9 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.

A busy week this time around with developments of interest featuring in the monitor from across the breadth of the ICT world.

In Europe, the recently agreed Privacy Shield arrangement, the intended successor to the recently invalidated Safe Harbor agreement, between the EU and the US came under significant fire from the digital rights group the Electronic Frontier Forum (EFF). In a blog post published by the EFF, the organisation asserted that the new Privacy Shield agreement contains a patchwork of concessions that continue to leave the door open for the digital surveillance of hundreds of millions of Europeans by U.S. government agencies. It's unclear what, if anything, the new Privacy Shield is supposed to be shielding people from except perhaps shielding U.S. companies from the inevitable consequences of their country's mass surveillance program, the post concluded. This is an issue that continues to gather attention due to the contentious nature of the agreement reached, and will no doubt receive considerable coverage in the coming weeks and months.

Other regulatory developments included the leaking of a government document exposing the German Governments intentions to implement softer telecoms rules. The position paper outlines the country’s demands for a fresh EU-wide telecoms law: Germany wants less regulation and to boost investment in telecoms networks as fast as possible. The paper could be a boon for giant Deutsche Telekom, which has pushed for lighter regulation and vowed to invest in exchange.

In net neutrality terms, the news of interest from Europe this week centred on the establishment of an online platform, RespectMyNet, set up by an alliance of European digital rights organisations to report net neutrality violations across Europe. RespectMyNet claims it will enable Internet users to whistle-blow any cases of discrimination, blocking, restricting access and so on that they come across while online.

Cyber-privacy issues also featured in Europe this week, with the most significant update being Google’s announcement that it will expand the way it applies the right to be forgotten ruling in the continent next week. Under a ruling from a European court, E.U. citizens are allowed to petition search engines to take down links to content about then that isnt accurate or is outdated. That has applied to Google’s search engine domains in Europe and will now be applied in practice.

In the US, news of note this week included the announcement that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is finalising plans to approve a broadband subsidy of $9.25 a month for low-income households, in the governments boldest effort to date to narrow a technological divide that has emerged between those who have web access and those who do not. While more than 95 percent of households with incomes over $150,000 have high-speed Internet at home, just 48 percent of those making less than $25,000 can afford the service, the F.C.C.s chairman, Tom Wheeler, has said. The new plan is part of an overhaul of a $2 billion phone subsidy program called Lifeline and will go to vote on March 31. It is expected to be approved by the F.C.C.s commissioners, who have a Democratic majority.

From a cyber-skills perspective, it was revealed this week that the US Governments ongoing battle with Apple over encryption is harming the Department of Defenses ability to recruit talent from Silicon Valley. The US administration are attempting to recruit some of the nations top technology talents in order to combat and overcome the growing arsenal of cyber-threats faced by the nation. As part of the drive, Defense Secretary Ash Carter spent this week meeting with tech executives and launching new cybersecurity initiatives that will rely on help from the Bay Area.

Rather predictably, cyber-privacy concerns in the US this week were consumed by the aforementioned ongoing battle surrounding encryption between the US administration and Apple.

It was reported this week that Tech industry leaders including Alphabet Inc's Google, Facebook Inc, Microsoft Corp, AT&T and more than two dozen other Internet and technology companies filed legal briefs on Thursday asking a judge to support Apple Inc in its encryption battle. This news was followed by the announcement that the US Justice Department has formally appealed a decision made by a New York Judge preventing the body from forcing Apple to access a locked iPhone in a drugs case.

This will undoubtedly continue to gain traction and coverage in the coming period and will be a debate worth monitoring closely as encryption issues rage both in the US and the wider ICT world.

Across Asia, Internet governance issues received considerable coverage this week. Of particular significance, China this week submitted a draft outline of the country’s 13th Five year Plan to the national legislature which included an intention to build a multilateral, democratic and transparent Internet governance system. The draft document states that China will actively take part in international cooperation in making rules for international cyberspace security, fighting cyber-crimes, cyber security technology and standards, and others.

Also of note, the Indian Telecom Minister, Ravi Shankar Prasad, re-iterated at this weeks ICANN Summit in Morocco that India will continue to support a multi-stakeholder model for governance of the Internet. He declared to those assembled that while fully endorsing the multi-stakeholder model, the issue of security should also remain in focus, where the government has a very important role to play, as safety and security remains the primary responsibility of the governments.

Net neutrality also featured in the headlines associated with India this week, with the Indian telecom regulator, TRAI, reportedly having second thoughts about issuing a clarification of its recent rule on discriminatory pricing of data services. TRAI have recently weighed in on the side of net neutrality and barred discriminatory pricing of data services. However, it exempted data services offered on a closed user network, or intranet, from the regulation, leading to calls for clarification.

A busy week in the Pan-Asian ICT world also witnessed cyber-security issues come to the fore. The most significant of these included the accusation from the South Korean administration that the North Korean Government has tried to hack into South Korea state websites. This accusation comes amid rising tensions between the two countries, with the cyber-front proving a key area of conflict.

News from the rest of the world featured a heavy focus on the recent RSA conference in San Francisco. Of note was the announcement made by Intel Security Group head Chris Young who called on the global security industry to do more to share threat intelligence and address the digital skills gap and hence enhance the resilience of the ICT world and its workings.

There were a range of developments of interest this week associated with Global institutions, those of primary significance included the announcement of new members of the EC3 advisory groups; the publication of ENISAs new report on Big Data Security and the beginning of ICANN 55th meeting in Marrakesh. The meeting this week is expected to finalise the last proposal necessary for the transition of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), a set of core functions necessary for the running of the Internet.