Internet Access is a Human Right

Our blog may have been quiet this summer, but our last newsletter can give you an idea why! We weren’t the only ones who had a busy summer: the UN declared Internet access a basic human right, and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg launched an effort to bring internet access to every corner the globe. Here are stories from the summer commenting on ubiquitous internet access.

UN General Assembly’s Declaration of Internet as a Human Right (PDF)
On June 29, 2012 the United Nations General Assembly declared the internet as a human right. Over 70 countries signed the declaration in order to promote, protect, and enjoy the right to Internet access. The internet encourages the right to freedom of opinion and expression as it provides a new platform of communication and information.

Why We Think the Internet Is a Human Right by Meghan Neal on VICE
The benefits of the internet are clear: access can increase GDP, improve healthcare access, or help us find jobs. Yet, Vint Cerf who is accredited as being part of creating the internet, views internet access as an “enabler” rather than a basic human right. Under the United Nation’s declaration that “everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for … well-being of himself…,” the internet could be argued as part of this right.

Zuckerberg’s “Internet as a human right” faces policy barriers by Scott Bomboy on Yahoo News
The founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, is pushing for internet access across the globe through along with the tech leaders of the world. Criticized for trying to scheme more of the world into using Facebook, Zuckerberg insists that “connectivity is a human right.” Steering far away from the use of Facebook, access to the internet will allow millions of unconnected people the opportunity to access health care, connect with distant family members, and voice their opinions for the first time.  Global access to internet can increase the standard of living for many people and begin to address the problems of government censorship and firewalls existing in various countries.

U.N. Affirms Internet Freedom as a Basic Right by Somini Sengupta on Bits Blog of the New York Times
As the internet is affirmed as a human right, new problems are arising concerning how “free” internet freedom will truly be. American companies providing the technology for internet censorship and firewall will have to re-evaluate their efforts. Will they continue to provide the tools to restrict internet freedom in other countries or risk losing the profit provided by external governments? Although several countries agreed on the resolution to provide access to all, the fear that countries won’t adhere is still present.

Information and Access: Human Rights and the Internet by Jack Healey on Huffington Post
With access to the internet now considered to be a human right, the issue of privacy comes up more and more. As we push for more people to have internet access, the boundaries and laws protecting privacy shift as well. The value of bringing the next billion online is endless and we can expect to collect data on consumer behavior in emerging markets like never before. However, startups taking this route and building portfolios of valuable consumer data through the internet (whether on mobile or otherwise) must be aware of the risks and respect the privacy of the users. Nonetheless, Healy advocates for open access as the pros vastly outweigh the cons.

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