20 April 2016

The following is summary of the most recent IEEE Global Internet Governance Monitor report. To access the full reports containing additional details and other news items, please join the Internet Technology Policy Community on IEEE Collabratec.

A sparser week of developments this time around compared to recent times. However, still a range of news of note to IEEE from across the breadth of the ICT world.

In Europe, the news of note this week centred on the roll out of the European Unions plans to bridge the blocs national initiatives to digitize industry and encourage investment, in a bid to encourage European manufacturers to remain at the technological forefront. The European Commission, the blocs executive arm, said this week that it would set up a new governance framework that would hold regular meetings between national governments and industry to coordinate the EUs 30 national and regional digitization initiatives, which include Germanys Industry 4.0 and the Netherlands Smart Industry. The EU also pledged to boost both private and public investment in the area via strategic partnerships.

Also of interest, the mixed response across Europe to the call by the Article 29 Working Party of European privacy regulators for more work on the EU-US Privacy Shield pact. Instead of approving the proposed pact to replace the now-defunct Safe Harbour agreement to ensure privacy protections for trans-Atlantic data transfers, the group called on the US and European Commission (EC) to revise and clarify several points. It is anticipated that as a result of the stance taken by the Article 29 Working Party, legal challenges to the framework may be forthcoming in the near future. 

From a cyber-privacy perspective, the news of note included the announcement this week that MEPs have approved new EU privacy rules, including a regulation on consumer privacy that attracted the aggressive ire of lobbyists during its four-year run through negotiations in the European Parliament. The new data protection regulation drew a total of 3,999 amendments from MEPs, topping all other pieces of legislation in the Parliaments history, a spokesperson confirmed.

On the same topic, it was reported this week that EU laws on privacy and electronic communications (e-Privacy) could apply to new communications services like WhatsApp and Skype in future, under plans being considered by the European Commission. The European Commission has opened a review of the EU's e-Privacy Directive (ePD) with a public consultation in which it has asked businesses and other stakeholders for their views on possible reforms.

In the US net neutrality received a degree of coverage this week with the House of Representatives passing a bill to ban the Federal Communications Commission from setting or reviewing the rates that companies charge for Internet service. The largely party-line vote is a win for Republicans, who have pushed for the past year to nibble away at the FCCs internet regulations, which are currently being challenged in federal court. 

Cyber-Security issues somewhat dominated the headlines however, of particular interest being the news that U.S. federal, state and local government agencies rank in last place in cyber security when compared against 17 major private industries, including transportation, retail and healthcare, according to a new report released Thursday. The analysis, from venture-backed security risk benchmarking startup SecurityScorecard, measured the relative security health of government and industries across 10 categories, including vulnerability to malware infections, exposure rates of passwords and susceptibility to social engineering.

Also of interest from a cyber-security perspective, it was revealed that senior Russian and U.S. cybersecurity officials will meet this week in Geneva to renew efforts to prevent a cyber war between the two nations. Officials from the White House, the State Department and FBI will attend the meetings, which will focus on a review of several cybersecurity confidence-building agreements signed in 2013 by the two governments. 

In other developments from the US,  Apple Inc (AAPL.O) and the FBI are scheduled to return to Congress next week to testify before lawmakers about their heated disagreement over law enforcement access to encrypted devices, a congressional committee announced this week. This marks the latest event in the long running encryption saga which has dominated ICT headlines in the US in recent weeks and months.

A particularly quiet week this time around in the Asian ICT world. There were however certain developments of interest, including the revelation that The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India's (Trai) order to maintain price equality on content faces the danger of being breached as some telecom companies are understood to be working on a "bypass solution" through virtual private networks or intranet. The recent TRAI ruling on net neutrality has received considerable scrutiny in recent weeks, and this looks to be a topic which may continue to generate debate and discussion moving forwards.

There were also a range of developments relating to cyber-security in Asia which may be of interest, including Pakistans National Assembly approving the controversial Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill (PECB). The legislation, which has been criticized by human rights groups, legal watchdogs and industry experts, must still be approved by the Senate before it is signed into law. While ostensibly created to control cybercrimes including cyber terrorism, fraud, and identity theft, the PECB would criminalize activities such as sending text messages without the receivers consent, or criticizing the government, religion, country, or armed forces on social media.

On a cyber-security / cyber skills theme, it was announced this week by the Indian digital giant Nasscom that increasing incidents of cyber-attacks and data protection efforts globally are expected to create employment opportunities for about a million professionals in India by 2025. Efforts towards improving cyber security will also create a $25 billion (nearly Rs 1.66 lakh crore) revenue opportunity in India by 2025, the IT industry body said.

A wide range of developments of interest from across the rest of the ICT world this week, including the news that Iraq's Kurdish population have declared independence in cyberspace with a new domain name, .krd. Also of interest was Facebooks unveiling of two new initiatives to improve Internet services for rural populations in developing countries, including India. Announced at its two-day annual F8 conference in San Francisco, US, this week, the Antenna Radio Integration for Efficiency in Spectrum (ARIES) system will boost speed, efficiency and quality of Internet connectivity in remote areas in the developing countries, a Forbes report said.

From a Global Institutions perspective, this week was a relatively subdued one. However, news of note included ICANN announcement of the successful evaluation of four additional proposed IDN ccTLD strings for India. Details of the successful evaluation are accessible via the link below: