Your Internet Safety Bill of Rights

ALL Internet users have the right to a safe Internet experience. Your safety and the safety of your family on the Internet should not be left to features a company adds at the last minute (“add-ons”) or those you have to pay extra for. You can’t buy a new car without safety belts or air bags; you shouldn’t have to settle for Internet products or services that fail to offer safety in the same basic way. In a nutshell, I believe every online consumer has these rights:

  • You have the right to an informed online experience.
    • You should know in advance about any potential risks in such Web programs and services as an Internet dating service or an instant messaging program, so you can make safe choices.
    • You have the right to complete information about every safety feature in a product or service, and safety recommendations by feature should be easy to discover. At the bare minimum, you should be able to find safety information in the Help section. Ideally, however, the program would give safety advice at key points, such as when you type in information or before you post a picture.
    • When services are upgraded, you have the right to be informed of new features or changes to existing features and their impact on your safety. Not only that, you should have a clear way to opt out of any features you’re uncomfortable with. For example, if changes are made to a subscription you’ve paid for and you want to cancel, you should be able to get a refund for remaining time.
  • You have the right to set your own terms for your online experience (within the constraints of the law).
    • You have the right to get content that matches your values and blocks content you do not wish to see, no matter what your age.
    • You have the right to set boundaries so that you are only exposed to the level of potential risk you’re comfortable with, whether you’re more willing to take risks or more risk averse. This includes being able to manage the online experience of minors in your care.
    • You have the right to know if you are being monitored online and how you are being monitored—such as which of your activities are being tracked and to whom they are is being reported. Your children have this right, too.
  • You have the right to expect online products and services to guard your safety.
    • You have the right to feel confident that products and services will not be released to the public without undergoing rigorous safety, privacy, and legal reviews and testing.
    • You have the right to know the privacy and safety policies of online products and services. These should be easy to find and written in terms that are easy to understand.
    • You have the right to easily report abuse of the products or abuse through the products of you or a loved one. You also have the right to know how well the company enforces its policies and to expect immediate action from the company.
    • You have the right to expect a “product recall notice” or alert if a significant safety risk is discovered in an online product or service.

As consumers you can—and should—vote with your feet if the experience you’re having on a service doesn’t meet your expectations. You can make a difference. Your safety rights won’t be established in Internet programs and services overnight. But if you let companies know what you think, they will surely be delivered faster. Linda


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