As the Internet matures, more legislation is being considered to regulate it so that it is “safe.” This isn’t necessarily related at all to book banning in some communities in public schools and even public libraries. It’s a growing concern over a number of issues affecting young adults and children.
Freedom of speech is a US standard deeply ingrained in our culture.
Personal information collection
The Internet causes concerns that go way beyond access to information. Should Websites such as social media allow users to post harmful information. The EU says no and the Digital Services Act (DSA) holds Websites liable. For example, “It means companies must moderate their platforms for harmful content like COVID-19 disinformation and introduce protocols to block the spread of dangerous material during crises like the pandemic.”
The DSA “… bans targeted advertising using sensitive personal data like sexual orientation or political and religious beliefs. Targeted advertising for minors is also banned.”
In the US advertisers are allowed to collect personal information without limit. Huge databases contain collected information about you and target advertising to your supposed interests or needs.
Writers often laugh that if the FBI saw their search history they would get a visit by a swat team. We research every aspect of life so that we’re informed and don’t make stupid mistakes. I even make sure that information about how a criminal commits a crime is inaccurate so I’m not a source of criminal education.
Generally this collected information is innocuous enough. Only those who commit crimes need to worry. Police can view information only with a warrant issued by a judge on merit, even from advertising databases. For the January 6 investigation “… the FBI also obtained internal records from various social media platforms and mobile phone carriers.”
If I want to avoid being monitored and tracked I simply use a browser in private mode over Virtual Private Network (VPN) that doesn’t keep records of my Internet travels, which also divorces my browsing from personal information collection or identification. I set the browser to not keep cookies or search history and to use the VPN or a private DNS server.
I know, staying private is complicated. But if I do research for someone in my family about a medical condition or other situation, I don’t want that appearing in data collected about me and showing up in my Facebook ads or my email or mailbox in front of my home. Advertisers are very aggressive at getting to you, as the recent spate of jokes about car warranty contacts attests. The space station is nowhere to hide from them.
Safety for children and teens
Children have often known more about sex than their parents. C’est la vie. We really have to evaluate what it is we’re protecting children from, and is being misinformed or uneducated better than having access to information. Currently information about the mechanical aspects of sex are widely available, including the incredibly wide variation in sexual practices. One way or another they’re going to find it. Inquiring minds want to know. As parents it’s up to us to help children understand that sex is not a substitute for love. Becoming friends and developing a relationship are the direction they need to go to develop true love and healthy relationships. The science bears this out.
New attempts at protective law
A recent California legislative bill that is ready for the Governor to sign goes way too far. It will make it mandatory that Websites that may possibly be visited by people under 18, collect age (protected personal information) as a gatekeeping action for the Website. Supposedly this will protect those under 18 from possible harmful information.
I personally have three Websites that people of all ages can visit. They don’t make enough money to cover operating expenses, and some run some age-appropriate Google ads. I don’t put information on them that could in any way be considered harmful by a jury. If this California law goes into effect, people like me would have to close their Websites and leave it all in the hands of big players who could afford this type of gatekeeper discrimination. I provide free information on religion, movie making, and many types of writing and communications, as well as sites for other professionals. They would all go away.
Given the nature of Internet Website host security and frequency of break-in’s, I suspect that collecting age information will simply provide pools of information for hackers to steal and sell to those who would do harm to those under 18, such as pedophiles.
For webmasters, Internet security is already a major headache. I developed one movie viewing Website with bank level security, and connected it to a credit card processor. It took weeks of development. It taught me that I don’t need to know the personal information or keep it on a Website. It can all be kept in a cookie on the individual’s computer that is very secure, and when needed can be processed securely without leaving information on the Website. The credit card record is enough for processing returns.
The major problem
Like kids stealing liquor out of their parent’s liquor cabinet, kids can use their parent’s computers and are adept at hiding their identities on their cell phones and tablets. It’s not an easy problem, and there may never be an answer to kids using their parent’s computers. I use passwords on my devices but like many I hate them. Hate isn’t nearly a strong enough word.
The biggest problem we have is with identity. In the 1970s States considered having a standard identifying number for every person. Nope. People won’t have it. And the reason is because they don’t want tracked, and this probably goes back to nefarious reasons. As a result it’s easy for people to use identities fraudulently. People yell about Welfare and other fraud, but we set ourselves up for failures of this type. We’re our own worst enemy.
Opt-in system of identification
There is a potential system I created and have used that could be used to preserve identity yet allow anonymous surfing. People could opt-in to a confirmation site that would assign a unique number to a person after verifying their identity.
The site would be contacted by Websites that needed to confirm a specific piece of information such as age. But it wouldn’t provide the associated unique number or other information to the Website so that no site or combination of sites would be able to collect information related to that person.
Login. This would also solve another major problem which is login information. A cookie on the person’s computer, downloaded from the confirmation site with a second piece of identifying information (public key, private key), would be used to confirm certain pieces of identity or credit card but without the identifying number or other information.
In this type of system the Website doesn’t decrypt the information so can’t read or store it. It simply passes it on to a confirmation website and gets the essential pertinent information.
Email is another system that needs to go private and secure. If tied to this confirmation system, only email senders that have been provided an opt-in public key would be able to send email to that person, and they could also be blocked by revoking their access.
Controlling email in this way would be amazing. I have an address that I took out of service fifteen years ago. I had need of it one day so I put it in service. It was immediately flooded with spam email despite the spam filter. These lists of “legitimate” email addresses are sold over and over even if they are out of service.
Safe Websites. This type of system could also be set up to verify Websites that are safe for people under 18 and people who don’t want exposed to certain types of information. A token could be passed and confirmed that gave the ranking of the site similar to movie and TV program ratings.
This identity confirmation system would make it possible to supply only pertinent information while protecting identity. For those who don’t want to be identified at all for fear of government tracking, they simply wouldn’t opt in. The FBI might get a warrant and track them as a terrorist.
Our privacy is impacted in very negative ways by our fear of being tracked by the government. Our privacy is impacted in very negative ways by our inability to be in public through information browsing, shopping, email, and social media. We need to think this through and resolve it rather than continue to hide from it and refuse any action to resolve it.
The privacy system I described in this article would allow laws to be made to hold Websites accountable without putting impossible burdens on them. An automatic gatekeep would simply keep unidentified or underage people out. The EU DSA and cookie laws will affect Websites all over the world who allow disinformation on their Websites or host them.
Distorted perception is not reality. It’s the path to insanity. But so is hiding from problems and hoping they will go away.
The standard of belief and conduct for Christianity is love. It’s the legal standard.
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