Privacy, Copyright Top Challenges of the Internet

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The protection of user’s rights is not only a concern for Internet users but Internet professionals as well. Among all the growing issues about the Web protecting user privacy online and updating copyright laws seem to be the primary concerns of online industry leaders, according to a new survey completed by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences (IADAS). The association is made up of 750 members who have shaped and dictate trends on the Internet, including Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, Wired Magazine co-founder John Battelle, Internet co-founder Vinton Cerf and Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington. On top of completing surveys such as this one, the body is also in charge of picking The Webby Award winners, the Oscars of Internet-based media.

“A lot of [concerns over privacy] was certainly driven by all the tracking that is going on, and consumer concerns over how users are being profiled and the marketplace for buying and selling those profiles,” IADAS executive director David-Michel Davies said to Techland about online privacy. Big social media sites like Facebook have also brought the issue into the headlines Davies adds, mentioning that there are a lot of “threads” that lead back to the privacy debate. “One of the biggest concerns was how unknowledgeable publishers were about the tracking that was happening on their sites and how unknowledgeable consumers were…. We need to have a robust discussion.”

Another topic that concerned IADAS members was how outdated media copyright laws were and the increasing necessity to see them changed. It used to be perfectly okay to give a mix tape to a couple friends, but putting a playlist online – which is a similar action in a way – could render negative consequences. Same goes for lending books, which has a modern day equivalent of copying and distributing digital books online. Davies believes that many users aren’t trying to circumvent laws: They’re simply confused on what is right and wrong because legalities are not adapted to current technology. “I think at the core, one of the big issues is that the majority of the laws and understandings about copyright were created in a world where it was difficult to copy. Actually copying something has never been more easy than it is today. You can literally right click on a file and depending on the size it can be downloaded in seconds,” he explained.

“Technology has changed that in a significant way, but laws haven’t been written to reflect the relationship between technology and creativity,” Davies added. “A lot of stuff isn’t that clear…. We think it would be really great for people to come together and make these decisions on what’s right and wrong.”

According to the press release, the top five concerns were:

Protecting Privacy
The Internet’s great trade-off is that while you get access to the rest of the world, the rest of the world gets access to you. The data collected can add value to the online experience through customized content and advertising – but such an extensive record of personal information can pose risks to consumers. The industry must take steps to demystify the privacy debate by establishing global standards, providing transparent policies, and educating consumers on its practices.

Modernizing Copyright Laws
Is it ok to copy an album and give it to a friend? How many paragraphs should one quote from an online news article? Will we ever be able to pass along an e-book to a colleague? As the Web enters its third decade, the answers to these questions remain unclear. The Internet’s power as a medium through which creators can distribute their work continues to grow, yet the current copyright laws are hopelessly out of date. For the Internet to fulfill its potential, new and modernized copyright laws must reflect the current relationship between technology and creativity.

Ensuring Net Neutrality
Ensuring that all Internet traffic is treated equally – meaning that data from and data from a teenager’s blog move along the pipeline at the same speed – is a worthy and complicated goal. Industry leaders and policymakers need to come together and identify solutions that will guarantee fair treatment of all Internet traffic.  However, these solutions must also provide ISPs with enough flexibility to efficiently manage their networks and services.

Maintaining the Open Web
From commenting on articles and sharing videos to crowd-sourcing and user-generated content, the Internet’s interactivity and communal power is what makes it such a vibrant and useful medium. While social networks and mobile apps offer rich, interactive and customized experiences, many of their features are often sheltered from the rest of the Web. If the Internet as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts, we must do a better job of maintaining interconnectivity.

Strengthening Internet Security
Until recently, there has been little examination of the consequences of storing large amounts of proprietary information online. The recent spate of high-level incidents – from WikiLeaks to China’s hacking of the Internet – has made the perils of weak online security a tangible issue. Everyone, from governments and businesses to universities and individuals, must re-evaluate how they share, store, and publish sensitive information on the Internet – take steps to ensure it is protected.

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