US government asks for public comment on international Internet policy issues

5 Jun 2018

In a Notice of inquiry on International Internet Policy Priorities, published in the US Federal Registry on 5 June 2018, the US National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) invites public comment on four broad digital policy issues. Under the heading 'The free flow of information and jurisdiction', the NTIA inquires about the main challenges to the free flow of information and freedom of expression online, and the role of stakeholders (including the NTIA) in ensuring free expression online. Under 'Privacy and Security', the public is invited to indicate ways in which cybersecurity threats are harming international commerce and to suggest the international venues that are the most appropriate for addressing online privacy issues. A section on the 'Emerging Technologies and Trends' asks which emerging technologies should be in focus in international policy discussions, and where they should be discussed. The section that seems to have attracted the most attention is entitled 'Multistakeholder Approach to Internet Governance', and tackles issues related to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and the Internet Governance Forum (IGF). On the one hand, the NTIA asks the public whether (and why) the Internet Assigned Names Authority (IANA) stewardship transition should be unwound. On the other hand, suggestions are sought on how to lower the barriers to engagement at the IGF and how the IGF can be improved.

Explore the issues

Cybersecurity is among the main concerns of governments, Internet users, technical and business communities. Cyberthreats and cyberattacks are on the increase, and so is the extent of the financial loss. 

Yet, when the Internet was first invented, security was not a concern for the inventors. In fact, the Internet was originally designed for use by a closed circle of (mainly) academics. Communication among its users was open.

Cybersecurity came into sharper focus with the Internet expansion beyond the circle of the Internet pioneers. The Internet reiterated the old truism that technology can be both enabling and threatening. What can be used to the advantage of society can also be used to its disadvantage.

The Domain Name System (DNS) handles Internet domain names (such as www.google.com) and converts them to Internet Protocol (IP) numbers (and the other way around).

Historically, telecommunications, broadcasting, and other related areas were separate industry segments; they used different technologies and were governed by different regulations.

Several international instruments guarantee the right to freedom of expression. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms that this right includes the freedom to hold opinion without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas. The Internet, with the opportunity it offers people to express themselves, is seen as an enabler of the exercise of this particular human right. Although these freedoms are guaranteed in global instruments and in national constitutions, in some countries freedom of expression is often curtailed through online censorship or filtering mechanisms, imposed by states, often for political reasons.

Privacy and data protection are two interrelated Internet governance issues. Data protection is a legal mechanism that ensures privacy. Privacy is usually defined as the right of any citizen to control their own personal information and to decide about it (to disclose information or not). Privacy is a fundamental human right. It is recognised in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and in many other international and regional human rights conventions. The July 2015 appointment of the first UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Privacy in the Digital Age reflects the rising importance of privacy in global digital policy, and the recognition of the need to address privacy rights issues the the global, as well as national levels.

 

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