Commerce Department tackles online privacy

The Commerce Department proposes creating a new office to oversee online privacy.

Aiming to set ground rules for companies that collect personal data online and use that information for marketing purposes, the U.S. Commerce Department is calling for the creation of an online privacy “bill of rights” for internet users.

The proposal, outlined in a Commerce Department report issued Dec. 16, is intended to address growing unease about the vast amounts of personal data that companies are scooping up on the internet, from web browsing habits to smart phone locations to Facebook preferences. The information often is mined to help companies better target their advertising—a practice that has children’s advocacy groups in particular calling for more online privacy safeguards.

More recent news about online privacy:…Read More

FCC survey shows need to teach internet basics

Is the internet too dangerous for children?
46 percent of adults who don't have broadband access believe the internet is too dangerous for children.

The federal government’s plan to provide fast internet connections to all Americans will have to include some basic instruction in Web 101, a new survey reveals. According to the survey, nearly half of adults who don’t subscribe to broadband say the internet is too dangerous for children—a finding that suggests policy makers and educators face a steep challenge in convincing much of the public of the benefits of broadband access.

The Federal Communications Commission’s first-ever survey on internet usage and attitudes concludes that those who aren’t connected today need to be taught how to navigate the web, find online information that is valuable to them, and avoid hazards such as internet scams.

The study, released Feb. 23, comes less than a month before the FCC is due to hand Congress policy recommendations on how to make affordable, high-speed internet access a reality for everyone. The findings are certain to shape the policy recommendations in that plan, which was mandated by last year’s stimulus bill.…Read More

Broadband access gap remains large

With 40 percent of U.S. homes without broadband, educators continue the push to close the digital divide.
With 40 percent of U.S. homes without broadband, educators continue the push to close the digital divide.

Roughly 40 percent of Americans do not have high-speed internet access at home, according to new Commerce Department figures that reinforce what some educators believe is causing some students to fall behind.

“There’s lots of talk about digital literacy. That’s something that should be built into the curriculum,” said Charles Benton, chairman and CEO of the Benton Foundation.

“The three R’s alone are not sufficient for today’s needs. We’ve got to be using today’s tools. It’s an old point, but we’ve got to keep beating that drum until we get the funding.”…Read More