Technical Innovation for Digital Policy

Geneva, Switzerland

[Update] Presentations are available: visit the event website for links. View also the photo gallery from the event, read the event report below, and view the recordings:

Where technology meets policy

by Laetitia Honsberger

The conference on Technical Innovation for Digital Policy (Geneva, 25 April) brought together the technical community and policy-makers for a discussion on technical solutions to pressing issues in digital policy.

The CyberLab Demonstrations session introduced practical technical tools for user protection and showed how they function. Bjoern Christian Wolf (DiploFoundation) demonstrated Tor, a circumvention technology tool that allows users to keep information private through encrypted chains of servers. He then shared information about Tails (a tool that blocks all Tor backdoors) as well as the Darknet and its relation with Tor. Wolf emphasised the fact that they can all be used for good and for bad.

An introduction to Silent Phone, an encrypted communication technology developed by Silent Circle, was then given by Kristopher Stewart and Jordi. An overview of the work of Silent Circle shows how it allows control of information and provides different platforms and tools using peer-to-peer encryption and securing data. [View the recording for the introductory session]

In the Technical Architecture for a Safe and Open Internet session, Professor Adrian Perrig from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) asked how we can advance and promote human development, human rights, peace and security, economy, through technology. He shared his approach concerning the deployment of a next-generation secure Internet architecture, centred on control, transparency, availability, and trust. He also shared information concerning the Scion Project (scalability, control, and isolation on a next-generation network), developed by ETH Zurich. [View the recording for this session]

In the Domain Name System and Critical Internet Infrastructure session, Christophe Blanchi, from the DONA Foundation, introduced participants to a solution to various digital information management issues. The solution addresses heterogeneous information and services, interoperability across heterogeneous information system, and interoperability over long periods of time, with a very large level of scalability. He then spoke about the Handle System that provides a basic identifier resolution system for the Internet. [DONA operates the Global Handle Registry by authorising and coordinating Handle System administration with Multi-Primary Administrators around the globe.] [View the recording for this session]

Father of the datagram Louis Pouzin, from Open Roots, shared his work on the DNS (domain name system), which lies at the core of the Internet infrastructure. Open Roots creates and sells domain names for multiple countries and groups. As this field is not regulated, his company can sell its products with no international regulation.

In the last session on Encryption, Data Protection, and Privacy, Philip Zimmerman (Pretty Good Privacy), Marilia Macel (Center for Technology and Society of the Getulio Vargas Foundation - CTS/FGV),Richard Hill from Internet Society Switzerland, and Michael Hausding (Switch) discussed encryption and security questions that are at the forefront of digital policy debates in 2016, with the idea that encryption and security go hand in hand with privacy. The importance of encryption was stressed, as a security necessity: all connections made through the Internet were mediated by unknown actors, whose roles in the chain are very important. All of them, including criminals, can read a non-encrypted message. The challenge encryption constitutes for the business sector is in information management. The status of encryption in addressing cybercrime and terrorism and governments’ role in same were discussed by the contributors through inclusive dialogue with the participants. [View the recording for this session]

Event announcement

Data protection, freedom of information, and cybersecurity are increasingly in the focus of digital policy. Can technology provide adequate solutions to important policy issues? What are the options? The conference on Technical Innovation for Digital Policy, on 25 April, will gather leading Internet innovators and policy experts to discuss technical innovation and potential solutions to critical areas affecting Internet users worldwide.

The programme will include CyberLab demonstrations and discussions on how technical architecture can help address policy issues. With the exception of CyberLab demonstrations, all sessions are open to online participation.

The conference is organised by the Geneva Internet Platform in cooperation with the University of Geneva, ETH, and DiploFoundation.

For a detailed programme, background resources, and to register, visit the conference website.