The Federalist: Every State Should Pass Florida’s Digital Bill Of Rights To Protect Citizens From 24/7 Surveillance

March 24, 2023

The Federalist

For too long, Americans have been preyed upon online. It’s past time to enshrine into law the rights that will protect Americans as they use everyday digital services.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is leading this charge. Other states, no matter the political affiliation of their elected leaders, should follow his example and put their citizens back in control of their increasingly digitized lives.

On Feb. 15, DeSantis released a preview of his legislative proposal that would create a “Digital Bill of Rights” for Floridians. The plan involves preventing Big Tech from abusing data, limiting the ability of foreign adversaries to spy on citizens, and preventing harm to children. All three points hit on popular issues that Americans care about.

Many Republicans talk a big game on Big Tech but fail to implement the necessary changes that will stop its abuses. DeSantis is looking to set a new course.

On multiple fronts, from protecting private conversations from Big Tech surveillance to countering harmful bias in search engine algorithms, Florida’s Digital Bill of Rights seeks to claw back the power that Big Tech has amassed. The goal of this effort is to give the user control over his or her activity and data rather than surrender it to Big Tech.

DeSantis emphasized that each person should consent to his or her data being used in certain ways, such as for targeted advertisement. This is a paradigm shift away from the view of Big Tech defenders who think that by using these services and devices, the American citizen should give up any expectation of privacy and control.

As children spend more time online and put more of their data in the hands of these large corporations, it becomes necessary to enact laws to protect them from being exploited. There is serious debate on whether kids should even have access to these platforms before a certain age, but until that decision is made their data should be secured. Ensuring that young people are prevented from accessing materials that could harm them is a noble endeavor in a world that increasingly preys on them.

Another encouraging part of DeSantis’ proposal is its emphasis on securing state networks and devices from cybersecurity risks posed by foreign nations. Alongside a ban on Chinese-influenced applications such as TikTok, DeSantis seeks to prevent other adversaries from compromising people’s data.

While other states have simply banned problematic applications on state devices, Florida is looking to extend that ban to educational and government networks. Through a formal recommendation, DeSantis has already begun by calling on state agencies to block these applications and “prevent connections to services, servers, and IP ranges of concern.” Using the entire scope of his influence as governor, DeSantis is rightly waging a total war on foreign information-gathering cyber operations.

The complete details of the proposed legislation will not be known until fully released, but DeSantis is directionally correct. The time for passivity in the digital realm is over. Strong and effective governance must be applied to digital services to protect consumer data and access while prioritizing security and safety for vulnerable users.

Caleb Larson is a cybersecurity researcher, policy analyst with the Internet Accountability Project, Heritage Foundation alum, and contributor at The Daily Caller, where he writes about cybersecurity-related issues facing the United States.

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