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Does The Internet Need a Bill of Rights?

By Jenny Tsay, Esq. | Last updated on

Now that the Internet is celebrating its 25th birthday, one of its inventors is proposing a digital bill of rights to advance a free and open web for all users.

Tim Berners-Lee published his plan for the World Wide Web back in 1989, and now he's part of a larger campaign called Web at 25. The campaign seeks to raise awareness about Internet surveillance, promoting the need of net neutrality, and acknowledging the fact that nearly two-thirds of the world's population don't yet have Internet access, according to Wired.

The fact that there's a proposal for an Internet bill of rights aligns with the controversy among recent NSA and net neutrality legal decisions.

Internet Surveillance

One of the key challenges observed by Berners-Lee and Web at 25 is who has the right to collect and use personal data and under what circumstances and limitations? Some courts have answered those questions in a limited scope. For instance, U.S. District Judge Richard Leon granted an injunction pending further appeals barring the NSA from collecting any data pertaining to two plaintiffs who were affected by the government's bulk metadata collection program.

Although the metadata collection injunction pertained to phone data, the NSA's snooping also extends to app data. The NSA apparently collects personal data, including age, location, gender, and sexual orientation from popular smart phone apps. Since you get what you pay for, it's one thing to download a free app and have some your personal data mined for advertising purposes.

However, it's another issue to have your data mined by the government for surveillance reasons. Seems like it's a bit worse to have the government be aware of your private information while you're playing Angry Birds than getting occasional spam from

So one of the goals of an Internet bill of rights is to fight the constant threat from the government to control the Web.

Net Neutrality

One huge issue for Berners-Lee and proponents of an open, royalty-free Internet is net neutrality. Earlier this year, the D.C. Circuit struck down portions of the FCC's Open Internet Order and allowed Internet service providers (ISP) to charge corporations more money for faster access to their content. Before the D.C. Circuit's ruling, Netflix and an indie streaming service both received the same connection speed with the ISP, so users received the same streaming speed with both providers. After the ruling, the big guns, like Netflix, can pay ISP more money to get to your tablet before any other streaming service. The discrepancies in speed could leave the start-ups with little funding in the dust and create an imbalanced Internet experience.

The Internet is essential to the legal field and personal enjoyment, so having a bill of rights in place ensures that all users can use it equally.

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