What Does Digital Citizenship Mean Today?

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Alvin Bryan

Alvin Bryan is a freelance writer and online privacy enthusiast enthusiast currently contributing quality tips and troubleshooting on personal VPN services, and online privacy and security news. You can also find him on Google +.

Digital citizenship is an opportunity to access a wealth of information and services. It does not give people the right to do whatever they want online. But many see the Internet as a place where they can be anonymous. This has led to many problems stemming from the irresponsible actions that anonymity encourages. Now governments are getting together to discuss how they can team up to create policies that can govern Internet behavior across the world.

Digital Citizenship and Online Behavior

Digital Citizenship DutiesDigital citizenship involves certain rights, which comes along with certain duties. But many Internet users grab hold of the rights and ignore their responsibilities. The Internet gives us opportunities to use many different services that have become integral parts of our lives. There’s email and cloud storage, social media and news, shopping and banking. We take advantage of these services without a second thought to how we are using them. There are many laws that govern us as citizens of different countries. And more laws that determine right and wrong on an international scale. But there are few laws that apply to digital citizenship and can control our behavior online.

Many people abuse digital citizenship whether they realize it or not. They cling to the ideal of the Internet as a place where information flows freely. But they do not manage this freedom responsibly. A combination of Internet freedoms of speech and expression plus irresponsible management of digital citizenship has led to big problems. Most notably to date, we face increased invasion of privacy, cyber bullying and the violation of women’s rights. These are common international issues that stem from the general understanding and attitude of Internet users toward digital citizenship.

Digital Citizenship is an International Issue

On May 20, the Italian Embassy organized a discussion of digital citizenship in Washington DC. Laura Boldrini of the Italian Parliament was present for the discussion. Boldrini, President of the Chamber of Deputies, hit the nail on the head when she remarked on the necessity for an international partnership that would entail an organized management of international issues. The Internet has been the center of information distribution for many years now. The spread of content to the ends of the earth was one objective behind opening the Internet to the public. But because of the reckless side of digital citizenship, the safety, privacy, dignity and other rights of many Internet users are being attacked.

Digital Citizenship RightsGovernments and tech companies need to team up to make the solution to Internet ills possible. Catching cyber bullies and reining in users who are careless with content sharing is not just about passing local laws that apply to the Internet. Following the UN move to grant the universal right to online privacy, governments around the world need to cooperate to form binding universal policies that will protect Internet users from all forms of abuse.

Data security and privacy are often at issue because of local laws that permit governments to nationalize data. Information Technology and Innovation Foundation founder Robert Atkinson stressed the importance of considering this. Any changes in Internet policies must recognize universal rights to privacy and security before any solution can work. Countries like Germany and Brazil have threatened to keep all their data locally because of the threats of mass data collection. One cooperative effort to ensure data privacy in emails is already in effect. But keeping data locally can harm economic progress. Atkinson says that the focal point of the discussions should be on controlling how data is used rather than on data collection. Many privacy advocates strongly oppose this. It comes back again to the assurance of data privacy on an international level. Atkinson’s point is to prevent the damage that can be caused by too much Internet regulation, as exemplified by the right-to-be-forgotten ruling of the European Court of Justice.

Clearly, because the Internet spans the globe, policies need to be written cooperatively. Governments and tech companies must consider current technologies and Internet culture. They must reach a fair median for Internet policy or digital citizenship cannot be regulated to prevent abuses. The clash of opinions between the EU and the US on the right-to-be-forgotten ruling is a clear example of how differences can destroy attempts to encourage responsible digital citizenship.