NSA Leaks Prompt Rethinking of U.S. Control Over the Internet’s Infrastructure

NSA Leaks Prompt Rethinking of U.S. Control Over the Internet’s Infrastructure

World internet map. Image courtesy The Opte Project

The leaders who run the internet’s technical global infrastructure say the time has come to end U.S. dominance over it.

In response to leaks by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, Fadi Chehadé, who heads the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, and others have called for “an environment, in which all stakeholders, including all governments, participate on equal footing.”

Among other things, they were concerned “over the undermining of the trust and confidence of internet users globally due to recent revelations of pervasive monitoring and surveillance.”

ICANN, a nonprofit established by the U.S., has never awarded a contract to manage the .com, .net, .cc, .tv and .name space to a company outside the United States — in fact, VeriSign of Virginia has always held the immensely economically valuable .com handle. The Public Interest Registry, also based in Virginia, manages the .org domain.

All of which means that both registries are under the auspices of the U.S. government, its courts — including the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court — and the home turf of the NSA’s snooping efforts.

ICANN was established in 1998 by the Clinton administration, and has been under global attack to internationalize the control of the Domain Name System ever since. A United Nations working group in 2005 concluded that “no single government should have a pre-eminent role in relation to international internet governance.”

Even before the Snowden leaks — which disclosed vast court-approved NSA spying powers and decryption efforts — governments like China, India and Russia have distrusted ICANN. They have demanded control of the net’s naming system to be turned over to an organization such as the International Telecommunications Union, an affiliate of the United Nations — a proposition scoffed at by the United States.

What’s more, who controls the internet’s infrastructure became an issue last year after the United States began seizing hundreds of domains across the globe for allegedly breaching federal copyright and trademark laws.

VeriSign said it was just complying with “lawful orders” from the U.S. courts by redirecting the DNS (Domain Name System) of a domain to a U.S. government IP address that informs online visitors that the site has been seized.

The Internet Governance Project, a global alliance of academics specializing on internet governance, said the statement by Chehadé and the others “was one of the most significant manifestations of the fallout from the Snowden revelations about NSA spying on the global internet.”

Still, no concrete proposals from the major internet organizations were produced at last week’s meeting in Uruguay.

“…They were thinking of new forms of multistakeholder oversight as a substitute for U.S. oversight, although no detailed blueprint exists,” the Internet Governance Project said.

ICAAN is developing a five-year strategic plan and is taking public comment through January.



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