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USA will relinquish control of the internet. What does that mean?

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
3/17/2014 (3 years ago)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

USA still remains in a unique position to control the internet.

The U.S. is about to give up its oversight of a committee that regulates the internet and domain names. The Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers has operated under contract from the U.S. Department of Commerce. Now, the Department of Commerce will quit its oversight and other countries -and individuals will have more power to dictate how the internet works.

With most of the world's web traffic passing through the USA, or through hardware produced in the USA, or in places and through hardware agents can access, the USA will retain control of the internet. Although, not for your benefit.

With most of the world's web traffic passing through the USA, or through hardware produced in the USA, or in places and through hardware agents can access, the USA will retain control of the internet. Although, not for your benefit.

Highlights

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
3/17/2014 (3 years ago)

Published in Technology

Keywords: Icann, internet, control, Obama, world, freedom, change, public, democracy


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has been the regulating power behind the internet since the 1990s. ICANN assigns domains, names and regulates the basic structure of the internet. This will now change.

The Domain Name System, which essentially controls the internet, will no longer be overseen by the U.S. government. This creates opportunities for other nations, businesses, and even individuals to say how ICANN will do its future work. Already, meetings have been scheduled with ICANN and others who have an interest in how ICANN operates.

The Department of Commerce will end its oversight in 2015.

Although the U.S. has always controlled ICANN and the internet itself, that monopoly on control has been subject to more scrutiny since Edward Snowden leaked information on how the NSA is using the very infrastructure of the internet to literally spy on the world. The international backlash against the United States has the Obama administration backing away from overt American control of the internet in favor of an internet that could, in theory, be more democratically controlled.

The problem of course, is that nothing is what is seems.

To understand what's happening and why, one needs to understand how the internet works. The post office provides a good analogy.

Just like our homes, each computer has a unique address on the internet known as an Internet Protocol (IP) address. Every keystroke, every click you make on the internet, sends a packet of information, just like a letter, out from your address.

That outbound packet of information passes through a local internet provider and just like a letter, eventually ends up in a central processing facility. ICANN oversees these central facilities, and it is from there the internet is literally managed. There are less than 400 such facilities in the entire world.

From these central facilities, the letter goes to the address where it is intended. Then, the computer at the other end of your request sends a reply right back through the same system and viola! You see a funny image, you click, and the image displays on your screen in real time.

This happens for every single thing you do online. Every click, every program you open that phones home, literally everything must pass through the central processing facility. This means ICANN and those who control the physical infrastructure of these root name servers, as they are technically called, literally have the power to control the internet.

Cutting off internet to a single household is as easy as cutting off internet to an entire country. It's a mouseclick.

If someone sets up a webpage to conduct illegal transactions, a single cluck can make the website unsearchable by the rest of the world. Even a next-door neighbor wouldn't be able to find it.

This is also how the NSA is able to monitor everything in the world. By copying all of the traffic passing through the root name servers, the NSA can store, then search through the information at their leisure. This is the reason for the massive NSA facility recently opened in Utah.

More importantly, the Utah facility is thought to be sophisticated enough that agents can monitor a substantial portion of the world's traffic in real time.

Many who support the U.S. Department of Commerce's relinquishment of control over ICANN see this as a move that will diminish NSA capability and improve the freedom and openness of the internet, however the move is not as benevolent as it appears.

By relinquishing apparent control of ICANN, the Obama administration can diminish the public perception of American control over the internet. However, the physical infrastructure of the internet as well as the offices of ICANN remain in the United States.

No matter who makes decisions for ICANN, the physical infrastructure of the internet remains firmly under American control. NSA agents can still infiltrate the root name servers and install the software and hardware that allows them to spy.

This move only deflects attention from the U.S. government by creating the illusion that the U.S. is relinquishing a degree of control over the internet.

Calls have been made for ICANN to pass to UN control, and both China and Russia are leading the call for the United States to end its direct oversight of ICANN. There is also concern that these countries will use their newfound power to censor speech in their countries.

Whatever the world expects from this change, it's not likely to work in the favor of the common person. The decision makers, be they governments, businesses, or powerful individuals, do not have the interests of the common person in mind. End users are now commodities, to be bought, sold, and manipulated for power and profit. This has been the nature of the internet ever since it quit being the domain of academics.

Yet questions abide. Who will control ICANN? Who will control the physical infrastructure of the internet? Not the people, that's for sure.

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