You've been a subscriber of EDRi-gram for some time, but we have recently realised that we've never given you an overview about who we are and what we do. Of course, you may check the details on the website, but an overall picture never hurts.
European Digital Rights, EDRi, is a European not for profit, non-governmental digital rights organisation which values international cooperation. EDRi was founded in 2002 by 10 organisations (only NGOs may be members) from 7 European countries. Since then EDRi membership has grown constantly in numbers. Currently 29 organisations have EDRi membership. They are based or have offices in 18 different countries in Europe. In addition 17 observers participate in the organisation' mailing lists and activities. We always think Europe in terms of the Council of Europe territory - so not just European Union member states.
EDRi was set up, because our national activities were not enough anymore. A presence at the European and international level is needed for the civil society if we want to make a difference. EDRi's objectives are to promote, protect and uphold fundamental human rights and freedoms in the digital environment. What do we mean by that? For example: Freedom of expression, privacy and personal data protection, or access to knowledge. To this end we strive to monitor, report and provide education about threats to civil rights in the field of information and communication technology. One of our recent awareness raising tools is for example the comic book “Under Surveillance” which we developed together with our international partners in a project funded by the European Union. Another example is our bi-weekly newsletter EDRi-gram, which just concluded its 8th year of high quality reports on digital rights in Europe.
We conduct policy research and offer the results to the public and to national and international bodies. Recent examples for these are our contributions to the European Commission's expert groups on RFID and on the Internet of Things, our responses to the European Commission and Council of Europe (CoE) consultations and our work as observers to CoE working groups. Furthermore, EDRi and its members engage in advocacy at a national and international level by making representations to bodies such as the European Union, the Council of Europe, the OECD (EDRi was instrumental in CSISAC formation and recognition by OECD, and the writing of the CS Seoul Declaration in 2008, whose endorsement is a requirement for CSISAC membership), WIPO and the United Nations and organising and participating in conferences and other public events. EDRi serves also as a platform for cooperation and common activities and combines the influence, experience, knowledge, and research of the members. EDRi's activities are consequently mainly driven and carried out by its members' representatives in addition to their national activities. We are also constantly looking for new members, NGOs from Europe or especially active at the European level, that work in the field of digital civil rights and want to be involved and share their experiences.
Starting from September 2009 EDRi was able to win Joe McNamee as its Advocacy Coordinator and establish a Brussels office. This important development is made possible by a grant from Open Society Institute and additional financial contributions of EDRi members. Following the experience of the past year, we believe it is a big advantage for EDRi's work to ensure a full time presence in Brussels and to maintain direct contacts with the European Institutions on a regular basis. Not only for EDRi, but for anyone who believes in freedom of expression, the rule of law, privacy or access to knowledge. Therefore it is now very important to use this unique opportunity to build a sustainable representation in Brussels. Consequently, individual support is very important to us, to show us that you are interested too in your digital rights. This could be a kind word for our work, a critique or even a donation. See your options to support EDRi in the dedicated article at the end of this issue of EDRi-gram. For a better overall picture we have prepared a bi-annual report for 2009 and 2010 that also includes some basic financial figures for the past 2 years.
The EDRi Brussels office is the main link between the association and the political institutions of the European Union - the European Parliament, European Commission and the Council of the European Union. As an office representing 29 organisations from 18 countries, EDRi Brussels must follow the development of legislative and non-legislative initiatives in the institutions and provide timely feedback to its members and observers. EDRi also acts as an essential civil society actor for the European institutions. This month alone, we have participated in the European Commission's consultation on extra-judicial takedown of allegedly illegal websites and the consultation on online behavioural advertising. We also spoke at Commissioner Reding's high-level meeting on the review of the 1995 Data Protection Directive and at the Privacy Platform meeting in the European Parliament.
In addition to formal consultation meetings in the institutions, EDRi also has an ongoing programme of meetings with officials and parliamentarians in the EU institutions. In the course of the last twelve months, we have met with officials from several national representations to the Council, parliamentarians and officials from all main political groups in the European Parliament, Commissioner Kroes and the private offices of Commissioners Reding and Malmström and participated in the meeting between international fundamental rights experts, the Swedish government and the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression. A further part of the work of EDRi Brussels is also providing written responses to consultations. More information on this may be found in the EDRi report for the past 2 years.
It is also important for EDRi to spread its message more broadly in Brussels. As a result, we regularly accept invitations to speak at industry events such as the Telecommunications and Media Forum and academic events such as the Wikileaks seminar at Facultés universitaires Saint-Louis. The workload of the EDRi office in Brussels is going to greatly increase over the coming months and years due to the initiatives detailed in the EU's Digital Agenda and Stockholm Programme. There are some examples of upcoming legislation of major importance to digital rights that have been or will shortly be launched on an EU-level:
EDRi's Brussels Office currently has one paid staff member.
The first newsletter of EDRi-gram was published on 29 January 2003. Then we were talking about the EC copyright directive, data retention, software patents or governmental censorship on websites in Germany. The Whistleblowers were the Time's Person of the Year announced in December 2002. The number of Internet users was approx 600 million in January 2003. The most popular search keyword in 2003 was KaZaa. The top US Internet company in the same year was Time Warner with its AOL and almost everyone used Internet Explorer as a browser.
Eight years later there are probably 2 000 million Internet users worldwide. We have Facebook with 550 million registered users and its owner has been recently named Time's Person of the Year. (preferred by Time's editor to the Whistleblowers' facilitator ranked #1 by Time's readers!). We see Google' services everywhere and Firefox as the most used browser. And the challenges for the digital rights seem to have increased in the past years. Data retention is now a directive obligatory for EU member states. The IPRED directive has increased the enforcement of copyright in the digital world. Censorship in the form of Internet blocking might become a reality in February 2011 all over Europe.
We wrote about all these old and new threats to digital civil rights in the past 8 years. We've covered news and opinions on digital civil rights from European Union institutions, international organizations (Council of Europe, WIPO, OECD, Internet Governance Forum etc.) and almost all European countries. But we couldn't have done it all though without Sjoera Nas, who was the initiator and the editor of EDRi-gram in the first 3 years, without OSI, who has been constantly supporting our work, without all the authors that have contributed with their articles to the newsletter or all other persons that have just pointed to national and international subjects that we shouldn't miss. This is also a reminder for everyone that we are welcoming articles, tips and events for the EDRi-gram. We hope to have a big support also in the future.
And, of course, now you are one of the over 5 800 subscribers that are receiving its latest issue. So we just thought it would be a good time to THANK YOU as well for reading us!