Published in Editorials

Is It Time for an Internet Bill of Rights?

by on12 March 2014 2002 times

We talk a lot about privacy, net neutrality, digital right and other topics that have become more and more important over the last few years. As the internet becomes the defacto way we communicate these items HAVE to be addressed or we end up in a situation where the rights of people using these services simply do not exist. For years the average consumer’s information has been treated like a commodity that can be traded, sold or used in any manner the holding company sees fit. This type of behavior, while currently legal, is simply unacceptable as are the myriad of other abuses of our digital communications. These many abuses all beg the question, why do we not have the same rights in the digital world that we have in the real world?

 

To answer that question from the perspective of corporations, lobbyists, and the US Legislative Branch it is because you (the consumer) do not have the reasonable expectation of privacy. You see the corporations and their lobbyists have convinced the lawmakers that all digital information is mixed together (remember the “big pipes”?). This means that there is no privacy on the internet everything that you do is visible to anyone out there (according to what they are pushing). Companies from your ISP to your Bank also feel that they own the information that travels over their networks. Between the perception that all of the data is mixed in a big pipe and the claims of ownership lawmakers have simply handed over the keys to your digital kingdom.

The situation is interesting because these same lawmakers do not feel that physical mail is owned by the people or companies transporting it. If DHL, UPS or FedEx opened up your package and dug through the contents to provide you with better advertising they would go nuts. It seems that this special ownership only applies to the digital world and also only for some people. As an example of this last point Diane Feinstein was outraged when someone told her they thought the CIA was going through computers (provided by the CIA) that were in use for a hearing. The data is on CIA owned computers, it is the CIA’s actual files and the network was built by the CIA. Strangely because it was in Feinstein’s offices she felt it was all hers. The same ownership is not granted to systems in the houses of millions of people.

Many wonder if there needs to be a focus on extending the rights we expect in the real world to our digital lives. Even the acknowledged creator of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee, feels that we need to focus on this and that an Internet Bill of Rights needs to be created to protect the information we send back and forth as well as the data that is collected about our every move. Berners-Lee goes on to explain that the World Wide Web is supposed to be universal, royalty-free and open. This is not to say that anyone should be allowed to do what they want (just like in the real world), but that there needs to be an established (and globally accepted) set of rules to protect the flow of information, communication and the very data that we entrust to companies on the Internet.

Berners-Lee says that we need to take the 25th anniversary of the World Wide Web and “take the web back into our own hands and define the web we want for the next 25 years”. This sentiment is the same one that many privacy and, believe it or not, security advocates want to see happen. Ironically it is also one of the central tenants that the online collective anonymous espouses. In the end the future of the internet is up to us, the Internet community, we have to lobby and push for our rights we, as a community, need to get more involved and stop allowing things to be decided for us. If we do this we might see the internet become the place it was meant to be, if we do not things will not get any better, in fact they will probably get worse. The ball is in our court.

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Last modified on 12 March 2014
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