A look at what’s wrong with the internet

On the day Facebook’s CEO was scheduled to testify on Capitol Hill about a privacy breach involving the world’s largest social network, Mozilla released a report about the internet’s health.

The nonprofit foundation’s diagnosis? The internet needs help.

Mark Zuckerberg was grilled at a joint session of the Senate Commerce and Judiciary committees and at a hearing before the House Energy and Commerce Committee over the fact that Cambridge Analytica, a political data consulting company that was used by President Trump’s campaign, accessed the Facebook user information of up to 87 million people without their consent.

The CEO appeared before lawmakers for the first time since Facebook and other tech platforms were used to spread U.S. election-related disinformation and propaganda linked to Russian trolls. Fake news is another issue the Mozilla report identifies as critical.

“ ‘Fake news’ has reached epidemic proportions worldwide and this is in large part due to the underlying online advertising economy, which rewards abuse, fraud, and misinformation,” the report says. “To stop fake news, we will need to look at radical changes in internet business models and regulation.”

What might those changes look like?

“We can build services that are just as good that collect less data, or maybe don’t keep it as long,” said Mark Surman, executive director of the Mozilla Foundation, in an interview recently. “We should have a conversation about lean data vs. fat data. Are we collecting too much data?”

Another issue identified as critical in the Mozilla report is the consolidation of power in tech.

“A handful of big tech companies, including Facebook, Google, and Amazon, have become intertwined not only with people’s daily lives, but with the global economy, civic discourse, and democracy itself,” the report says.

Mozilla is the maker of the Firefox browser and other open-source tools, and a longtime advocate for an open internet. True, Firefox competes with Google’s Chrome browser. But Firefox also uses Google search.

Mozilla’s interest in pointing out the growing power of just a handful of tech companies isn’t to say that those companies are “bad,” he said. “We want to see an internet ecosystem and marketplace where users can trust the services they use and where things are open to competition.”

Surman sees the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica mess as a “flashpoint,” and hopes that consumers will be angry enough to demand more from companies.

“You saw that 20 years ago in case of Nikes and wages,” he said. “Nike turned around and is a great corporate citizen now.”

He suggested that tech companies can make concrete changes if they want to.

“By default, Facebook tracks you across the rest of the web,” Surman said. “They can switch the default. There’s a lot they can do very fast on data collection.”

The other critical issue the Mozilla report talks about is security in the age of the internet of things, especially as Surman says 30 billion devices are expected to be internet-connected over the next three or four years.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Nation & World

After 7 long years, lost cat comes home
After 7 long years, lost cat comes home

A long-lost cat has finally come home on Cape Cod.  Tigger escaped through an open door seven years ago and his owner, Rebecca Collins West, thought she would never see him again.  But thanks to a microchip, the MSPCA on Cape Cod was able to return him home when he was dropped on July 31 by an animal control officer.  According to MSPCA...
Florida law requires 'In God We Trust' to be displayed in all schools
Florida law requires 'In God We Trust' to be displayed in all schools

A bill signed into law by Florida Gov. Rick Scott in March now means students will see “In God We Trust” displayed at all schools in the state. WPTV reported that the law requires the state motto to be shown in a “conspicuous place.” >> Read more trending news  According to state statute 1003.44, &ldquo...
Firefighters dig trapped tortoise out from hole
Firefighters dig trapped tortoise out from hole

A group of California firefighters are heroes to a slow-moving victim that found itself in a precarious position.  Bentley, a 25-year-old sulcata tortoise, had become trapped in a hole in Kern County, California, KABC reported.  His owner called for help when Bentley couldn’t emerge from the ground. That’s when firefighters...
LAPD investigates man slapping hippo at L.A. Zoo
LAPD investigates man slapping hippo at L.A. Zoo

Police in Los Angeles are investigating a wild incident at the Los Angeles Zoo.  Video came to light of a man who climbed over a railing at the zoo and then is seen slapping a hippopotamus on its rear end. Zoo officials said that they learned about the video when it appeared on social media. They in turn told police about the incident and posted...
Italian bridge collapse: At least 30 killed when raised highway gives way in Genoa
Italian bridge collapse: At least 30 killed when raised highway gives way in Genoa

At least 30 people were killed Tuesday when part of a highway bridge collapsed in northwestern Italy, officials said. Update 11:15 a.m. EDT Aug. 14: IItaly’s  Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini told reporters Tuesday that at least 30 people were killed in Tuesday’s highway bridge collapse in Genoa, up from the 20 reported dead...
More Stories