Law in the Internet Society
You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink.

-- By JaimeSalas - 29 Oct 2012

So far most of the discussion in the Law in the Internet Society course has been focused on the effects of relinquishing from our privacy in exchange of “free” mail and storage capacity. However, despite a first reaction of surprise and bewilderment among the students it seems that no one cares that much about it and most of us are willing to let Mr. Zuckerberg or Mr. Page look into our pictures and emails in exchange of having access to a tool that have changed everyone’s life in a variety of aspects. Some people say –with reason- that it’s not just Zuckerberg who is having access to our personal data but also governmental agencies or advertising companies which are watching us for free (free for us because someone else is getting rich at our expense), but still most people won’t be willing to close their Facebook account or start using a different mail provider because the return they get from using such kind of services is much greater that the potential threatens that those services may mean for their own privacy. A good example is Google Street View which has faced opposition in very few countries (e.g Germany citizen’s showed strong reticence about Google’s Street View and 244,000 residents completely opt-out of the service which led Google to abandon Street View in that country) while the wide majority of the world celebrate to be included in such a “first world service”.

Is that people don’t care about being exploited while being connected (for purpose of this paper exploitation includes among other expensive internet connection fees, lousy softwares, invasive computer cookies, unwanted advertisement and potentially spying by third parties) because of the benefits of it still justify bearing those burdens? I am tempted to answer affirmatively, because as long as there is a marginal (objective or subjective) benefit most of people will keep acting as we have been doing so far for the only reason that Internet has changed our lives in every single aspect and the benefits we receive from being connected are much greater than the costs we bear. Does it mean that governments can do nothing to protect Internet users and that we should be left to be driven exclusively by the forces of demand and supply. Not nothing, but let’s say that as long as Internet keeps improving people’s well-being governments don’t have much to do regarding people’s online behavior.

The Internet began as an important tool for improving communication but has transformed into a ubiquitous technology supporting all sectors across the economy. In fact, the Internet is now widely considered a fundamental infrastructure in a wide range of countries, in much of the same way as electricity, water and transportation networks. On doing so, the Internet significantly affects economies at different levels and in numerous different impact areas. In particular Internet impacts firms in various sectors, individuals and governments. It also has been said that it has some observable general macro-economic effects.

According to a report made by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, for individuals, the Internet improves access to information, enables new communication channels and permits for more active participation in numerous market and social processes. Firms have been using the Internet as a way to reduce operational costs, improve access to information and facilitate communication over the last two decades. For governments, it improves the communication between citizens and the government and enables more efficient operations. It has also helped governments run more efficiently via improved information sharing, increased transparency and the automation of various resource-intensive services.

Considering it unique nature as a decentralized network of networks which doesn’t recognize national borders, there isn’t much to be done from the regulatory point of view and any regulatory measure needs to be aware that Internet has achieved global interconnection without the development of any substantial regulatory regime and therefore the development of a formal international regulatory regime could risk undermining its growth and affect or limit the benefits that come with Internet use. In December 2011 the OECD formally issued its principles for Internet policy making which at a great extent called countries, companies, and other organizations to seek to strengthen a multi-stakeholder approach that allows input from everyone rather than seeking expanded government control.

OECD high level principles, which were endorsed by all it 34 members, recommended that in developing or revising their policies for the Internet Economy, Members, in co-operation with all stakeholders, take account of the following:

1. Promote and protect the global free flow of information; 2. Promote the open, distributed and interconnected nature of the Internet; 3. Promote investment and competition in high-speed networks and services; 4. Promote and enable the cross-border delivery of services; 5. Encourage multi-stakeholder co-operation in policy development processes; 6. Foster voluntarily developed codes of conduct; 7. Develop capacities to bring publicly available, reliable data into the policy-making process; 8. Ensure transparency, fair process, and accountability; 9. Strengthen consistency and effectiveness in privacy protection at a global level; 10. Maximize individual empowerment; 11. Promote creativity and innovation; 12. Limit Internet intermediary liability; 13. Encourage co-operation to promote Internet security; 14. Give appropriate priority to enforcement efforts.

The analysis of these principles goes beyond the scope of this work, however, in general terms it seems that OECD members are implicitly acknowledging that there is no much space for regulatory actions and most of such principles do not prescribe specific policy solutions but rather they outline universal guidelines for Internet policy. As Google's Robert Boorstin said about it, when was the last time governments got together and decided they weren't the right ones to take the lead on something?" he asked. "This is a big deal."

From a regulatory perspective, maybe the main role for governments is to take the leadership in promoting investment and competition in high-speed networks and services and in terms of content ensure through legal rules and a proper enforcement of such rules freedom of expression and freedom of thought on the net.. To serve that purpose governments should also set clear rules and establish fair, transparent and open mechanisms to allocate for a limited period of time the administration and use of the wireless spectrum. From my perspective, the most efficient way in which the wireless spectrum can truly serve as a public-good it´s by creating the incentives to allow communities, entrepeneurs, multinational corporations or anyone who can provide a reliable service to invest in it and offer lay people access to all the opportunities that Internet can provide.


Webs Webs

r6 - 23 Aug 2014 - 19:31:21 - EbenMoglen
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