The very fabric of our society is impacted by the role of communications and technology.
Personal devices, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are more prevalent in our lives than ever, but we haven’t adopted the policies we need to address the capabilities of these new technologies or the risks they pose to our privacy. We need to come together and set new rules of the road. John’s wife April, the Washington Director of Common Sense Media, is a leader on technology issues and both John and April have a strong record of promoting awareness of technology’s potential risk to children’s health and of advocating for children’s well-being.
For many years U.S. communications policy was rooted in the Telecommunications Act of 1934 (and updated in 1996) and in the public interest policies of the Federal Communications Commission and Federal Trade Commission in the areas of broadcast, cable and common carrier/telephony. With the advent of the internet and a convergence of digitized platforms, the communications landscape morphed in ways unanticipated by the internet’s original creators. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and technology companies were allowed to circumvent antitrust and public interest regulation because the internet was originally created to be a communications platform available free of charge and without government oversight. However, in a 24/7 broadband world these digitized networks, and affiliated service platforms, subsumed the formerly regulated areas of telecommunications, entertainment and commerce. Compounding this trend, the ever-growing capabilities of AI along with the rapid proliferation of personal devices accelerated the impact of a digital convergence which caught consumers and government regulators off guard. Most did not notice these changes: until the world changed. Our country began to understand that failing to update those core communications policies that protect consumers, uphold the public interest and promote a fair, equal and transparent playing field among providers was damaging to public life. As Delaney says, the cost of doing nothing is not nothing.
Delaney, along with a growing consensus of consumer groups, child advocates, nonprofits and companies, realizes the need to update our communications policies not only in a way that encourages innovation and competition, but also to ensure long respected consumer protections and liberties are not unintentionally compromised. Specifically, there should be a renewed holistic discussion on issues such as consumer privacy, community programming and localism, campaign election communications and disclosure laws, eavesdropping protections, children’s programming, tech addiction issues, market concentration of media companies, the impact of undisclosed algorithms on consumers and on commerce more generally, and cyber and national security. Delaney understands the sweeping implications of cybersecurity, which is why he has called for a new Department of Cybersecurity.
Due to the unique origins of the internet, most ISPs’ early business plans centered on taking users’ online personal proprietary information or other data often obtained without their knowledge or consent, and selling that data to third parties. Most telecommunications providers now rely on gathering information from consumers during their online activities so they can better market to them and track their personal information as well as online activities and behaviors. Laws and regulations must be updated to protect personal data and improve transparency. Delaney proposes requiring tech companies to improve transparency and provide consumers with proper notice of their data collection practices, which will allow individuals to understand potential privacy risks and choose whether to provide their informed consent.
- Delaney is calling for federal digital privacy legislation, modeled after the California Consumer Privacy Act, that will promote transparency so consumers can make informed choices about how to protect their privacy.
- Right to know: Device manufacturers will be required to include an easy to understand list of components on product labels so consumers will know their devices’ capabilities to record, store, and share their personal data. Additionally, companies will be required to inform users about data collection and sharing.
- Right to access: Consumers will be able to request their personal data that companies have collected in a usable format.
- Right to decide: Consumers will be able to opt out of the collection or sale of their personal data.
- Right to delete: Consumers who opt out of data collection can also request that companies delete any personal data that has been collected.
- Private right of action: Individuals will have the right to sue companies who violate privacy rules.
- Delaney supports particularly strong protections for minors, and he will update the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) to prohibit the collection of personal data of any person under the age of 16 without their consent.
- COPPA imposes an “actual knowledge” standard regarding the collection of data from underage users. Delaney will further strengthen COPPA by replacing the “actual knowledge” standard with a “constructive knowledge” standard, which will hold companies accountable for collecting data from children when companies should have known through reasonable care that underage users were on their platform.
- Delaney will ensure that all tech companies that are directed to children or that have substantial numbers of users under the age of 16 are covered by COPPA requirements.
- Companies will be prohibited from refusing to serve individuals who opt-out of data collection or who request to have their collected data deleted.
- Delaney believes that personal communications should remain private and not subject to unconsented eavesdropping by a third party. More specifically, private conversations in one’s home should be specifically protected. Laws that protect privacy with communication devices should extend to makers of smart speakers or other personal devices (e.g., Alexa) or smart interactive toys marketed to children. Tech companies must obtain informed consent before recording and storing private conversations, or utilizing these conversations to train AI or to access user location.
Impacts of Technology on Children:
- We know that everyone, including children and teens, uses social media and personal devices more than ever before, but we still don’t have a comprehensive look at what effect this technology has on our health. Researchers from medical schools in the US and the UK have found that children who use devices before going to bed are twice as likely to have inadequate sleep and nearly 3 times as likely to be tired throughout the next day as children who did not use a device. According to a report from Common Sense Media, 50% of teens feel addicted to their phones or other devices and 78% of teens check their devices at least once an hour.
- To better understand this issue Delaney introduced the Children and Media Research Advancement Act (CAMRA), bipartisan legislation that would fund the first-ever NIH research into how technology and personal devices affect the cognitive, physical and emotional development of infants, children and adolescents.
- Delaney proposes the creation of a government-led task force comprised of nonprofits, consumer groups, child advocates, representatives of government agencies and industry to discuss how best to harness the best of technology for children and discuss best practices. This task force would discuss issues such as protecting youth privacy, tech addiction issues, skyrocketing anxiety and disconnection and ways to promote physical and emotional well-being.
Delaney was a co-founder of the Artificial Intelligence Caucus while in Congress, and believes that as a country we need to better understand the implications of technology and harness the power of AI to best encourage innovation, job creation and improve our national security.
- Delaney will address the privacy implications of AI. Companies should not be able to use a smartphone or other device to monitor facial expressions as one looks at content and ads without consent.
- We must also set clear regulations to protect consumers, especially children, from the manipulative use of AI and facial recognition in advertising.
While it is tempting to think AI can make unbiased decisions, we actually risk bias being baked-in to the programming that perpetuates human bias with no clear ways to rectify it once the bias is incorporated into the algorithms.
- Delaney will partner with the private sector and non-profits to develop best practices against AI technology inheriting human biases.
- In addition, he will require the private sector to report on, and then update if necessary, their computer algorithms to help end bias in automated decision making.