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Social Networks’ Explosive Growth Revives Decades-Long Debate On Digital Privacy

SAN FRANCISCO, December 2, 2009 – The phenomenal growth of online social networks is finally moving the decades-long debate over the nature of privacy in the digital world forward, said legal experts at an annual conference on innovation in San Francisco on Tuesday.

Congress has threatened to enact and revamp consumer privacy laws for decades, but the complexity of the task has generally stumped the body, except for the areas of finance and health.

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SAN FRANCISCO, December 2, 2009 – The phenomenal growth of online social networks is finally moving the decades-long debate over the nature of privacy in the digital world forward, said legal experts at an annual conference on innovation in San Francisco on Tuesday.

Congress has threatened to enact and revamp consumer privacy laws for decades, but the complexity of the task has generally stumped the body, except for the areas of finance and health.

But the evolution of the web into a social, interactive space, and its growing reach into people’s everyday lives is forcing the issue onto front stage.

Digital rights group the Center for Technology and Democracy, for example, is launching a major new grassroots campaign Thursday to urge the public to push for new privacy legislation. A Wednesday media advisory said “the campaign will enlist concerned citizens in the fight to enact federal consumer privacy legislation and demand stronger privacy protections from companies.”

The group is betting that the number of users of the networks who care about their privacy has reached a critical mass: Its campaign is using both microblogging service Twitter and Facebook to build support.

So many people use the networks and interact on them consistently that the notion of digital privacy is no longer an abstract concept, but a tangible one. CDT’s Vice President of Public Policy Jim Dempsey disputed the stereotype of the privacy-oblivious youth of today. He believes that they are highly interested in controlling information about themselves in the digital world.

Separately, another rights group, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said Wednesday that it is suing the Justice Department as well as others to find out how they use social networks like Facebook and Twitter to conduct surveillance.

“The paradigm of how [U.S.] law expresses privacy needs to change,” said Harriet Pearson, IBM’s  chief privacy officer during a panel discussion at Supernova, an annual conference on innovation.

Unlike the United States, “the concept of the law around the world is: ‘yes [my personal information] is out there, but I ought to have control over it,'” she said.

“That paradigm shift is hard to achieve in faith in law and policy,” she said, but the Federal Trade Commission is going to explore how to do it in upcoming months, and so is the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications Information Administration.

“There is a role for regulation, and there will be more,” Pearson predicted. “We can’t get the technology to be more pervasive and productive unless we sort out these tensions.”

In the meantime, the web’s leading companies are redoubling their efforts to better communicate changes in their features and policies so that their users are not surprised.

On Tuesday, Facebook announced that it is overhauling its software settings and eliminating regional networks. Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg wrote an open letter to the company’s 350 million users around the world saying that the regional networks weren’t an effective way for them to control their privacy.

Instead, Facebook is adding the ability to control who sees each individual piece of content that users add to the network.

And Yahoo works consistently to keep its 500 million monthly users apprised of who their activities are being shared with, said its Chief Privacy Officer Anne Toth.

It does this consistently by showing users who their activities are being shared with, she said.

Education, and teaching members of the public how to better manage the information that they generate about themselves in the digital world is another way to address the situation, Toth said.

Sarah Lai Stirland is the Director of Digital Community at Broadband.Money. Sarah previously worked with Breakfast Media's CEO, Editor and Publisher Drew Clark at National Journal's Technology Daily. She has covered business, technology, government and civic engagement, finance, and telecommunications and tech policy from New York, Washington and San Francisco. Her work has appeared in Personal Democracy Media's Civic Hall, Wired, Red Herring, and Portfolio.com. She's also a radio and podcast producer, and she's worked at KALW Public radio in San Francisco. She's a native of London and Hong Kong, and is currently based in the Bay Area.

Health

Digital Literacy Training Needed for Optimal Telehealth Outcomes, Healthcare Reps Say

Digital literacy should be a priority to unlock telehealth’s potential, a telehealth event heard.

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Photo of telehealth consultation from Healthcare IT News

WASHINGTON, May 18, 2022 – Digital literacy training should be a priority for providers and consumers to improve telehealth outcomes, experts said at a conference Tuesday.

Digital literacy training will unlock telehealth’s potential to improve health outcomes, according to the event’s experts, including improving treatment for chronic diseases, improving patient-doctor relationships, and providing easier medical access for those without access to transportation.

Julia Skapik of the National Association of Community Health Centers said at the National Telehealth Conference on Tuesday that both patients and clinicians need to be trained on how to use tools that allow both parties to communicate remotely.

Skapik said her association has plans to implement training for providers to utilize tech opportunities, such as patient portals to best engage patients.

Ann Mond Johnson from the American Telemedicine Association agreed that telehealth will improve health outcomes by giving proper training to utilize the technology to offer the services.

The Federal Communications Commission announced its telehealth program in April 2021, which set aside $200 million for health institutions to provide remote care for patients.

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Digital Inclusion

W. Antoni Sinkfield: To Succeed in 21st Century, Communities Need to Get Connected Now

One of the primary responsibilities of being a faith leader is to listen to your community and understand its problems.

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The author of this Expert Opinion is Reverend W. Antoni Sinkfield, Associate Dean for Community Life at Wesley Theological Seminary.

One of the primary responsibilities of being a faith leader is to listen to your community, understand its problems, and provide support in challenging times. Particularly during the pandemic, it has been hard not to notice that my parishioners, and folks across the country, are divided into two groups: those with access to the internet, and those without.

In 2022, digital inclusion is still something we strive for in poor and rural areas throughout America. The lack of reliable internet access is an enormous disadvantage to so many people in all facets of their lives.

To fully participate in today’s society, all people, no matter who they are and no matter where they live, must have access to the internet. Think of the remote learning every child had to experience when schools were closed, and the challenges that families faced when they didn’t have access to a quality connection.

It’s a question of plain fairness.

Politicians have been talking for decades about bringing high-speed internet access to everyone, however many families continue to be left behind. More than 42 million people across the country lack affordable, reliable broadband connections, and as many as 120 million people who cannot get online are stuck with slow service that does not allow them to take advantage of everything the internet has to offer.

People of color are disproportionately affected by lack of broadband access

Lack of broadband disproportionately affects communities of color, as well: 35 percent of Americans of Latino descent and 29 percent of African-Americans do not have a broadband connection at home.

Every person in rural towns, urban neighborhoods, and tribal communities needs and deserves equal and full economic and educational opportunities. Studies show that students without home access to the internet are less likely to attend college and face a digital skills gap equivalent to three years’ worth of schooling. Small businesses, which are the cornerstone of rural and urban communities alike, need broadband to reach their customers and provide the service they expect.

Simply put, having access to the internet in every community is vital to its ability to succeed in the 21st century.

Fortunately, we have an opportunity to take major steps toward a solution. Last year, Congress passed President Biden’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which provides $65 billion to expand broadband access and affordability. It is essential that we use this money to connect as many unserved and underserved communities as we can – and as quickly as we can.

Different places need different options to bridge the digital divide

As we bridge the digital divide, we must listen to those who have been left behind and make sure that we deploy solutions that fit their needs. Different places need different options – so it’s important that all voices are heard, and the technology that works best for the community is made readily available.

All people need access to broadband to learn, work, shop, pay bills, and get efficient healthcare.

When I talk to my parishioners, they speak about how much of their lives have transitioned online and are frustrated about not having reliable access. They do not care about the nuances of how we bring broadband to everyone. They just want to have it now – and understandably so.

This means that we must explore all solutions possible to provide high-speed broadband with the connection and support they need, when they need it, regardless of where they live.

Now is the time to meet those struggling where they are, stop dreaming about bridging the divide, and just get it done. Our government has a rare opportunity to fix an enormous problem, using money already approved for the purpose. Let’s make sure they do so in a manner that works for the communities they’re trying to help.

Rev. W. Antoni Sinkfield, Ph.D., serves as Associate Dean for Community Life at Wesley Theological Seminary, and is an ordained Itinerate Elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. This piece is exclusive to Broadband Breakfast.

Broadband Breakfast accepts commentary from informed observers of the broadband scene. Please send pieces to commentary@breakfast.media. The views expressed in Expert Opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Broadband Breakfast and Breakfast Media LLC.

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Broadband's Impact

Biden Delivers Remarks on Free Broadband to Qualified Households

Biden compared the value of broadband to telephone service, and drew parallels to the historic effort to connect the country.

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Screenshot of President Joe Biden delivering remarks at the White Hose Rose Garden

WASHINGTON, May 9, 2022 – President Joe Biden emphasized the essential nature of broadband during a public appearance on Monday.

Biden delivered remarks at the White House Rose Garden on the day’s earlier announcement that the federal government would work with both regional and national broadband providers to provide essentially free broadband to qualified households.

“Too many Americans simply cannot afford to get connected even if there is access to get connected. So, they go without high-speed internet, or they sacrifice other necessities in order to make it work,” Biden said.

“High-speed internet is not a luxury any longer – it is a necessity,” Biden said. “That is why the bipartisan infrastructure law included $65 billion to make sure we expand access to broadband internet in every region of the country.”

Biden also laid out the criteria for eligible households to take advantage of Affordable Connectivity Program, which when paired with the effort by ISPs to keep 100 Mbps download services under $30, provides free internet to consumers.

“If your household income is twice the federal poverty level or less – that is that’s about $55,000 per year for a family of four – or $27,000 for an individual – or a member of your household is on Medicaid or supplementary [social] security income or a number of other programs – you are eligible.”

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