Consumer Rights in Cyber Space: The Need for Safeguarding Our Privacy

Our country has a wonderful history of citizens standing together and demanding rights owed to us. The auto manufacturers in America, for example, fought every single safety innovation, including seatbelts, anti-lock brakes, and airbags. They were willing to let people endanger themselves with their cars and faulty tires until Ralph Nader and other consumer rights activists banded together and said, “Enough is enough.” We saved billions of lives globally by insisting on better, safer cars.

The same thing applies in the realm of social technology. We need civil rights. We need the rights that we have enforced, and we need new protections under new technologies. You and I are alive today because writers and social activists got together and demanded that the government police food. We got the FDA within the last century as a result. We need an equivalent for digital rights, civil rights, and cyber rights for the 21st century. And no one’s going to give it to us. You, me, people listening…we have to demand these rights, demand these controls. Otherwise, we have failed as parents.

In the real world, if a kid commits a crime except for a couple of heinous things, the records are sealed. The records are sealed for life unless the kid becomes an adult and does something else. That forces the cops on the opposing side to have those records be unsealed later in life. In the civil and legal world, we have a legal amnesia for minors. That is not true on the internet. That’s not true electronically. We need to have the digital amnesia rights. We need a new conversation on civil rights for minors and adults in cyber space.

I’m not saying no to technology. I am a gadget freak. I love new tech. That’s why I’m in technology. By I am saying that as responsible, adult citizens in our countries, we need to locally and globally demand that civil rights protections be built into the architecture. Everything from ‘give me the ability to verify all the information Facebook has on me’ to ‘give me the ability to permanently delete my LinkedIn profile if I choose to’. There’s no corporation as strong as the consumer. No government is as strong as the American consumer. And what we need to do as other countries have done is we as adults need to get together and actually demand our rights. More important, we need to go back to the Constitution, read it again, read the Declaration of Independence, and be the check and balance on government and on corporations. That’s our job. Our job is to raise our kids, take care of our communities, and at the end of the day, leave this place better than we found it.