By Nick Patience The four pillars of internet-related public policy issues were addressed at the Internet Society’s annual gathering, INet ’99, this week and it appears that progress is slow on most fronts, with the possible exception of so-called internet governance. A panel chaired by Vint Cerf, who seems to crop up everywhere at Internet […]
By Nick Patience
The four pillars of internet-related public policy issues were addressed at the Internet Society’s annual gathering, INet ’99, this week and it appears that progress is slow on most fronts, with the possible exception of so-called internet governance. A panel chaired by Vint Cerf, who seems to crop up everywhere at Internet Society events, discussed privacy, encryption, taxation and net governance and the role of the private sector in all of them.
The progress of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) will be addressed at a separate panel here today, but Mike Nelson, IBM Corp’s program director of internet technology says that the ICANN fund-raising effort coordinated by the Global Internet Project (GIP) organization has netted about $300,000 in checks thus far, with more than that pledged. The GIP’s contributors have been accused by some in the community of trying to buy influence over ICANN, which was a question that visibly annoyed Cerf, who said repeatedly that ICANN should not fail for lack of funds, saying that would be fiscal irresponsibility.
He points out that ICANN has more responsibility than its predecessor, the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) and thus its considerably larger budget is more than justified, he says. He also suggested that more money is needed because ICANN is likely to face more legal challenges than IANA. Nelson, who, like Cerf, is involved with GIP, says, there is no quid pro quo regarding contributions to ICANN: we just want it done right, he says.
On privacy, president and executive director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), Tara Lemmey says that despite industry self-regulatory and technical efforts, we’re not even close to solving the problem. While the European Union countries are busy enacting stringent data protection laws, the US, she says, hasn’t even identified what are the most important issues. She says it’s not so much about privacy, more about personal identity on the internet; who you are, what you want others to know about you and for what reason the data was originally collected. The question of how the intent can be tied to the actual data is a particularly difficult problem to resolve, she says and it is intertwined with the debates over the levels of encryption people should be able to use to protect their messages.
IBM’s Nelson assured the audience that IBM will not be selling the customer data it accumulates to anybody, because not only would it be morally irresponsible, it would have a disastrous effect on the share price, if word got out. He says the most effective balance against privacy abuses is free speech.
Piper Cole, Sun Microsystems Inc’s director of public policy was at pains to explain Scott McNealy’s now famous quote: ‘you have no privacy – get over it.’ She says he only actually said it once and it has been taken out of context every time since. She says McNealy was referring to the analog world, with loyalty cards, phone records and such and was merely pointing out a contemporary fact, rather than describing what he wanted to see in the future.
As part of the CEO-populated Computer Systems Policy Project (CSPP), Cole says the government needs to update its regulations to keep pace with developments in microprocessor technology, among other things, because commodity processors manufactured by Intel Corp are facing export restrictions because of their processing power. The 10-year-old CSPP held its biannual meeting with government and Congressional officials earlier this month to explain its positions.