Archive for February, 2010

Google and Italy

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010


Google Pavarotti

Three Google executives have been convicted of violating Italian privacy law because of a children’s bullying video posted briefly by Google in 2006. Although Google took down the offending video of several children in Turin cruelly taunting a mentally disabled boy, and subsequently helped authorities to identify and convict the person who posted the video, three executives were convicted today of violating privacy. A fourth employee who has since left the company had his charges dropped, which seems to indicate that a political point is being made. The executives in question are outraged, and former UK Information Commissioner Richard Thomas is quoted as saying the episode makes a mockery of privacy laws.

For years I’ve observed that Italy always pushes for the most extreme EU version of laws about privacy and security and then domestically gold-plates them into laws that would seem more at home in Turkmenistan. It makes other Europeans scratch their heads as the Italians generally aren’t willing or able to enforce their draconian laws. Several years ago over a pint in Brussels, an exasperated UK official told me:

 ‘The Italians have no intention of ever implementing this stuff, but we’re a common law country and if it’s on the books, we actually have to do it’.


ICANN Nairobi; relocation, relocation?

Friday, February 12th, 2010


Although I no longer work for ICANN, I’d planned on attending its meeting in Nairobi next month to meet old friends and drum up some work for my new consulting business. The Nairobi meeting is scheduled to run from 7-12 March. The biggest issue on the table is a crucial stage in the addition of new top level domains; the vote by the Board on how to handle expressions of interest. But in the last 24 hours, ICANN’s COO, Doug Brent, has published a security warning that may result in the meeting being cancelled.

If this happens, it will be a real blow for the Kenyan Internet community. A previously planned meeting in Nairobi was cancelled because of security concerns prompted by election violence a couple of years ago. I thought this was the wrong call at the time, as election violence tends to die down and our meeting wasn’t till several months later. But I didn’t question and don’t envy the people who have to make that decision.

An ICANN meeting brings about 1200 people from around the world to a country chosen from host applications about a year in advance. It’s a mix between a trade show and a party conference, with endless parallel sessions, soap-boxing, hallway deal-making and late night drinking. Probably two thirds of the participants are regulars, and there’s always a ‘back to school’ feeling on the first day as you greet people you’ve not seen in months with an enthusiasm that wears off in about a nanosecond. The dominance of the regulars causes ongoing criticism that the whole travelling circus doesn’t work to get more and different people to take part, and should halt its global peregrinations and stay put in L.A., Frankfurt or Singapore. (more…)

Nominet consultation on .UK

Saturday, February 6th, 2010

http://www.cobrasoft.beNominet, the body that administers the .UK country code, is holding an EGM later this month to decide on its future governance structure. As my old colleague Kieren McCarthy points out, the proposals include “a larger Board, lower voting thresholds, explicitly recognising that Nominet has a “public purpose”, giving the Board the right to set pricing, and a promise to review the organisation’s current membership setup to pull in more of the Internet community into its decisions.” These are all very good things.

Nominet has been through the wars in the past couple of years, with the biggest battles provoked by domainers (bulk commercial buyers of domain name registrations) trying to take over the Board of what is essentially a public interest organisation. (Like all fights, it’s a lot more complicated than that. Kieren wrote about the power struggle last year.) DTI, now known as BERR, was alarmed and threatened to take it over altogether. A big part of the problem is that there’s a very low bar for voting rights – basically anyone who does bulk registration of names – and so turnout is low, meaning capture by self-interested groups is distressingly easy. The changes being proposed at the EGM would address this. But they need to be voted in…

Please do head over to Nominet and inform yourself about these issues. Full disclosure: Through my work with ICANN (where I finished up last month), I got to know some of the Nominet team and think they’re doing a good job in difficult circumstances.

Re-posted from the Crooked Timber blog. To take part in the discussion, visit this post’s permalink on Crooked Timber.