On February 11, some 150 countries around the world will celebrate Safer Internet Day. This annual event, inaugurated in 2004, provides us with an opportunity to both reflect and take action in order to ensure that a technology that has transformed our lives continues to be safe and secure for all. In the spirit of the day’s slogan, “Together for a better internet,” here are three things you do to can help make the internet safer – on the personal, the policy, and the economic levels. Best of all, these actions can be done right from your own device.
1. Personal Level: Utilize Parental Control Software
As a parent, it can be difficult to balance the desire for your children to get the most out of the internet with the need to protect them from malicious sites and actors. Here is where parental control software comes in. Designed for both computers and phones, these programs allow you to set up content filters and safe-search protocols, schedule device usage, block risky applications, and monitor your children’s web history, message logs, and even location (a feature known as “geofencing”). It is recommended that parents foster a collaborative approach to safety – allowing your child both to learn along with you and take ownership of their own online behaviors. And, of course, no software is ever a substitute for good and constant communication among the entire family. With 34% of students experiencing cyberbullying and 59% of U.S. teens experiencing some form of online harassment, being proactive is the best way to stay safe.
2. Policy Level: Advocate for a National Privacy Law
America desperately needs a national privacy law to provide clarity and consistency on the usage of personal data. Unfortunately, what currently exists is a confusing patchwork of state and local regulations that does not provide the consistency, control, or confidence required for consumers to feel adequately protected. Traveling to another state should not mean that your data becomes less secure, and your level of security should not change depending on which apps or businesses you engage with. Consumers need to know what types of personal data can be collected and how it can be used, as well as gain control over access. To sign our petition calling on Congress to enact such a law, please click here.
3. Economic Level: Fight Video Piracy
Many people consider the illegal posting or viewing of online content to be a “victimless crime,” but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Powered by illegal streaming (which has largely replaced download-based technologies such as BitTorrent), piracy costs between 230,000 and 560,000 jobs a year, with lost revenues of an astonishing $30 to $70 billion. Moreover, illegal streaming sites are key vectors of malware and cybercriminal techniques such as phishing and identity fraud, something that affects all of us, whether or not we’ve ever watched a pirated video. Fortunately, video piracy can be addressed, first, by coordinating enforcement efforts across governmental agencies, and second, by strengthening IP protections both here and abroad. Get informed by reading our post on how digital piracy is harming our economy.
The internet has been a force multiplier for communication, innovation, organization, and education the world over, but – just as in the real world – there are also bad actors online. And, just as we do in our own neighborhoods, it is up to all of us to stay aware and actively work to ensure our own safety and to help make the internet a safer place for all. By taking actions at the personal, policy, and economic levels, we can ensure the safe growth of the internet for generations to come.