There are a number of powerful online applications on the horizon that can provide great societal benefit, including e-Government, smart grid technologies, and electronic health records. These applications both depend for their success on the widespread availability and affordability of broadband and at the same time could drive demand for broadband services. In a virtuous cycle, they both depend on broadband and could help spur further broadband growth.
However, these applications also pose risks to consumer privacy because they involve the collection and exchange of sensitive personal information and in some implementations will require the development of more robust identification and authentication services. Therefore, their acceptance – and hence to some extent the future of broadband development – depend on the degree to which consumer privacy is protected. To increase consumer trust and truly achieve broadband’s potential, these applications require a robust and comprehensive privacy protection framework.
Some degree of government surveillance and secrecy is necessary to protect against national security threats. However, overbroad government power to conduct mass surveillance with minimal transparency threatens Constitutional freedoms and inhibits meaningful public debate. Here are four – but not the only – needed national security surveillance reforms that the Administration and Congress should tackle now.