ArtsWatch: Will Cybersecurity Change The Internet?

Tech companies argue cybersecurity programs in U.S. and EU could prove burdensome
February 18, 2013 -- 4:53 am PST
By Philip Merrill /

In recent news ...

Europe And America Move Forward On Cybersecurity
On Feb. 7 the European Commission released a cybersecurity strategy and a network and information security directive that are expected to work in tandem to improve information-sharing about online threats and better fight cybercrime. Major technology companies and trade associations expressed concerns that these new regulations would be burdensome and harm Internet innovation. Reactions were milder to the cybersecurity executive order announced by President Barack Obama during his Feb. 12 State of the Union address, but this was largely due to the restricted scope of such orders, which in this case emphasizes voluntary participation and the development of best practices. Even so, the Software & Information Industry Association expressed concern that implementation of the executive order should avoid "rigid regulation." Those worries will likely soon focus on H.R. 624, the Cyber Intelligence and Sharing Protection Act, introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives on Feb. 13 by Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.). This is a reintroduction of last year's CISPA legislation, which became a target for attack by Internet activists but succeeded in passing the House last April. Among those who complained about the legislation during last year's fight against CISPA's passage, the American Civil Liberties Union blogged, "Keeping our computer systems secure is a real concern, but CISPA is absolutely the wrong answer."

Help Wanted: Diplomat Skilled In Dealing With Internet Activists
U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk resigned last month, announcing he would leave his position later this month. His replacement has not yet been appointed but will need to deal with vociferous input from the Net activist community. As an example of what lies ahead, on Feb. 4 two dozen "civil society stakeholders" wrote the USTR detailing their preferred ground rules going forward during negotiations of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement and reiterating their strong stance that negotiating drafts affecting intellectual property and the Internet should not be routinely kept secret. Obama's Feb. 12 announcement that negotiations will begin on a "Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the European Union" will likely provide a new target for activists' objections. Meanwhile, a new round of recommendations were submitted to the USTR on Feb. 8 by the International Intellectual Property Alliance for Special 301 trade status review, incorporating input from the MPAA, NMPA and RIAA. Internet activists Public Knowledge also submitted comments, reiterating complaints about the USTR's process and insisting on an explanation of why their viewpoint has been rejected in previous Special 301 cycles.

Internet Governance Aligns Representatives And Net Activists Against New Regulations
On Feb. 5 the House Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Communications and Technology conducted a hearing called "Fighting for Internet Freedom: Dubai And Beyond" in conjunction with two subcommittees of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. "Dubai" is a reference to the recent World Conference on International Telecommunications held there, during which the United States chose not to sign the treaty, in part to resist efforts to alter the Internet governance status quo, which favors the United States and major technology companies. Representatives from Public Knowledge attended the conference as advisors to the U.S. delegation, and the issue of Internet governance is giving Net activists a chance to shine. In his testimony, Public Knowledge Senior Vice President Harold Feld said, "It is not enough for the United States to include civil society groups among its delegation periodically, but the United States government must stand up for the full inclusion of civil society as stakeholders and participants in future conferences. Civil society groups are trusted globally as defenders of Internet freedom." Broadcasting & Cable commented on the high level of general agreement at the House hearing, and subcommittee chairman Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) is working on a bill to formally legislate the Internet governance status quo.

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