EU Set to Challenge US Dominance in Internet Control to Deter Spying

Written by | Monday, February 17th, 2014

The European Commission wants to end US control over the control of the internet, according to a paper “Europe’s role in shaping the future of Internet governance” published last Wednesday (12 February). The EU report urges to establish an international group to replace the California-based Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which manages the assignation of domains such as .com, and .org to new websites. It specifically argues that “greater international balance within the existing structures can increase the legitimacy of current governance arrangements.”
The United States currently stands at the centre of power behind the structure of the internet. To that end, a number of jurisdictions have been increasingly concerned and complained about what appears to be a too-cosy relationship between the ICANN and the US government which is governed by an exclusive contract between the two. This has also led the EU digital agenda commissioner, Neelie Kroes, to warn that the web should not be allowed to “unravel into a series of regional or national networks” and call for “a timeline to globalise ICANN”.
Yet, the degree to which the EU paper’s recommendations will be implemented depend on how much agreement on a common internet strategy can be reached between the bloc’s 28 governments. The online economy is one of the fastest growing sectors in the European Union and its share of the bloc’s economic output is projected to rise from 3.8 percent in 2010 to 5.7 percent in 2016. But public trust in the web has been rocked over the past year by a series of scandals, many of them documented by whistleblower Edward Snowden revealing the scale of government surveillance by the US national security services.
While the scandals are expected to have a big impact on the online economy, among whom the US cloud industry will be particularly affected when it comes to sheer amount of lost revenues. Several governments, including Russia, China, and Brazil, have recently called for greater government control over the Internet. Meanwhile, momentum for a radical response to the National Security Agency (NSA) spying scandal is also building in the European Union, after Germany’s Chancellor, Angela Merkel, backed calls for European internet services that are walled off from the US. Her comments came despite intensive efforts by President Barack Obama to quell European concerns and anger over the NSA revelations that showed US spy agencies tapped Ms Merkel’s mobile phone. Ms Merkel, who hopes to gain support also from François Hollande, the French president, is set to push for EU-based alternatives to the current US-dominated internet infrastructure when she holds talks in Paris this coming Wednesday (19 February).

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