Courtesy of Brandon Pahnish

Not my data

Internet rights in the age of tech

It’s time for an Internet Bill of Rights and tough regulations for big tech companies.

Internet industries have grown too large without rules set in place to protect our data, privacy and democracy. Companies such as Facebook lost the data of around 50 million users in 2018, and Capital One’s breach in early 2019 affected over 100 million people. Breaches will happen, but it shouldn’t be this common.

To make matters worse, the federal government has opted to deregulate the industry more. The Federal Communications Commission, which regulates interstate and international communications for the federal government, put in place the Restoring Internet Freedom Order. This order was to “free” the internet from “unnecessary regulations.” Now, this might have seemed like a good idea—freeing the internet—but it’s not. Internet with no regulations is not a safe place. This gives big technology companies leverage over your data. 

Ajit Pai, former Verizon lawyer and chairman of the FCC, is in favor of the Internet Freedom Order and a big supporter of  a “free internet.” This bill will allow internet service providers the power to control what consumers see and do on the internet. It will allow them to use censorship however they see fit, including throttling data speeds and adding extra fees to access certain services. Pai is in favor of helping big tech giants and internet providers make more money, not work in the consumer’s interest.

However, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi plans to regulate the web with a new Internet Bill of Rights. In an interview with The New York Times, Pelosi expressed support for further regulations on the internet and said she commissioned Rep. Ro Khanna—a Democrat whose district is in the heart of the Silicon Valley—with creating an Internet Bill of Rights. These principles were set in place to ensure net neutrality, protect citizens from unlawful mass surveillance and provide consumers with more control over their data.

Some of the most important principles include the right for every person to know how much and what data is being collected, forcing companies to give users the ability “to opt-in consent to the collection of personal data,” and “[share] personal data with a third party.”

We don’t want companies to have our data when we don’t know they have it. It’s our information, and we want to know who has it at all times. Instead of having a company tell you that you need to opt out, a company will have to wait until you opt in. This would force many companies to rewrite their privacy policies and stop Facebook’s current practice of collecting enormous amounts of data and sharing it with third parties that sell it on the black market

Another important principle is the user’s right to have “personal data secured” and be notified in a “timely manner when a security breach or unauthorized access of personal data is discovered.” This is essential. When we have these principles in place, users will be notified of a breach of data much sooner because internet providers will have to notify you immediately by law. 

Breaches in Facebook would not happen if we had more control—more regulations—put into place. We shouldn’t have to worry about our information being stolen. The principles all make sense.

In the same New York Times interview, Khanna said the fight to enact these principles could be a decade-long endeavor and stated, “Tech is amoral, it is great in many ways but not as great in others, and they need to now spend the next 10 years thinking about how they shape that tech for the public good.”

This isn’t an easy task, but it is a necessary one. There should be stricter regulations put forth. Technology is primarily new, but without rules, there is no structure. “Free Internet” will not only give big tech giants leverage over your data but it will also make it easier for internet providers to take advantage of consumers. The “Internet Bill of Rights” will codify privacy protections and shift the power from the hands of data-hoarding, tech industries to the hands of average citizens.