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House of Lords Seeks Proactive Regulation of Internet

The Communications Committee of the UK’s House of Lords has called for the establishment of a new regulatory framework for services in the digital world, and set out ten guiding principles it thinks should form its basis.

The Regulating in a Digital World report says regulation in the UK is fragmented, with no one of the many bodies involved given an overview; and that big tech companies are failing at policing themselves. It suggests the setting up of a new Digital Authority, responsible to a new joint committee of both Houses of Parliament, to co-ordinate regulators, continually assess regulation and make recommendations on the need for additional powers as technology changes and gaps arise. 

The report says a duty of care should be imposed on online services which host and curate content uploaded and accessed by the public – with Ofcom’s authority expanded to cover enforcement of this; and that online platforms should make community standards clearer through a new classification framework similar to that of the British Board of Film Classification. Users should have greater control over the collection of personal data, with maximum privacy being the default setting and data controllers and processors required to publish an annual data transparency statement. It also notes that ‘The modern Internet is characterised by the concentration of market power in a small number of companies which operate online platforms’ – and says the Government should consider creating a public interest test for data-driven mergers and acquisitions.

The ten principles, which are intended to guide all regulation of the Internet, are as follows:

  • Parity: there should be the same level of protection online as off-line
  • Accountability: processes must be in place so that individuals and organisations are held to account for their actions and policies
  • Transparency: powerful businesses and organisations operating in the digital world must be open to scrutiny
  • Openness: the Internet must remain open to innovation and competition
  • Privacy: measures should be in place to protect the privacy of individuals
  • Ethical design: services must act in the interests of users and society
  • Recognition of childhood: the most vulnerable users of the Internet should be protected
  • Respect for human rights and equality: the freedoms of expression and information online should be protected
  • Education and awareness-raising: people should be able to navigate the digital world safely
  • Democratic accountability, proportionality and an evidence-based.

Committee Chairman Lord Gilbert of Panteg, said: ‘The Government should not just be responding to news headlines but looking ahead so that the services that constitute the digital world can be held accountable to an agreed set of principles’. He added: ‘Without intervention, the largest tech companies are likely to gain ever more control of technologies which extract personal data and make decisions affecting people’s lives. Our proposals will ensure that rights are protected online as they are off-line while keeping the Internet open to innovation and creativity, with a new culture of ethical behaviour embedded in the design of service’. 

Web site: www.parliament.uk/lords . The full report can be accessed via the Committee’s web site at www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/lords-select/communications-committee .

Article source: Daily Research News

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