracy, diversity and inclusion; and open and ethical digital service standards.
- "Through digital technologies we can connect to everything and everyone across the world. At the same time we are discriminated by algorithms and locked into digital bubbles," Amsterdam Deputy Mayor Touria Meliani said in a statement. "The City of Amsterdam feels the responsibility to found this global cities movement, and demonstrate that cities lead the way in human centered innovation."
As more content and services move online, there’s increasing attention on how to protect privacy and data, and to ensure that all citizens are treated fairly by allegedly infallible algorithms and programs. The coalition says it is working from the idea that the rights humans have in the real world must also be protected in a digital society. It is leaning on principles laid out by the UN’s Internet Governance Forum, a multi-stakeholder forum that has met since 2006 to discuss emerging issues related to digital rights.
The founding members say they will recruit other cities to join the effort.
As smart cities gather more data from online platforms and smart sensors, the debate over digital rights is sure to accelerate. It’s already come to a head around Google offshoot Sidewalk Labs’ smart city test site in Toronto, which has drawn criticism for a lack of disclosure about how it would protect residents’ privacy and what private partners might have access. Project organizers last month proposed a third party handle data storage with public disclosures required for any company looking to access stored content.
Also at issue is how people will be treated as cities automate or turn over work to algorithms and artificial intelligence (AI). New York City has convened a task force under a bill meant to reduce algorithmic bias, and other cities and organizations are exploring similar ways to ensure fairness even as governments turn to AI to increase efficiency.