President of Latvia emphasises the importance of ‘free will’ in the digital age in a lecture to German students
Today, President of Latvia Egils Levits visited the Munich Ludwig Maximilian University and gave a lecture ‘Democracy in the digital age: threats and opportunities. European and constitutional policy perspectives’, urging students to get actively involved in a political, legal and socio-anthropological debate on the best response of democracy to the new information technology reality.
After an in-depth philosophical and historical retrospection, Egils Levits urged students to think about the deeper meaning of ‘free will’ and eloquently described how today’s internet giants build business models for processing individual data of each user for the so-called user profiling. Such profiling allows them to target users with content that they ‘might prefer’.
‘Somebody makes decisions about what you should think, somebody has interpreted the world for you on your behalf,’ said Egils Levits. ‘It means that our freedom of choice, freedom to pursue new interests and expand our horizons is being artificially controlled and infringed upon’. President also underlined that totalitarian and authoritarian regimes use these technologies for spying on their citizens and social conditioning of population to ensure that their behaviour is ‘totalitarian’.
‘This is where we have to draw the line and say, ‘This is what technologies should do, and this is what technologies should not be used for.’ We need to decide on political and legal framework for such use of technologies,’ Egils Levits pointed out.
President Levits also told German students about one of the success stories of Latvian democracy, ‘manabalss.lv’ platform. Residents of Latvia can use this platform to petition for new legislation to the Saeima (Parliament).
Despite student break, several hundred of students turned up for the lecture of the President of Latvia. Due to huge interest, venue had to be moved to the Great Hall of the university.
Lecture in German by the President of Latvia Egils Levits.