As the FCC prepares to submit its updated National Broadband Plan to Congress next Wednesday (3/17), the Safe Internet Alliance urges the commissioners to make enhancing the safety of Americans’ online activity an integral part of the drive to expand access to the 93 million Americans who currently lack it.
Among the roughly one quarter of U.S. adults who lack Internet access, minorities, the disabled, and the elderly are disproportionately represented. The offline population is on average poorer and less educated than the online majority — who are themselves quite worried about online safety risks. The FCC needs to take concrete steps to bolster online safety education, safety within the infrastructure of online services and increased safety enforcement measures to ensure that consumers are equipped with the highest possible level of safety along with access.
The perceived need for enhanced Internet security is strong among U.S. internet users. According to a new Financial Times/Harris Poll 81% of Americans are concerned about the amount and security of personal online data that can be accessed by cybercriminals and hackers. 62% say social sites like Facebook and Twitter make many people vulnerable to cyber attacks. 61% of Americans are concerned about the amount and security of personal online data that can be accessed by search engines.
Concern about the lack of safety online is so high among consumers who do not use the internet, that it is a barrier to adoption for 47% of non-adopters who worry “about all the bad things that can happen on the internet” according to the FCC survey Broadband Adoption and Use in America. 65% strongly agree there is too much pornography and offensive material on the internet. 57% strongly agree that it too easy for their personal information to be stolen online. And 46% strongly agree that the internet is too dangerous for children.
We urge the FCC to address these anxieties by stimulating robust efforts on three fronts: education, infrastructure and enforcement.
On the education front, ISPs should be encouraged to provide site specific, easily discoverable safety information, in Spanish as well as English, on their websites, with material targeted to specific demographic groups – not just kids and parents, but seniors, adults, and those with unique risks. Safety messaging should also be placed as ‘just-in-time’ content next to registration fields.
Public service announcements and public awareness campaigns should teach core self-protective measures such as recognizing a phishing scam or teaching consumers to identify how information leaks, and avoid posting personal information in public access websites.
The FCC should also encourage service providers to enhance their services’ infrastructure to include robust security and safety functionality – such as built-in antivirus software and family safety settings – for all accounts. ISPs should be encouraged to innovate and seek competitive advantage on the safety front — and emphasize that innovation in their marketing.
Enforcement efforts should include improving technology to identify and respond to abuses as they occur, as well as providing parents with filtering tools and providing information enabling them to monitor and set clear rules for children’s use.