European Commissioner for Digital Agenda: “Wikileaks compels a more open government”

Governments must be transparent and should be as open as possible, according to European Commissioner for Digital Agenda, Neelie Kroes.
This is both important and practical, for with fewer secrets there can also be less leaked.

This is one of the lessons Kroes draws from the “Wikileaks saga,” as she describes the leak of 250,000 secret U.S. official messages.
Kroes taught her American audience a lesson on the ins and outs of this spectacle, which has dominated the world news now for weeks.

Wikileaks compels openness
The “top secret” telegrams were on SiprNet, a private intranet for the U.S. Defense and Foreign Affairs. But they were not really secret as at least 2.5 million officers and soldiers have access to all files. Private Bradley Manning is suspected of the mega leak, he has been confined to solitary confinement as of May.

Kroes: “From the perspective of cyber security this stresses the necessity of combating the threat of theft of confidential information in our possession.
“But, she stresses: “We, as governments and official organizations should be sure that we are as transparent and open as possible. I think this is important in itself, but it also has an enormous practical advantage: it reduces the amount of information that must be specially protected. ”

DDoS attacks
Kroes notes two other newsworthy events around “Cable Gate”, such as the cessation by Amazon and EveryDNS of the hosting of Wikileaks.
She wonders aloud: “Was there a case of violating the terms of service of the differents providers?

And finally, the numerous cyber attacks through DDoS* attacks on Wikileaks sites, and sites which blocked Wikileaks such as PayPal, Mastercard and Visa**. Even though information on how many PCs took part in these attacks is unreliable, Kroes noted that “it does show that such attacks can be organized by a small group of people.”
On the other hand, the services of the affected firms were hardly affected by the DDoS attacks. According to Kroes these results demonstrate the resilience of cloud architecture***.

Privacy by design
The European Commissioner for ICT matters stressed that trans-Atlantic, public-private partnership is crucial to combating cyber crime and  protecting “the integrity of the internet”. To that end, last month the EU-US Working Group on Cyber Security and Cyber-crime was created.
Besides stressing embedded security Kroes reiterates the importance of “embedded privacy” in technologies and business processes. “Those who only see privacy as a cost are near-sighted: currently it is already a competitive advantage, in the future it will be a necessary condition.”

* A DDoS attack or distributed denial of service attack occurs when multiple systems flood the bandwidth or resources of a targeted system, usually one or more web servers. (Wikipedia) . Essentially making accessing that webserver impossible.

** See PayPal says it stopped Wikileaks payments on US letter

*** Cloud computing is Internet-based computing, whereby shared servers provide resources, software, and data to computers and other devices on demand, as with the electricity grid. (Wikipedia)

On-line privacy “watchdog” planned in the US

The Obama administration is preparing a stepped-up approach to policing Internet privacy that calls for new laws and the creation of a new position to oversee the effort, according to people familiar with the situation.

As such the U.S. government is coming up with legislation to protect the privacy of citizens on the Internet and there is also an official “privacy watchdog” in the making.

At the moment, the Obama administration is working on a report recommending how the privacy of Internet consumers should be protected. That report should be released sometime next week, according to the Wall Street Journal. President Obama has formed a working group of  officials who afterwards will translate the recommendations into policy.

Past American governments have always steered clear of Internet privacy, as this would inhibit innovation. This has changed however considering the increasingly important role personal information on the Internet has on businesses nowadays.

Better late than never
Obama’s actions appears to be supported by important Republicans. Joe Barton, a Republican heavyweight rresponded “Better late than never, I am delighted that more and more people, both within government and outside, see that there is a war going on against privacy.”

Nevertheless, it should be pointed out that despite the support of the Republicans in protecting privacy, they would rather not want the Federal Trade Commission to receive more power to enforce such laws. Such resistance to an increase in powers for the FTC may ultimately make possible regulation toothless.

Currently, America has no real privacy laws on the Internet. All EU, and most other European, countries, but also Canada, are ahead of the US by quite a bit. Thus recent actions against privacy violations of Google and Facebook were therefore guided by European countries and Canada and not by the United States. Nevertheless, Europe is still working on better privacy protection for citizens on the Internet.

Opponents of such legislation say that the Internet industry itself should be urged to improve public understanding and greater control over their personal data. Proponents say consumer data is currently collected and sold without and reserve. According to them personal information is at the moment “fair game” and up for grabs.

Consultation with other countries
The newly to be formed American government organization to monitor compliance with upcoming regulations, will also involve other countries in the debate about privacy. Next to that it will also be negotiating with other countries to jointly come to a mutual understanding of the various privacy laws.


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