thoughts and observations of a privacy, security and internet researcher, activist, and policy advisor

Monday, February 23, 2009

Trusted Traveller or Trusted Bar-Crawler?

The Wired national security blog "Danger Room" was celebrating its 2nd birthday on the weekend with a party at a bar in Washington DC. I was going there with a few friends and colleagues, and we had our share of fun. Unfortunately, one of my Canadian friends had trouble getting in: The bouncer would not accept his "trusted traveller" card, which is issued by the U.S. Government's Department of Homeland Security. It was only after a we convinced him that a national security party is the worst place to prevent someone with a DHS-issued ID from entering that my friend finally could join us. My friend clearly looks older than 21, needless to say.

Except for the fun we made of this afterwards, as a thought-experiment this was an interesting experience in identity and risk management. You could say that the bouncer's calculus seemed to be: Not everybody who is a certified non-terrorist is also a reliable and nice company at a bar. This is a clear and sensible separation of roles. But on the other hand: Why should a random 21-year-old with a state-issued driving license be a more reliable beer drinker?

Of course, the main problems were: The bouncer had not even heard of this trusted traveller program before, and he just checked the IDs of anybody who wanted to enter, no matter how clearly he looked over 21. This is what annoys me most, I guess: That people only follow dumb procedures without any idea of common sense. That certainly will not bring greater overall security, it will just cover the bouncer's ass.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Internet Governance Panel at ISA Convention tomorrow

I have organized a panel on "Control and Governance of the Internet: Beyond Realism vs. Internationalism" for the International Studies Association 50th Annual Convention that has started today in New York City. Short description:
The debate about “who controls the internet” has recently been narrowed down to one between Realists and Internationalists/Transnationalists. The former see nation-states or big powers as the main regulatory forces; the latter point to the impact of international regimes and transnational forums as well as to processes of policy diffusion. What is often ignored is the influence of non-obvious political variables, such as technology trends and market developments, as well as the complex relationships between international regimes and national idiosyncrasies. This panel aims at broadening the view on internet governance and putting the realists-internationalists debate into perspective by addressing these larger issues. The general focus is still on the “control” question: Who controls the internet, and how? What exactly is being controlled, and what is beyond the traditional grasp of politics?
The panelists and their papers are:
  • Brenden Kuerbis, Syracuse University: "Securing critical Internet resources: Influence and control of Internet standards through delegation and social networks"
  • John Mathiason, Syracuse University: "Thinking Globally at the IGF and Acting Locally: the national-global nexus"
  • Konstantinos Komaitis, University of Strathclyde: "Internet Governance: Why Plato is still relevant"
  • J. P. Singh, Georgetown University: "What is Being Controlled on the Internet? Security implications of multilateral approaches to negotiating Internet governance"
  • Ryan Kiggins, University of Florida: "Wired World: U.S. Identity, Security, and Governance of the Internet"
  • Ralf Bendrath, Delft University of Technology: "Global technology trends and national regulation: Explaining Variation in the Governance of Deep Packet Inspection"
  • Discussant: Milton L. Mueller, Syracuse University and TU Delft.
Most of the papers are or will be available here.

Thanks to Derrick Cogburn and the Cotelco Lab at Syracuse University, we'll have remote participation options. The panel is taking place on Monday, 16 February 2009, 16:15-18:00 EST. If you want to join us, you find the link here about an hour before we start.