Internet or Splinternet? by Joseph S. Nye – Project Syndicate

The Internet is a network of networks. Each of the separate networks belongs to different companies and organizations, and they rely on physical servers in different countries with varying laws and regulations. But without some common rules and norms, these networks cannot be linked effectively. Fragmentation – meaning the end of the Internet – is a real threat.

Fuente: Internet or Splinternet? by Joseph S. Nye – Project Syndicate

The byzantine, meandering discussion on the future of the internet | Technology |

The byzantine, meandering discussion on the future of the internet | Technology |

Is the centralised, monopolistic Icann truly capable of serving the domain name industry, while also trying to regulate it?

Icann Photograph: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Last week, nearly 3,500 people met in London to discuss management of the internet. Yet judging from the media coverage, it was less newsworthy than the arrival of an app called Yo. Apart from a flare-up from a French government minister at one point of proceedings (on protecting wine domains), the whole show went largely unnoticed.

The occasion was the 50th meeting – and the first in the UK – of Icann, the 16-year-old organisation that manages the internet’s centralised domain name and numbering system. Is that boring or what? Well, perhaps, but as the US TV talk-show host John Oliver said recently, on another vitally important but soporific-sounding topic – that of net neutrality – “if you want to do something evil, put it inside something that sounds incredibly boring …”

So what is the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann)? It’s a private Californian company, established by the US government in 1998, which sits atop the lucrative domain name industry. (The one that allows you to register for an annual fee.) After the explosion in domain names this year from the original group of 22 (.net, .org, etc) to over 1,000 (.manythings), Icann’s annual revenue is soaring – close to $300m at last count.

The business of giving title to these digital landholdings has made Icann a plush operation – as evidenced by the slick event at the Hilton Metropole (complete with lavish free social programme). But all corporate beanfeasts are lavish. So what’s the problem?

Simply this: Icann isn’t a corporation competing with others for a share of its market. Instead, it’s a centralised, monopolistic, hardly accountable private organisation that exercises public authority and power. At the same time that it’s providing services to the domain name industry, it is also trying to regulate it. On top of that, it claims to be “dedicated to keeping the internet secure, stable and interoperable.” Think about that, and the realities of the surveilled internet, as you digest how Icann operates.

We know from history and economics that monopolies in private hands never act in the public interest. Icann, however, masterfully avoids this topic by appealing to amorphous, unenforceable notions of accountability to the “global community”; something they try to capture with the ugly term “multistakeholderism”.

The real problem with this poorly defined notion is that, in practice, it serves powerful incumbents and the centrally positioned US government, diffusing talk of any genuinely representative global alternative for policy-making and oversight. Participants in Icann, who still can’t quite believe their luck, will defend the model to the hilt, regardless of where it’s been and where it’s taking us.

NetMundial: el futuro de Internet no será televisado – ONG Derechos Digitales

NetMundial: el futuro de Internet no será televisado – ONG Derechos Digitales.

A pesar de que el documento final de NetMundial contiene deficiencias graves, indudablemente es un avance sustantivo para la discusión de políticas públicas relativas a la gobernanza de Internet.

lalalalaEntre el 23 y el 24 de abril se realizó en Sao Paulo NetMundial, un foro multisectorial de gobernanza de Internet

Las revelaciones de espionaje masivo realizadas por Edward Snowden provocaron efectos a distinto nivel. Mientras buena parte de los países de la región veían el asunto desde la tranquilidad que entrega la distancia y las relaciones comerciales con Estados Unidos, Alemania reaccionaba con dureza. Semanas después, luego de revelarse que la NSA1 también espiaba las comunicaciones del gigante petrolero estatal Petrobras, la presidenta Dilma Rousseff reaccionaba en las Naciones Unidas con un enérgico discurso, donde indicaba, entre otras cosas, la necesidad de establecer un marco civil global para la Internet que evite que este tipo de abusos vuelvan a ocurrir.

Es bajo esos antecedentes que la presidenta Rousseff, junto con el apoyo de ICANN, decide organizar, en conjunto con el CGI.br2 , el ambicioso encuentro denominado NetMundial en Sao Paulo, que, a través de un modelo multisectorial (con representantes de gobiernos, sector privado, academia y sociedad civil), pretendió llegar a acuerdos globales en torno a los principios que debieran gobernar Internet y, adicionalmente, generar un plan de desarrollo para la gobernanza de Internet del futuro.

La movida creó, de facto, una tercera vía para la denominada Internet governance, lejos de la tensión creciente entre el modelo multisectorial de ICANN y el multilateral de ITU por el control de la agenda global de Internet.

Meet the seven people who hold the keys to worldwide internet security | Technology | The Guardian

Meet the seven people who hold the keys to worldwide internet security | Technology | The Guardian

It sounds like the stuff of science fiction: seven keys, held by individuals from all over the world, that together control security at the core of the web. The reality is rather closer to The Office than The Matrix

In a nondescript industrial estate in El Segundo, a boxy suburb in south-west Los Angeles just a mile or two from LAX international airport, 20 people wait in a windowless canteen for a ceremony to begin. Outside, the sun is shining on an unseasonably warm February day; inside, the only light comes from the glare of halogen bulbs.

There is a strange mix of accents – predominantly American, but smatterings of Swedish, Russian, Spanish and Portuguese can be heard around the room, as men and women (but mostly men) chat over pepperoni pizza and 75-cent vending machine soda. In the corner, an Asteroids arcade machine blares out tinny music and flashing lights.

It might be a fairly typical office scene, were it not for the extraordinary security procedures that everyone in this room has had to complete just to get here, the sort of measures normally reserved for nuclear launch codes or presidential visits. The reason we are all here sounds like the stuff of science fiction, or the plot of a new Tom Cruise franchise: the ceremony we are about to witness sees the coming together of a group of people, from all over the world, who each hold a key to the internet. Together, their keys create a master key, which in turn controls one of the central security measures at the core of the web. Rumours about the power of these keyholders abound: could their key switch off the internet? Or, if someone somehow managed to bring the whole system down, could they turn it on again?

The keyholders have been meeting four times a year, twice on the east coast of the US and twice here on the west, since 2010. Gaining access to their inner sanctum isn’t easy, but last month I was invited along to watch the ceremony and meet some of the keyholders – a select group of security experts from around the world. All have long backgrounds in internet security and work for various international institutions. They were chosen for their geographical spread as well as their experience – no one country is allowed to have too many keyholders. They travel to the ceremony at their own, or their employer’s, expense.

What these men and women control is the system at the heart of the web: the domain name system, or DNS. This is the internet’s version of a telephone directory – a series of registers linking web addresses to a series of numbers, called IP addresses. Without these addresses, you would need to know a long sequence of numbers for every site you wanted to visit. To get to the Guardian, for instance, you’d have to enter “” instead of

A smartcard is handed over‘Each of the 14 primary keyholders owns a traditional metal key to a safety deposit box, which in turn contains a smartcard, which in turn activates a machine that creates a new master key.’ Photograph: Laurence Mathieu for the Guardian

The master key is part of a new global effort to make the whole domain name system secure and the internet safer: every time the keyholders meet, they are verifying that each entry in these online “phone books” is authentic. This prevents a proliferation of fake web addresses which could lead people to malicious sites, used to hack computers or steal credit card details.

The east and west coast ceremonies each have seven keyholders, with a further seven people around the world who could access a last-resort measure to reconstruct the system if something calamitous were to happen. Each of the 14 primary keyholders owns a traditional metal key to a safety deposit box, which in turn contains a smartcard, which in turn activates a machine that creates a new master key. The backup keyholders have something a bit different: smartcards that contain a fragment of code needed to build a replacement key-generating machine. Once a year, these shadow holders send the organisation that runs the system – the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann) – a photograph of themselves with that day’s newspaper and their key, to verify that all is well.