Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Did The US Just Give Control Of The Internet To The United Nations?

Did The US Just Give Control Of The Internet To The United Nations?

March 18, 2014 | Tom Olago
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Could you soon be struggling with heightened security issues and risks on the internet, and in addition be subjected to having to pay taxes for using the internet? This may soon be a reality. A U.S. government plan to give away authority over the Internet’s core architecture to the “global Internet community” could endanger the security of both the Internet and the U.S. — and open the door to a global tax on Web use.

This far-reaching decision was reached after the U.S. Commerce Department announced it would relinquish control of The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the organization charged with managing domain names, assigning Internet protocol addresses and other crucial Web functions, such as secure roadmaps from web-connected devices to websites and servers across the globe. ICANN’s current contract expires next year and will not be renewed.

This development is thought in some quarters to be a reaction to allegations of excessive U.S Commerce Department influence through ICANN, following the high profile and much publicized leaks by former agency contractor Edward Snowden.

U.S. officials were however quoted in a Washington Post article as having denied that their decision had anything to do with the NSA spying revelations and the consequent worldwide controversy, saying instead that there had been plans since ICANN’s creation in 1998 to eventually migrate it to international control.

Former Bush administration State Department senior advisor Christian Whiton told The Daily Caller that “U.S. management of the internet has been exemplary and there is no reason to give this away in return for nothing … we should assume ICANN would end up as part of the United Nations…it can impose whatever taxes it likes. It likely would start with a tax on registering domains and expand from there.”

This may add up in costs for individuals and businesses but could turn out to be a real cash cow for the U.N. As Dailycaller.com further reports: “... if folded into the U.N.’s International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the organization would have access to a significant revenue stream outside of member contributions for the first time.

The greater danger posed by the giveaway lies with the security of the Internet itself. While the U.S. has never used ICANN in a war or crisis situation, the potential exists for it to obstruct Internet commerce or deter foreign cyber attacks – powerful tools in the globalized information age.”

In Whiton’s words “…under invariably incompetent U.N. control, it could mean a hostile foreign power disabling the Internet for us”.

According to a related article published recently by the Washington Post, the ICANN’s relocation critics called the decision hasty and politically tinged. In addition they voiced significant doubts about the fitness of ICANN to operate without U.S. oversight and beyond the bounds of U.S. law.

Business groups, among others have long complained that ICANN’s decision-making was dominated by the interests of the industry that sells domain names and whose fees provide the vast majority of ICANN’s revenue. Critics have therefore considered the U.S. government contract a modest check against such abuses.

However Fadi Chehade, president of ICANN, disputed many of the complaints about the transition plan and promised an open, inclusive process to find a new international oversight structure for the group. Said Chehade: “Nothing will be done in any way to jeopardize the security and stability of the Internet.”

These developments seem to signify a major change in the evolution of views held by the U.S from just over a year ago, when the U.S led part of a western bloc opposed to a proposed U.N telecommunications treaty that advocated for stronger government sway over Internet affairs and a reduction in western dominance of the Internet.

The head of the U.S. delegation to the UN Web conference held in Dubai in December 2012, Ambassador Terry Kramer, was quoted by the National Post as stating that one major concern (among several others) was that the western bloc feared that any U.N rules on cyberspace could squeeze web commerce, open the door for more restrictions and result in monitoring by authoritarian regimes (such as China and Iran) that already impose wide-ranging clampdowns.

According to Kramer, “No single organization or government should attempt to control the internet or dictate its future development. We are resolute on this.”

This assertion seems strange if indeed there had been plans since ICANN’s creation in 1998 to eventually migrate it to a centralized international control such as the U.N - as alleged by U.S officials eager to demonstrate that the decision had nothing to do with the fallout and pressures that arose from the Snowden revelations. It isn’t clear why the U.S would then be leading the western bloc in an open contradiction: to publicly oppose a move that is already part of its agenda or policy.

There are other indications that seem to support the assertion that the move to relinquish control of ICANN by the U.S may further facilitate already ongoing repressions of freedom of speech by individual governments. Recent examples include a recent CNN.com reported that 2 Saudi men were convicted and jailed for posting pro-protest and anti-establishment messages on Twitter.

In another press publication citing examples of internet censorship, Russia has blocked three major opposition news websites as well as the popular blog of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny in a media crackdown that comes amid Vladimir Putin's standoff with the west over Ukraine. Such incidents may well escalate when the ICANN mandate is finally transitioned out of U.S hands.

Nevertheless, the questions still linger: Will it be possible for the U.S to hand over ICANN without risking the protections and benefits enjoyed by users globally so far? Isn’t there a better way to do this than hand it over to the U.N and then hope for the best, if U.S internet security vulnerabilities will increase? What hope is there for a balanced approach that can protect the best aspects of internet management and use, while blocking or minimizing potential avenues for abuse by corporations and oppressive governments.

Some answers may lie in the views of the inventor of the World Wide Web, who believes an online "Magna Carta" is needed to protect and enshrine the independence of the medium he created and the rights of its users worldwide. World Wide Web inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee told the Guardian that the web had come under increasing attack from governments and corporate influence and that new rules were needed to protect the "open, neutral" system.

Speaking exactly 25 years after he wrote the first draft of the first proposal for what would become the World Wide Web, the computer scientist said: "We need a global constitution – a bill of rights." Berners-Lee's Magna Carta plan is to be taken up as part of an initiative called "the web we want", which calls on people to generate a digital bill of rights in each country – a statement of principles he hopes will be supported by public institutions, government officials and corporations.

Berners-Lee also reiterated his concern that the web could be balkanized by countries or organizations carving up the digital space to work under their own rules, whether for censorship, regulation or commerce – effectively creating a series of national network “silos”.

The Guardian further reports that Berners-Lee has been an outspoken critic of the American and British spy agencies' surveillance of citizens following the revelations by National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden. His views also echo across the technology industry, where there is particular anger about the efforts by the NSA and Britain's GCHQ to undermine encryption and security tools.

Berners-Lee also spoke out strongly in favor of changing a key and controversial element of internet governance that would remove a small but symbolic piece of US control: "The removal of the explicit link to the US department of commerce is long overdue.

The US can't have a global place in the running of something which is so non-national. There is huge momentum towards that uncoupling but it is right that we keep a multi-stakeholder approach, and one where governments and companies are both kept at arm's length."

It remains to be seen if and how the cyber attack security concerns raised, the potential increases in tax and loopholes for increased government abuse will be handled following the ICANN handover – assuming that it isn’t just another red herring designed to buy some time to appease NSA critics.

Daniel Castro, a senior analyst with the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation perhaps summed up this decision best: "If the Obama Administration gives away its oversight of the Internet, it will be gone forever,"

Read more at http://www.prophecynewswatch.com/2014/March18/181.html#PW0ovJragddSMEG4.99

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