The Cloud, Many Clouds, and Free Expression

23 October 2013 - A Workshop on Access in Bali, Indonesia

Internet Governance Forum 2013

Workshop # 357 Report

The Cloud, Many Clouds, and Free Expression

Organizer Name 

Ryan Patrick

Organizer Entity 

Google

Workshop Theme 

The Internet as an Engine for Growth and Advancement

Consise description 

In previous years our workshops have looked at the impact of data flows and on surveillance. As the cloud business model moves mainstream, we propose looking this year at the free-expression ramifications cloud computing.  In addition to free expression ramifications, the workshop will focus on how cross-jurisdictional privacy and security frameworks and security standards can facilitate--or hinder--cloud adoption and affect usage. As the cloud moves mainstream, we'll also look at the free-expression ramifications for businesses and for consumers in the debate on private clouds vs. public clouds.

Agenda 

* Presentation of the topic and its evolution * Commentaries from the panelists * Hard stop after 60 minutes, reserving last 30 minutes for audience participation * Summary and next steps

Moderator 

Marc Crandall

Remote Moderator 

Sarah Falvey

Have you organized workshops at previous IGFs?

No

Workshop format 

Panel

Workshop Transcript 

Transcript

Brief substantive summary of the workshop and presentation of the main issues that were raised during the discussions 

 

In previous years our workshops have looked at the impact of data flows and on surveillance. As the cloud business model moves mainstream, we propose looking this year at the free-expression ramifications of cloud computing. The workshop will also focus on how cross-jurisdictional privacy and security frameworks and security standards can facilitate--or hinder--cloud adoption and affect usage.  As the cloud moves mainstream, we'll also look at the free-expression ramifications for businesses and for consumers in the debate on private clouds vs. public clouds.


Over the last few decades, there has been exponential growth in the use of the Internet by billions of everyday people, millions of businesses, and more than a hundred governments. This trend has driven unforeseen technological innovations and advancements in computing, and has led to new generations of interconnected web services, applications, consumer devices and infrastructure as the Internet contributes more than $2.3 trillion annually to the global economy.


In this span of time, many concepts have been used to describe computing over the Internet, including “terminal computing,” “network computing,” “distributed computing,” “cloud computing,” etc., but they are all one and the same. Almost every form of computing device, ranging from a smartphone to a data center, can now utilize computing resources on the Internet to manage increasingly complex tasks – from sending an email to modeling treatments for genetic illnesses.


Yet globally, governments have been issuing new policies and legislation that attempt to subdivide and regulate Internet computing through a variety of arbitrary terms and categories, such as “cloud,” “public cloud,” and “private cloud,” on a variety of subjects including cybersecurity, data privacy, government procurement, infrastructure location, interoperability, and international trade.


Panelists

 

  • William Drake (University of Zurich, Civil Society, SWITZERLAND, Western Europe and Others Group - WEOG, also co-organizer)

 

  • Izumi Aizu (Institute for InfoSocinomics, Civil Society, JAPAN, Asia-Pacific Group, also co-organizer)

  • Sarah Wynn-Williams (Facebook, Private Sector, UNITED STATES, Asia-Pacific Group)

  • Bertrand de la Chapelle (Academie Diplomatique, Civil Society, FRANCE, Western Europe and Others Group - WEOG)


Moderator
Marc Crandall (Head of Global Compliance, Enterprise, Google)

 

Remote Moderator

Sarah Favley (Public Policy & Gov't Relations Manager)


This was an interactive panel where panellists and the audience discussed some of the key contemporary issues freedom of expression and cloud computing.

Some of the themes raised included:


  • Advantages of Cloud Computing: There was an affirmation that global computing services can offer powerful security, resiliency, and product features while providing considerable cost savings.

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  • Cloud Terminology and Legislation:  Legislation that attempts to regulate cloud computing equates to legislation of the Internet itself.

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  • Open Internet: The use of cloud services allows users who are subject to restrictive regimes to express themselves more freely.  In response, users have utilized cloud services to bypass local content restrictions.  Cloud computing lowers the barrier of entry to platforms that facilitate freedom of expression.  The Internet can and should be a free-expression zone.

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  • Circumvention of Censorship: In an attempt to prevent unpopular or troublesome speech, some governments have blocking entire speech platforms / websites.  The problem with this approach is that governments block their users off from the world.  The common public response in such situations is to circumvent such blockage by utilizing technologies such as virtual private networks (VPNs) and proxy-servers.

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  • Applicable Jurisdiction:  Nations continue to grapple with the issue of applicable jurisdiction with regard to cross-border cloud platforms.  Jurisdiction has been exercised by governments based on a number of factors, such as the location of users, the location from where data is accessed, where the service provider(s) maintains offices, and applicable country-code top level domains.  This has impacted how governments apply restrictions to online content.  Governments explore to what extent these types of information resources need to be embedded within a framework of territorial-based public authority.

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  • The Legitimacy of Censorship or Data Blockage: One major challenge is whether laws in each jurisdiction - particularly those that may restrict speech - are in balance.  Not all governments believe that the freedom of expression should be without limits, but a central question is how those limits should be determined.  The question is particularly challenging regarding speech that may incite violence.  For example, in some jurisdictions, the posting of certain speech is a criminal offense, but not in other jurisdictions, and vice-versa.

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  • Freedom of Speech vs. Secrecy of Communications: Some jurisdictions distinguish between privacy of communication and freedom of speech.  Secretary of communication should be protected equally to freedom of speech.

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  • Data Localization: In order to maintain sovereignty over and access to data sources, including avoiding delays associated with mutual legal assistance treaty (MLAT) process delays, some countries are attempting to force service providers to store the data in-country. Such data localization requirements create huge technical challenges for service providers, hiders user access, and introduces latency.  Such a requirement would presumably also require providers to store a corpus of information in every country in the world which passes such legislation, therefore negating the benefits of distributed computing.  Regulators will not be aligned with the technical and pragmatic reality.

 
Growing Smartphone Utilization:  The growing adoption of smartphones and ubiquity of connectivity will lead to a greater adoption of cloud services.  This smartphone ubiquity enhances cloud use for speech, such as the posting of pictures, thoughts, voice, and video.

 

Conclusions drawn from the workshop and further comments 

Recommendations and Moving Forward: Cloud computing as a platform for expression continues to grow is Internet access and mobile device adoption becomes more ubiquitous. While governments may have legitimate concerns regarding certain speech, governments and civil society will need to establish common guidelines regarding reasonable restrictions, if any, that may be applicable to online speech.  The banning entire platforms should not occur. Any such broad action would undoubtedly lead to users to circumvent these restrictions. Similarly, governments should not require providers to implement data localization in an attempt assert jurisdiction over and achieve access to data, since such data localization solutions are technically unworkable.

Reported by 

Moderator - Marc Crandall (Head of Global Compliance, Enterprise, Google)

Estimate the overall number of women participants present at the session 

About half of the participants were women

To what extent did the session discuss gender equality and/or women's empowerment? 


It was not seen as related to the session theme and was not raised

Discussion affecting gender equality and women's empowerment 

 

Workshops Staticals 
Number of FEMALE participantsNumber of MALE participantsNumber of Young participantsNumber of Developing Countries ParticipantsNumber of Developed Countries ParticipantsNumber of LDCs participantsNumber of TOTAL Participants
100 100 0 80 110 10 200