Five Things to Watch That Will Shape the Internet's Future

Americans are storing more and more information online as compelling new applications and services launch in the Internet "cloud" where privacy protections for all that information is murky at best.

The lack of privacy protection undermines trust online and creates market risks for the very companies seeking to capitalize on innovative services. Study after study has shown that consumers do not understand how their data is used under these new models -- and when they find out, it is cause for great concern. Research shows that people value their location privacy, are less comfortable sharing their location with strangers than with acquaintances, and want granular control over their location information. Done right, baseline privacy legislation will spur both company innovation and consumer investment in Web 2.0 products and services by clarifying the general rules for all parties, while leaving key existing "sectoral" (i.e., health, finance, personal banking) protections in place. Those laws provide specific and fundamental protections for consumers that no single piece of legislation alone can replace.

Should Internet Service Providers Become Copyright Police?

Issue: Three-Strikes Copyright Enforcement

Narrative: Recent Internet copyright debates have tended to focus on strategies for enforcement against illegal file sharing of music and movies. The most controversial strategy reverberating around the globe is the so-called "three-strikes" or "graduated response" enforcement policy.

Under legislation adopted in France, Britain and South Korea, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) could be directed to cut off Internet access for users engaged in apparent copyright infringement activity. And there are widespread reports that representatives of major copyright industries are engaged in private negotiations with U.S. ISPs to implement similar policies.

What's at Stake: The Internet is essential for many aspects of everyday life -- many couldn't imagine finding a job, communicating with family or accessing key government services without it. Policymakers and ISPs considering a three-strike approach must recognize the serious impact on lawful speech and participation that disconnecting someone from the Internet would have. Quite simply, Internet access has become too important for disconnection to be imposed without a full judicial process.

More broadly, moving to an online copyright enforcement regime that puts ISPs into the copyright police role would mark a major shift in U.S. Internet policy. The Internet has flourished under the current "hands-off" role for ISPs and other intermediaries, which allows them to focus on empowering communications by and among users without monitoring, supervising, or playing any other kind of gatekeeping role with respect to such communications.

Illegal file sharing is wrong; however, moving ISPs into an enforcement role could significantly restrain the development of the Internet as a platform for speech and innovation.

Issue: Preserving the Open Internet

Narrative: The FCC has proposed non-discrimination rules aimed at preserving "Internet neutrality." But many broadband ISPs -- backed by a recent court decision in the Comcast v. FCC case -- question whether the FCC has the authority to impose these rules on Internet carriers.

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