A group of senior computer and telecommunications executives have come together to form the Global Internet Project (GIP) to voice their approval of proposals coming out of the European Commission (EC) for internet governance based on open standards, and by implication, their disapproval for many US policies regarding the internet. GIP was formed last year by Netscape Communications Corp’s chairman Jim Clark, spinning out of the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA). Its members include senior executives from IBM Corp, AT&T Corp, MCI Communications Corp, British Telecommunications Plc and Deutsche Telekom AG, among others. Its aim is to promote the free enterprise and try and prevent government intervention in the internet and was established specifically in response to what it saw as the US government’s heavy-handed approach to regulating the use of encryption. That has got a whole lot heavier this year and looks like resulting in a showdown between the industry and the government next year if proposed legislation becomes law, restricting the use of encryption both domestically and for export purposes. However, GIP has expanded its scope and now makes recommendations across areas such as taxation, intellectual property, security, privacy and telecommunications infrastructure. The group offered up its suggestions to the EC in response to EC commissioner Martin Bangemann’s recent call for an ‘international charter for global communications’ to help encourage the growth of the internet, and in particular internet commerce. Whatever the EC comes up with, GIP thinks it should be based on its recommendations, which cover all the areas listed above, plus regulation of content, interoperability standards and import and export regulations. Basically they are all of the free-market ilk and recommend private enterprise being left to run the shop. But on the issue of encryption, GIP makes its strongest stance. It says no nation’s cryptographic policy can stand alone. It adds that it should be up to users to decide whether they want to use key escrow trusted third parties or key recovery technologies, that trade barriers should not be disguised as cryptographic barriers and that export controls should be multilateral and only used for genuine national security threats and should not be used as indirect domestic controls. Those comments are directly in line with those of Bangemann, who recently warned the US against becoming isolationist on the issue of encryption controls.
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