Cancun, Mexico – Imagine not being able to connect with people or access information on the Internet from wherever you are in the world. Or imagine private interests or governments having unfettered access to your personal information. And what if the three billion people currently offline remain unconnected and can’t do business or even seek out information on the Internet? These may be worst-case scenarios, but if we don’t act now the future of an inclusive, open, secure and trustworthy Internet is at risk.
The need to address these problems is the central message of One Internet, the final report and recommendations of the Global Commission on Internet Governance (Commission), released today at the OECD Ministerial Meeting on the Digital Economy in Cancun, Mexico. Chaired by former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt, the Commission’s report contains a series of concrete recommendations crucial to ensuring the Internet’s promised future of greater digital freedom, security, trustworthiness and accessibility for all.
“The Internet is at a crossroads. The threats to privacy and the risk that the Internet will break apart are real,” said Bildt. “If we want a future where the Internet continues to provide opportunities for economic growth, free expression, political equality and social justice then governments, civil society and the private sector If we want a future where the Internet continues to provide opportunities for economic growth, free expression, political equality and social justice
The Internet touches almost every aspect of our lives and has become the most powerful infrastructure in the world. Its importance will only grow along with the Internet of Things. But basic access to the Internet is under threat, people don’t trust it to be secure, and the technology that underpins it is due for a major update. The Internet may lose its ability to support innovation, and many of the gains we have seen over the past two decades could be erased.
“A healthy Internet is one where data and information flow freely, where barriers to Internet access are eliminated, where personal and commercially-sensitive data are protected, and the technical infrastructure that makes it all possible is stable,” added Bildt. “Achieving this, however, will only happen if governments, business and civil society commit to working towards a new model of Internet governance.”
One Internet addresses a range of issues related to Internet governance. Most importantly, the Commission highlights the need for all parts of society to achieve a new social compact as the basis for Internet governance. The social compact must include principles such as:
- Governments should not require third parties to weaken or compromise encryption standards through hidden “backdoors” into technology.
- Companies should not become the enforcement arm of governments. Private actors should publish transparency reports that reveal the amount of content being restricted or blocked in response to requests by governments, along with how and why it is being blocked.
- Governments should negotiate a list of targets that are off-limits to cyber-attacks.
- Consumers should be free to choose the services they use, and should have greater say in how their personal data is used by those “free” service providers for commercial purposes. They should not be excluded from using software or services customary because they have concerns about how their personal data will be used.
- Insurance markets must rise to the challenge of ensuring that best practices for data protection and security are appropriately rewarded.
- Because of their impact on human behaviour and opinion, governments, civil society and the private sector need to come together to understand the effects of algorithms on the content available to us online.
- There should be continued evolution in open, broadly-based multi-stakeholder Internet governance process to ensure one, unified global Internet.
The Commission is a two-year initiative of the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) and Chatham House, two independent think tanks who convened 29 commissioners and 45 research advisers to articulate and advance a strategic vision for Internet governance.
Sean Zohar, Communications Advisor, CIGI
The Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) is an independent, non-partisan think tank focused on international governance. Led by experienced practitioners and distinguished academics, CIGI supports research, forms networks, advances policy debate and generates ideas for multilateral governance improvements. Conducting an active agenda of research, events and publications, CIGI’s interdisciplinary work includes collaboration with policy, business and academic communities around the world. For more information, please visit www.cigionline.org.
Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs, is based in London. Chatham House’s mission is to be a world-leading source of independent analysis, informed debate and influential ideas on how to build a prosperous and secure world for
all. The institute: engages governments, the private sector, civil society and its members in open debates and confidential discussions about significant developments in international affairs; produces independent and rigorous analysis of critical global, regional and country-specific challenges and opportunities; and offers new ideas to decision-makers and -shapers on how these could best be tackled from the near- to the long-term. For more information, please visit www.chathamhouse.org.