There is at least one issue that both parties seem to agree on during this election cycle – that the Internet should remain free and open. While the devil is in the details – Republicans and Democrats have very different visions of what constitutes protecting the Internet – adopting platform planks in support an open Internet is a move in the right direction.
Both parties agree on the key role the Internet has and will continue to play as an economic driver. In addition both parties support online privacy. The GOP stated in its 2012 election platform “We will ensure that personal data receives full constitutional protection from government overreach and that individuals retain the right to control the use of their data by third parties.”The official 2012 Democratic Party platform released on the first day of their convention highlighted that “The [Obama] administration has built partnerships to support an Internet that is secure and reliable and that is respectful of U.S. intellectual property, free flow of information, and privacy.”
Disagreement continues on exactly how the Internet should be protected, and from whom it needs protection. The GOP platform views the Net Neutrality as a barrier, while in fact it is a critical component guaranteeing unfettered access to the Internet. Similarly, the Democrats do not mention the principle of Net Neutrality or support user control over personal data. But these are all part of a discussion our nation needs to have, sooner rather than later.
In the short time since the Internet was invented, it has changed its character, nature, and scope in ways no one imagined. It went from a small closed network of academics and government affiliates, to a platform used and enjoyed by more than one third of the world’s population. The fact that both Republicans and Democrats recognize the importance of the World Wide Web is an important step towards protecting and securing the Internet.
As our politicians and policy makers debate protecting the Web, they should adopt the following base-line principles:
- Openness: Keep the Internet an open network free from censorship where all Americans can connect, communicate, create, learn, and innovate.
- Transparency: Data collectors have an obligation to operate in a transparent manner, and Americans have a right to know when information is being collected about them.
- User Control: Individuals must retain control over their own information, both in how it is collected and used, as well as the ability to correct or amend a record about themselves.
- Data Protection, Accuracy, and Use: Any organization creating, maintaining, using, or disseminating records containing personal data must take precautions to prevent misuses of the data, loss, unauthorized access, destruction, malicious modification or disclosure of user data.