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Security, Privacy and Openness on the Internet

Ambassador David A. Gross, U.S Coordinator for International Communications and Information Policy
Remarks at the Third Internet Governance Forum
Hyderabad, India
December 4, 2008

Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, and welcome to everyone here to what I think will be, far and away, the best panel of the entire conference. We're going to try to do something a little bit different. In the spirit of the IGF, which among many other things is an experiment in self-governance and Internet governance, we're going to try a slightly different approach than the first panel in a way to see if this works as well.

What we're going to do is I'm going to give a couple of remarks. Then I have asked each of our esteemed panelists to talk for about five minutes on a subject that is close to each of their hearts and their professional experience. And then we are going to try and engage in a dialogue amongst the panelists, and we will try -- I will try to make it, at least, as interactive if not controversial as possible, recognizing that people have jobs to go back to and they don't want to be too controversial.

At the end, we will try to take some comments from the floor, so be prepared for that. We will try to do that in a way that will not interfere or take away from the open dialogue of this afternoon where there will be lots of opportunity for discussion as well.

Let me begin by a couple of thoughts. One is that the issue of security, privacy and openness is, in my view, going to be the center piece for policy discussions for the next many years. I say that in part because if I look back on the past eight years or so, these have not been the front-burner issues. They have been issues, they have been serious and important issues, but issues that people have talked about in terms of Internet governance have really focused on many other areas and have been much of the focus of things like the World Summit on the Information Society and many meetings.

Which is an interesting situation because if you go back into the 1990s, the issues that we are going to be discussing here were, in many respects, the burning issues of the day. And what I would suggest is that those embers have continued to burn and are about to flare up because they discuss, really, the confluence of societally important issues that are, in many respects, in conflict with each other and yet are additive of each other: Security, privacy, and openness.

We have a terrific panel here that has great expertise in this area. I will note in the interest of trying to make sure that everyone takes away something that maybe is useful, I want to just sort of list a couple of the more recent relevant -- what I think are the relevant international statements that are important in this area, not in any way to be an exclusive list but just the ones that I find myself referring to with increasing frequency.

Of course, I always begin with the universal declaration of human rights with regard to the free flow of information and its importance. I think, of course, of the World Summit on the Information Society, and that was particularly in the Geneva phase, there were good statements there, but in my view, the Tunis Agenda was a high watermark for the commitment to free flow of information, both in paragraphs 4 and in 42 are the two that I often refer to.

Just this year, we have had a number of important developments that I hope panelists will refer to. One is the OECD ministerial that we had earlier this year, and there are important statements there on the free flow of information. Just very recently, the International Telecommunications Union met in South Africa at the World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly, not often thought of as a place where, at least, free flow of information issues are discussed. But in fact, resolution 69 that was offered there is, I think, an extraordinarily strong statement about the free flow of information in which member states were invited to refrain from taking any unilateral or discriminatory actions that could impede another member state -- and it was made clear that "member state" includes its citizens -- from accessing public Internet sites. That means, in my mind, that countries around the world have now unanimously and by consensus agreed to allow their citizens to have access to the world's Internet sites. And then very recently, in a nongovernmental context, there is the Global Network Initiative that a number of NGOs and companies came together to try to address the issues of protecting freedom of expression and privacy for users in ways that are , I think, very ingenious and very, very interesting to look at.

With that brief set of comments, let me begin with John Carr who is the secretary of Children's Charities' Coalition on Internet Safety in the United Kingdom for a few opening remarks. John.

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