Linda Criddle, President of the Safe Internet Alliance, Appauds FCC Broadband Plan, Urges Focus on Consumer Safety

Washington, D.C. (March 16, 2010) — The following is a statement by Linda Criddle of the Safe Internet Alliance in response to the FCC’s release of the Executive Summary of the National Broadband Plan to be presented to Congress today. Ms. Criddle notes that while the FCC’s Congressional mandate is to ensure that every American has access to broadband capability, inducing offline Americans to adopt available technology and use it productively depends on enhancing online safety.

“We are pleased that the FCC plan highlights the obligations of firms collecting online data to ensure consumer privacy. Likewise, we applaud the FCC’s call for a National Digital Literacy Corps to help break adoption barriers. But consumer safety, and consumer education in online safety, also need emphasis if the goal is to increase not only access but adoption.”

“The FCC’s own survey found that nearly half of those Americans who remain offline do so in part because they fear “all the bad things that can happen on the Internet.” Among those who are already online, the survey found that 65% strongly agree there is too much pornography and offensive material on the Internet. And 57% strongly agree that it is too easy for their personal information to be stolen online, while 46% strongly agree that the Internet is too dangerous for children. Such fears can be allayed by ensuring that every ISP provides robust safety tools to all users — and that users know how to protect themselves.”

“The FCC Report is to be commended for placing a strong emphasis on homeland security and public safety. At the same time, consumer safety deserves equal emphasis. The FCC should 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 information enabling them to monitor and set clear rules for children’s use.”

“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.  The FCC is creating an initiative to teach digital literacy skills, but those need to encompass digital safety skills such as recognizing a phishing scam or teaching consumers to identify how information leaks, and avoid posting personal information in public access websites.  These skills should also be driven home in public service announcements and public awareness campaigns.”

The Safe Internet Alliance is a broad private/public sector community committed to better protecting Internet users, especially children, teens and the elderly, from the real and worsening problem of Internet crimes and abuse.

SIA President Linda Criddle writes extensively about Internet safety issues on the Safe Internet Alliance blog, a rich source of information about safety risks and common-sense measures that individuals can take to protect their data and their families online and more information can be found on the website at www.safeinternet.org.

A pioneer in ecommerce and online safety at Microsoft, where she worked in senior positions for thirteen years, Criddle holds more than 35 patents or pending patents and is author of the award-winning consumer-oriented books, Look Both Ways: Help Protect Your Family on the Internet and Using the Internet Safely for Seniors For Dummies and maintains the website  ilookbothways.com.

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