Bill of Rights 2.0 — Online Privacy

Courtesy American Quarterly

Have you ever heard of the plugins that deliberately obfuscate your online data so that your choices and clicks cannot be tracked? Rather than trying to block trackers, one of my favorites of these plugins, AdNauseam, misleads data collectors by overloading them with information. Unfortunately, AdNauseam has been banned from Chrome. But both the need for this kind of plugin and the fact of its ban illustrate some key ideas surrounding privacy that I would like to discuss.

Privacy can mean a lot of things, but in the digital realm it usually points to data. What we click, write, and look at online is tracked. It has been known for some years now that governments, companies, and other parties collect this information to use to their advantage. Sometimes this is for a bigger bottom line, and other times it is to exert control.

I, along with others, believe we need to seriously consider developing a Cyber Bill of Rights (CBR). It could start as an open source user driven initiative, perhaps eventually becoming integrated with organizations like the UN. The CBR would focus on protecting individual and group rights online with a universal set of standards for businesses, organizations, people, and service providers.

Privacy is a fundamental human right. Sharing and data trails should be protected in the same way as things like postal mail. A Bill of Rights 2.0 will be based on the tenets of freedom, transparency, safety, control for users, security, and accountability. There could even be a Digital Trust Authority put in place such as “TRUSTe” or “IAPP”.

An argument exists that data and Internet encryption is necessary for the functioning of a free society, but hopefully with a Cyber Bill of Rights it wouldn’t have to get that far. Organizations and groups could be held accountable with a Badge of Honor system, with bronze, silver, and gold levels of commitment and practice of key tenets. Information sharing as a conscious choice is much more reliable than when taken through deception.

Through open source frameworks, APIs, and protocol features, systems can be created that are transparent and scalable. One of the most beautiful developments of the Internet, open source allows for people to take ownership in the creation of systems.

It should also be noted that children’s rights on the Internet need more attention. Some children are Internet hobbyists, while others are digital native hacktiviists. Both of these groups and everyone in between should have appropriate levels of privacy and control over their data to enable the most free and democratic use of their digital time.

What do YOU think? Do you believe a Cyber Bill of Rights would be a worthwhile effort to protect our privacy? Do you believe privacy is a human right? I would love to hear your thoughts — share them in the comments!