The GovLab Selected Curation of Articles on Net-Governance: Issue 27

The Selected Curation of Articles on Net-governance (the SCAN) is a weekly digest on internet governance news, reports, and events produced by the Governance Lab @NYU (the GovLab) as part of the GovLab’s Living Labs on Smarter Governance project. The SCAN is cross-posted weekly from the GovLab on the Internet Policy Observatory. The original posting of the GovLab SCAN- Issue  27, May 23, 2014 can be found here.

This week’s highlights:

  • The U.S. House of Representatives has passed the USA Freedom Act, intended to reform government surveillance practices –especially the practice of bulk collection of phone records. However, technology companies and advocacy groups originally in support of the bill have retracted their support because of changes to the bill’s language that could maintain bulk data collection practices.
  • The Global Panel on Internet Cooperation and Governance Mechanisms has published its final report, titled “Towards a Collaborative, Decentralized Internet Governance Ecosystem”. The report is presented “to the global community in order to inform it of their actions and the evolution of a collaborative, decentralized Internet governance system that has at its core a unified Internet that is unfragmented, interconnected, interoperable, secure, stable, resilient, sustainable, and trust building”.
  • The Global Commission on Internet Governance (GCIG) has released its first paper authored by Joseph S. Nye titled “The Regime Complex for Managing Global Cyber Activities”. The GCIG commences its work this…

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Internet Governance, Technical Standards and the “Tree” Antennas

Diego Vicentin is one of the eight 2014 Milton Wolf Emerging Scholar Fellows, an accomplished group of doctoral and advanced MA candidates selected to attend the 2014 Milton Wolf Seminar: “The Third Man Theme Revisited: Foreign Policies of the Internet in a time of Surveillance and Disclosure.” Their posts highlight the critical themes and on-going debates raised during the 2014 Seminar discussions.

Just as soon as I arrived from Brazil in the US, to join the Center for Information Technology Policy Princeton team as graduate fellow, the curious image of cellular antennas disguised as trees caught my attention. It is common to see these “tree” antennas right beside the road while travelling from Princeton to New York, Philly, or Boston. Aside from the purpose of avoiding visual pollution, this attempt at producing a friendlier landscape is representative of our relation with information and communication infrastructure. The technical and political apparatus that supports the mode of operation of digital technologies is predominantly invisible to the end user. Only the ones who really pay attention can see the antenna behind the fake tree branches. Normally that is not the case. The majority of users take infrastructure for granted, rendering it invisible. Whereas such invisibility might be seen as an unintended result of both the technical complexity of digital communication networks and its decentralized form of governance, in fact, it is commonly used as a power strategy to avoid accountability as well as broader political participation in technology governance.

Fortunately, Edward Snowden’s revelations have shed light on the issue of technology governance, bringing…

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Am I Big Brother’s Keeper?

Lee McGuigan is one of the eight 2014 Milton Wolf Emerging Scholar Fellows, an accomplished group of doctoral and advanced MA candidates selected to attend the 2014 Milton Wolf Seminar: “The Third Man Theme Revisited: Foreign Policies of the Internet in a time of Surveillance and Disclosure.” Their posts highlight the critical themes and on-going debates raised during the 2014 Seminar discussions.

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Post-war Vienna, as portrayed in the film The Third Man, could be interpreted as a metaphor for the internet: A handful of competitively positioned actors are vying to assert authority over a jurisdiction and its strategic resources. While the edges are balkanized to a certain extent according to the controls, values, and norms imposed and enforced by sovereign powers, the central space is an ostensibly international zone in which claims to ownership and authority are contentious and without an obvious natural basis. In many ways, the development of the internet is impaired by an inability to resolve competing narratives of closure. In other words, the actors are staking not only geographical but ideological claims about what the digital space means, how it should be used, and who will oversee its assembly and maintenance. Closure is thus both a matter of architecture and a matter of vision—of consensus about the values embedded in the design of the internet (and its intended functions) and the norms underpinning the legitimacy of an actor’s claim to authority. Absent this closure, the global internet, like post-war Vienna, is a liminal…

 

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Making Access Visible: Representations of the Internet

Willow Williamson is one of the eight 2014 Milton Wolf Emerging Scholar Fellows, an accomplished group of doctoral and advanced MA candidates selected to attend the 2014 Milton Wolf Seminar. Their posts highlight the critical themes and on-going debates raised during the 2014 Seminar discussions.

Marshall McLuhan’s often quoted “the Medium is the Message”[i] took on a new resonance for me as I absorbed the discussions from the 2014 Milton Wolf Seminar. What exactly is “the medium” of the internet; and who gets to define what it contains, decide where it is located, and make decisions about information and communication flows? These were some of the questions that participants discussed at this year’s Milton Wolf Seminar on “Foreign Policies of the Internet.” Panelists examined the layers of meaning contained within and represented by the internet, ranging from the physicality of its infrastructure and ownership, to what it represents as an idea, to how these layers affect international communications and relations. Underlying these conversations were the questions: What happens when international norms are in conflict? And, whose voices are heard and represented in determining and negotiating those norms?

Privacy Versus Security

Since 9/11 and the passage of the Patriot Act, ongoing conversation in the United States places privacy in opposition to security. These debates are not new, as evidenced by David Vincent’s historical account of the…

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