The Selected Curation of Articles on Net-Governance (the SCAN) is a weekly digest on Internet governance news, reports, and events produced by the Governance Lab @NYU (the GovLab) as part of the GovLab’s Living Labs on Smarter Governance project. The SCAN is cross-posted weekly from the GovLab on the Internet Policy Observatory. The original posting of the GovLab SCAN- Issue 19, March 21, 2014 can be found here.
This week’s highlights:
- Last week, the United States government, through the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) of the Department of Commerce, released an official announcement declaring its intention to transition away from being the steward of the Domain Name System through contract with ICANN. The NTIA has called on ICANN to “convene the global multistakeholder community in crafting a transition plan. The GovLab has compiled a special side-issue of the SCAN that deals exclusively with this announcement.
- ICANN49 in Singapore will begin this Sunday (March 23). The agenda includes general Supporting Organization/Advisory Committee policy-development activities, although there is also a heavy focus on global Internet governance (the crafting of a transition plan), ICANN’s strategic planning process and the Strategy Panels, and also ICANN’s global stakeholder engagement activities.
- The European Parliament has adopted a new Data Protection Reform Package that specifies rules for how Internet companies collect and use European citizens’ data. Many are praising this as a standard-setting move for digital privacy rights around the globe. However, others recognize that such legislation can produce confusion and contradiction for Internet companies that operate globally in various different legal environments.
- Privacy, security, and surveillance online continue to be extremely visible topics in global discussions. For example, there have been continued concerns around hacking attacks from Ukraine; Turkey has blocked Twitter; and many around the world are concerned about how Russia is handling the Ukraine/Crimea crisis through digital means.
Audio Files, Transcripts from Community Calls with ICANN Board Chair and CEO. ICANN.org. March 19, 2014.
- On Saturday March 15, ICANN President Fadi Chehadé and Board Chair Steve Crocker held a community call to discuss the US government’s announcement on Friday that it intended to transition from its stewardship role of the DNS and IANA functions. The audio file for that call is here, and the transcript is here.
Namazi, Cyrus. Summary and Analysis of Specification 13 Public Comments. ICANN Blog. March 14, 2014.
- In December 2013, ICANN posted a draft of a proposed Specification 13 for its Registry Accreditation Agreement (RAA), which is concerned with whether certain top-level domains can be classified as “brand TLDs” and whether the definition of a “brand TLD” is “sufficiently narrow to capture only what is commonly recognized as a corporate brand.” Following public comment, it seems “as many as one-third of all new gTLD applications might qualify as .Brand TLD.”
Sanders, James. ICANN Sends Registrars and Domain Owners Into Panic with 2013 RAA. TechRepublic. March 19, 2014.
- At the beginning of this year, ICANN’s 2013 Registrar Accreditation Agreement came into effect. However, this year’s Agreement is particularly controversial, especially its focus on keeping WHOIS records up to date (WHOIS is a database that stores information on the registrants of domain names). Registrars, for example, may have to take extra steps to verify registrant information, and many are concerned that this will be contradictory for registrars in places such as the European Union where information-collecting requirements are different from in the United States.
Boadle, Anthony. Brazil to Drop Local Data Storage Rule in Internet Bill. Reuters. March 18, 2014.
- Last year, Brazil proposed new Internet governance legislation following the NSA revelations, which would have “forced global Internet companies to store data on Brazilian users inside the country to shield them from U.S. spying.” Instead, the legislation will now say that Internet companies “are subject to Brazilian laws in cases involving information on Brazilians even if the data is stored abroad.”
Brodkin, Jon. EU Net Neutrality Vote Would Let ISPs Charge for Internet ‘fastLane.‘ Ars Technica. March 18, 2014.
- The European Parliament’s Industry Committee voted in favor of new “Connected Continent” legislation, which is “intended to prevent Internet service providers from blocking or slowing down Web applications, but lets ISPs charge content providers for higher quality of service.” Many fear this will jeopardize net neutrality throughout the EU.
Forrest, Conner. Why an Internet bill of rights will never work, and what’s more important. TechRepublic. March 13, 2014.
- World Wide Web creator Tim Berners-Lee used the occasion of the Internet’s 25th birthday to rally the global Internet community to adopt an Internet bill of rights. Internet activists have championed this cause for some time now, with Representative Darrell Issa and Senator Ron Wyden’s 2012 “digital bill of rights.” Naysayers believe that this and other Internet bill of rights will not work because they are inherently rooted in the tenets of a democratic society, to which not all governments subscribe. The Internet bill of rights that Berners-Lee outlines would inevitably be one rooted in Western values.
Geiger, Harley. Four Key Reforms for NSA Surveillance. Center for Democracy & Technology. March 14, 2014.
- Geiger suggests four national security reforms the US government should address: “outlaw bulk collection of Americans’ private records,” “require greater transparency and accountability for surveillance,” “close ‘backdoor search loophole’ to monitor Americans without court approval,” and “limit surveillance to national security and related threats.”
Hardy, Quentin. Privacy in a War Without End. The New York Times. March 17, 2014.
- This year, the majority of US forces will withdraw from Afghanistan, but the question of the specific data collection methods to be implemented within Afghanistan going forward still looms large. Surveillance after a war ends is nothing new, but the scope of some of the discussed monitoring and surveillance programs in Afghanistan, which were first disclosed by Edward Snowden, has raised eyebrows. Surveillance options range from a so-called ’Total Information Awareness,” a program that would collect data in bulk to the more targeted methods that would focus efforts on known threats. At the end of 2014, President Obama will formally speak about long-term surveillance in Afghanistan.
Mueller, Milton. “What Did the WCIT Really Do? A Review.” Internet Governance Project. March 13, 2014.
- Reviewing Richard Hill’s new book, The New International Telecommunication Regulations and the Internet: A Commentary and Legislative History, Mueller applauds the historical account provided of the before, during and after of the December 2012 World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT). Mueller cautions readers, however, about adopting Hill’s main thesis – that the opposition to the ITU’s new treaty is part of “an orchestrated campaign by a few major internet companies such as Google.” He notes that while Hill aims to highlight both sides, his pro-intergovernmental bias shines through in this book designed to answer the question: “Did the United Nations (UN) attempt to take over the Internet in December 2012 so as to control it and establish censorship?”
Nakashima, Ellen. Official: Court’s sign off for queries on Americans’ data would be impractical.Washington Post. March 19, 2014.
- In an effort to reign in surveillance of US citizens by the National Security Agency, lawmakers and a White House panel on surveillance suggested that courts must get approval in advance of querying databases that hold Americans’ and foreigners’ data. However, general counsel for the Office of Director of National Intelligence, Robert S. Litt, told the Civil Liberties Oversight Board that getting court approval for individual queries would be “an operational burden” and that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court “would be extremely unhappy if they were required to approve every such query.”
Ng, Jason Q. How Chinese Internet Censorship Works, Sometimes. ChinaFile. March 13, 2014.
- China currently has 618 million Internet users and of those, 281 million use popular microblogging sites (like Twitter) known collectively as “weibo.” Ng finds that there is empirical evidence to suggest that, “censorship sometimes not only fails to quash discussion of sensitive topics on Chinese social media sites, but may even encourage it.”
Ruvolo, Julie. Brazil’s ‘Constitution Of The Internet’ Puts Net Neutrality In The Spotlight. TechCrunch. March 19, 2014.
- Brazil’s first piece of major Internet legislation (the “Constitution of the Internet”) is days away from a vote in Brazil’s Congress. Despite the bill’s three major themes – net neutrality, freedom of expression, and Internet security – the net neutrality provisions have attracted the most attention. This is because a consortium is working to remove the provision from the bill entirely, which could result in giving telecom companies the ability to limit access to Internet content. Another recent amendment to the bill contains “forced localization” provisions, requiring Internet companies like Google to store their data locally in Brazil. Technology companies and users are protesting these proposed changes, and are using Meu Rio, a social mobilization platform to run a “Save the Internet” campaign and to assist Brazilians in sending emails to their congresspeople advocating for adoption of the bill in its original form.
Simone, Patrizia et al. EP Adopts the Data Protection Reform Package. Access Now. March 12, 2014.
- The European Parliament has adopted the “Data Protection Reform Package,” which “introduces improved protections and controls on data portability, explicit consent, and privacy by design and by default.” Access argues that, “this is an opportunity for standards for data rights to improve around the world.” The European Council will have to adopt a final position later this summer, and this process will involve further coordination between EU member states.
The GovLab SCAN – Special Issue (NTIA/ICANN/IANA Announcement). The Governance Lab. March 21, 2014.
- This special issue of the SCAN focuses on global reactions to the United States government’s announcement that it plans to cede control of the Internet’s technical resources (through contract with ICANN) and in which it asked ICANN to “convene the global multistakeholder community” to craft a transition plan whereby the global multistakeholder community would become the new signatory to the contract which gives ICANN its authority. Although largely a symbolic change, the announcement is extremely significant for Internet governance and has been called by Steve Crocker (ICANN Board Chair) “the end of the beginning.” In this special issue of the SCAN, the GovLab compiles the most noteworthy and important reactions that have been released around the world in the last week.
Tummarello, Kate. House Panel to Examine Internet Governance. The Hill. March 18, 2014.
- The US House Commerce Committee will hold a hearing in April to examine the recent NTIA announcement regarding the US government relinquishing oversight of ICANN. According to Tummarello, “some members of the committee have already expressed vocal support and opposition to the Commerce agency’s announcement.”
Knight News Challenge: How Can We Strenghten the Internet for Free Expression and Innovation? Knight Foundation. March, 2014.
- The Knight Foundation’s current News Challenge seeks to find answers to the question, “how can we strengthen the Internet for free expression and innovation?” Ideas focus on journalism, policy, research, education, and new technologies –“any innovative project that results in a stronger Internet.” The Challenge currently has 664 final entries in the “Feedback Stage.” In June, Knight will award $2.75 million, including $250,000 from the Ford Foundation, to support the most compelling ideas.
Larson, Eric. How Quickly Did Your Country Adopt the Internet? Mashable. March 19, 2014.
- This interactive map shows the history of Web adoption over the past 25 years around the world. It shows, for example, that between 1993 and 1998, 82 countries gained Internet access, most of which were in South America and Asia. By 2012, 203 countries had access to the Internet.
Q&A With Cybersecurity and Privacy Expert Ian Brown. The Guardian. March 20, 2014.
- Brown discusses how new technologies can be shaped for the public good. He argues that this requires, first, defining the “public good.” Privacy-protective technologies can be developed for a range of applications, and Brown argues it is not just computer scientists, but also lawyers, economists, sociologists, and citizens who need to participate in shaping the values technologies embed.
Papers & Reports
Emerging and Developing Nations Want Freedom on the Internet. Pew Research. March 19, 2014.
- A Pew survey found that “majorities in 22 of 24 countries surveyed say it is important that people have access to the internet without government censorship.” Out of 24 countries, only Uganda and Pakistan do not have majorities that see censorship as an important issue. Pew concludes that support for Internet freedom is higher in countries with higher rates of Internet penetration.
Lim, Hae-in, et al. Netizen Report: Russia Slams Indy Media Sites, Workers. Global Voices Advocacy. March 19, 2014.
- This Netizen Report (published weekly) by Global Voices Advocacy provides “an international snapshot of challenges, victories, and emerging trends in Internet rights around the world.” This week’s highlights include: in Russia, several opposition news portals were blocked; in China, the social media accounts of several prominent writers were deactivated following a session of the National People’s Congress; in the EU, the European Parliament voted in favor of a data protection reform which would suspend the EU-US Safe Harbor Principles; in Ukraine, hackers have claimed responsibility for an attack on NATO websites; the Web last week turned 25; and the US government has announced its intention to give up control of the DNS through ICANN.
York, Jillian C. A Short Guide to the Internet’s Biggest Enemies. PBS. March 19, 2014.
- York, who is the Director of International Freedom of Expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, reacts to the Reporters Without Borders’ annual “Enemies of the Internet” index, which tracks countries that repress free speech online. In particular, Tunisia and Myanmar have both stopped censoring the Internet in recent years; meanwhile, “Cuba, North Korea, China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, Belarus, Bahrain, Turkmenistan, [and] Syria” have all increased online censorship. The US is on the list as an Enemy of the Internet for the first time.
“Trinidad to host regional workshop on Internet governance.” Jamaica Observer. March 19, 2014.
- A 5-day meeting in Trinidad and Tobago next month will feature Caribbean countries working to “consolidate their positions” on Internet governance issues and a training session aimed at preparing those from Latin America and the Caribbean to more actively participate in IG events at regional and international fora. The workshop will be hosted by the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU).