23 March 2016

The following is summary of the most recent IEEE Global Internet Governance Monitor report. To access and download the full report containing additional details and other news items, click here.

This week witnessed developments a plenty from across the breadth of the ICT world. Similar to the week previous, cyber-security has continued to feature highly on the news agenda, however coverage has also spanned other areas of interest as explored further below.

Europe this week welcomed the arrival of U.S. delegates sent to drum up support for the recently agreed EU U.S. data transfer pact. The Privacy Shield pact will underpin $260 billion dollars of transatlantic trade in digital services by giving companies such as Alphabet's Google, Intel and Apple Inc. an easy way to move users' data from Europe to the United States.

Linked to this, EU member states are preparing for a meeting scheduled for the 7th of April which will focus on a review of the details of the aforementioned Privacy Shield. This will be the first time EU member national officials will meet to assess the new agreement. While they can make changes, their approval of the deal is needed for it to go into effect.

Other news of note from Europe included the announcement this week by the UK administration that the planed National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) will focus on the financial sector as a top priority. One of the NCSCs first tasks will be to work with the Bank of England to produce advice for the financial sector for managing cyber security effectively, the government announced.

Also on a cyber-security theme, the Polish Ministry of Digital Affairs has this week released a draft framework document for Poland's new cyber-security strategy and is considering establishing a new institution to oversee the country's cyber-security efforts. With the widespread proliferation of cyber-threats across the continent and wider world, increased resilience to the dangers posed is clearly becoming a high priority for many administrations and organisations.

In the US, news of particular importance included the announcement that a comer department component is close to approving a plan to move control of the architecture that maps and maintains stability of the Internet address system to a global, multi-stakeholder group. The National Telecommunications and Information Agency has for years controlled the critical IANA contract (short for Internet Assigned Numbers Authority) that serves as the address book of the global Internet. On March 10, a proposal to transition the IANA function away from NTIA was announced at a global Internet governance meeting in Marrakech, Morocco.

Cyber-security developments included the rejection of an amendment by the US Congressional house Budget Committee which had been tagged on to US President Barack Obamas cyber proposal plans. The amendment would have funded the White Houses proposal for a $3 billion technology modernization initiative. Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) , who sponsored the amendment, said he was greatly disappointed with the vote, accusing Republicans of putting politics ahead of national security."

In other cyber-security news from the US, a White House audit this week revealed that the U.S. government was hit by more than 77,000 "cyber incidents" like data thefts or other security breaches in fiscal year 2015, a 10 percent increase over the previous year. Part of the increase stems from federal agencies improving their ability to identify and detect incidents, the annual performance review from the Office and Management and Budget said.

Predictably, encryption also received widespread coverage in the US media this week. As the debate regarding encryption continues to engulf the ICT sector in the nation, stories of note are seemingly breaking on a daily basis. From the week just passed, such updates included the announcement by the National Security Agencys internal civil liberties watchdog that the agency has no interest in spying on Americans under its controversial spying tools. Our employees are trained to not look for U.S. persons, NSA privacy and civil liberties officer Rebecca Richards said.

Encryption didn’t just engulf the news cycle but also the US political system, with a bipartisan group of U.S. senators this week beginning to circulate a long-awaited draft legislation that would give federal judges clear authority to order technology companies like Apple to help law enforcement officials access encrypted data, according to sources familiar with the discussions.

In addition to this, two House committees revealed this week the creation of a joint encryption working group. The panel, composed of four Republicans and four Democrats, will examine potential solutions to the challenges law enforcement officials face as encryption becomes more widespread.

Finally, it was revealed this week that the FBI are now confident of unlocking the iPhone 5c they have been trying to crack following the San Bernadino shootings. US prosecutors said Monday that a "third party" had presented a possible method for opening the iPhone in question, a development that could bring an abrupt end to the high-stakes legal showdown between the government and Apple Inc.

In Asia this week, news of note included the visit by Facebook founder and chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, to China in order to hold a meeting with Chinas propaganda chief amid a crackdown by the Beijing authorities on the use of the Internet. Facebook and other western social media companies including Twitter are banned in China. Zuckerberg has long been courting Chinas leaders in a so far futile attempt to access the country with the worlds largest number of Internet users 668 million as of last year.

Also of interest, the Indian telecom regulator, TRAI, this week announced that it expects to finalise its views on net neutrality in a couple of months. DoT has sought a comprehensive view from us on Net neutrality. It should be done in a couple of months, Trai Chairman R S Sharma said on the sidelines of an event of the CASBAA India Forum.

Finally, concerning cyber-privacy, there were anxieties expressed this week following the revelation that India’s parliament is set to pass legislation that gives federal agencies access to the world's biggest biometric database in the interests of national security, raising fears the privacy of a billion people could be compromised. The move comes as the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) cracks down on student protests and pushes a Hindu nationalist agenda in state elections, steps that some say erode India's traditions of tolerance and free speech.

From the rest of the ICT world, global institutions and all, developments this week were relatively sparse. However, news of interest included the conclusion of the first meeting of the Global Commission on Internet Governance (GCIG) which was organized to discuss internet governance and cyber-security/cyber-privacy amongst other issues.

Also of note, Australias 2016 Defence Whitepaper published this week suggested that the IT environment will be shaped by complex non-geographic threats over the next 20 years, but provides scant clues as to how it will address those threats. The long-awaited paper which commits to raising defence spending to $A42.4bn by 2021, or 2% of projected GDP acknowledges the threat of computer-based attack, both on industry and directly on the defence force. This will be a story worth watching closely in the coming weeks and months as policy formulation and resilience plans become clearer.