Louise Bennett, BCS Security Community of Expertise, attended the Parliament and Internet Conference. The following are the main messages from UN IGF 2013 that the BCS delegation would like to bring to the attention of UK legislators concerning Internet Governance
- The Snowdon revelations concerning US NSA surveillance on the Internet have given further impetus to calls for the de-Americanisation of the Internet that were already apparent at UN IGF 2012 from many political delegations (especially from Brazil and EU), human rights and privacy groups. This erosion of trust in both the US Government and companies is in danger of leading to calls for the “global commons” of the Internet to be turned into “gated commons”. UK legislators should do everything in their power to restore trust and prevent this from happening. The UK should try to ensure the Internet is used to connect and liberate not divide and conquer.
- There remain strong calls from the majority of stakeholders to ensure that anonymity on the Internet is retained (defined as the ability to interact online without being compelled to reveal who you are). This was supported by 86% of the young people who responded to the Youth IGF Project “Global Perspectives on online anonymity”. BCS has also had a similar response in all the workshops they have run over the last 3 years. OpenNet South Korea, who jointly sponsored the BCS UN IGF workshop this year, won their case against the South Korean Government’s 2007 regulatory regime requiring “mandatory verification of user identity” in online services in the South Korean Constitutional Court in August 2012 when it was declared unconstitutional. UK legislators should defend this right to anonymity.
- Big Data analysis over the Internet is a growing activity raising concern. This is being carried out by both Governments and the private sector. BCS has warned that identity discovery through data aggregation is something that Internet users need to be aware of and they should consent to the use of their personal data online. Ethical scrutiny of both the collection and analysis of massive open data online is needed so that it can be used for social good. Because it is possible it is not necessarily ethical, but it is important to control these risks and not forgo the opportunities to use such data for humanitarian reasons (such as to track victims of disaster as in Haiti, or use Internet performance monitoring data to identify such things as patterns of censorship in repressive regimes). UK legislators should lead discussion on the ethical issues on the collection, “anonymisation” and analysis of big data online.
- Many UK based organisations have contributed to the ITU/UNICEF Guidelines for Child Online Protection. The consultation on the first of these (the business guidelines) was announced at the UN IGF. UK legislators should remain in the forefront of this work.
- Education about safe use of the Internet for all groups is a key requirement for the Internet to flourish and to ensure that the UK gets economic benefits from an increasingly online world. There were many good examples of short public service broadcasting videos from countries like Czechoslovakia and from the Internet Watch Foundation. The BBC should be encouraged to translate and broadcast such messages as part of its public service remit.
- The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is currently developing an infrastructure for web identity and payment standards (Payswarm) (including automatic payment of taxation in online transactions) that has the potential to be a major disruptive force that could encourage many new business models and enable the unbanked and digitally excluded to benefit from online services. UK legislators should engage with this initiative to ensure it fits in with acceptable regulatory regimes embraced in the London financial centre.
- Intangibles and virtual goods online cover much more than copyright of music, the written word and software – e.g. design, business processes and creative works at which the UK excels. UK legislators should ensure that the global governance of these intangibles is in the interests of UK business and fit for the digital world.