Will The ITU's Increasing Focus On Control And Surveillance Split The Internet?
from the great-schism? dept
Techdirt covered the WCIT circus in Dubai in some depth last year, since important issues were at stake. As many feared, after a moment of farce, it became clear that a serious schism in the ITU was opening up -- between those who wanted the Internet largely left alone to carry on much as before, with the possibly naïve hope that it might act as a vehicle of freedom, and those who wanted it regulated more closely, certain it could become an even better instrument of control.
Although WCIT is over, the ITU journey continues, and a fascinating post by Anthony Rutkowski on the CircleID Web site gives us a glimpse of where exactly it's heading -- and it doesn't look good. The ITU's "Internet/cloud" Study Group 13 is convening soon, and as Rutkowski points out, the provenance of the contributions submitted to this meeting reflect what is happening to the organization: 70% of them are from China or Korea.
Almost everyone has fled the organization except for a few established participants from China and Korea and their partners. Pretty much all of industry together with the G55 nations [who refused to sign the WCIT treaty] have left.
Just as telling is the subject-matter:
The contributions predominantly deal with the mechanics of pervasive surveillance and content control. This includes DPI mechanisms and use cases, filtering of content to local networks, control of individual user mobile phones, controls on peer-to-peer services, extensive regulatory controls on cloud computing facilities, and Big Data Analytics for extracting every nuance about individual users from real-time communications and stored data.
As Rutkowski rightly notes, given this continuing descent into police-state territory, there are now two paths for the ITU. The first is to pull back from the brink, and to return to a consensus-based approach that allows the G55 nations to participate in the development of basic Internet standards -- not those predominantly designed for surveillance.
Alternatively, the G89 nations who did sign the WCIT treaty may decide it is more important for their sections of the Internet to be firmly under their control than for there to be a single, unified set of Internet standards for the world. The schism would be formalized, with a more open G55 Internet linking up as best it could with the more closed G89 network. That would be a tragedy for humanity, but on the basis of the WCIT conference and the developments since then, it's certainly not something that can be ruled out.