[AfrICANN-discuss] Internet Governance: ICANN, Security And Nation States

Anne-Rachel Inné annerachel at gmail.com
Mon Feb 4 21:48:23 SAST 2008

Intellectual Property Watch
28 January 2008 Internet Governance: ICANN, Security And Nation States

By Monika Ermert for *Intellectual Property Watch*
The future of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers
(ICANN) will remain an important topic in Internet governance in 2008, the
tenth anniversary of the private global coordination body for Internet
addresses and domain names.

Yet Internet governance experts also expect security in its different facets
to be on the rise in Internet governance debates and point to the further
growing interest of nation states in exercising their sovereign governance
rights in cyberspace. And it is increasingly the case that governance of the
Internet can affect access to online content.

The Internet Governance Forum (IGF)
<http://www.intgovforum.org/index.htm>organised by the United Nations
- which in December will hold its third
gathering in New Delhi - likely will see more issues related to
cybercriminality, anonymity and privacy, said Jeanette Hofmann, researcher
at the Centre for Analysis of Risk and Regulation at the London School of
Economics, and at the Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung, and
member of the IGF Advisory Group.

New ICANN Board Chairman Peter Dengate Thrush announced a "busy
a "birthday party" to take place at the annual meeting of ICANN, which
will be held not in the United States but in Africa in November 2008. The
location for the birthday party may be seen as a small symbol for ICANN's
emphasis on its declared internationality. It has been the United States'
privileged position in ICANN and root server oversight that gave the primary
original impulse for the Internet governance debate that has evolved so much
over the past few years.

Weakening US Influence over Internet?

More and more governments have called for change in the oversight structure
for this tiny yet core part of the Internet and will call for that again in
the newly launched consultation of the US Commerce Department National
Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) on "The Continued
Transition of the Technical Coordination and Management of the Internet's
Domain Name and Addressing System."

The consultation (deadline for statements 15 February) is part of the
midterm review of the "Joint Project Agreement (JPA)" - the current
agreement that binds ICANN to US government oversight - and may allow the
full privatisation of domain name system (DNS) coordination after 2009.

ICANN posted its comment to the NTIA in January, declaring: "The JPA is not
longer necessary. Concluding it is the next step in transition of the
coordination of the domain name system to the private sector."

ICANN's Board wrote to NTIA official Suzanne Sene and said the JPA had been
a necessary instrument in ICANN's formative years. "But now," the board
said, "the JPA contributes to a misperception that the DNS is managed and
overseen on a daily basis by the US government. Ending the JPA will provide
long-term stability and security for a model that works." The Board
underlined that the JPA would not affect the Internet Assigned Numbers
Authority (IANA) contract that allows the US administration to check on
changes in the root zone, the heart of the DNS.

The incoming US administration could withdraw from ICANN oversight, yet
control over changes in the root zone, where vital information on the
Internet address system is kept, might be too sensitive for any US
administration. In fact, the US keeps arguing that it has to ensure the
stability and security of the system that underlies a billion-dollar economy
and has long become a key critical infrastructure.

"The whole issue of security is drawing more and more attention, not only
from nation states, but also from civil society," said Hofmann. The
relationship between surveillance and privacy, data protection and
transparency remains to be clearly worked out, she added. Identity
management and authentication mechanisms rose much higher on the Internet
governance agenda last year, and are expected to continue to do so, Hofmann

Fight for IP Rights

Intellectual property issues are in some aspects also intermingled with
security. Whether the registries for country-code domains (such as .uk for
the United Kingdom) should be granted special rights over new
country-code-oriented top-level domain address zones, and be able to ask to
be allocated the right to manage these zones via a fast track procedure, is
one of ICANN's questions in this regard. Observers warn against possible
domain islands under strict state control.

At least some observers have followed anxiously developments in Russia where
some in the administration have been reported to have shown interest in
walling off the "Russian Internet." ICANN has accepted that there is a
strong demand for ccTLDs in native scripts from a number of countries like
China and several Arabic states and a special working group has started
talks about the possible fast track procedure. But ICANN Chair Dengate
Thrush spoke of a single procedure for all new top-level domains coming up.
The introduction of new TLDs is a major issue for ICANN this year.

Meanwhile, the longstanding fight over how personal data of individual
domain name holders should be published in the so-called Whois databases of
domain name registries and registrars might calm down, Hofmann said. ICANN
staff finalised the procedure for dealing with exemptions for registries and
registrars from jurisdictions with strong privacy regulation. Even if the
United States keeps pushing for open Whois, registries and registrars from
other countries can point to the need to adhere to their own national laws.

Yet according to a representative for the registrars in ICANN's Generic Name
Supporting Council it is not that easy at all. It was all but clear what
registries and registrars had to present to be eligible for the exemptions
as the procedure reads that only a lawsuit or administrative procedure
against them allowed to apply for exceptional treatment.

Also, settlements of disputes over ownership of domain names will continue
to be important at ICANN and at the World Intellectual Property

Debate over Governance Structure

Changes may also come in 2008 to the institutional structure of Internet
governance debates, Hofmann said. While the IGF was established as a focal
point for the wider Internet governance debate - and ICANN will be kept
under observation - she felt that there was a shift of a lot of discussion
to intergovernmental institutions, back from self-governing bodies like the
Internet Engineering Task Force (a peer standardisation body for all
Internet protocol-related standards) to the UN International
Telecommunication Union (ITU). The ITU has, for example, become more
involved in security issues, last year announcing a global cybersecurity
agenda <http://www.itu.int/osg/csd/cybersecurity/gca/> after years of
rivalry with ICANN.

More structural manoeuvring on who does what in Internet governance is
expected this year, according to Wolfgang Kleinwächter, special advisor to
the IGF Chair Nitin Desai. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and
Development (OECD) has invited UN General Secretary Ban Ki-Moon to give a
keynote at its June meeting on the "Future of the Internet
and Kleinwächter said this could be used by Ban for positioning of the UN in
Internet governance.

*Monika Ermert may be reached at info at ip-watch.ch.*
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