White House Advisors Demand Internet Bill Of Rights

Three months ago President Obama put together a group to study internet privacy, the use of collected data, and other concerns to the public spawned in the light of recent spying concerns risen from the NSA. As the report neared completion, the White House posted a public consultation that the citizens of the US could go to voice their opinions on a variety of internet issues. White House counselor John Podesta has finally released that report, though many consider it inconsistent and lacking many of the major issues surrounding the problem today. For example, there is no mention of the NSA or the spying they did on Americans, nor the foreign political figures that have scorned the White House over the intrusion.

That aside, advocacy groups have embraced the report, known as “Big Data: Seizing Opportunities, Preserving Values,” for its declaration that more needs to be done to protect people’s civil rights when it comes to large data collection in government and private sectors, using Google and Apple as some of the bigger examples. The report also pointed to the Electronic Communications and Privacy Act (ECPA) of 1986 and how its current obsolete state needs major amendment changes to bring in into the 21st century’s digital realm. One of the calling points on the ECPA was a statute that allows authorities to openly read and assess emails more than six months old that the document considers an “archaic distinction.”

The White House report did offer policies that help prevent data breaches and show what to do should a system become compromised. However reviewers claim that a policy change by Google appears to mirror the document’s privacy to non-US citizens and to students, appearing to have been all but copied and pasted from their model. Regardless of where they pulled it from, consumer groups such as the ACLU who unsuccessfully tried to sue the NSA for data breaching, praised every suggestion made. They did, however, send a warning to Washington — and the White House specifically — that “now Congress and the administration need to make this vision a reality by enacting ECPA reform without any loopholes.”

The Big Data document is part of a larger whole in the investigation into the NSA’s antagonistic data collection procedures that encompasses both governmental and private concerns. Among particular offense was the “notice and consent” standard used by many large corporations such as Google which only gives a user a single chance to give permission to share data, something the panel feels gives people far too restrictive control over where their personal data goes and how it could be re-used in the future. For this reason, the panel suggest that both Congress and the White House get together and form an Internet Bill of Rights. Their voice joins with President Obama who encouraged the same two years previously.

A child speaks their mind on internet policy in the Firefox video "The Web We Want."
A child speaks their mind on internet policy in the Firefox video “The Web We Want.”

The White House panel isn’t the only group out there seeking to find out what to do with the miracle we call the internet. Firefox has launched a site called “The Web We Want” that asks the people of the world what they want most out of the internet in the future and tallies the results. According to their interactive map, privacy ranks above other such things as freedom, accessibility and user control. At present, nearly 75 million people across the globe have taken part in the survey, with the numbers rising at the top of the screen in real-time.

The White House encourages the citizens of America to contact their representatives in Congress to express their feelings and concerns by offering an easy way to reach the once difficult to contact civil servants.

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