Privacy Advisor

The Campaign for a Universal Declaration of Digital Rights

August 27, 2013

By Angelique Carson, CIPP/US

While Dele Atanda may seem like a consumer advocate these days, his roots run deep in industry. For nearly two decades, he worked for multinational corporations, helping to build digital marketing systems.

Within the last five years, however, he moved on to working in online personal identity management. It was work that would soon indicate to him a global need for something better when it comes to managing digitized personal data online.

These days, he’s aiming to start a political movement.

Atanda this year founded Digitterra, a nonprofit based in the U.S. and UK, aiming to help protect digital human rights. Digitterra’s UDDR Campaign, launched this past July 4, aims to author a Universal Declaration of Digital Rights and have it ratified by the United Nations.

Dele Atanda

Atanda recognized the need for such human rights while researching a book he was writing on the evolution of the internet and during another entrepreneurial pursuit with his team at Digitterra.

“We kicked around the idea of how we could start up a personalized information-pooling agent where we’d go out and get information and where we’d create a personalized experience,” Atanda said. “We realized not only were there several people trying to do that, but that what was really missing was a mechanism through which people would be able to control who would really have access to their data.”

Digitterra has outlined three steps it sees as instrumental to moving its UDDR campaign forward, the first being to crowdfund and build a platform to develop the declaration with the input of privacy and human rights experts globally. Second, it plans to hold a Digital Rights Festival in the U.S. and Europe as part of the UN’s human rights day, on December 10. And third, it plans to launch an international campaign aimed toward getting signatures on its petition by the end of 2014.

Specifically, the campaign aims to gather over a million signatures globally with at least 100,000 signatures from citizens of the U.S. and 100,000 from the UK with the hopes of forcing congressional and parliamentary debates through both the U.S. and UK.  

 “It’s really a World Wild West at the moment. No one knows what is good and what is bad,” Atanda said. “If data is the oil of the 21st century, then what we’re trying to do is create a clean data ecosystem analogous to clean energy.”

The key charter of that system would be consent. And while that’s a thought that generally has industry shaking in their proverbial boots, Atanda said there’s great benefit commercially.

“It’s actually a win-win,” he said, “because what we do is create a richer data pool, a more relevant data pool where people are able to declare and promote their interests.”

But why not simply rely on Do Not Track, should it ever get up off the ground, to allow consumer choice?

“I think it ultimately fails because complete opting out is not what people want. It doesn’t deliver the richness, the personalization and the relevant services people seek from the Internet,” Atanda said. “So mandatory opt out and complete opt in are both failed solutions.”

The major obstacle Atanda sees when it comes to accomplishing his goal is getting his message heard. But it doesn’t seem to scare him.

“Digital Rights are inevitable,” he said. “It may take three years, and it may take 30 years, but effectively, this idea will eventually become recognized universally and become law, and for us, it’s about starting it and keeping momentum involved underneath it.”

Atanda asks anyone interested in becoming involved in the campaign to visit www.uddr.org.

Read More by Angelique Carson:
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