Neelie KROES
Vice-President of the European Commission

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Internet Governance: I want your views!

As digital agenda commissioner I have long fought hard to keep the Internet driving positive change - helping Europe's economy and society. And now we are asking for your views on internet governance, based on these questions [pdf].

I have fought especially hard for an open Internet. As a network of networks, no one person or country owns the Internet, but we do need a clear set of rules that everybody needs to play by. I have defended such rules at international conferences on the Internet, most recently at the Internet Governance Forum in Baku – and, in particular, resisted attempts by others to push for significant increases to the scope of International Telecoms Regulations at the recent WCIT meeting in Dubai.

But since then a lot of things have happened. We have heard about massive surveillance operations by secret services, within Europe as well as the US. Of course we are extremely concerned by what that means for personal data protection. But this also has deep implications for the governance of the Internet. It is clearly influencing how some international partners are thinking. And it is even more important now that we agree on common principles for Internet governance, and how decisions are made in all Internet-related matters.

This autumn will be crucial in many ways. In Europe, I am proposing ambitious measures to bring down barriers within our connected continent. That's a priority for me, and a priority for our economic future, which I hope EU leaders will take seriously at their forthcoming summit.

But, at the same time as we bring those barriers down, I want to avoid new ones going up. Later this month, Internet world leaders are meeting at the Internet Governance Forum in Bali. I am sorry that, for the first time, I cannot be there in person myself. But I would like to contribute, both to make clear how closely and seriously we are watching this debate, and to stress the importance of having a clear and robust framework for Internet Governance and policy-making as soon as possible.

As it stands today, the conclusions of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) are the only international-level political agreement on Internet governance; and they are the subject of several consultations. Particularly important among those consultations are the discussions in the "WSIS+10" High-Level Event, and the UN Working Group on Enhanced Cooperation; I hope many of you will be contributing.

The Internet is increasingly the forum for so much of our lives; from transacting through commerce or banking; to interacting through social networks; to communicating with governments or pushing for democratic change. It's clear to me that the Internet is a European strategic domain – and, although the internet is a different kind of place to the "real world",  our stance towards it should be underpinned by just the same values, priorities and interests as everything else.

This digital age needs a new social contract. Decisions that affect the Internet shouldn't be taken just by politicians, companies or technicians alone, without any reference to common principles.

So I believe that the new social contract must be based on sound principles. My starting point here are those in the Compact I first floated a couple of years ago; like that the Internet should remain open, unified, pro-democratic, enabling trust and confidence, and based on transparent, multi-stakeholder governance. Recent news shows just how fragile this balance of values can be; important efforts to tackle terrorist threats cannot be at the expense of fundamental freedoms.

But we also must have a clearer view of what we mean when we speak of "multi-stakeholder processes". I worry that without a clear definition, everyone will claim that their decision processes are inclusive and transparent, when in practice they are not – as was shown recently, when the Governmental Advisory Committee of ICANN pressed on regardless - in spite of the EU's legitimate concerns on new domain names.

As you may have seen, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff recently set out her strong belief in multi-lateral cooperation as a basis for Internet governance. I am looking forward to seeing further details – but in principle I very much support that line. Plus, our future Global Internet Policy Observatory will help give a more balanced view of how the Internet should be governed. And I know many of these issues will also be discussed in Bali.

But I want to take this seriously. These are my thoughts: but I want yours too; your ideas on how the Internet should be governed and what Europe's role should be.

For the next four weeks, please share your views on the dedicated web page, and based on these questions.

 

Comments

  • I think it's about improved personal governance rather than a digital equivalent of the rules of the road. Governmental, technical, and social rules and norms all play a role but mostly it's about personal responsibility.
  • The first objective of policy must be the cessation of massive, especially "full-take", collection of both content and metadata, which is an unconscionable violation of human rights limitations recognized across Europe. The second objective of policy should recognize the subversion of democracy represented by the construction of such capacities, in total secrecy, not only in one country but many democratic countries over the past few years, without the knowledge or understanding of those notionally in power. Such subversion of rights and constitutional safeguards may already be criminal, but it must become clearly criminal to build such dangerous apparatus in secret ever again. WSIS can now be seen as decoy forum designed to achieve nothing. The EU has been neutralized as a distinctive voice between the UK and the US. The EU should develop as a coherent and aligned advocate for free and open source software (for security reasons - which range from obvious to very subtle), and information self-determination mediated by technical innovation (e.g. to help instantiate collective rights also). Production of open platforms in software and hardware encourages diversity - the best guarantee against infiltration attacks on information security. There is nothing un-Cloud like about confining data physically and logically as part of security risk management. The real significance of Cloud is elastic scalable computation as a commodity. It is a myth - almost the worst solecism - that Cloud is somehow intrinsically delocalized or borderless. Let's build a real European Cloud that gives a firm foundation to future data sovereignty and privacy - we need it anyway, and nothing less will make the US (and other countries) negotiate seriously over time.
  • Commissioner : As many here point out, privacy and security are number one job, for private users as well as commercial consumers, financial customers, buyers, sellers, health care consumers, etc.etc. One case : In Google starting next month, you can opt - out or opt - in to be used as part of advertisements , but in Facebook you cannot opt out, and that is insulting, not fair and a digital aberration. Google's opt out is the right way, Facebook " no - opt - out " is unacceptable.Question is : why the EU does not have its own global social network with translations ? why ? the EU spends billions in international diplomacy, but it cannot spend a few in its own global social network ? Cecilia Kang has a good article in the W.Post of Washington DC about Google and Facebook : Google to put user photos, comments in online ads http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/technology/google-to-put-user-pho... About spying, they do it because they control all packets in all backbones, and the EU, divided all these years, lost control of all the backbones,like the TAT -14 fiber optic and others that runs from USA to UK - EU and Latin America and beyond, so the EU must get together and take control of their own backbones, but many men in the EU can't or won't even take control of their own borders , where hundreds of thousands of young Sunni men from Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia and Eritrea are moving into the EU as refugees and illegal immigrants , from the local jails that they can't sustain, from the local hospitals, from military barracks and organized religious Sunni Jihadist groups , etc., and many EU men say to let them all into the EU , without even knowing who they are or what they want , and when they not even try to assimilate or integrate into the EU Culture , Social Values and Rule of Law , so when EU men can't or won't even defend their own borders and assets, will they be able to unite and defend their Internet backbones ? they lost Nokia and other key companies already, their main communications systems, so will they react on time ? Commissioner : Men in the EU must unite or they will end up working for these young Sunni men and others, it's just a matter of time. Someone in the EU must speak frankly about all this, the EU is running out of time. Thanks for your work.
  • Dear Nellie Kroes, In my opinion Internet should be free and without mass surveillance of normal people, after Edward Snowden has told us the thruth about the NSA where also Sweden & United Kingdom is pointed out as a part of their undercover mass surveillance machine it must be a wake up call for all politicians. It's quite disrespectful when the undercover surveillance is monitoring the normal people(their voters in a democracy) and I think it should be banned. There might be cases when it is motivated for the safety of people, national security etc but in all those cases I think they have to present their suspicion for a judje and a lawyer to inform about their suspicion in particular to surveil for example a potential terrorist. The information process has to be quick and simple and also it should have a time limit for how long time you can surveil a person without finding anything. A motivation for surveillance but not mass surveillance can be suspicion of terrorist crimes, murder etc, also before convicted criminals depending of the crime they have commited. But basic is that if no suspicion is targeted noone should have the legal right to surveil you on Internet, Phone or other electronical medium. You can compare it with USA where the Traffic Police if your not driving to fast, without errors or strange in any way, no broken lights on the car etc they don't have the right to stop you. Why? Because they don't have suspicion enought to do so. You can actually make a lawsuit against the Police if they still do it.
  • The new internet rules and reglements should be as it always has been for radiotransmitted messages: One never knows for sure who is reciever of the message: so rule 1 ) if the message is NOT ment for you as reciever you should not use the knowledge or resent the the message to others. 2 ) ofcourse the message is now known to others, so ofcourse one should never send secret messages or messages only intended as knowledge for a few eyes only. (But thats common sense isnt it).
  • In the news - 'EU court holds news website liable for readers comments'. So I'm checking if your blog's comments are premoderated or not ;)
  • Hi Konstantin, yes, comments are premoderated to filter out spam.

  • Commissioner : As many here point out, privacy and security are number one job, for private users as well as commercial consumers, financial customers, buyers, sellers, health care consumers, etc.etc. One case : In Google starting next month, you can opt - out or opt - in to be used as part of advertisements , but in Facebook you cannot opt out, and that is insulting, not fair and a digital aberration. Google's opt out is the right way, Facebook " no - opt - out " is unacceptable.Question is : why the EU does not have its own global social network with translations ? why ? the EU spends billions in international diplomacy, but it cannot spend a few in its own global social network ? Cecilia Kang has a good article in the W.Post of Washington DC about Google and Facebook : Google to put user photos, comments in online ads http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/technology/google-to-put-user-pho... About spying, they do it because they control all packets in all backbones, and the EU, divided all these years, lost control of all the backbones,like the TAT -14 fiber optic and others that runs from USA to UK - EU and Latin America and beyond, so the EU must get together and take control of their own backbones, but many men in the EU can't or won't even take control of their own borders , where hundreds of thousands of young Sunni men from Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia and Eritrea are moving into the EU as refugees and illegal immigrants , from the local jails that they can't sustain, from the local hospitals, from military barracks and organized religious Sunni Jihadist groups , etc., and many EU men say to let them all into the EU , without even knowing who they are or what they want , and when they not even try to assimilate or integrate into the EU Culture , Social Values and Rule of Law , so when EU men can't or won't even defend their own borders and assets, will they be able to unite and defend their Internet backbones ? they lost Nokia and other key companies already, their main communications systems, so will they react on time ? Commissioner : Men in the EU must unite or they will end up working for these young Sunni men and others, it's just a matter of time. Someone in the EU must speak frankly about all this, the EU is running out of time. Thanks for your work.
  • The Internet mustn't be "governed", that's what f***ing Brits and Americans (and soon: Russians) do and that's the mess we got right now. If you really like to get inspiration, why don't you ask people like Mr. Bruce Schneier, Sir Timothy J. Berners-Lee etc.? We have to ensure that Internet is hardened to render mass surveillance and espionage impossible and to make bloody sure that encryption is used that works and isn't compromised by intelligence authorities like the NSA.
  • Oh great, censorship has been tightened. What's up, Neelie: too many critical opinions?
  • There are many things the EU can do and I agree with most of the poster about them. Most important is to improve the connectivity of the European Internet backbone to make sure traffic from other countries don't go through the USA. That would imply laying out and securing fiber to places like South America, specially. The EU could emerge as the good Internet friend countries could use to route traffic to other countries. Securing the router and switches to make sure the routing/switching is done properly without external interferences is also important. This can be done without any changes about how the Internet works or is governed. There is no need to agree with the USA or the UK to do it. Also important is to define a set of rules any company providing Internet services, such as cloud services needs to follow to do business in the EU, with severe penalties for non-compliance. That should include the requirement to keep local data in local server farms. A whistleblower protection norm would also send the right messages to these companies. This is a great opportunity to encourage EU companies to develop Internet services. There is no reason the EU should not have companies providing the same services as Google, Microsoft or Facebook. It's hard to grow a company to the size of those ones, but developing those services (such as cloud services) and making money in the process is really not that hard. What those companies develop is not really high-tech, maybe it was 30 years ago, but not now. Same goes for router/switch products. Worm Saludos.
  • Thanks for consulting ; my points are the following : 1-the number of internauts in europe being the double of the one in US and half of the ones in China, it is necessary that internet regulation and management escape US powers, military and civilian. A key point will be the root management. It would not be wise to expect US retirement of their power on internet and their use of data scanning at the service of their interests, either governmental or private companie's. The solution to escape this abusive power and influence is probably to built several roots, like it is planned for the internet of things. 2- Another point is necessary to prevent abuses : a legal protection for wistleblowers. 3- Judicial power, one of european strong points, is presently unable to detect, pursue and punish illegal actions on the Internet. A convenient international law, a police (extension of interpol) conveniently equipped, and courts conveniently equipped to react with apapted speed appear highly necessary.
  • My view is that we all take life too seriously - let the internet be free. it's one of the only things that is