Andreas Broeckmann on Sat, 27 May 2000 21:08:23 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> CECUA NewsFlash 9 - Conf. of European Computer Users Ass.

From: "Stuart Goold" <>
Date: Sat, 27 May 2000 11:08:44 +0100

Dear Colleague,

I am writing to you as the Secretary General of CECUA and attach one of
the latest NewsFlashes for your information which I hope will be of

CECUA, the Confederation of European Computer User Associations has been
representing computer users in over 11 European Member States for over
twenty years. CECUA is very active in promoting the interests and views of
users within Europe to the European Commission and other European

Citizenship and consumerism - what's it to you? 

With the rapid development of the Internet, governments, commercial
organisations, lobbying bodies etc. etc. have quickly realised the huge
potential of the Internet. It provides cheap and fast communication at a
global level which is unprecedented in the history of mankind. 
Unfortunately, the Internet also has attracted hackers, credit card
fraudsters, criminals, malicious parties etc. 

Fears and Concerns

CECUA has published a draft Bill of Rights for Citizens in the Global
Information Society. This was produced to address the fears and concerns
raised by delegates at the 1998 Brussels Conference. (see ). This Conference and the subsequent draft
Bill of Rights has proved to have been the starting point in addressing
these concerns and fears.  There are currently two major initiatives, the
proposed Charter for Consumers by Madame Bonino (ex Commissioner for DG
XXIV) and the adoption of a Charter for Citizens and Consumers in the
Information Society as one of the main activities of the Information
Society Forum (See "A European Way for the Information Society" which will
shortly be published as a report and on ). (The Information Society
Forum is an advisory body to the Commission set up by the Council of
Europe.  The Secretary General of CECUA is a member of this organisation). 

Is Protection for the consumer enough? 

There can be no doubt that many citizens' concerns focus on consumer
issues and that increasingly robust consumer legislation and global
enforcement is essential to preserve confidence by the general public. It
only by ensuring that transactions are secure and consumers privacy is
protected that global eCommerce will thrive and expand. Interested
partners in eCommerce, dominated by suppliers and government, are now
working to provide suitable technical and legal frameworks. 

However, consumer protection does not (and cannot) go far enough. The
essence of consumer legislation is that it focuses on the contract between
the supplier and the buyer.  There are many issues of concern citizens
which are outside this relationship, such as privacy, criminal activity,
malicious acts, hackers etc. These are issues of a social and political
nature that only governments can address and police, by analogy a
“contract” between citizens and the state. 

Take, for example, the example of privacy. Have you heard about "cookies"? 
Do you know what they are and what can be done with them? Well they are
small programmes which are loaded by third parties on your computer. They
are usually useful and harmless. But not always. They can remember your
password every time you log into a restricted service over the Internet,
so you don't have to type it in every time. Useful, isn't it! However,
cookies can also look at you computer and its data and send details over
the Internet. They can look at your on-line bank accounts. Like a built in
spy.  Of course, it is only used anonymously for marketing purposes, they
say.  However, when governments deny citizens the right to securely
encrypt their data, then you begin to wonder why! 

Now that we are part of a global society, governments must act to ensure
that there are global answers to these fears and concerns. What is needed
is a contract between the government and its citizens, and this is a
responsibility that politicians cannot ignore by stating the "the market
knows best" or leaving it to consumer legislation. That is an opt out! It
is an endorsement of anarchy! We need a social and political answer. That
is why we need a Bill of Rights for Citizens in the Global Information

The way forward - a Bill of Rights for Citizens in the Global information

The voice of the citizen is not very loud or effective! Major global multi
national organisations are very effectively and efficiently organising
themselves for a global market without frontiers - but then they have the
money!! Governments (who arguably represent the citizens) are preparing
national legislation in preparation for their own domains (with an eye on
the competition outside their domain!). But there is no effective activity
by citizens (or even consumers) at a global level, and so their interests
are very poorly represented compared with the suppliers.  CECUA is filling
part of that role, but is severely handicapped because of very limited
funding (and what commercial organisations would fund this sort of
activity!)  it is forming partnerships and working through the Information
Society Forum to get citizens, politicians and legislators aware and
informed of what is happening . 

To start the debate, CECUA published a draft Bill of Rights for discussion
(see which proposes that Citizens should have their
basic rights protected against a raft of assaults by governments,
commercial interests, criminals and the curious which is guaranteed by
International agreement and enforced internationally by governments.  This
proposal has been taken up by the Information Society Forum
( ) and is committed to
drafting a Charter of Citizens and Consumers Rights in the Information
Society.  This issue will also be taken up in the series of Global
Dialogues planned by the Information Society Forum. Action is needed
urgently. Commercial interests are very well organised with international

What can you do? 

1 Tell your members about the work being done by CECUA and direct them to
our Website.
2 Get your members to participate in the debate.  Identify the particular
concerns of your citizens, communities and companies.
3 Find out what your government is doing to protect citizens' rights and
commercial rights.
4 Tell us what you is happening in your area.
5 Tell us what you would like to happen and ACT NOW!

How can you contact us?

Please send e-mail to the President: or Secretary

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