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Congress needs to take new approach to protect internet

In a recent opinion piece (Business Insider, March 30) Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg called for governments and regulators to take a more active role in policing the internet and strengthening online data privacy protections. At least on that issue, we can all agree.

To bolster privacy protections for consumers online, Congress should enact comprehensive federal privacy legislation. We need a set of “rules of the road” for consumer privacy that apply equally to all companies in the internet ecosystem. Consumers deserve the same protections, no matter where they go online or how they access the Internet.

In recent years, the tech industry has proven itself to be either unable or unwilling to take the proper steps to protect its users’ data and personal information. Companies have violated consumers’ privacy and broken the trust of their users. It’s time for Congress to take action.

Unfortunately, while several privacy bills have been introduced in this Congress, no single bill covers all the bases. In the meantime, Congress is focusing on the woefully misguided – not to mention deceptively titled – Save the Internet Act. This flawed legislation would reinstate Title II regulations – a pre-World War II set of standards written for the 1930s telephone industry – on internet service providers, or ISPs. This antiquated approach prescribed by the backward-looking Save the Internet Act would do little to actually preserve a free and open internet or protect consumers’ online privacy. Rather than trying to enforce these outdated regulations on the 21st century internet, lawmakers need to take a modern approach that deals with today’s issues.

If Congress is going to pass new regulations for the internet, it also should pass comprehensive privacy legislation that addresses the internet as it functions today. That means not only ISPs but major sites like Facebook and Google should act as the chief gatekeepers. Facebook boasts more than 2.3 billion active monthly users and more than 90 percent of Internet searches go through Google. When the gatekeepers wield this much power and influence over what we see and do online, it’s time for Congress to put rules in place to protect us.

Congress should codify the basic tenets of net neutrality – a concept with which virtually no one disagrees – without imposing outdated Title II provisions on ISPs. But perhaps more importantly, Congress should pass privacy regulations that govern all Internet companies, including social media platforms, online search engines, content distributors and service providers. Unfortunately, the Save the Internet Act fails on both fronts. It’s time for Congress to scrap this ill-advised approach and start at square one.

To read the guest opinion article in the Arizona Capitol Times in its entirety, visit here.

Steven G. Zylstra is president and CEO of Arizona Technology Council and SciTech Institute.

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