The GovLab SCAN – Issue 64

Samantha Grassle also contributed to this post.

As part of the GovLab’s Living Labs on Smarter Governance project, this is our 64th edition of The SCAN – Selected Curation of Articles on Net-Governance. Feel free to share your suggestions with us at SCAN@thegovlab.org.

This week’s highlights:

  • On Thursday, the FCC voted to regulate the Internet as a public utility under Title II. The decision follows a yearlong debate and public comment period about the best rules to ensure an Open Internet.
  • Günther Oettinger, the European Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, called for a unified European data-protection law to counter the practice of major US Internet companies using legal loopholes to gather and sell personal data.
  • This week, the Senate held a hearing on the IANA transition called “Preserving the Multistakeholder Model of Internet Governance”; several tech companies have also added their support to the IANA transition.

ICANN and IANA

McCarthy, Kieren. Internet industry lends support to IANA transition. The Register. February 24, 2015.

  • This week, the Senate held a hearing on the IANA transition called “Preserving the Multistakeholder Model of Internet Governance” with testimonies from former US ambassador and representative of the Internet Governance Coalition, David Gross, Assistant Secretary Larry Strickling, and CEO of ICANN, Fadi Chehade. Several tech companies including Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft have added their support to the IANA transition. You can read transcripts of the testimonies here.

Berkens, Michael. Google Wins The new gTLD .APP for $25 MillionTheDomains. February 26, 2015.

  • On Thursday, Google purchased .APP for $25 million at the ICANN last resort auction, which is the highest price ever paid for a gTLD. According to Berkens, this could be “very good news for the new gTLD program in general.” Before Google secured this purchase, there were 13 companies applying to operate .APP, including Amazon, Afilias, and Radix.

Internet Governance

Al Hussaini, Amira. Egyptian Blogger Alaa Abd El Fattah Sentenced to Five Years in Jail. Global Voices. February 23, 2015.

  • On Monday, Alaa Abd El Fattah, a prominent Egyptian activist and blogger, was sentenced to five years in prison and fined 100,000 Egyptian pounds (13,000 US dollars) for allegedly taking part in a protest and “assaulting a policeman and stealing his walkie talkie.” Abd El Fattah “has long worked on technology and political activism projects”and has been investigated or imprisoned multiple times, including 2006, 2011, and 2013.

Brodkin, Jon. FCC overturns state laws that protect ISPs from local competition. Arstechnica. February 26, 2015.

  • Some state laws in the US prohibit municipalities from building their own broadband networks in order to protect private telecommunications companies from public competition. On Thursday, the US Federal Communications Commission voted “to preempt state laws in North Carolina and Tennessee that prevent municipal broadband providers from expanding outside their territories.” According to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, “”The bottom line is some states have created thickets of red tape designed to limit competition” at the expense of local residents and businesses. 19 US states have similar legislation, and the “FCC could preempt laws in more states if communities file petitions asking the commission to do so.”

Fairless, Tom. Europe’s Digital Czar Slams Google, Facebook. The Wall Street Journal. February 24, 2015.

  • This week in Brussels, Günther Oettinger, the European Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, gave a speech “warning that the U.S. technology giants are exploiting legal loopholes in Europe to gather and sell individuals’ personal data.” He called for “one European data-protection law” to counter the dominance of US Internet companies such as Facebook and Google. The commission has also pledged to unveil plans “to build a single digital market that knits together the region’s 28 different Web systems” in May.

Gibbs, Samuel. Facebook’s privacy policy breaches European law, report finds. The Guardian. February 23, 2015.

  • A report by the Centre of Interdisciplinary Law and ICT at the University of Leuven in Belgium at the request of the Belgian Privacy Commission has found that “Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities (SRR) contains a number of provisions which do not comply with the Unfair Contract Terms Directive. These violations were already present in 2013, and they are set to persist in 2015.” Facebook has met with the Belgian privacy minister Bart Tommelein to discuss the report, and has also stated that the company “recently updated [its] terms and policies to make them more clear and concise, to reflect new product features and to highlight how [its] expanding people’s control over advertising” and that the company “is confident the updates comply with applicable laws.”

Newton, Casey. Twitter starts tracking phone numbers to prevent its worst users from creating new accounts. The Verge. February 26, 2015.

  • Twitter is rolling out new functionalities to address harassment on its service. According to the new changes, users who receive temporary bans will have to verify their telephone number or email address in order to keep using the service. A phone number that is on a list of already banned users could lead to permanent suspension.  However, the move does have some loopholes; for example, a user who receives a phone number request could choose to abandon an account and open a new one. According to the article, “the move does add a layer of friction to the lives of the most dedicated trolls, and in that sense it could at least begin to address the issue.” Twitter has also introduced a service to allow bystanders to report abuse rather than just victims themselves.

Ray, Josh. Why Attribution Is Important for Today’s Network Defenders. CircleID. February 25, 2015.

  • Senior Intelligence Director at Verisign Josh Ray puts forth the reasons why attribution is important in terms of cyber attacks and network security. He states that “Cyber Threat Intelligence (CTI) professionals need to do a better job explaining across all lines of business and security operations how the pursuit of attribution, manifesting itself in adversary analysis, can be employed to improve an organization’s resource allocation and security posture.” He outlines some of the benefits of performing adversary analysis, such as allowing organizations to “prioritize incidents effectively based on adversary impact, identify internal high-value targets and programs based on adversary intent and collection requirements,” and “proactively block threat infrastructure.”

Roberts, Jeff John. Transparency reports on trial: New front for free speech? GigaOm. February 23, 2015.

  • This article discusses the transparency reports published by several companies to inform users about government demands. While these reports have been seen as “an important measure of free speech and privacy,” they can also be “a PR tool for the companies that publish them.” Twitter filed a case against the US government claiming that the FBI violated the company’s First Amendment rights last year, and several media companies including BuzzFeed, NPR and the Guardian filed a supporting brief last week. Roberts also discusses the use of transparency reports as a PR tool, their potential to lead to public apathy on the issue, whether more standardization should be introduced to reporting, and how media companies should deal with the reports.

Ruiz, Rebecca R. and Lohr, Steve. In Net Neutrality Victory, F.C.C. Classifies Broadband Internet Service as a Public Utility. The New York Times. February 26, 2015.

  • This article covers the recent decision by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to regulate broadband Internet service as a public utility and the recent historical events that led to this decision. The new rules are designed to ensure “that no content is blocked and that the Internet is not divided into pay-to-play fast lanes for Internet and media companies that can afford it and slow lanes for everyone else.” The ruling will encompass wired lines and mobile data services.

Vermeulen, Jan. How secret SARS unit spied on South Africans: report. My Broadband. February 23, 2015.

  • This article covers a recent report alleging that “a covert unit within the South African Revenue Service (SARS) used a surveillance software suite known as FinFisher to spy on computer activities of its targets.” The report is a follow up to a CitizenLab report in April 2013 which identified that command and control (C&C) servers for the FinFisher software were detected on South African telecom provider Telkom’s network. A spokesperson for SARS would not comment on the allegations.

Papers and Reports

State of Connectivity: 2014. Internet.org. February 2015.

  • This report by Facebook’s Internet.org initative provides “an overview of the state of connectivity — who’s connected, who’s not, and why.” According to the report, the three main reasons people are not online are infrastructure, affordability, and relevance. The report discusses these global barriers to connection, and states that “without the cooperation of industry, governments and NGOs working together to improve the global state of connectivity by addressing the underlying reasons people are not connected to the Internet, connectivity may remain permanently out of reach for billions of people.”

Events

(The below includes both past and upcoming events. See The GovLab’s Master Events Calendar for more Internet Governance events)


CONNECTing the Dots: Options for Future Action. UNESCO. March 03, 2015.

  • CONNECTing the Dots is an “international multistakeholder conference to discuss the first draft of the Comprehensive Study on Internet-related issues.” The conference is organized by UNESCO and “is expected to attract participants from governments, civil society, academia, private sector, the technical community, inter-governmental and international organizations as well as noted thought leaders, innovators and pioneers in the Internet Governance space.”

[Webinar] IANA Stewardship Transition Process Update. Internet Society. March 04, 2015.

  • Participants in this webinar will provide an update on the IANA Stewardship Transition Process and progress thus far. The webinar will be will be moderated by Internet Society Policy Advisor Konstantinos Komaitis, and participants include Patrik Fältström, Vice Chair of the IANA Stewardship Transition Coordination Group, Demi Getschko, Internet Society appointee to IANA Stewardship Transition Coordination Group, and Eliot Lear, Member of the Internet Architecture Board and author of the Internet Engineering Task Force IANAPLAN document.

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