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Internet Governance, Global Privacy and IGF-Rio

The global debate on Internet governance will once again gather people from all over the world at UN's IGF, this time in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The process was started last year in Athens, when more than 1,200 participants focused on discussion of the overarching issues tied to the future of information and communications technologies, including control over the Internet architecture and numbering and naming system, security, intellectual property, openness, connectivity, cost and multilingualism.

The IGF's innovative multi-stakeholder format, designed to grant governments, NGOs, and commerce an equal seat at the table, was praised by many as an evolution from the bounds of classical diplomacy. But the role of the IGF as a pure discussion forum — “a neutral, non-binding and non-duplicative process” as the EU presidency put it — and the absence of a more formalized output were intensively discussed by several governments and NGOs, Brazilians included. Blogs report:

Grandes expectativas e uma boa dose de autocrítica devem permear o II Fórum de Governança da Internet (IGF), evento que acontece em novembro no Rio de Janeiro. Resultado de um grande esforço do governo brasileiro em trazer o evento para o solo nacional, o II IGF deve ter como principal discussão mais do que os temas convencionais do ambiente virtual, mas a própria razão de sua existência. Diferentemente da sua última edição em Atenas, caracterizada pela ausência de poder deliberativo, devem estar no centro da pauta no Rio de Janeiro o modelo de governança da Internet e o poder do próprio IGF.
II Forum de Governança da Internet

Great expectations and a good dose of self criticism will surely be present at the Second Internet Governance Forum (IGF), which will take place in November in Rio de Janeiro. The occurrence of the IGF in Brazil was the result of a big effort of the local government, and the discussions will focus not only on the conventional issues related with the virtual environment, but also on the foundational purposes of the IGF process. In a significant evolution from its last meeting in Athens — which was characterized by the absence of deliberative power — the IGF in Rio will position the present Internet governance model and the IGF's mandate as central themes of the forum.
II Forum de Governança da Internet

A revised draft program for the event, and the definition of the items of debate in each of the five thematic axes — access, diversity, openness, security and critical Internet resources — were the results of the IGF's multi-stakeholder Advisory Group meeting in Geneva last week. A civil society appointee of the Brazilian delegation blogged about the meeting and its outcomes.

O principal debate desta reunião do MAG se deu justamente em torno da ementa do painel sobre “critical internet resources”. A representação brasileira lutou quase solitariamente para incluir questões como custos de interconexão, infra-estrutura de telecomunicações, administração dos servidores-raiz e o registro de nomes e números… o caráter multistakeholder do IGF é a sua grande fortaleza e sua fragilidade. Como tomar decisões em um encontro com atores de natureza tão diferente? E, no longo prazo, para que serve um encontro que não delibera? Para discutir a natureza do IGF e tentar encontrar respostas para estas questões, um dos painéis centrais do IGF se chamará “taking stock and the way forward”. Esta foi uma proposta do Brasil, que contou com a oposição do “sistema ICANN” (que sempre lutou contra a própria existência do IGF), mas que foi aprovada como parte do programa oficial do IGF… A terceira questão em disputa foi decidir se o IGF produzirá ou não um relatório final. Neste caso, o Brasil conseguiu atrair a União Européia para a defesa explícita de que, se este IGF não chegará a produzir um documento final (que seja fruto de uma votação), deve pelo menos produzir um relatório que reflita as diversas posições existentes… Mais uma vez, e contando com a oposição do “sistema ICANN, o Brasil defendeu o conceito de “Athens plus”, ou seja, ir além do que houve em Atenas 2006.
Gustavo Gindre direto de GenebraPSL Brasil

The main debate in this meeting of the multi-stakeholder Advisory Group focused on defining the items of the ‘critical internet resources’ thematic axis. The Brazilian delegation fought an almost solitary fight to include issues like interconnection costs, telecommunications infrastructure, root-servers administration, and names and numbers registry… the IGF's multi-stakeholder format is at the same time its biggest strength and also its frailness. How to reach decisions in a meeting with actors from such different natures? And in the long run, what is the use of a forum that does not decide anything? In order to discuss IGF's mandate and find answers to the previous questions, one of the main panels will be “taking stock and the way forward”. This was proposed by the Brazilian delegation and opposed by the “ICANN group” [who have been against the IGF's very existence], but finally approved as part of the official programme… The third dispute was to decide if the IGF would or would not produce a final report. In this case, Brazil managed to attract the EU to its position defending that, although the IGF-Rio still won't produce a final document [voted by the plenary], it will at least generate a report reflecting the diverse positions presented… Once again, and suffering strong opposition from the “ICANN group”, Brazil has supported the concept of an “Athens Plus” for the IGF-Rio, or a going beyond what happened in Athens 2006.
Gustavo Gindre direto de GenebraPSL Brasil

There are two other interesting issues in the UN Press Release. It explicitly mentions that the Advisory Group has been tasked to make proposals on “a suitable rotation among its members”. This reflects a concern among civil society groups who suspect that unless some rules of procedures are established the multi-stakeholder approach will degenerate into some nontransparent back-room deals by a few self-appointed buddies. The fact that the UN addresses this concern indicates a comprehensive care for the IGF's legitimacy which includes the views of non-governmental actors. The second remarkable issue concerns the mandate of the IGF. The press release announces “critical internet resources” as an additional fifth theme on the IGF's agenda. Similar to old WSIS days, the G-77 countries forcefully made the point at the May 23 consultations that the question of DNS and IP address management needs be tackled in the context of the IGF to fulfill the Tunis Agenda. The UN press release acknowledges this claim by referring to its widespread support. So far, the UN's political support structure for the IGF strives to be inclusive and to balance the concerns of the various stakeholders. No major mistakes have been made.
IGF's MAG renewed: government flex muscles?IGP

Apart from the Brazilian interest in the IGF — with preparatory events at FGV and Nupef — which in great part comes from being the host country, the event doesn't seem to be attracting much global attention at the moment. The Italian government is organizing a preparatory event in Rome, specially focusing on Internet rights, and the Open Society Institute for Southern Africa (OSISA) is preparing to send a 20-member delegation to Rio, but that's all we can trace on the blogosphere right now.

In regard of an event intended to hold the global dialog on Internet governance, and which has as one of its main goals reaching out for a broad remote participation, we are not seeing yet any preparation of participatory channels for the event in terms of interactive web interfaces. But, as the Brazilian government has announced efforts to assure the participation of all interested sectors of society, especially focusing on Brazil and Latin America, we are hoping to hear more about it soon.

In contrast with the almost reticent coverage of the IGF-Rio by the media and the blogs, there was an event last week that caught the attention of almost everyone involved with the Internet: Google's call for web privacy laws. Extensively covered by all kinds of media, the venue did not go unnoticed. It was at the UN's Strasburg conference where the company's privacy chief Peter Fleischer choose to make his announcement. This meeting was the third of a cycle of regional UNESCO's conferences on the ethical dimensions of the information society and was intended as a contribution to the implementation of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) and preparatory to the Internet Governance Forum. Surely, the success of an international privacy standards initiative will depend on support from many stakeholders. Some are wondering if this move by Google could be a signal that it plans to use the UN as a platform to reach out for global consensus?

Ele descreveu um cenário típico de compra on-line, envolvendo um consumidor francês que utiliza um site norte-americano. Essa página norte-americana pode ter centrais de processamento de dados em diversos países e o atendimento ao consumidor pode ser realizado a partir da Índia. “A cada vez que uma pessoa usa seu cartão de crédito, a informação pode atravessar seis ou sete fronteiras nacionais”, disse Fleischer falando sobre a importância da definição de padrões de proteção à privacidade dos internautas. Perguntado sobre o motivo pelo qual o Google está propondo uma agenda de privacidade mundial em vez de recorrer a Washington, Fleischer demonstrou resignação sobre a simplificação de políticas norte-americanas. “Eu simplesmente não acredito que as mudanças vão ocorrer neste Congresso”, disse ele. “O debate mundial vai ajudar a motivar o debate nos Estados Unidos.”
Google propõe padrão mundial de privacidadeCdigitalizando

He [Peter Fleischer] described a typical scenario of an online transaction, involving a French consumer that uses a North American website. This North American web page can have data processing centers in many countries and the customer service may proceed from India. “Each time a person uses the credit card, the information can cross six or seven borders”, said Fleischer mentioning the importance of reaching global patterns for privacy protection of the internauts. Asked about the reason why Google chose to propose a global privacy agenda instead of approaching Washington, Fleischer showed resignation about the North-American simplifying policies. “I honestly don't believe that changes will occur in this Congress”, he said. “The global debate will help to motivate the debate in the US.”
Google propõe padrão mundial de privacidadeCdigitalizando

As the Internet Governance Forum continues to evolve definitions of the potential UN role in promoting the global debate on the future of the Information Age, stake-holders from small to large are also in the process of defining themselves, their agendas and their participation in the new worlds of cyberspace governance. The November meetings of IGF-Rio could be the place where many conversations and initiatives rise from blog-talk into a world view.


  • J. Kactuz

    The only role the UN should have with respect to the Internet is none. Zero. Nada.

    Except for a few technical and planning issues, as far as I understand it, IGF is about control — and censorship. It is about access for all, but limiting information so that certain interest groups (mostly governments, but also large corporations such as Google, Microsoft and Yahoo) can control the flow of news, ideas and opinions. It not about privacy, it is about knowing who is where and what is being said. It is about silencing those voices that certain interest groups do not like. These are the same people that sell out political dissidents and limit Internet free Speech for a few bucks (Actually a few BIG bucks).

    How can anyone believe a sentence like this? “UN’s political support structure for the IGF strives to be inclusive and to balance the concerns of the various stakeholders. No major mistakes have been made.” Inclusive of who? Governments and large corporations?
    Why does liberty need balancing?

    If you value your freedoms, do not trust these people.


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