Top Tech News You Need to Know: Pew Surveys, Net Neutrality and More

Happy Friday, everyone! It’s been one wacky week, between the arctic weather that hit most of the country to the hubbub surrounding humanity’s first successful landing on a comet to all the new Kim Kardashian photos that you. just. can’t. not. see (thanks internet!). 

That said, if you’ve been slow to keep up on the big data and tech news happening throughout the week, then here are your top three takeaway stories. 

U.S. Adults Feel They’ve Lost Control of Their Data

While employees throughout all industries struggle to grapple with big data, its implications and making 1s and 0s churn a profit, Americans as a whole are highly suspicious of data collection and use practices most businesses are employing. Some 91% of U.S. adults feel like they’ve lost control over the way their personal data is collected and used, with 81% not feeling safe sharing private information over a social network — even with people they trust.

According to the newest Pew survey, Americans have little confidence in the security of common communications channels, including cell phones, social media sites and more. 

So, what is there to do to help Americans feel safer about their data security and use? A digital bill of rights that is enforceable. Tim Berners-Lee has called for this, Umbel has written extensively on it and Mozilla consistently calls out the need for one as well. Mindful companies the world over are listening to their employees and customers and setting up shops as transparent and ethical data collectors and users, wanting to enforce the same moral best practices on the web as one might off of it. These include the right to privacy, to understanding when, why and how your information is being collected and used and not treating internet users as currency – but as people, with rights, beliefs and autonomy. 

Here, our proposed digital bill of rights:

  1. Protected net neutrality and the issuance of Internet as a utility, albeit a right.
  2. Data collection, use and length transparency, as well as an opt-out option for all participating parties.
  3. Improved Terms and Conditions, or at least improved Terms and Conditions rhetoric that doesn’t confuse or alienate users.
  4. The creation of an Online Better Business Bureau with the power to reprimand companies not alerting users to data collection and use – giving users the ultimate decision-making power when it comes to which platforms or online services to use.
  5. The respectable employment of hackers who seek out and report flaws in a system, so that the Internet can become a safe environment for the data-at-scale phenomenon currently taking place.
  6. The creation and lawful implementation of a Data Rights for the People clause, amendment, policy or the like that seeks to protect users from overarching breaches of power or discrimination based on their collected data.
  7. The implementation of digital data literacy education in schools, and a national standard and annual measurement of data literacy to ensure progress.
  8. The implementation of a filter bubble maximum percentage, maintaining that algorithms and machine learning can only alter news feeds and the free flow of information based on personal preferences to a certain extent – one well below 100%.
  9. The requirement of data collectors and brokers to easily allow for user access to what information has been collected on or about them – with the ability to limit the sharing of that data.
  10. Protection for whistleblowers.

Net Neutrality Heats Back Up, Obama Weighs In

Speaking of a digital bill of rights and net neutrality’s big part in that, Obama this week announced his support for strict regulation on cable companies and the assurance of a free and open internet sans fast lanes. In doing so, the net neutrality issue almost immediately lost its bipartisan status, with Texas senator Ted Cruz tweeting out the following:

In the days following the tweet above as well as Obama’s announcement, there have been many op-eds and the like slamming net neutrality, an issue on which more than 4 million Americans voiced their concerns, with a high rate of cuss words, to the FCC only a few months ago. For those anti-net neutrality, the media, particularly Vox and The Daily Dot, have done a really great job at exposing the only reason why anyone would be against a internet sans fast lanes: money. 

Ted Cruz receives funding from cable companies, and its likely his tweet is part of a promise to those companies to promote the end to net neutrality. For those writing op-eds against the cause, they, too, are pocketing money from the only companies that stand to make a profit from the demise of net neutrality: cable companies and mobile carriers.  

FCC chairman Ted Wheeler, already in a difficult spot due to the overwhelming citizen response to the issue on the FCC website this past summer, is now in a political war, as well. Tech companies favor Obama’s input, and lobby for the survival of net neutrality, whereas those on the right receive funding from cable companies and those politicians, thus, support the end to net neutrality (be it against the best interests of their constituents or not). 

Here, the Oyster breaks down the inherent bipartisan issue that is net neutrality, and how keeping it alive will benefit absolutely everyone except for the CEOs of the cable companies themselves. 

Happy 10th Birthday Firefox! 

Firefox, the online browser and competitor to Chrome and Safari, turned 10 years old this week, and in doing so, issued a pledge that promotes parent company Mozilla’s entire stance on internet freedom and use:

“We believe our role in the world is more important today than its ever been. Issues of digital rights, privacy, net neutrality and online safety and security are real and impact our lives daily. The pace and complexity of online life will only accelerate from here. The decisions we make today will fundamentally impact how we live online in the future.”

If you haven’t checked out Mozilla’s Web We Want campaign, then you totally should. After which, check out Firefox’s similar campaign, and maybe download the browser, too. In the fight for a free, open and secure web, it’s smart to support the people who support you.