icm2re logo. icm2:re (I Changed My Mind Reviewing Everything) is an  ongoing web column  by Brunella Longo

This column deals with some aspects of change management processes experienced almost in any industry impacted by the digital revolution: how to select, create, gather, manage, interpret, share data and information either because of internal and usually incremental scope - such learning, educational and re-engineering processes - or because of external forces, like mergers and acquisitions, restructuring goals, new regulations or disruptive technologies.

The title - I Changed My Mind Reviewing Everything - is a tribute to authors and scientists from different disciplinary fields that have illuminated my understanding of intentional change and decision making processes during the last thirty years, explaining how we think - or how we think about the way we think. The logo is a bit of a divertissement, from the latin divertere that means turn in separate ways.

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Global internet governance needs more than the European right to be forgotten

About three assurance requirements for internet developments

How to cite this article?
Longo, Brunella (2014). Global internet governance needs more than the European right to be forgotten. About three assurance requirements for internet developments. icm2re [I Changed my Mind Reviewing Everything ISSN 2059-688X (Print)], 3.7 (July).

How to cite this article?
Longo, Brunella (2014). Global internet governance needs more than the European right to be forgotten. About three assurance requirements for internet developments. icm2re [I Changed my Mind Reviewing Everything ISSN 2059-688X (Online)], 3.7 (July).

6 July 2014 - After 20 years of involvement in various internet commercial developments as a consultant, contractor, independent scholar and trainer I have thought it would be a good idea to attend an ICANN meeting in person, that happened to be recently held in London (Icann50).

I wanted to see, first of all, what is going on about the new generic TLDs. Secondly, I wanted to check some ideas in respect of the so called transition of NTIA's Stewardships - that is basically the greatest gift the USA government is giving to the global economy, voluntarily handing over the control of the IANA functions to dozens of "multistakeholder" communities - enabled, engaged, managed or facilitated by the same ICANN. But other regional and global organisations are gradually entering the scene of global internet governance too.

I really enjoyed ICANN50: it has been a fantastic opportunity to interact live with a multitude of people coming from all walks of life and corners of the internet world, to learn new things, to discuss and get feedback about my consultancy services on assurance, internet and information security and to influence the debate about what is the first ever global change management exercise of the digital economy.

At the same time, I realised how far I am in 2014 from the romantic business views and communitarian utopias I myself embraced in 1994. These are still dominant in some relevant parts of the global internet community. Undoubtedly, such ideas have become in the meantime the essence of the ICANN multi-stakeholderism model, and taken over by very well organised media and political networks of lobbyists, academics, journalists, marketers, broadcasters and political activists.

But is multi-stakeholderism making any real progress in the way in which internet is governed worldwide? Is the idea of a multitude of self-regulating communities really enabling, fostering or developing global digital growth? I have had the impression that in some circumstances it is just a powerful method for herding cats on behalf of consolidated business and media interests.

I made a number of observations and questions at several meetings with various committees and constituencies. To cut a long diary of excellent talks shortly, my contributions were all around three basic ideas that I believe could qualify as major assurance requirements for the advancement of global internet governance:

1) Internet businesses impact everybody

In my view, there is no such a thing like a "non commercial user" of the internet anymore. Even if you barely use it, the internet has a great commercial and financial impact on your life, especially when you consider the percentage of micro and small businesses that make the digital economy a worldwide reality.

How to limit the commoditisation and rapid obsolesce of digital businesses and how to secure a sustainable digital global economy are the key questions for internet governance.

Legal traditions and provisions (such as human rights) and law enforcement perspectives (for instance, on identity theft or internet pornography) are intertwined with business aspects of the internet as well as with non commercial uses.

In sum, we should make everybody willing to consider business, commercial, ethical and legal issues altogether in a systemic approach: the traditional 'non commercial' ICANN constituencies and groups have a great role to play in educating global audiences towards such goal that should be endorsed beyond the same traditional internet authorities and governance organisations.

2) We live in one regulated world and internet is part of it

On the central issues of transparency and accountability, a great reductionism effort and simplification exercise is needed in order to stop fussing around with abstruse and complicated, often inconsistent, often childish and uneducated views of an internet global environment a la Facebook, in which bad things happen unless they are controlled and corrected by informal and often self regulated civil society groups, independently from the real jurisdictions existing in the world of Nations and Governments.

Although I firmly believe in collaborative governance approaches and I do believe that social change is often shaped by the visions and dreams of our grandfathers, I see the idea of global internet governance existing independently from international and national laws and governments as a very fancy one.

We should put more understanding and rules about the internet in the existing judiciary systems instead, levelling the disparities among countries and continents and not trying to avoid or ignore them.

In that, group thinking and the eternal imaginary of a perfect communitarian world emerging from bulletin boards are still blowing and influencing digital entrepreneurs and communities of practices with unrealistic, literary expectations.

To many decision makers, the idea that the internet must be subject to the same social norms, laws, investigative processes and judiciary systems of the real physical world sounds simply exaggerated or ridicule. Others prefer to think the internet as a second order world in which businesses will be always opportunistic, hyper-capitalist and fundamentally predatory in nature, whilst the "real world" is still made of bricks and mortars. It looks like these stakeholders have not noticed yet the number of shops around the corner that have closed down in their neighbourhoods.

3) No institution exist without memory. The saga of preserving Whois from the right to be forgotten

A speaker, a woman, Rometta Longer, Rolanda Lunca and Brunella Lungram: these are some of the funny names I am spotting I was given in the transcripts of some meetings in which I shared the above ideas. Never mind, the message was understood beyond the inaccuracies of the transcriptions (that in other occasions disappeared tout court so this time I was lucky!).

But there is an issue that requires a more urgent and overarching attention in my opinion and I am glad to notice that my name and words were reported correctly in the transcript of the GAC meeting in which I first introduced the question: it is all about the way in which we organise, on a global scale, registries of internet domains and consequently also associated data about owners, transfers, conflicts, disputes and abuses pertaining an internet domain over time.

Let's make Whois registries at the centre of global internet governance, for its enduring and sustainable development. This was the simple message I wanted to share.

We must acknowledge the fact that data protection requirements (and the quest for a balance between privacy and freedom of information rights) can be nothing more than excuses, excuses and more excuses to hide rough, opaque or inconsistent interests and approaches to global internet governance. The protection of private details of domain registrants is a sensible privacy measure. But it is a shame that the recent ECJ decision about the so called "right to be forgotten" has not helped at all to simplify and clarify the issues around Whois’s privacy and find global solutions. Also the ICANN decision to commission to Deloitte the construction of a private global database of trademarks independently from the Whois redesign, and bypassing international law and other intellectual property institutions, did not help.

The European Union suffers sometimes of ageing problems: it reacts emotionally or in a confused way to topical matters, in the desperate attempt to force collaborative approaches to social and cultural matters, especially when it is not easy to tell genuine conflictual views on innovations apart from machiavellian "informal governance" initiatives or sophisticated legal machinations: the "right to be forgotten" is unfortunately the most recent, sad evidence of such a bit of ...dementia that an European institution has given to the World. It came out of the blue with the best of the intentions but it made an unnecessary mess with further advantages for the dominant player, as a perfect scam served with additional free publicity for the role of the technological giants. In fact, where in the World other than in Europe Google could make such a huge collection of personal details of people providing even their IDs in the vain hope to see pages containing their names disappearing from the internet?

We may have either amendments or an appeal to the European right to be forgotten, perhaps following summer readings on the Domesday Book, but in the meantime it seems time for global internet governance would be better spent working on the new Whois requirements more than on Google listings.


Whatever will be of ICANN in the next two or three decades, we shall always be thankful to its first generation of master geeks. They shaped the internet and allowed everybody to have a word on it. They gave the world extraordinary lessons and demonstrations that democratic and participatory processes work in the digital age. These included evidence that the same transparency and democracy they are built upon can be unfortunately exploited and distorted by dysfunctional or heavily manipulated community interests. In the global open data arena, such abuses of democratic processes include prevention of understanding, instead of effective communication, by means of making impossible for people to deal with a reasonable number of motions, objections and proposals in a very limited time. Tricky tactical games that would be easily thrown away if adopted within parliamentary debates in many democracies around the World at the moment have the power to impact and often paralyse any progress in ICANN debates.

So, I had the impression that the three requirements for global internet governance I mentioned above were widely understood and to some extent easily agreed too. They can inspire and guide further revisions around very simple and sensible principles of universal acceptance: internet businesses must be everybody's business, in only one common regulated world of Nations and Governments, in which no institution should be deprived of (or existing without) appropriated ways to manage and preserve its collective memory - that consists at its very foundation level of nothing more than the digital equivalent of the Domesday Book, called Whois.