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 18, March 14, 2014 can be found here.
This week’s highlights:
- The United States government, through the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) –an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce– has announced its intent to relinquish the stewardship over the Internet’s addressing systems by exiting from the trilateral relationship it was a part of (alongside ICANN and VeriSign) over administering the IANA (Internet Assigned Numbers Authority) functions contract. The NTIA has asked ICANN to “work collaboratively with the directly affected parties, including the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), the Internet Architecture Board (IAB), the Internet Society (ISOC), the Regional Internet Registries (RIRs), top level domain name operators, VeriSign, and other interested global stakeholders” to craft an appropriate transition plan where the coordination of unique Internet identifiers is to be transitioned oversight by the “global multistakeholder community”.
- The World Wide Web turned 25 this week. A proliferation of articles have been published describing the invention, historical development, and contemporary issues with the Web. Sir Tim-Berners Lee, who invented the World Wide Web, also launched the “web we want” campaign as well as the “web at 25” website, and has made calls for an “Internet bill of rights” to enshrine principles such as openness, freedom of expression online, and net neutrality.
- Several Internet stakeholder communities and individuals –including the “technical community”, various stakeholder groups in ICANN, and various governmental bodies (including the European Commission) have submitted position papers and recommendations (“content contributions”) leading up to NetMundial Brazil Meeting. Many of these contributions are available for reading online.
- Edward Snowden made his first public appearance since the initial revelations of National Security Agency mass surveillance at the SXSW Interactive festival in Austin, Texas. He urged the technical community to think deeply about privacy, safety, and security in technology design.
- Cybersecurity is an increasingly visible topic around the world. This week the International Telecommunications Union published a report on best practices for setting up national cybersecurity systems; meanwhile, cybersecurity is a very contentious issue in the Ukraine crisis and also elsewhere, such as in Turkey and China.
Andruff, Ronald N. “Policy Advisory Board Model Now a Test of Multistakeholder Model.” CircleID. March 7, 2014.
- Andruff in November 2013 published an article suggesting that ICANN adopt a “Policy Advisory Board” (PAB) model “as a practical, effective, and least burdensome means of effectively implementing the request of ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) for consumer and competitive safeguards at sensitive new gTLD ‘strings’”. ICANN’s New gTLD Program Committee (NGPC) declined to put the PAB model document out for public comment. Now, the ICANN At-Large Advisory Committee (ALAC) has voted unanimously to put the PAB model document out for public comment, and Andruff suggests that “how ICANN responds to this action will be a real world test of its true commitment to the bottom up, consensus based, multistakeholder consultation and decision making process that is accountable to the ICANN community and public interest”.
Chehadé, Fadi. “Balancing the Tasks at Hand.” ICANN Blog. March 12, 2014.
- Chehadé, President & CEO of ICANN, discusses the importance of striking a balance between three sphere’s of ICANN’s current efforts: “continuing to mature ICANN’s operations, ICANN’s globalization, and [ICANN’s] contribution to global Internet governance”. In particular, Chehadé describes the need to balance long- and short-term work, and suggests that such a calculus needs to be taken with community input, as, ultimately, the evolution of Internet technologies and Internet governance will not happen without stakeholder involvement and input.
Berners-Lee, Tim. “I am Tim Berners-Lee. I invented the WWW 25 years ago and I am concerned and excited about its future.” Reddit AMA. March 13, 2014 and Berners-Lee, Tim. “Welcome to the Web’s 25th Anniversary – a Message from Tim Berners-Lee.” Web 25th Anniversary. March 13, 2014.
- In celebration of the 25th anniversary of the World Wide Web (WWW), creator Tim Berners-Lee joined the Reddit community for an “Ask Me Anything,” touching on everything from alternative names considered for the WWW (The Information Mine) to expectations on Internet growth to what Berners-Lee thinks the web will look like 25 years from now. He also wrote an anniversary message highlighted on the WWW’s 25th anniversary site in which he focuses on the need for collective efforts toward expanding connectivity, defending the open architecture of the net and working to develop appropriate rules for security of personal data online.
Dong, Leshuo. “From ‘Chinanet’ to ‘Internet Sovereignty’: Historical Development of China’s Internet Policy.” CGCS Media Wire. March 10, 2014.
- Leshuo Dong traces the history of Internet governance and ICT policy in China from 1994 till present in seven “phases”. She suggests that the development of state control over the Internet over this period of time should be revealing for how China will approach the global governance of the Internet, especially as China grows more confident and influential internationally.
Eletheriou-Smith, Loulla-Mae. “SXSW14: Eric Schmidt on Julian Assange, GCHQ, Russian Internet censorship and robots.” Marketing Magazine UK. March 8, 2014.
- Schmidt there are different cultures of tolerance towards online surveillance by governments. For example, in the UK, surveillance is an accepted part of the culture, whereas Germans and Brazilians react much more strongly to recent surveillance debates. On surveillance and privacy, Schmidt notes that “who gets to decide what information is public is a pretty fundamental issue in a democracy, and our general view is that we don’t want random people leaking large amounts of data”.
Ferenstein, Gregory, and Josh Constine. “Zuckerberg Called Obama To ‘Express Frustration’ Over Spying’s Threat To Internet Security.” TechCrunch. March 13, 2014.
- Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg posted to his wall a piece articulating concern over recent U.S. government “threats” to Internet freedom and security, likely a response to recent revelations of NSA “hacking into computers and weakening security standards.” Zuckerberg’s piece notes that he called President Obama to discuss these issues and Ferenstein supposes that Zuckerberg’s adamant position on the issue stems from the fact that Facebook’s business model is so heavily premised on trust with users over keeping confidential data private. He also notes that “[f]or Facebook, the government’s surveillance free-for-all isn’t just morally reprehensible, it’s a hazard to its business.”
Gallegher, Ryan and Greenwald, Glenn. “How the NSA Plans to Infect Millions of Computers with Malware.” First Look. The Intercept. March 12, 2014.
- Documents provided by Edward Snowden shed light on a covert infrastructure plan that equips the NSA with additional tools to surveille millions of persons. The top secret infrastructure, called Expert System, could ostensibly infect millions of computers with malware that would allow the organization to record audio and capture images using the infected computer’s webcam. Malware expert Mikko Hypponen believes this to be a both dangerous and “disturbing” program that “could inadvertently be undermining the security of the Internet”.
“Internet Governance: Future Vision Outlines by European Commission.” Information Policy. March 9, 2014.
- In February the European Commission released a report titled “Internet Policy and Governance: Europe’s role in shaping the future of Internet Governance” which suggests a principles-based approach to strengthening the current Internet governance framework. In particular, the report describes a “COMPACT” approach, which envisages the “Internet as a space of Civic responsibilities, One unfragmented resource governed via a Multistakeholder approach to promote democracy and human rights, based on a sound technological Architecture that engenders confidence and facilitates a Transparent governance both of the underlying Internet infrastructure and of the services which run on top of it”.
“Internet Governance Observations and Recommendations from Members of the Internet Technical Community.” Internet Collaboration. March 7, 2014.
- This document of recommendations is written by individuals and organizations who have been directly involved in the technical development and deployment of the Internet (the Technical Community) and has been submitted to the NetMundial meeting in Brazil. It argues that “many of the early technology and architecture choices that created the Internet that we know today were made as integral, original elements of the network itself” and that these essential elements should continue to inform Internet governance today. Recommendations include: “open and inclusive participation”; consensus-based decision-making; “permission-less innovation”; “collective stewardship and empowerment”; transparency; “pragmatic and evidence-based approach”; and voluntary adoption of standards and policies.
Kiss, Jemima. “An Online Magna Carta: Berners-Lee Calls for Bill of Rights for Web.” The Guardian. March 11, 2014.
- Sir Tim-Berners Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, this week (on the 25th anniversary of the invention of the WWW) called for a “global constitution” or a “bill of rights” to protect the open Internet and to enshrine principles like net neutrality, privacy, free speech, and “responsible anonymity”. He argues that this would require a greater understanding of Internet technologies on the part of law and policy makers. He hopes to use the “web we want” campaign as a platform to collect input on the creation of such a document.
Kurbalija, Jovan. “Welcome to the IG Restaurant.” Diplomacy.edu. March 10, 2014.
- In order to address both the legitimacy and complexity of Internet governance, Kurbalija proposes the “Internet governance (IG) Restaurant”, which can also be understood as an “IG clearing house”, “global IG coordination committee”, or an “IG router”. The IG Restaurant should address the gap between the theoretical possibility for anybody to participate in Internet governance and the reality that participation is not at all easy (either because of material costs or because, for example, discussions are simple not intelligible for any general audience). According to Kurbalija, the “restaurant” would have “diners” (institutions who can address IG issues form different perspectives), a leading “chef” (an honest broker), and a “menu” of good, honest advice to help “diners choose the right meal for them”.
Landrith, George. “One Way to Respond to Putin: Don’t Let Him Control the Internet.” The Daily Caller. March 7, 2014.
- As the crisis in Ukraine unfolds, Landrith warns we should be increasingly wary of recent global debates pushing to take Internet governance out of the hands of the U.S. government. In particular, Landrith suggests that discussions around Internet governance control need to keep other relevant geopolitical developments in mind, and points to Russia’s response to the crisis in Ukraine as an example of how different countries might use their power over the Internet.
Sanger, David E. “N.S.A. Nominee Promotes Cyberwar Units.” The New York Times. March 11, 2014.
- According to President Obama’s National Security Administration’s nominee, Vice Admiral Michael S. Rogers, “ll of the major combat commands in the United States military will soon have dedicated forces to conduct cyberattacks alongside their air, naval and ground capabilities”. According to the Vice Admiral, “cyber will be an element of almost any crisis we’re going to see in the future”.
Schmidt, Eric and Cohen, Jared. “The Future of Internet Freedom.” The New York Times. March 11, 2014.
- Highlighting the rapid growth in Internet connection expected in coming years (5 billion people over the next decade), Schmidt and Cohen address concerns that those coming online will be in countries most heavily engaged in Internet censorship. They note that repression technology is a multi-billion dollar industry, but that very little funding has been provided to technologies aimed at measuring and assessing censorship practices around the world. They do note the growing progress in circumvention techs like Tor. Highlighting three major challenges when to developing and deploying technologies to combat censorship – trust, scalability and usability – the authors note that overcoming these challenges may be possible with greater public and private investments.
Soghoian, Christopher. “Snowden told me the NSA set fire to the web. Silicon Valley needs to put it out.” The Guardian. March 11, 2014.
- On Monday, Edward Snowden, the National Security Administration whistleblower, chose to make a public appearance to an audience gathered at the annual SXSW Interactive festival in Austin, Texas. He discussed the technological insecurity created by the NSA’s mass surveillance and urged the technology community to “protect its users”. To do so, Snowden suggests steps for safety and security online, including: embracing end-to-end encryption technology, limiting companies’ data collection and storage times for that data, and making privacy and security profitable for technology companies.
Waters, Richard. “Protect the Open Web and the Promise of the Digital Age.” Financial Times. March 14, 2014.
- Waters reminds readers that the “web is only one of the applications that rides on top of the internet: it is the standards and technologies of the internet itself that provide the main foundation for the modern, connected world”. But the promise of connection and of digital freedom is hardly guaranteed by the technologies that create the web and Water argues that we cannot take the world wide web for granted, especially as we see countries everywhere arguing about the part of it that is “world wide”.
Wyatt, Edward. U.S. to Give Up Role in Internet Domain Names. New York Times. March 14, 2014. and NTIA Announces Intent to Transition Key Internet Domain Name Functions. NTIA, U.S. Department of Commerce (Press Release). March 14, 2014.
- The U.S. government has announced its intent to transfer the control of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) function –which has, up to today, been subcontracted to ICANN—to the “global multistakeholder community”. This means that the U.S. government will no longer exclusively oversee the Internet addressing system which it has overseen since the inception of the Internet. According to the U.S. National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) –an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce— “transitioning NTIA out of its role marks the final phase of the privatization of the DNS as outlined by the U.S. Government in 1997”. According to Fadi Chehadé, President & CEO of ICANN, “today, we celebrate the Internet’s coming of age as a truly global resource—a powerful communication, information and economic force—and now its stewardship must reflect that spirit”. See ICANN’s Frequently Asked Questions here.
Knoblauch, Max. “A Brief History of the Domain Name.” Mashable. March 10, 2014.
- Knoblauch traces an overview of the history of domain names, starting in 1985 when there were only a handful of them (the first “appropriately registered” .com domain being “symbolics.com” in 1985), to the privatization of the DNS and creation of ICANN in 1998, to the exhaustion of all possible four-letter .com domains (from .aaaa to .zzzz) in 2013, to the addition of over 100 new top-level domains by ICANN in 2014.
McKenzie, Jessica. “Analyzing Social Network Metadata to Uncover Censorship.” TechPresident. March 12, 2014.
- Researcher Donn Morrison at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology envisions the automated analysis of online social network metadata (capturing connections between people) as a way to spot large-scale censorship. Morrison envisions to create a “weather report” for censorship by running such an automated tracker.
Papers & Reports
Final Report: Question 22-1/1: Securing Information and Communication Networks: Best Practices for Developing a Culture of Cybersecurity. ITU-D Study Group 1 (International Telecommunications Union). March 2014.
- “This Q22-1/1 final report is composed of a number of best practice reports on different aspects of cybersecurity. These include (1) a guide for the establishment of a national cybersecurity management system; (2) best practices for the creation of public-private partnerships in support of cybersecurity goals and objectives; (3) building a national computer security incident management capability; (4) managing a national CIRT with critical success factors; and (5) best practices for Internet Service Provider (ISP) network protection.”
“Shaping the digital environment – ensuring our rights on the Internet.” Council of Europe. March 13-14, 2014. Graz, Austria.
- The aim of the conference is to address “current challenges and responses to make the internet an inclusive and people-centred space in the follow-up of the Council of Europe Internet Governance Strategy 2012-2015, adopted in 2012.” For access to the conference, webcast, click here.