Telecom companies across the world may be given the opportunity to dig through data passed across the Internet more easily following a move to allow the United Nations new authority to regulate the Web.
At a conference in Dubai this week, Members of the United Nation’s International Telecommunications Union (ITU) agreed to work towards implementing a standard for the Internet that would allow for eavesdropping on a worldwide scale.
The ITU members decided to adopt the Y.2770 standard for deep packet inspection, a top-secret proposal by way of China that will allow telecom companies across the world to more easily dig through Web data, according to a report from Russia Today.
The gathering which opened this week in Dubai of the U.N.’s International Telecommunications Union has triggered fierce objections from Washington, and from Internet freedom activists who fear new rules that could end the freewheeling system of the Internet.
The U.S. House of Representatives voted unanimously on Wednesday to oppose any efforts to give the United Nations new authority to regulate the Internet.
The 397-0 vote, following a similar vote in the Senate, came as delegates were meeting in Dubai to revise a global telecom treaty, a gathering which some say could be used to impose new controls on the Internet.
Representative Greg Walden said ahead of the vote that lawmakers should “send a strong bipartisan, bicameral signal about America’s commitment to an unregulated Internet.”
He said Washington should not “stand idly by while countries like Russia and China seek to extort control over the Internet.”
The gathering in Dubai has brought together over 1,950 delegates from around the world to work on revising a treaty known as the International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs). They have been in effect since 1988 and offer guidelines related to international routing and charges between global carriers, as well as the overall Internet traffic between international network operators.
The Russians, for example, have proposed giving the ITU control over the Internet rather than multi-stakeholder companies like the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).
"We fundamentally disagree with that," U.S. Ambassador Terry Kramer said during a Thursday call with reporters. Governments are not likely to make objective decisions about the Web, he said. The current structure allows for those with tech expertise to make "independent, agile decisions."
When asked if the U.S. had discussed the proposal with the Russians, Kramer said that "we've looked at the proposal, but are not keen to get into a discussion about that proposal because we think it's out of scope for the conference."
But ITU chief Hamadoun Toure, who kicked off the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT-12) on Monday, said Internet freedom of expression will not be touched during the discussions at the meeting.
Among the critics, Google has been vocal in warning of serious repercussions on the Internet if proposals made by member states are approved at the WCIT-12 meeting, including permitting censorship over legitimate content.
Google and others also say some proposals would impose a “sender pay” system for the Web, which could lead to Web firms being forced to pay huge amounts to deliver their services globally.
The resolution approved by lawmakers expressed “the sense of Congress regarding actions to preserve and advance the multi-stakeholder governance model under which the Internet has thrived.”