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

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IGF-USA 2012 Workshop: Can an Open Internet Survive – Challenges and Issues

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Brief session description:

Thursday, July 26, 2012 – This workshop focused on the challenges of keeping the Internet open while simultaneously maintaining a safe and secure environment for individuals, businesses and governments. Governments encounter a wide ranging set of issues and concerns that can limit an open Internet, including the cost of connectivity, spam/malware, intellectual property rights, human rights and objectionable content. Businesses often make decisions for business purposes that may contribute to closing off the Internet. Leaders in governments’ legislative branches, including the US Congress and its counterparts around the world, and business leaders do not always recognize the implications of the actions they take that might negatively influence the Internet. In addition, citizens may voluntarily but without full understanding accept moves that contribute to closing off the Internet, quietly accepting actions and decisions that affect its openness in a negative way. The session worked to identify the key characteristics of an open Internet; the global and national challenges that threaten this; the initiatives pursued to advance the open Internet; multistakeholder engagement to develop and promote an open Internet.

Details of the session:

The session was moderated by Robert Guerra, principal at Privaterra and senior advisor to Citizen Lab in the school of global affairs at the University of Toronto. Panelists were:

  • Ellen Blackler, vice president for global public policy, The Walt Disney Company
  • Thomas Gideon, technical director of the Open Technology Institute at the New America Foundation
  • Andrew McDiarmid, policy analyst at the Center for Democracy and Technology
  • Julian Sanchez, research fellow at the Cato Institute
  • Paul Diaz, director of policy for the Public Interest Registry
  • John Morris, director of Internet policy, office of policy analysis and development of the US National Telecommunications and Information Administration

Ellen Blackler participates as a panelist about challenges and issues facing an open Internet at IGF-USA in Washington, D.C. on July 26, 2012.

Between copyright infringement, intellectual property, piracy and protection of online privacy, the openness of the Internet is being threatened on all sides, according to six IGF-USA panelists, who gathered to define and assess the challenges to an open Internet Thursday at Georgetown Law Center.

“The free and open Internet oughtn’t be a free-for-all,” said Ellen Blackler, vice president for global public policy for The Walt Disney Company.

A focus on the balance between maintaining an open Internet while ensuring security and privacy and minimizing piracy has always loomed as one of the largest challenges to the future of the Internet. While members of this panel represented diverse Internet backgrounds, the all agreed that Internet policy must and will continue to evolve with challenges posed by the struggle between these often-competing values.

What is Internet openness?

The definition of an open Internet differs even within seasoned IGF attendees.

John Morris of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) cited the principles of Internet openness recommended by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) last year, which highlight several key characteristics, including the opportunities for both collaboration and independent work.

An open Internet allows users to operate “independently of one another, so as not to have a centralized single body to control or impose regulations,” Morris said.

The Internet policymaking process additionally needs to be open for collaboration, Morris said.

“What is it that keeps barriers low, what steps can we take to address challenges?” asked Andrew McDiarmid, policy analyst for the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT). “It’s about learning … to keep the process more open and open to more voices.”

Though the openness of the Internet is one of the Web’s key characteristics, challenges ensue when openness trumps privacy.

“The openness principle has failed the public in privacy interest,” Blackler said.

U.S. policies directly affect those abroad

In the United States, Internet access is virtually everywhere, but the major challenge for Internet openness in many other parts of the world is online accessibility, especially in remote areas and in developing nations.

Robert Guerra acts as moderator during a workshop about challenges and issues facing an open Internet at IGF-USA in Washington, D.C. on July 26, 2012.

“Access at an affordable cost is key because then we can innovate,” said panel moderator Robert Guerra, the founder of Privaterra.

Panelists agreed that though global policies across the board on the issues tied to Internet openness are unlikely to be established due to differing cultural values and standards from country to country, cooperation on the international scale is still quite important.

“Not that I think we need to achieve one global norm about a particular issue, but we need to achieve a global level of interoperability,” Morris said.

In some countries, global Internet operability is a major issue due to government blocking and filtering–the management of what content citizens may or may not access or share. Thomas Gideon of the Open Technology Institute noted the difficulties that global policymakers face with nations that exercise a great deal of control over available content.

“A large part of what I do in my work is to defend human rights online,” Gideon said. “That’s equally fraught with the risks that those trying to speak freely in contentious and crisis regimes face.”

Paul Diaz, director of policy for the Public Interest Registry noted the challenge of governance measures working locally and globally. “What works in one environment, what may work here in the US, is not necessarily applicable in another country” he said. Ultimately, the Internet is global and therein lies the challenge.”

Piracy and copyright: What is the solution?

When discussing the widespread nature of piracy online and the difficulty in regulating it, panelists differed in their preferred approach to dealing with the challenges of intellectual and copyrighted property.

“Companies like Netflix are slowly finding ways to shift from a product to a service model,” Julian Sanchez, a research fellow at the Cato Institute, said, suggesting this as one successful choice for property owners.

Sanchez argued that the best way to discourage piracy is to create services that offer consumers a wide variety of choices and control over consumption of goods at a fair price. He said this is a better method than exclusively offering products that can be copied and shared and pirated just as easily.

Private niches online: Social networking and the cloud

With the advent of social networking and the desire to share and access personal information, the Internet includes private and targeted content, as well.

Sanchez emphasized that the structure of the Internet should be seen more as a network of people and relationships than as a technological architecture.

Facebook’s Sarah Wynn-Williams said social networking represents the “desire for people to connect and share and be open,” adding that the future of Internet policy must meet these demands and “preserve the ability of people to [share personal content online,] which is genuinely under threat.”

Panelists also noted that files shared through cloud data storage continue to be as difficult to regulate as physically shared materials. Just as the government has often largely chosen not to investigate copied CDs or cassettes that become distributed among friends, content in the cloud is as difficult to trace and regulate.

— Madison Margeson

Internet Governance Forum-USA, 2011 Workshop: A Plethora of Policy Principles

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Brief description:

This session delved into recently announced policy statements with future implications including those made by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, the U.S. International Strategy on Cyberspace, the G8 and Others – Are principles a feasible approach to underpin Internet governance? If so, which ones? Should principles be applied by codification in law, MOU, or treaty? The workshop consisted of a mini analysis of currently proposed sets of principles. Because the Internet and online services are global, the perspective of the workshop was a global view.

Details of the session:

This is a placeholder for a lead sentence that encapsulates a key point that is the lead according to panelists in a workshop on Internet principles at the IGF-USA conference July 18 in Washington, D.C.

The co-moderators for the session were Fiona Alexander of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and Shane Tews of Verisign. They hosted a session in which the following people first presented briefings on recently announced sets of principles.

Heather Shaw, vice president for ICT policy for the United States Council for International Business (USCIB), shared details of the OECD Communique on Principles for Internet Policy-Making: http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/40/21/48289796.pdf.<

Chris Hemmerlein, a telecommunications policy analyst for NTIA, spoke about the sections of the May 2011 G8 Declaration that focus on the Internet: http://www.g20-g8.com/g8-g20/g8/english/live/news/renewed-commitment-for-freedom-and-democracy.1314.html.

Sheila Flynn, of the cyber policy office of the U.S. State Department, briefed participants on the U.S. International Strategy on Cyberspace: http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/rss_viewer/internationalstrategy_cyberspace.pdf.

Leslie Martinkovics, director of international public policy and regulatory affairs for Verizon, introduced the concepts of the Brazilian Principles for the Internet: http://einclusion.hu/2010-04-17/internet-principles-in-brazil/.

Sarah Labowitz, U.S. State Department, shared details of the Council of Europe’s Internet Governance Principles: http://www.coe.int/t/dghl/standardsetting/media-dataprotection/conf-internet-freedom/Internet%20Governance%20Principles.pdf.

The introduction of the principles was followed by a roundtable discussion moderated by Iren Borissova of Verisign. Participants were:

  • Jackie Ruff, vice president for international public policy and regulatory affairs for Verizon Communications
  • Milton Mueller, Syracuse University (participating over the Internet from a remote location)
  • Jeff Brueggeman, vice president for public policy at AT&T
  • Cynthia Wong, director of the Project on Global Internet Freedom at the Center for Democracy & Technology
  • Liesyl Franz, vice president for security and global public policy for TechAmerica
  • Mike Nelson, research associate for CSC Leading Edge Forum and visiting professor at Georgetown University
  • Robert Guerra, director of the Internet Freedom program at Freedom House
  • Susan Morgan, executive director of the Global Network Initiative

For all of the Internet-focused principles laid out by the OECD, G8, U.S. State Department and the Brazilian government, the lists of tenants and guidelines, the debate at the 2011 Internet Governance Forum on “A Plethora of Policy Principles” boiled down to one question: Can the principles be successfully converted into actionable concepts?

Governmental parties, whether they are sanctioned by presidential administrations or are the result of a multistakeholder process, are seeking to list the boundaries in which they wish to act when the next contentious issue hits the web. The problem with these lists, which by themselves could perhaps act effectively within a singular cultural, regional or governmental context, stretch across all boundaries in a way similar to that of the Internet itself.

The policy principles included in the discussion, which in no way represent the entirety of idealized lists, were as follows:

-The OECD Communique on Principles for Internet Policy-Making, which is the most recent set, agreed upon by 34 member states, that seeks to promote the free flow of information, promote the open nature of the Internet, promote investment and the cross-border delivery of services, encourage multistakeholder cooperation and a litany of others, ranging from security concerns to liability issues for an affront to any of the contained principles.

-The G8 Renewed Commitment to Freedom and Democracy, which isn’t solely focused on Internet rights issues, but nonetheless deals heavily with digital issues. The list segments Internet users into three groups: citizens, who seek to use the Internet as a resource and as a means to exercise human rights; businesses, which use it to increase efficiency and reach consumers; and governments seeking to improve their services and better reach their citizens. The G8 list also considers the Internet as the “public forum” of our time, with all of the associated assembly rights applied.

-President Barack Obama’s U.S. International Strategy for Cyberspace focused on the concepts of prosperity, transparency and openness. It represents an effort on the part of the U.S. government to approach Internet issues with a singular vision and seeks to establish an international framework to deal with these issues in the future. Interestingly, it was also the only list of principles discussed during the session that asserts a sort of “digital right to self-defense” in the instance of an attack on the United States’ own digital resources.

-The Brazilian Internet Streering Committee’s Principles for the Governance and Use of the Internet in Brazil differed from the other lists in that it was created after a series of discussions between interested governmental, NGO, private and scientific parties. The committee’s principles also stood for greater universality to the Internet, particularly a breakdown of linguistic barriers and a strict adherence to maintaining diversity in the digital domain. For those questioning why Brazil, given the sheer number of countries with vested interests in Internet issues, Leslie Martinkovics, the director of international public policy and regulatory affairs for Verizon, said, “Brazil is seen as an opinions leader in the Americas. … they would like to take the high ground and lead the discussions going forward.”

-The Council of Europe’s Internet Governance Principles is the product of 47 member states with an expressed focus of “affirming the applicability of existing human rights on the Internet,” according to Sarah Labowitz of the U.S. State Department. In addition to those concerns, the principles call for a clear series of planning, notification and coping mechanisms in place in the event of a cyber disaster.

Once the particulars and intricacies of the various plans had been laid out, the critiques began to fly in. Mike Nelson, research associate for CSC Leading Edge Forum and visiting professor at Georgetown University, played the self-admitted role of the skeptic.

“The first thing you do is hold a meeting, and we’ve been doing that for five years,” Nelson said, describing how meetings lead to research, research leads to a lengthy span of time, during which the public becomes discontented, after which a list of principles emerges to placate the masses.

Nelson did not seek for the topic of discussion to be “do you or do you not stand for freedom,” but instead, a fundamental  debate on so-called “flashpoints,” which are actual, specific points of policy, the results of a debate, which could result in legitimate action, as opposed to simply more principles.

Rebecca MacKinnon soon followed Nelson in critiquing the concept upon which the entire panel was devoted, noticing a trend for the principles and conclusions reached by disenfranchised groups, including those who aren’t in the post-industrial West or in the increasingly powerful emerging economies, to be at best given lip service, and at most outright ignored both by interested parties and IGF itself.

“What’s changed between 2004 and now?” MacKinnon asked. “How do people interpret these principles that have been, less or more, set in some degree of stone for quite some time?”

For the Chinese or Iranian dissident, she posited, rouge groups such as Anonymous and Wikileaks do more for their cause than institutional bodies like IGF simply because they rely entirely upon action instead of dialogue, action that is particularly focused on powerful entities.

For all of the critiques piled on the notion of principles and the efficacy of IGF, there was an equal counter of support.

“The role of the IGF is exactly what it was set out to do. There has been discussion, and it has encouraged awareness,” said Heather Shaw, vice president for ICT policy for the United States Council for International Business.

She added that many of the principles outlined in the State Department report published by the Obama administration contains many of the same concepts that were actively discussed at the previous year’s IGF meetings.

“The fact this discussion is happening everywhere points to the success of the Internet Governance Forum,” said Fiona Alexander of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. “IGF is spurring these kinds of conversations.”

But the unanswered question lingering at the end of the session’s discussion was whether those conversations, those discussions and that awareness is enough in this day and age, with the Internet’s rapid advancement now being met with an equally rapid growth in governmental interest in its inner workings.

– Morgan Little

IGF-USA 2010 Workshop – Web security will define the future of the Internet

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Panelists discuss the different options, perspectives and issues surrounding web security.

Brief description:

This panel, moderated by Robert Guerra of Freedom House, focused on critical Internet resources and how to ensure that the underlying principles that have led to the Internet’s success persist in the face of security challenges. These principles include openness (open standards, open technologies), accessibility transparency, bottom-up decision-making, cooperation and multi-stakeholder engagement. Key to implementing these principles is also a broadened understanding of the role of the infrastructure providers, such as global and national Internet services/connectivity providers who build and operate the backbones and edge networks. The panel was also expected to address some of the implications for the implementation of DNSSEC and IPv6 on a national basis that contribute to the security and resiliency of CIR on a global basis.

Details of the session:

The Internet’s success well into the future may be largely dependent on how it responds and reacts to increasing security challenges, according to panelists in a critical Internet resources workshop at the IGF-USA conference July 21 in Washington, D.C.

The Internet continues to evolve. It is also growing, as it becomes accessible to billions more people. The major challenge of our generation is to make the Internet more secure while continuing to promote openness, accessibility, transparency, bottom-up decision-making, cooperation and multistakeholder engagement. It is important that organizations continue to retain these values as much as possible as they react to cybersecurity and cybertrust issues.

Panelists at this workshop included:

  • Moderator Robert Guerra, Freedom House
  • Trent Adams, outreach specialist for the Internet Society
  • Matt Larson, vice president of DNS research for VeriSign
  • Steve Ryan, counsel to the American Registry for Internet Numbers
  • Patrick Jones, senior manager of continuity and risk management for ICANN
  • Jeff Brueggeman, vice president for public policy for AT&T

Panelists all expressed a desire to continue to engage in multifaceted talks because a single governmental entity is not the solution; it takes many people working together. As Brueggeman put it, there’s no “silver bullet” for the issue of Internet security.

“What we do on a day-to-day basis is ensure that those conversations take place,” Adams said. “The (critical Internet) resource is not a thing you can touch. You have this mesh of interconnected components that is the critical resource. You can’t pull one of those components out. Everyone must be around that table.”

So what’s the solution? The answer to that question is still a little unclear because Internet service providers and other organizations are often reactive to issues. Brueggeman said it’s time to embrace a forward-thinking approach.

“Things can get complicated when you’re reacting to an attack,” he said. “The best way to deal with these things is to try to think about them up front. How do we detect and prevent rather than react after the fact? How can we have more cooperative information sharing before attacks to try to prevent them and have the best information we can?”

Ryan stressed, though, that not all government is bad. He said citizens and organizations need to think “carefully about what the role of the government is.” But still, there should be a symbiotic relationship.

“There’s become a sense in government policy circles, including in the most sophisticated, that somehow (the Internet) runs on its own and you can’t break it,” he said. “I have news for you: You can break it. We look at government as something that has an increasingly important role because the Internet has an increasingly important role in economies.”

Ryan continued by saying non-governmental organizations have a responsibility to work with governments and to educate the people who work in them. He and the other panelists agreed that an international governmental organization wouldn’t work, though, unless core Internet values are embraced and upheld. They said a set-up that would allow countries around the world to vote on how the Internet is governed would not be a favorable solution.

“Until we get it right,” Ryan said, “I think we’re muddling along rather well.”

Panelists weigh in on the debate surrounding web security.

DNS issues and DNSSEC

Larson spoke specifically about the security of the Domain Name System because he views the DNS as an absolutely critical Internet resource. “If you don’t have the DNS, you don’t have the Internet,” he noted. He said users can’t truly trust the DNS, though, which is a bit disconcerting because of its necessity.

He supports DNSSEC—Domain Name System Security Extensions—which give users digital signatures (origin authentication) and data integrity. “Once you have that, you can validate data and have a higher level of confidence that the data you’re getting back is valid,” Larson said.

(You can read more about DNSSEC here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dnssec.)

He also said that DNSSEC makes DNS more trustworthy and critical to users as more applications—not just host names—depend on it. “We’re going to look back and realize it enabled a whole new class of applications to put information in the DNS,” Larson said. “Now you can trust the information coming out of the DNS.”

Going from IPv4 to a combination with IPv6

Ryan emphasized the importance of Internet Protocol version 6, IPv6, a new Internet layer protocol for packet switching that will allow a “gazillion numbers” vastly expanding the address space online. There is a rapidly decreasing pool of numbers left under IPv4. Ryan said the increased flexibility of IPv6 will allow for the continued growth of the Internet, but it won’t be a free-for-all.

“The numbers we have issued are not property,” he said. “We have a legal theory that’s embodied in every contract we’ve issued. They belong to community. If you’re not using them, you have to give them back. They are in essence an intangible, non-property interest, so over the next couple of years there will be some very interesting legal issues.”

ICANN in action

Jones said ICANN, which recently passed its 10-year milestone, has continued to work collaboratively with the community to take on major initiatives, such as the introduction of internationalized domain names in the root.

“We have taken requests from countries for internationalized country codes and approved 15,” Jones said.

“There’s a huge development in those regions of the world where you can now have domain names and an Internet that reflects their own languages and scripts. That will have an impact as discussion around critical Internet resources continues, especially in the IGF space.”

Physical critical resources

Brueggeman said AT&T has a broader perspective of critical Internet resources because the company is responsible for carrying Web traffic and for the underlying infrastructure, not just involved in issues tied to the DNS. He said the transition to IPv6 is daunting because it’s not backward-compatible. His main challenge has been in outreach efforts to customers.

“We have to deal with a lot of traffic that’s generated as we’re making changes to DNSSEC and IPv6,” he said. “In some cases, you might create some new security concerns, but overall both are important essential transitions.”

Brueggeman emphasized that multistakeholder discussions will be important in the coming years.

“We really need all of the parties who have the direct stake at the table to be part of the solution,” he said. “We need to have the resources handled in a way that promotes openness and promotes interoperability. There’s a huge policy risk of not managing these resources in a multistakeholder way.”

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