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

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Internet Governance Forum-USA 2011 Potential-future scenario discussion: Government Prevails

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Brief description:

IGF participants broke into three different rooms to discuss three different, possible potential-future scenarios for the Internet in 2025. In this session, the brief description given to the discussants noted that “Government Prevails” scenario imagines a future affected by man-made and natural challenges and disasters – wars, civil strife, an aging world and interventionist governments. This scenario assumes that while “the ICT industry, media companies and NGOs” are the leading players on the Internet stage today [some people might disagree with this assumption], by 2025 governments and inter-governmental organizations will have come to rule the Internet as a result of actions taken to protect particular interests from negative exposure.

Details of the session:

A small group of Internet stakeholders from various sectors met to discuss the Government Prevails potential-future scenario at the Internet Governance Forum-USA 2011 at Georgetown University Law Center.

The audience-participation session was led by facilitators Pam Covington of Verisign, Walda Roseman of the Internet Society, Steve DelBianco of NetChoice and ex officio leader Marilyn Cade of ICT Strategies.

This scenario sets up a closed-off future for the Internet. You can read the one-page PDF used to launch this discussion here:

http://www.elon.edu/docs/e-web/predictions/igf_usa/Government_Prevails_Scenario.pdf

The potential future drivers of change people were asked to consider included:

  • Manmade and natural disasters push governments to exert more control over Internet resources.
  • Changes in the Domain Name System force intergovernmental organizations to impose new global regulatory regimes.
  • Networked image sensing through devices such as Kinect and GPS are used to identify and track people, with positive and negative effects, but the net result is a global surveillance culture.
  • Governments limit bandwidth for video conferencing when they find revenues for hotels, airlines and other travel-related economic entities in sharp decline.
  • Lawsuits and other developments cause governments to create blacklists of websites prohibited from Internet access.
  • Anonymity on the Internet is brought to an end as a response to viruses, worms and credit card fraud and user authentication is required.
  • Governments take every opportunity to coordinate and consolidate power under various mandates for global solutions and by 2025 governments and law enforcement are deeply embedded in all aspects of the Internet.

JULY 18, 2011 - Steve DelBianco of NetChoice was a participant during Government Prevails, one of the morning breakout sessions of the Internet Governance Forum USA 2011.

NetChoice Executive Director Steve DelBianco began the session by sharing the drivers of this future and what the Internet might look like in 2025.

“The scenario at its key is an attempt to be provocative about a potential future,” said DelBianco, who emphasized this session was supposed to search for what could be plausible and to develop opinions on the possible benefits and disadvantages of a future and what could be done to mitigate its impact.

“Is this the George Orwell scenario where it is a question of not whether but when?” Roseman said.

Although there was a list of questions the leaders intended to discuss, the session quickly turned into a running debate, bouncing from topic to topic as the participants introduced them. Two main themes quickly emerged.

The first was the conflict between security versus privacy.

Carl Szabo cited the situation in London, where hundreds of security cameras were added to city streets with the intention of reducing crime. The result was criminals adapting to the increased surveillance by wearing hooded sweatshirts.

“As we give away these rights and privileges for alleged increased security, it’s not necessarily going to return with security,” he said.

Slava Cherkasov, with the United Nations, brought up the recent case of Brooklyn boy Leiby Kletzky, who was allegedly abducted, murdered and dismembered by a stranger, Levi Aron. In that case, it was a security camera outside a dentist’s office that led to Aron’s arrest, confession and the recovery of the boy’s body within an hour of viewing the footage.

Judith Hellerstein, with the D.C. Internet Society, said that government use of data is acceptable when there is an understanding about privacy and intent.

“You also have to sort of figure out how governments are going to use that technology in hand,” she said.

In the scenario, an issue was introduced, based on reality, where pictures of protesting crowds were tagged, allowing for the identification of people at the scene of a potential crime.

Elon University student Ronda Ataalla expressed concern over limiting tagging in photographs, because it was a limit on expression.

But David McGuire of 463 Communications reminded the room that civil liberties traditionally don’t poll well.

“Free speech isn’t there to protect the speech we all like,” he said.

JULY 18, 2011 - Walda Roseman of the Internet Society shares her knowledge during Government Prevails, one of the morning breakout sessions of the Internet Governance Forum USA 2011.

DelBianco expanded the tagging issue to raise the issue of “vigilante justice,” people using debatably privacy-violating practices to identify people they consider wrong-doers, and brought up Senate Bill 242 in California, which would alter the way social networks create default privacy settings for users. This bill was narrowly defeated 19 to 17 June 2.

Chris Martin with the USCIB talked about how not all companies are interested in using their technology for ill or personal gains, listing Google and their withholding of the use of facial recognition technology to protect people’s privacy.

This subject is also related to the second main discussion topic: the government versus industry and the private sector.

Covington questioned Martin about whether he saw governments developing that same facial recognition technology, as described in the scenario, and using it to monitor citizens.

“Some,” was his reply, before adding that all Internet governance was about maximizing good and minimizing evil.

There was then a brief discussion about the Patriot Act and relinquishing civil liberties online in the circumstances of a national emergency. Who decides when the emergency has passed?

Szabo and others questioned if the government was even the right organization to take over in the event of a disaster.

“It’s much easier to say, ‘Let them deal with it so I don’t have to,’ but the question is, ‘Will they do it better?’” he said.

Cherkasov said not necessarily, mentioning that when Haiti was struck by the severe earthquake in January 2010, it took two weeks for government organizations to develop a database to search for missing people, but in Japan in March 2011, it took Google only 90 minutes to come up with the same technology. He then returned to the security camera situation, concluding that citizens were the first line of response and information in a disaster scenario.

“There will always be maybe an ebb and a flow but it’s the power of the people that will ultimately be able to create that balance,” Roseman said. “But it’s going to have to be a proactive effort to get and keep that balance.”

Roseman also said one of the benefits of the industrial and private sector was an ability to use funds more freely than the government, which, presumably, does operate on a limited budget.

“When you have governments and the private sector and industry working together, you generate a lot more money and opportunity to drive change,” she said.

McGuire, though, expressed concern that industry and the private sector have some misconceptions about the power of the Internet, believing that it is too powerful for any law or government to cut it down. He said many, including those in the area of Silicon Valley, Calif., think the Internet will always be able to circumvent policy.

Most session participants seemed to agree that the potential scenario was troubling.

“It makes me want to move to somewhere where there are more sheep than humans,” joked Covington.

But Brett Berlin, of George Mason University, said that the Internet, and the choices that are made about governing it, are ultimately people-driven decisions, reminding the rest of the room that technology works for people and not the other way around.

“If we are foolish enough to think that open Internet will fundamentally allow us to be better, we are making a mistake.”

– Rachel Southmayd

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Internet Governance Forum-USA, 2011 Workshop: Can the Clouds Prevail?

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Brief description:

Data Retention; privacy; security; geo-location; mobility; government/law enforcement cooperation; transnational location issues: these are among the emerging cloud computing challenges in Internet Governance. Promoted by industry and government alike, “the cloud” seems to be the answer in providing emerging online services – addressing costs; access; diversity of infrastructure; reliability; and security. Yet its extremely distributed nature raises Internet governance questions. This workshop addressed the Internet governance questions facing cloud computing, including the emergence of the mobile cloud.

Details of the session:

JULY 18, 2011 - Amie Stepanovich participated in the "Can the Clouds Prevail?" workshop at the Internet Governance Forum USA 2011.

Where the cloud’s data is located, who has access to it and what happens if it’s breached took center stage during the cloud computing workshop at the IGF-USA conference July 18 in Washington, D.C.

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

Panelists included a range of industry, governmental and civil organization representatives:

  • Jeff Brueggeman, vice president of public policy for AT&T
  • Danny McPherson, chief security officer for Verisign
  • Amie Stepanovich, Electronic Privacy Information Center
  • Marc Crandall, product counsel for Google
  • John Morris, general counsel and director of Internet standards, Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT)
  • Fred Whiteside, director of cybersecurity operations for the U.S. Department of Commerce, and National Institute of Standards and Technology Target Business Use Case Manager
  • Jonathan Zuck, president of the Association for Competitive Technology (ACT)

Georgetown University professor Mike Nelson said governments are happy to use the cloud for cross-border control because it would enable government applications to work better, and it would save money. But the data have to stay within a host country.

“Tension between government controls on cross-border data flows are often caused by the desire for more privacy for citizens in their country versus the global cloud,” he said.  “How do we get to a global cloud that is actually globalized, where data is allowed to move wherever it wants to and yet have the private assurances we’ve had in the past?”

There are many who believe location equals control, said Marc Crandall of Google.  But that is not always the case when entering various servers and using a resource like the cloud.

“So location may not necessarily equal control,” Crandall said.  “The thing about the cloud is I tend to feel that location does not necessarily equal secure. Where something is located doesn’t make it any more or less secure.”

Having governments worry about security standardization and privacy would be a better focus, he said.

Jonathan Zuck, president of the Association for Competitive Technology, said people need to begin to focus on international citizenry in regards to the cloud. It’s not about where the cloud is located or whose cloud the consumers are using, but looking at a larger more competitive group of providers.

JULY 18, 2011 - Fred Whiteside shares with a group of individuals during the "Can the Clouds Prevail?" workshop during the Internet Governance Forum USA 2011.

And where data are located comes can raise concerns about who has access to that information.  If the data are located in a country with little judicial review or fewer privacy regulations, will users’ information be at risk?

“There should be an emerging global standard,” said Jeff Brueggeman, vice president of public policy for AT&T.  “As to privacy, the more we improve international cooperation on cybersecurity and law enforcement so that there is more comfort over legitimate concerns that if the data is not stored can they go after a bad guy.  But again we have to deal with real issues as well as setting up the right policies to help distinguish between legitimate concern and government overreaching.”

If there is a breach and private information has been hacked, as has been seen in recent attacks against Google and Sony, what should the companies do to be transparent but also uphold their legal obligations?

If an organization is hacked and information is stolen, but that’s not made known publicly, it could be a violation of fair disclosure, said Danny McPherson, chief security officer of Verisign.

“Lots of folks don’t share that type of information,” he said. “Every state or region or nation or union has different native laws and that is extremely problematic in that perspective.”

There are many times that information may not be classified but is of a private nature, such as trade agreements that would need to stay confidential, said Fred Whiteside, director of cybersecurity operations for the U.S. Department of Commerce.  It is complex, he said, and as someone who hears many classified discussions on security breaches, he added that it would trouble him for sensitive information to be made public.

Amie Stepanovich, of Electronic Privacy Information Center, said businesses and industries should start worrying about encrypting the information before it is hacked and instead of worrying about the cost-benefit analysis.

“I think the benefit of data encryption is really worth it,” she said. “Its been proven again and again. Companies feel somehow they have to touch that burner to see if it’s hot before they move to that.”

Regardless, while the focus has been on the concerns and security issues surrounding the cloud, there are many benefits that should receive their due credit.

“I think the fact we are all here is a testament to the cloud,” she said. “Or else we wouldn’t be so concerned with what the problems are if we didn’t recognize there are so many benefits of the cloud.”

– Anna Johnson

Freedom of expression in a Web 2.0 world; Future is not all positive – new tools have limited impact where controls are in place

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The Internet Governance Forum-USA workshop on “The Freedom of Expression in a Web 2.0 World,” was built to assess the whole idea of Web 2.0, and the tangent that the panel took grew increasingly bleak in outlining the limitations of new Internet technologies. They said Web 2.0 isn’t all roses. It’s not a park that simultaneously serves as a playground and the ultimate conduit of democracy, it won’t single-handedly save the world and it won’t always be used to better the lives of citizens in the U.S. or abroad.

Rebecca MacKinnon, a co-founder of Global Voices, assistant professor at the University of Hong Kong and previous CNN bureau chief in Beijing, was particularly stern in extinguishing the optimism that emerged during the summer as a result of the contested Iranian election and the subsequent temporary uprising that was partially fed by social media, especially Twitter.

“There’s a naivete that capitalism plus Internet plus Twitter equals democratization,” MacKinnon said, later adding that democracy isn’t inherently going to spread just by handing software to dissidents.

MacKinnon’s extensive experiences with the Chinese government’s attitude toward the Internet provided a stark paralell to the stated goals of President Barack Obama’s administration, voiced at the IGF by Miriam Nisbet, the first director of the Office of Governmental Information Services.

“It’s rather extraordinary that he spent the first full day in office by issuing memoranda…dealing with the openness of government,” Nisbet said. She next quoted Obama: “All agencies should use modern technology to inform citizens about what is known and done by their government.”

While the stated aim of the U.S. government is to utilize Web 2.0 to open up the government for its citizens, MacKinnon was quick to point out that the Chinese model, which is being increasingly adopted by similarly authoritarian regimes, is built more upon the idea of modern technology helping the government inform itself about its citizens, opening them up to the keen eyes of governmental watchdogs.

In some cases, these crackdowns can be justified. Ambassador David Gross, now a partner at Wiley Rein LLP, leveraged his 25 years of experience in politics and ICTs in the discussion. He told of his experience in trying to encourage a policy of liberalized Internet use to a Tunisian deputy foreign minister. The minister justified his country’s forced limitations on online expression as an extension of the government’s responsibility to protect its people by maintaining social cohesion in a country built up of incredibly factitious factions perfectly willing to fight each other, fights that the Tunisian government asserts would be stoked by open Internet communication.

Robert Guerra, the project director on Internet freedom at Freedom House, roped government surveillance into the increasingly mobile nature of Internet access, particularly in least-developed countries, pointing out that cell phones, by their nature and taking the complicity of the telecommunications industry in conceding to governmental interests for granted, are perfect for authoritarian governments to spy on their citizens. By triangulating a phone’s location, or by utilizing its speakers, receivers and text messages, governments can immediately drop in on any sort of communication deemed to be seditious.

It was agreed that while Web 2.0 has made progress, said progress can largely be credited not to the inherent power of the technology of Web 2.0, but of the lagging pace at which most authoritarian governments have approached the technology, falling behind the counter-culture movement in exploiting the Internet for its own aims.

There’s a reason, MacKinnon said, that China is currently offering to build the Internet infrastructure for several authoritarian countries, because China knows exactly how to receive the economic benefits of increasingly widespread Internet access without suffering the open scrutiny of governments and businesses that one would naturally think would result in concert with an expansion of communications technologies.

Ultimately – running counter to the long-winded, expansive rhetoric that often takes place in discussion panels dealing with governmental policy and communicative ideology – the most apt description of the Web 2.0 element of the world came from Bob Boorstin, director of corporate policy communications at Google, and previous chief speechwriter during President Bill Clinton’s administration.

“These are just tools, and they’re nothing more than that,” Boorstin said, indicating that no matter how many bells or whistles, tweets or status updates we may have, the censorship and free expression citizens endure or desire is ultimately up to their own actions and persistence.

-Morgan Little, http://www.imaginingtheinternet.org