Could NSA spying cost US control of Internet infrastructure?
The leaders of ICANN and the rest of the Internet's technical infrastructure want to take its governance out of U.S. hands, and they want Brazil to lead the charge.
In wake of continuing revelations about the National Security Agency’s surveillance of Internet activities, the leaders of the Internet’s technical infrastructure want to take its governance global out of the hands of the United States.
In a statement issued at a conference in Montevideo, Uruguay, they “expressed strong concern over the undermining of the trust and confidence of Internet users globally due to recent revelations of pervasive monitoring and surveillance,” and called for efforts toward “the evolution of global multistakeholder Internet cooperation.”
The statement was signed by the leaders of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), Internet Engineering Task Force, Internet Architecture Board, World Wide Web Consortium, Internet Society and the five regional Internet address registries.
Among the proposals is accelerating the globalization of ICANN and the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority, control of which has been based in the United States, overseen by the Commerce Department. As Wired points out, ICANN, which was established by the Clinton administration, has consistently awarded contracts for managing major domains to U.S. companies. The .com domain, for instance, is managed by VeriSign and .org is managed by the Public Interest Registry. Both are based in Virginia, which means they fall under U.S. laws, including those regarding surveillance by the NSA.
Although the group’s statement doesn’t mention the NSA by name, its intentions are clear. A day after issuing the statement, Fadi Chehadi, ICANN’s president and CEO, met with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and later said he asked her “to elevate her leadership to a new level, to ensure that we can all get together around a new model of governance in which all are equal,” according to a post by the Internet Governance Project.
Brazil has been highly critical of the NSA’s surveillance programs and recently announced plans to create a spy-proof email system and to cut the United States out of Brazil’s Internet activity, by building an undersea fiber-optic cable that would carry traffic directly between South America and Europe. Brazil will host an international conference on Internet governance in 2014.
The Internet, of course, was originally a product of the U.S. government and although control of its infrastructure has largely remained in U.S. hands, its growth has been unregulated. The idea of international control has led to fears of that its open environment would be threatened. Last year, a panel of government and industry officials warned that a proposal to give the U.N. International Telecommunications Union authority to regulate the Internet would thwart innovation and economic growth.
International groups have called before for an end to U.S. control of the Internet, though many have called for privatizing control, rather than giving it to the U.N. The Snowden leaks about NSA activity have greatly accelerated the effort.