Just days before the European elections, the majority of standing UK MEPs have not outlined their policies to voters on the areas of net neutrality, copyright or data privacy.
Digital rights groups have insisted that MEPs need to make a clear stand, pointing out that laws affecting online access and data protection are generally formed by European institutions rather than national governments.
The European Parliament passed a directive last month that may allow broadband operators to restrict access to certain services at their discretion. At the same time, the Parliament held up a directive that would see downloaders and file-sharers kicked off the internet after three offences.
"It is the responsibility of EU candidates to help educate voters about their views on these matters," said Jim Killock, executive director at the Open Rights Group (ORG).
"Not only do voters need to know that they are electing people with power to make these decisions, but we all need to enter a democratic debate about where Europe is heading."
A spokesman for the European Conservatives said that his party was not campaigning on the issue because it believes that digital rights should be decided by national governments.
A UK Independence Party spokesman, meanwhile, said that his party had not come forward with a particular agenda focused on digital rights because it is unlikely that many voters will be swayed by such issues.
The European Labour party could not immediately provide comment on why the issues are not being aired by its MEPs.
However, around half of the candidates from the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party have responded to the ORG's request for details on their internet and data policies.
The ORG has argued that MEPs need to outline their position on whether Europe should extend copyright terms, how much protection individuals' personal data should be given, whether internet access can be restricted in any circumstances, and the scale of data retention that government bodies should be allowed to employ.
Nearly all the respondents from the Green Party agreed with the ORG position on digital rights issues. The ORG believes that Europe should not extend copyright terms as this would damage innovation and “reward the estates of deceased artists rather than working creators”.
On data privacy, the ORG is campaigning for all privately stored data that can be linked to individuals to be treated as ‘personal data’ and be given stronger protection than in current UK law. It has also campaigned against the EU Data Directive, which requires UK internet service providers to store all communication information from their customers for a full year, including emails, calls, IP addresses and times of use.
Finally, the ORG argues that internet access should not be restricted because it is a “fundamental right” as a means of freedom of expression. The only Green Party MEP that disagreed with the group was Justine Hall, and she stood against this particular policy.
Nearly half of the Liberal Democrat MEPs responded to the ORG's request to outline their positions, and most agreed with the organisation’s position across the four key issues.
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