Documentary coverage of IGF-USA by the Imagining the Internet Center

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IGF-USA 2012 Workshop: Next Challenge – How to Handle Big Data in the Cloud

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Brief session description:

Thursday, July 26, 2012 – The dramatic reduction in the cost of computing and storage made possible by cloud computing services, the spread of easy-to-use, open-source analytic tools, and the growing availability of massive data services from governments and the private sector (e.g. Google Maps) have enabled thousands of start-ups, hackers and others to create exciting new tools for business, entertainment, government and other sectors. Government policies can help or hinder development of new databases and Big Data apps. Issues covered in this session included: 1) open government data policy; 2) Intellectual Property Rights protection; 3) IT research; 4) technology test beds; 5) education; 6) law enforcement access; and 7) privacy regulations.

Details of the session:

The moderator for the session was Mike Nelson, a professor at Georgetown University and research associate at CSC Leading Edge Forum. Panelists included:

  • Jeff Brueggeman, vice president of public policy for AT&T
  • Paul Mitchell, senior director and general manager, Microsoft TV Division
  • Lillie Coney, associate director, Electronic Privacy Information Center
  • Jules Polonetsky, director and co-chair, Future of Privacy Forum
  • John Morris, director of Internet policy, NTIA/US Department of Commerce
  • Katherine Race Brin, attorney, bureau of consumer protection, Federal Trade Commission

Mike Nelson, an Internet policy expert from Georgetown University, shared some reassuring remarks as he introduced a panel session that concentrated upon the complexities of managing what has become known as “Big Data.”

“These issues are not new,” he said. “We’ve been dealing with them for 20 or 30 years, but they are a lot more important now.”

Nelson explained in a workshop at IGF-USA Thursday at Georgetown Law Center that it’s not just about data that are big. It’s about data that are changing so quickly and need innovative tools of management.

He introduced the following questions:

Polonetsky and Brueggeman exchange stories a workshop about the Clould at IGF-USA in Washington, D.C. on July 26, 2012.

  • How will privacy concerns impact the development of large databases (or will they have any significant impact)?
  • What are the liability issues of Big Data in the cloud?
  • How do we deal with the shortage of data experts?
  • How do we handle issues concerning control and access to data?

Jeff Brueggeman, a global public policy executive with AT&T and a longtime participant in Internet governance discussion in many fora, began the conversation by addressing a few of these issues.

First, he noted the importance of working with businesses as well as policymakers to come up with tools to manage the data. He also addressed the significance of maintaining security in cloud data.

“The more data that’s being collected and retained, the more that data could be used as a target,” Brueggeman said.

Brueggeman introduced some issues for the other panelists to contest, inquiring about best practices for dealing with data sets, types of controls over what users should expect, what uses of data are legitimate without that control and international components.

Jules Polonetsky of the Future of Privacy Forum followed with a look at the long-term perspective, offering some insight about the impacts of cloud technology.

“I’ve always had a hard time getting my head around clouds,” Polonetsky said. “But the best we can do is make sure we’re a bit of a gatekeeper.”

He argued that a formalized procedure should be established for the release of private information to law enforcement officials and others seeking information. But he also elaborated on the risks of such technology, which he illustrated by telling a story about his friend, a rabbi, who watched a racy video, unaware that Facebook would automatically share the link on his Facebook page, proving how easy it is to inadvertently share online activity with the greater digital community.

Polonetsky champions the benefits of data use, but he also urges people to consider the implications of such sharing and storing of data. He said he believes there should be a debate in which people weigh the risks and benefits.

Katherine Race Brin speaks about the Clould at IGF-USA in Washington, D.C. on July 26, 2012.

Katherine Race Brin continued the conversation, citing some of her experiences dealing with these issues in her job with the Federal Trade Commission.

She said the FTC has studied the implications of cloud computing for a number of years and has also considered how, or if, a cloud is different than any other uses of data transfer in regard to privacy.

She said her work at the FTC has led her to believe that the companies that are storing data in the cloud are often in the best position to assess the risks of that data sharing.

“We’ve always said, in relation to personal data, the businesses remain accountable for the personal data of their customers,” Brin said.

She said that while the FTC holds businesses responsible, it also provides a framework to ensure consumer privacy.

Brin explained the three key aspects of this framework:

  • Privacy by design – Companies should build in privacy protection at every stage from the product development to the product implementation phases. This includes reasonable security for consumer data, limited collection and retention of such data and resonable procedures to promote data accuracy.
  • Simplified consumer choice – Companies should give consumers the option to decide what information is shared about them and with whom. This should include a “do-not-track” mechanism that would provide a simple, easy way for consumers to control the tracking of their online activities.
  • Transparency – Companies should disclose details about their collection and use of consumers’ information and provide consumers with access to the data collected about them.

Lille Coney, associate director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, offered her insights as an expert on big data. (To see a video posted by The Economist about Big Data that is based on EPIC-supplied information, click here.)

“Governance is not easy,” Coney said. “But we do learn mechanisms for creating accountability, transparency and oversight.”

She noted that the difficulty lies in creating guidelines that have currency and legitimacy. In regard to cloud computing, Coney suggests that people are not only consumers; they themselves – or at least the sets of the private information they share – are actually products.

“Our online activity alone generates revenue, and many consumers don’t understand that,” Coney said.

She said she strongly believes in the importance of the public’s engagement in the conversation. With all these privacy concerns, Coney said the consumer cannot afford to leave it up to businesses or government.

Lille Coney speaks about the Clould at IGF-USA in Washington, D.C. on July 26, 2012.

Microsoft executive Paul Mitchell, added some perspective to the conversation in terms of how to go about tackling the issue of how to manage Big Data. “I think the big challenge here is figuring out whats’ first when we’re talking about big data,” Mitchell said, noting the overwhelming amount of data being created and databased. “What we have here is not a new problem. What we have here is a problem of scale.”

Mitchell said we can look at the separate desires of people, businesses and society, and consider a philosophy based on each group’s needs. He explained that the people-first philosophy would ensure that data that could be harmful isn’t allowed to be. The business-first philosophy would be about maximizing the potential economic return for the use of data. The society-first philosophy would optimize the value for society as a whole based on what can be done with the data.

“From an operating perspective, the challenges we face involve how to govern against these three axises,” said Mitchell. “The policymakers’ choice is how to balance the three appropriately.”

Nelson then asked a question directed at the panelists about the future of the cloud and whether there would be one cloud in an interconnected world or a world of separate clouds run by different companies.

Session moderator Nelson then asked the panelists about the future of the cloud -whether there will be one cloud in an interconnectedworld or a world of separate clouds run by different companies.

Mitchell argued that there are circumstances that will require a private set of services.

Coney expressed concern over that model. “Consumer’s control over their data in a cloud-driven environment will require the ability to move their data from Cloud A to Cloud B. Making that a reality in this environment is going to be the challenge,” she said.

Polonetsky had a slightly different viewpoint. He considered the business-platforms perspective, questioning how easy it should be to move consumers’ data.

“Yes, it is your data, but did the platform add some value to it by organizing it in a certain way?” he asked, adding that the platforms may make a legitimate contribution by organizing consumers’ data. For example, your Facebook friends belong to you, but Facebook created a platform in which you interact with and share information, photographs and other things with them.

To conclude, Nelson took a few questions from the audience and asked each panelist for a recommendation regarding the future management of Big Data. Brueggeman suggested there should be a set of commonly accepted practices for managing Big Data. Polonetsky added there should be more navigable digital data. Brin supported the strong need for transparency. Coney proposed that cloud providers and Big Data companies must show their respect for a diverse group of stakeholders. Mitchell recommended that we should all work toward greater harmony between business, personal and societal values.

— Audrey Horwitz

IGF-USA 2012 Opening Plenary Roundtable: Emerging Internet Issues – Governments or Governance?

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Brief session description:

Thursday, July 26, 2012 – This major session of the opening plenary of IGF-USA discussed the current state of play with various proposals ranging from the WCIT, the UN Commission on Science and Technology and Enhanced Cooperation, areas where more government may be called for from their perspective or strong improvements in “governance.” Panelists offered a range of perspectives about government and governance.

Details of the session:

The session was moderated by Marilyn Cade, the chief catalyst of IGF-USA. Panelists included:

  • Rebecca MacKinnon, the Bernard L. Schwartz Senior Fellow at the New America Foundation
  • Marc Rotenberg, president of the Electronic Privacy Information Center
  • Jacquelynn L. Ruff, vice president of International Public Policy and Regulatory Affairs for Verizon Communications
  • Paul Brigner, the regional bureau director of the North American Bureau at the Internet Society
  • John Curran, president and CEO of the American Registry for Internet Numbers
  • Kristin Peterson, co-founder and CEO of Inveneo
  • Fiona Alexander, associate administrator of the Office of International Affairs at NTIA

If there’s a keyword lying at the heart of the Internet Governance Forum it is “multistakeholder.” Key is the belief that individuals from various backgrounds—from private industry to civil society to government to academia—benefit from gathering and discussing their visions for the future, and the viability thereof. Whether they’re able to reach any consensus after gathering and discussing the issues is another matter entirely.

The 2012 IGF-USA conference, held at Georgetown Law Center in Washington, D.C., Thursday, opened with a panel showing just how diverse these individuals can be, and how varied their focus is in regard to the pressing issues facing the parties looking to influence the continued growth of the Internet.

Rebecca MacKinnon from the New American Foundation speaks at the Opening Plenary Roundtable at IGF-USA in Washington, D.C. on July 26, 2012.

Rebecca MacKinnonof the New America Foundation opened the seven-member discussion by highlighting the importance of the “digital commons,” the non-commercial backbone providing structure to a number of vital digital institutions. Because of the shared nature of this backbone, which stretches across traditional nation-state boundaries, MacKinnon said she believes the world is on the verge of a reformation of the current governing concepts, as individual states try to gain control over institutions that involve those beyond their jurisdiction.

In the modern era, MacKinnon asserted, individuals are “not just citizens of nation-states and communities, we’re citizens of the Internet.”

“We have to be informed about how power is exercised,” she continued, highlighting a need for everyone involved to play their part in shaping the direction of the Internet’s evolution.

This, in turn, circles back to not just the perceived necessity for multi-stakeholder solutions, but the lingering questions as to how those solutions are reached.

“How do we ensure that the policy-making mechanisms actually allow input from all affected stakeholders?” MacKinnon asked.

She theorized that societies are on the precipice of a “Magna Carta” moment, in which the traditional concepts that dictate the ways in which governments work will be disrupted by this multistakeholder model.

This drew some rebuttals to some degree from other members of the panel.

Fiona Alexander, associate administrator at the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration, agreed with MacKinnon that some nations may be standing at that edge, but said the Magna Carta moment isn’t to be expected of every country, or even every stakeholder taking part in current dialogue.

“They [unnamed stakeholders] have in many cases failed to live up to what’s expected of them,” she said, which leaves those advocating for multistakeholder solutions in a situation where they’re defending a model for governance under siege, fostering doubts for its efficacy.

And a large number of those stakeholders are far behind those in developed, Western countries in regard to Internet penetration.

Fiona Alexander speaks at the Opening Plenary Roundtable at IGF-USA in Washington, D.C. on July 26, 2012.

Kristin Peterson, co-founder and CEO of Inveneo, a non-profit organization dedicated to the proliferation of communications technology in the developing world, shared just how much work needs to be done in bridging the gap between dominant Internet stakeholders and those just attaining reasonable access to the Web.

“Internet access is important not just on individual level, but on a functional level, an organizational level,” she said.

Part of this is due to the remoteness of developing, rural areas, which drives up the cost of infrastructure to a counterproductive degree.

A single 1MB connection, Peterson highlighted, which would be suitable for a school or a medical clinic, costs upwards of $800 a month in Haiti. Another unnamed country that Inveneo has worked with has less than 100MB in total. And that 1MB of Internet access? It costs roughly $2,000 per month.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, far removed from countries just beginning to break down the barriers preventing them from gaining full access to the Internet, are stakeholders who, in the minds of some, will have an inordinate amount of influence over multi-stakeholder debates.

Marc Rotenberg, president of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, highlighted the influence of corporate entities as one such problem.

Comparing growing corporate influence over the Internet to “the clouds gathering at the beginning of a Batman movie,” Rotenberg warned those in attendance, “You have to pay attention when the skies darken, things are about to happen.”

One such entity, which Rotenberg accused of having an ever-growing outsized influence over the Internet, is Google, whose growing presence on the Web is the “Number-one threat to Internet freedom.”

Regardless of whether that’s the case, such problems do require a means to draw in those affected by the evolving dialogue on Internet governance.

John Curran speaks at the Opening Plenary Roundtable at IGF-USA in Washington, D.C. on July 26, 2012.

“How do we get people engaged, how do we raise a flag and pull in society, business, governments?” asked John Curran, president and CEO of the American Registry for Internet Numbers.

Curran offered perspective into the scope of the problems facing Internet stakeholders, the shape of which appears on multiple layers, with technological standards and protocols existing at the bottom layer. They require little political involvement, moving up to domain names and IP addresses, which aren’t necessarily the most hot-button social issues under debate within the halls of Congress. Nonetheless, they bring about privacy and tracking concerns, peaking with the broad, end-user experiences that draw in such general topics as intellectual property use, censorship and national security.

And, of course, given the nature of IGF, the multistakeholder model is seen as the best means to approach such problems.

Paul Brigner, the regional director of the North American Bureau at the Internet Society and Jacquelynn Ruff, vice president of international public policy and regulatory affairs for Verizon, offered insight into how new players are accepting and integrating into the multistakeholder approach.

Telecommunications firms, well aware of the dwindling demand for their traditional services in the wake of the Internet revolution, are “moving away from focusing on traditional telecommunications to Internet protocol and Internet issues,” Brigner said.

Jacquelynn Ruff speaks at the Opening Plenary Roundtable at IGF-USA in Washington, D.C. on July 26, 2012.

An issue such as the possible transition to a sending party pays structure, for example, is an issue that demands the inclusion and participation of a multitude of affected parties. Under such a regime, “You’re not free, necessarily, to innovate at low cost like you experience today,” Brigner said. “The end-to-end nature of the Internet that allows these sort of things to evolve.”

To alleviate some of the difficulty inherent in such discussions, Ruff cited the importance of enhanced cooperation, the notion of mapping past developments, current deficiencies and projecting future ambitions in a way that involves all interested parties. Emphasizing examples within UNESCO, ICANN and the Council of Europe, Ruff celebrated enhanced cooperation’s increasing rate of adoption.

The world is at “a fork in the road on the global discussion on where the future lies,” she said. And applying enhanced cooperation to the traditional multi-stakeholder methodology could be an effective means to remedy the arguments over which path to take.

That said, a plethora of stakeholders have their own interpretation and they will be seizing the opportunities granted by this IGF event and future conferences to throw their hat into the ring drawn by the opening plenary session’s panelists.

— Morgan Little

Online privacy concerns engage IGF-USA panelists in lively debate

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Panelists shared their philosophical differences about online confidentiality and self-regulation in a discussion about privacy and security implications for Web 2.0 at the Internet Governance Forum-USA conference Oct. 2, 2009, in Washington, D.C.

All panelists agreed that online privacy remains an important issue, and that corporations have an ethical and legal responsibility to ensure that their consumers continue to enjoy some level of anonymity and confidentiality online. But they disagreed about whether self-regulation or government-enforced standards are the best method to achieve that end.

Ginger McCall, EPIC staff counsel, said companies’ privacy policies are often overwrought with technical and legal jargon, making them difficult for users to comprehend. They become too robust that users often click through them without much acknowledgement.

Privacy policies, in my experience, are generally just disclosure policies. They don’t exist to protect users’ privacy. They exist to protect companies from liability.   – Ginger McCall

McCall said an overriding concern is that the policies often allow companies to change their guidelines at any time often with no notice to the users.

A bigger problem, still, is that companies are able to collect information about users without ever providing them with the information they have gathered.

demooy_IGFUSA_09“One creative suggestion that I might make is that businesses just give consumers everything they know about them,” said Michelle Demooy, a senior associate of consumer-action.org. “If you’re not a bad actor, it can’t hurt you to give consumers everything you know about them. It can only strengthen your brand going forward.”

Both McCall and Demooy specifically expressed growing anxiety about cloud computing, which allows Web hosting services to house the documents and data of users on their corporate servers. (Think of Google Docs and Gmail, for example.) So what used to be on a person’s personal computer is now on a larger server.

“It’s great for information sharing and collaboration, but not for privacy,” McCall said. “But it allows companies or outsiders to create detailed profiles of users. We need to see a stronger security system and we need to see companies are following through. There needs to be a strong regulation of cloud computing. There should be binding legal standards, terms of services have to be revised and privacy policies must be more transparent.”

Kathryn D. Ratte, from the division of Privacy and Internet Protection of the Federal Trade Commission, said the FTC supports self-regulation not government directives. She says allowing technologies to emerge promotes innovation.

“Our policy has been to enforce self-regulation,” Ratte said. “We analyze what’s going on in the market and put forth standards to adhere to. The flexibility allows us in some ways to act more quickly. We can just address these issues as they raise issues for consumers.”

Jeff Brueggeman, vice president of public policy for AT&T, said the FTC has laid down an ample baseline for legal protection on the Internet that certainly needs continual monitoring but not government intervention.

The FTC is taking a proactive but engaged approach. We don’t give consumers enough credit for the value they place on their privacy. More and more privacy is going to be a marketing advantage that companies are going to assert on the Internet. What we want to have is competition to maintain and secure your privacy, as well.  – Jeff Brueggeman

McCall, though, said self-regulation is not a strong enough policy and that legislation with teeth is definitely possible.

“Self-regulation in the Internet context fails because there’s not really enough transparency about what’s going on and what harm is happening,” she said. “A lack of transparency allows companies to act in whatever manner it wants in the short term to make money. It also suffers from the problem in that it only allows for possible remedies after the fact. Having a real comprehensive regulatory system would allow companies to know what’s permissible and not permissible.”

Ratte said consumers do need assurances that their data will be securely protected, but the FTC has not taken a stance on comprehensive privacy policy legislation. Still, they do advocate that companies treat consumers fairly and honestly.

The FTC has come out strongly saying that the rules that apply at time of the collection of data have to continue to apply and if there’s a change. The company should go back to the customer and get opt-in consent.  – Kathryn D. Ratte

But McCall and Demooy both said vigorous legislation is possible, and if companies are acting in good faith and treating consumers with respect and responsibility, then they shouldn’t be worried about governmental regulations.

“Privacy policies have their place, but they aren’t really helping consumers,” Demooy said. “If they’re not working, let’s not bang our hammer against that stone. Let’s try to build something that does.”

-Colin Donohue, http://www.imaginingtheinternet.org

Response from Marc Rotenberg, EPIC, to Lee Rainie’s ‘What We Don’t Know About the Future of the Internet’

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marc_rotenbergMarc Rotenberg of the Electronic Privacy Information Center noted that he began working more than 15 years ago through a group called The Public Voice to promote positive decisions about the Internet – before the WSIS and IGF processes began – in order to get civil society involved in global decisions. “We felt it was important to have the voice of civil society in these discussions,” he said.

He joked that Lee Rainie’s talk was an unusual thing to see in Washington, D.C., because he admitted to the things he didn’t know about. Then he got serious. “Lee’s survey is particularly helpful, because it helps us understand both what we know about the Internet, people using the Internet, where the gaps – for example – exist in access to broadband –  and then on some of the more difficult questions, really what we don’t know yet. These are questions we need to ask and look more closely at, and that’s enormously helpful.” he said. “I am very glad Lee used the ‘P word,’ which is not ‘privacy,’ it is ‘paradox.’ Because, increasingly, as we look at issues related to Internet policy we see a lot of paradox.”

He noted the conflicting desires people have to share things while also maintaining privacy online. “Try to friend your kids on Facebook,” he joked, “and you will get an instant lesson on the ongoing value of privacy.

Even though people put out all of this personal information, they still feel that they want to exercise some control over it. They don’t have a view that, ‘Oh, gee, I’m a data exhibitionist – everyone come and take a look.’ Their view is much more like, ‘Here’s a photo of my friend from the party last week, you four guys gotta check this out.’ It’s this desire to want to exercise some control over digital identity that is actually framing many of the big debates that are happening today in the online world.  – Marc Rotenberg

He said when young people formed a protest group to dispute changes in Facebook’s terms of service it was a sign of their conflicted feelings. “To me, that was entirely a debate about privacy,” he said. “I don’t mean to go all Habermas on you, but this ability to negotiate public and private spaces is an essential part of the human condition and we’ve been doing it forever, from the village to the city to new communication networks to online communities  and I don’t think anything there has changed. I just think you’re seeing it presented in a new way.”

He said transparency of government should be accompanied by government respect for individuals’ privacy. “A second paradox is the relationship between privacy and transparency,” he noted, saying that governments should be making their work more transparent.

There’s no contradiction whatsoever between saying a government should be open and accountable for what it does and it still has to respect the privacy of the personal information it collects about its citizens about the information it collects about citizens. That’s one of the big challenges we face in the information age – not letting the desire to ensure that the accountability for decision-makers – which is critical for democratic institutions – become an excuse to reveal the private facts of individuals, which really don’t relate to the activities of government.  – Marc Rotenberg

He noted that there is a convergence of all of these concerns that leads to a need for a declaration of rights. “There has to be a discussion about a bill of rights for Internet users – we have to begin the discussion about protecting the fundamental rights and freedoms of people who go online,” he concluded. “It’s a overdue debate.”

-Janna Anderson, http://www.imaginingtheinternet.org