The GovLab SCAN – Issue 77

This is our 77th edition of The SCAN – Selected Curation of Articles on Net-Governance. Feel free to share your suggestions with us at SCAN@thegovlab.org.

Samantha Grassle also contributed to this post.

Highlights:

  • The first report by the new United Nations Special Rapporteur calls on States to protect privacy and freedom of expression as well as to promote strong encryption and anonymity
  • CEO of ICANN Fadi Chehade urged participation in the NTIA transition process and stated that “Should the transition fail, the United States could lose credibility in its quest to maintain an open, multi-stakeholder-driven Internet”

Latest Developments

Allemann, Andrew. FTC to ICANN on .Sucks: Yeah, we told you this would happen. Domain Name Wire. May 28, 2015.

  • Last month, ICANN had requested the US Federal Trade Commission to examine the legality of charging exorbitant prices for the domain name .sucks by registry Vox Populi. This week, the FTC’s Chairwoman Edith Ramirez responded that ICANN’s request raises “important and broader consumer protection issues that the Commission previously highlighted prior to the launch of ICANN’s new gTLD program.” She points out that these issues cannot be “feasibly addressed on a case-by-case basis” and that instead, ICANN should “consider ways in which it can address the concerns raised with respect to .SUCKS, as well as consumer protection issues more generally, on a broader basis.”

Chehade, Fadi. A Critical Moment for the Future of the Internet. Techonomy. May 21, 2015.

  • In this article, CEO of ICANN Fadi Chehade discusses the future of the Internet and states that “Internet governance must evolve to meet the changing needs of all users to ensure the network remains available, open, stable, and secure.” He focuses on the NTIA transition, stating that ICANN has been a neutral and independent facilitator of a multi-stakeholder community that has worked to develop a transition proposal that is consistent with the NTIA’s guidelines. He invites and urges participation in the process and states that “Should the transition fail, the United States could lose credibility in its quest to maintain an open, multi-stakeholder-driven Internet.”

Farrell, Paul. Human rights groups condemn Nauru’s criminalisation of political protest. The Guardian. May 27, 2015.

  • This week, a coalition of civil society groups including Access, Electronic Frontiers Australia, Human Rights Watch, GetUp, the Pacific Freedom Forum, Pen International and the Refugee Council of Australia, signed an open letter urging the Nauru government to repeal restrictions to free speech. This move was in response to the government’s decision to block access to Facebook and other websites, and follows the recent letter from United Nations special rapporteur for freedom of expression, David Kaye, who requested that Nauru “lift all restrictions to access internet and social media, and facilitate access to the media in the country.”

Greenberg, Andy. Silk Road Creator Ross Ulbricht Sentenced to Life in Prison. Wired. May 29, 2015.

  • Today, Ross Ulbricht, the creator of the drugs black market website Silk Road, was sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole. Reading the sentence, Judge Katherine Forrest stated that “Silk Road’s birth and presence asserted that its…creator was better than the laws of this country. This is deeply troubling, terribly misguided, and very dangerous.” Prosecutors had called for the court to “send a clear message” with Ulbricht’s sentencing, as dark markets “continue to pose investigative challenges for law enforcement” and that they may be deterred “if the stakes are sufficiently high.”

Goshal, Abhimanyu. Facebook launches its controversial Internet.org service in Pakistan. The Next Web. May 28, 2015.

  • This week, Facebook and mobile carrier Telenor partnered to launch Internet.org  services within the Pakistani mobile market. This market currently consists of about 27 million internet users, half of whom use mobile devices to get online.  This marks the continuation of a controversial service known as zero-rating, which many argue violates principles of net neutrality and restricts users’ choice and access to sources of information.

Hern, Alex. Tim Berners-Lee urges Britain to fight ‘snooper’s charter. The Guardian. May 29, 2015.

  • This article covers Tim Berners-Lee, the founder of the world wide web, and his recent statements about the UK government’s positions on privacy and surveillance. According to Berners-Lee, Britain has “lost the moral leadership” in this area, and he is very concerned about the UK government’s recent moved to reintroduce a new version of the “snoopers charter.” This refers to the legislation that will enable “the tracking of everyone’s web and social media use” and strengthens “the security services’ warranted powers for the bulk interception of the content of communications.” Berners-Lee also warned “attempts to improve internet access around the world by offering cut-down versions of the web, such as Facebook’s Internet.org project.”

Kelion, Leo. AdBlock Plus secures another court victory in Germany. BBC. May 27, 2015.

  • Adblock Plus has successfully defended itself in a German court after being accused of being anti-competitive. German broadcasters RTL and ProSiebenSat.1 had also argued that by blocking advertisements, the browser plug-in hampered their ability to offer content for free. Eyeo, the German company behind Adblock Plus, has faced legal proceedings four times. A spokesman for the company stated that “we will endeavour to work with publishers, advertisers and content creators to encourage non-intrusive ads, discover new ways to make ads better and press forward to a more sustainable internet ecosystem.”

Lee, Dave and Nick Kwek. North Korean hackers ‘could kill’, warns key defector. BBC. May 29, 2015.

  • According to a professor who taught computer science at a university in North Korea before defecting in 2004, North Korea’s cyber-attack agency has grown to 6,000 people and has the ability to destroy critical infrastructure. According to Professor Kim, North Korea is building a Stuxnet-style attack and is “a feasible threat.” He called for the international community and organizations to take action, stating that “We need to collect the evidence of North Korea’s cyber terrorism and report them to UN Human Rights Council and other UN agencies.”

Little, Trevor. Chinese government move could significantly restrict domain name registration levels. World Trademark Review. May 26, 2015.

  • This week, the Chinese government announced that “registries and registrars will have to meet a number of conditions and obtain the approval of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) before being allowed to engage in commercial and operational activities in China.” According to the author, this means that “registry operators will have to overcome a number of hurdles before being able to bring their TLDs to the Chinese market and the move could have a significant impact on domain name registrations.” To date, 8 domestic companies and 14 TLDs have been approved, and notably ‘.com’, ‘.net’ and ‘.org’ ‘.co’ and ‘.me’ have not been approved  facing the prospect of being “shut out of the Chinese market for new registrations.”

Ruiz, Rebecca R. F.C.C. Chief Seeks Broadband Plan to Aid the Poor. The New York Times. May 28, 2015.

  • On Thursday, United States Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Tom Wheeler, shared his plan to suggest “sweeping changes to a $1.7 billion subsidy program charged with ensuring that all Americans have affordable access to advanced telecommunications services.”The subsidy program called Lifeline began as a way to subsidize telephone lines, and Wheeler’s new proposal would extend the subsidy to broadband. According to anonymous senior officials, a vote on this proposal is expected on June 18.

Sternstein, Aliya. Other Agencies Use Same Login Procedures as Exploited IRS Site. Next Gov. May 27, 2015.

  • This week, criminals hacked into the US Internal Revenue Service and stole information on 100,000 taxpayers. According to this article, the information was acquired through an ID-verification process that asks “challenge questions” such as “Which of the following streets have you lived on?” in addition to individuals’ Social Security numbers. This information can be bought on the Dark Web, and answers to challenge questions can be found on free or fee-based sites and social media. This form of layered security called “knowledge-based authentication” is used on several government websites including HealthCare.gov, mySSA and USCIS.gov. A study in 2013 recommended changing this authentication system, or “expanding the number of challenge questions and requiring every taxpayer to have a PIN number.”

Papers and Reports

Hofmann, Jeanette. Constellations of Trust and Distrust in Internet Governance. Available on SSRN. May 20, 2015.

  • This paper challenges the binary view that trust is positive and distrust is negative, suggesting instead that “trust and distrust co-occur and that distrust can be a productive source of institution-building.” The paper begins with a discussion of the “concepts of trust with implications for the political sphere”, then examines “the sphere of Internet governance from a trust perspective”, and then describes “ the crisis of confidence in Internet governance caused by Edward Snowden’s revelations about mass surveillance on the Internet.”

Kaye, David. Report on encryption, anonymity, and the human rights framework. United Nations. May 2015.

  • This report by the Special Rapporteur to the Human Rights Council addresses “two linked questions: First, do the rights to privacy and freedom of opinion and expression protect secure online communication, specifically by encryption or anonymity?” and if so, “to what extent may governments, consistent with human rights law, impose restrictions on encryption and anonymity?” Sixteen States have thus far responded to the Special Rapporteur’s request for information on their laws, regulations, policies and practices. The report’s recommendations include that States should revise or establish laws to protect privacy and freedom of expression and promote strong encryption and anonymity, and that “States, international organizations, corporations and civil society groups should promote online security.”

Wittes, Benjamin and Jodie Liu. The privacy paradox: The privacy benefits of privacy threats. Brookings Institution. May 21, 2015.

  • This paper examines the debate around privacy and argues that “how we balance the relative value of different forms of privacy is a function of how much we fear the potential audiences from whom we want to keep certain information secret.” thegovlab.org authors propose some basic principles about the nature of privacy, including that 1) new technologies can “often both enhance and diminish privacy” based on context, 2) that individual concerns are not abstract but based on privacy from specific audiences, and 3) some technologies perceived as “privacy-eroding” could also “enhance privacy from the people in our immediate surroundings.”

Events

(Also see The GovLab’s Curation of Eight Internet Governance Calendars for more past and upcoming events)


EuroDIG 2015. June 04-05, 2015.

  • EuroDIG “is an open platform for informal and inclusive discussion and exchange on public policy issues related to Internet Governance (IG) between stakeholders from all over Europe.” The GovLab’s Chief of Research, Stefaan Verhulst, will discuss Internet Governance mapping projects in “Synergies between GIPO and other mapping initiatives” as well as lead a session on “How to ensure interoperability and coordination through common taxonomies.”

Internet Governance, ICANN and Congress.Sucks: Where is Control of the Internet Going? Net Caucus. June 05, 2015.

  • This panel will discuss latest Internet governance developments. Speakers include Milton Mueller, Professor, Syracuse University School of Information Studies, Jon Nevett, Co-Founder & EVP, Donuts Inc., and  Sally Shipman Wentworth, Vice President of Global Policy Development, Internet Society.

 

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