December 12, 2014

Seven Internet Policy Ideas that Everyone Can Agree On

Eli Dourado

Former Senior Research Fellow

Danielle Kehl

Summary

Right now, technology policy wonks are locked in a bitter dispute about the future of network neutrality. One of us is a technology policy expert who supports President Obama's call for stronger network neutrality regulations. The other is a tech policy expert who thinks it's a terrible idea.

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Right now, technology policy wonks are locked in a bitter dispute about the future of network neutrality. One of us is a technology policy expert who supports President Obama's call for stronger network neutrality regulations. The other is a tech policy expert who thinks it's a terrible idea.

But fortunately, not all technology issues are so divisive. Here are seven issues on which we do agree — and we think policy experts across the political spectrum could get behind these common-sense reforms.

1) Rein in surveillance by the National Security Agency

Last summer, Ed Snowden revealed that the National Security Agency was collecting troves of data on both foreigners and U.S. citizens. In the process, they've also been undermining the security of American products and the internet as a whole. Among other things, we know that the NSA may be:

This behavior is bad for online security, and it could lead to billions of dollars in losses because domestic and foreign customers are increasingly concerned about whether they’re more vulnerable to NSA surveillance if they use American products.

So the NSA's actions have not only eroded our civil liberties and harmed U.S. credibility around the world; they are also damaging America's technology sector. As a result, there's growing support for reforms that would rein in the power of the NSA.

The leading NSA reform proposal is the USA FREEDOM Act, which limits bulk collection of Americans' calling and internet records under the Patriot Act. The legislation enjoys support from technology companies and privacy advocates, but unfortunately, the effort to get a Senate vote on the bill during the lame duck session failed. So Congress won't pass meaningful surveillance reform this year.

The issue will come up again next year because key provisions of the Patriot Act are scheduled to expire next summer — including the provision the government cites to justify bulk surveillance of Americans' phone and internet records. But reforming that provision wouldn't be enough on its own. The NSA relies on other legal authorities, including the 2008 FISA Amendments Act and a controversial executive order to justify spying on Americans. Stricter limits on all of these legal powers will be needed to rebuild the trust of individuals, companies, and governments around the world.

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