Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Notes from the United Nations Internet Governance Forum Pt. I

I should know better. Every time I fly 20 hours for something, it turns out to be a bit of a bust. I'm in Rio, attending the IGF which, actually lived up to expectations: It is mostly am exercise in diplomatic circle-jerkery. Ever dog gets his day in court, or presenting.

The very best things I heard all day were from some nice lady from South Africa who envisions a world where all six billion of us have a laptop and connectivity, during the opening session. No thoughts as to why, or what the impact would be, exactly, just wishful thinking. I guess there are people in deepest darkest Afrasia who cannot yet download naked Russian teenagers, or put up a MySpace page alerting their 10,482 friends as to the latest modulations in their mood. Poor sods.

I went to the 'Freedom of Expression as a Security Issue' session (check the link it is SO worth it!!). There were a bunch of Europeans and one guy from Google who used to be a speech writer for Clinton. He got bashed, because of course, Google is now the Microsoft of search. he invited anyone who didn't like Google search results to use another search engine. He also mentioned that the way that they avoid any problems with the Chinese government wanting to grab user names of seditious bloggers as was the case with Yahoo! was to take the brave stance of yes, entering the Chinese market, but not actually offer any blogging capabilities. the 'cake and eat it too" approach.

In a stunning revelation, someone named Jan from the council of Europe arrived at the conclusion that "the more freedom of expression, the more security you have"

No-one allowed for time to actually define what security is, but plenty of time was spent asserting that it cannot in any way shape or form encroach on freedom of expression.

So is security botnets and a 100,000,000 infected user computers world=wide, or is it seditious talk by proponents of Falun Gong

Censorship certainly is odious, but the pervasive thinking of "'open, free unhindered access for everybody in the world, all 6 billion of us, and security should never impinge on the fundamental right to have internet." left me befuddled.

I didn't know that Internet access was a fundamental human right. Now I know: Naked Russian teenagers for everybody!

I had lunch with a Kenyan guy and we agreed that maybe the third world would appreciate it if first they might get a bite to eat and a little education and some health care before the self-righteous West comes thrusting CAT5 at them.

Later in the day, I attended "Promoting Network Security and Constructing a Harmonious Internet" which was a series of presentations from the Chinese government (how I love their titling!!).

It was mostly 'We took down almost 200 phishing sites' (only 400 had been reported to them) and some figures showing a shocking leap in website defacements and zombie nets being set up, all of which are, of course, controlled by pernicious offshore concerns, and no-one from China is involved. They are victims.

As is typical with these events, an investigator-techie leapt up to ask some pointed questions about points of contact, and was given an email address to write to with his concerns. I've seen it countless time at MAAWGs and London action Plan meetings - when finally presented with a rep. from the PR of China, folks tend to get a little excited and think that the five people on the dais (not including the translator, usually a flustered-looking youngish woman) represent but a tiny proportion of the 1,321,851,888 people there, and probably aren't in a position of power to do much.

I'm almost certain the email address the gave out probably won't bounce for at least a month or two.

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