U.N. Doubles Down On Mission to Contol Internet

Governments meeting in Dubai to discuss the future of global Internet regulation reportedly butted heads last week as some countries called for more government control, while U.S. officials warned that overregulation in cyberspace posed threats to freedom.

At a U.N. conference that will end later this week, officials from Russia, China and some Arab states have argued that governments need greater control over Internet content. But a U.S. delegation to the conference, which includes representatives from tech giants like Google and Microsoft, says that countries that already use heavy Internet controls would abuse the power.

Members at the conference have already agreed to work on implementing Internet standards that would essentially allow global eavesdropping. International Telecommunications Union (ITU) officials said they would adopt a proposal from Chinese officials that would allow telecom companies across the world to more easily dig through data passed across the Web.

Part of the proposal would allow governments to use a process called deep packet inspection, which has been used by repressive regimes, many of which are members of the ITU, to conduct surveillance against their own citizens.

“The telecommunications standards arm of the U.N. has quietly endorsed the standardization of technologies that could give governments and companies the ability to sift through all of an Internet user’s traffic – including emails, banking transactions, and voice calls – without adequate privacy safeguards. The move suggests that some governments hope for a world where even encrypted communications may not be safe from prying eyes,” the Center For Democracy and Technology said of the measures in a recent blog post.

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