The International Telecommunications Union may push for a global agreement on fighting spam. At the conclusion of an ITU meeting Friday, it was said that such a deal could be possible within the next two years.
Robert Horton, acting head of the Australian Communications Authority, leading the ITU meeting in Geneva last week, said national laws should come first, and then a global solution to a global problem could be agreed upon.
The priority would seem to me to be to establish national laws and regulatory responsibility as a first step in all countries, Horton said. This seems to me to be a necessary preparation for a global regulatory foundation, a platform for regulation.
With such a foundation in place, it would not be impossible in the not-too-distant future to approach a global MoU, Horton said. Optimistically, my opinion is that a target of two years might be envisaged to reach that point.
As we reported Friday, the two-year target was borrowed from Microsoft chairman Bill Gates, who first suggested 2006 as a cut-off in January. Like Gates, Horton said a multi-pronged approach comprising technology, law and education, is needed.
Wrapping up the three-day ITU spam workshop, which was attended by technologists, regulators and activists from around the world, Horton pointed to existing memorandums of understanding as possible models for future action.
Notably, the US, UK and Australia recently signed a trilateral MoU to cooperate on information sharing when the spam in question has been ruled illegal in two or more of the countries. Australia and Korea have a similar bilateral MoU.
These cross-border agreements, Horton said should provide a valuable reference for what can be achieved and which could be potentially expanded in the future as other countries and their regulators develop their capabilities.
About 75 countries have created spam laws, with varying degrees of effectiveness. Delegates said that developing countries should not necessarily create laws in the image of existing ones, but should learn from the experience of developed nations.
It was observed that cross-border cooperation can be tricky when the laws are different. European opt-in laws were contrasted with US opt-out laws. The issue of cooperation between carriers was also raised.
Richard Cox, CTO of the UK-based SpamHaus Project, took the opportunity to criticize countries that turn a blind eye to spamming activities on their networks. He named China, Russia, Brazil and, to a lesser extent, Romania, as the worst offenders.
We know exactly who is making this possible. There are four countries whose lax approach to network security is enabling this to take place, Cox said. Networks, and particularly ITU members, are the carriers enabling this, and it is essential that they understand the harm they are doing to the rest of the telecommunicated world.
Horton’s summation of the meeting also included, at the behest of ITU telecommunications standardization study group counselor Richard Hill, the phrase that measures related to WHOIS data might be considered.
Whois are the databases of contact details for domain name registrants. SpamHaus’s Cox had complained earlier in the week that spammers often provide inaccurate Whois data when they register domains, to hide their identities.
Whois regulation is, however, mostly the domain of the Internet Corp for Assigned Names and Numbers, a California non-profit entity that works under powers granted it by the US Department of Commerce, rather than the ITU.