Accepting Guest Blog Posts

I have accepted a position that will not allow me to write in 2016. However, I want to continue to provide information on cyber, intellectual property (IP), social media, security, privacy, and technology law and policy to you all.  So…. I am accepting  submissions from guest bloggers!

Please send me your best cyber, IP and tech law and policy posts. Many of this blog’s followers are entrepreneurs, technophiles, tech novices, bloggers, social media user and those intrigued by tech, so please cater your posts to that audience. Please send posts to thedigitalcounselor@gmail.com. I will notify you if your post is selected.

Thank you for your submission, in advance, and more importantly, THANK YOU FOR READING!

I hope the readers find previous posts and any information others are able to provide in my absence helpful! And I look forward to returning in 2017!!

New gTLDs as a Branding Tool for Entrepreneurs

The launch of new gTLDs (generic top-level domains) provide an amazing opportunity for entrepreneurs and small to medium businesses to further brand their business in their domain name. A gTLD is the part of you domain after the “.”.  Having fun with you website domain can help you stand out as you market yourself and establish your brand. Emphasize your company’s mission, expertise, experience, niche, etc through the top-level domain you use. Also if your company name or other domain you sought to register is taken on .com there are new and exciting options! Don’t miss out on companyname.rocks or company name.consulting.

You can register these new top-level domains just like you register a “.com” domain head to goDaddy, Namecheap, Name.com or your favorite registrar. This is something your should consider early in establishing your company. You don’t want to lose out on the perfect domain name.

This is an opportunity to accent your personal brand as well. As you establish your expertise and want to develop a website that showcases your skills you no longer are limited to firstnamelastname.com you can register firstnamelastname.esq, firstnamelastname.photography, or firstnamelastname.guru.  Grab your new domains as soon as they roll out!

Over 175 new domains have been released or delegated to date, with hundreds more on the horizon. You can view the available domains by visiting this page: http://newgtlds.icann.org/en/program-status/delegated-strings . This page lists the delegated domains, which means they are available for registration. This site will be updated as others are available.

Take advantage of this branding opportunity before others catch on!!
Examples of some new gTLDs that can make for a creative domain name:

.guru
.consulting
.cooking
.ventures
.photography
.active 
.expert 
.coach
.lifestyle
.shopping
.bar 
.pub
.events
.buzz
.solutions
.careers
.company
.management
.enterprises
.technology
.holdings
.rocks
 
Visit my older posts for more information on this launch: What do you know about the new top level domains?Will You Be Confused When The New Generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs) Launch?​; &​ Five things you should know as the new gTLDs launch.  And as always ask questions in the comments and share your successes and observations re: new gTLDs!​
 

35 Senators Ask Tough Questions Re: Internet Transition

Today, 35 U.S. Senators lead by Senators John Thune (R-S.D.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) sent a letter to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), seeking clarification regarding the recent announcement that NTIA intends to relinquish responsibility of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) functions to the global multistakeholder community. Read my previous post “US to Relinquish Control of the Internet” for more background on this issue.

The letter express the group’s “[strong] support [of] the existing bottom-up, multistakeholder approach to Internet governance.” The letter highlights bipartisan support of S. Con. Res 50 in 2012 that reinforces “the U.S. government’s opposition to ceding control of the Internet to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), an arm of the United Nations, or to any other governmental body.”

The group cautions: “We must not allow the IANA functions to fall under the control of repressive governments, America’s enemies, or unaccountable bureaucrats.”  To read the full text of the letter click here.

As you read it I encourage you to think about a few things: 

Are these the right questions?

These are fair questions and likely on the minds of those invested in the outcome of this transition. ICANN & NTIA have pledged transparency throughout this process, therefore, I look forward to their candid responses. None of the questions are out of line or beyond the scope of Congressional oversight.

What other questions should we ask?

The answers to these questions will spark additional questions. However, in my opinion, there are a few other questions the Senators could have posed.

  • What happens if the deadline is not met? Is the US prepared to renew the contract? Is the US prepared for the international backlash if the deadline is not met?
  • Does the structure of an organization like ICANN, that has an entire constituency of comprised of government representatives (GAC),  meet the nongovernmental multistakeholder model? To what extent and how are governments going to be kept out of oversight after the initial launch?
  • Whose interests does NTIA seek to serve or protect by initiating this transition?

What other questions do you have?

How hard do you want Congress to push on this issue?

Transparency will help alleviate fears and misconceptions. I think the answers to these questions and those likely to follow with help shape the dialogue as this process continues. Gaining the confidence of the American people and other inter nation critics will serve to make this a smoother process for NTIA and ICANN. I encourage Congress to pursue the answers to these questions and then decisions can be made about how to proceed.

This issue has a long way to go before we can develop a definitive perspective on the positive or negative effect this will have on the future of the Internet.  I will continue to monitor the developments but I encourage you think about what concerns you most and leave your thoughts in the comments.

 

The below are highlights of the questions asked:

  • Please provide us with the Administration’s legal views and analysis on whether the United States Government can transition the IANA functions to another entity without an Act of Congress. 
  • Please explain why it is in our national interest to transition the IANA functions to the “global multistakeholder community.” 
  • Why does the Administration believe now is the appropriate time to begin the transition, and what was the specific circumstance or development that led the Administration to decide to begin the transition now?
  • What steps will NTIA take to ensure the process to develop a transition plan for the IANA functions is open and transparent?
  • Will NTIA actively participate in the global multistakeholder process to develop a transition plan for the IANA functions, or will the Administration leave the process entirely in the hands of ICANN?
  • What specific options are available to NTIA to prevent [a government or inter-governmental solution] from happening?
  • How can the Administration guarantee the multistakeholder organization that succeeds NTIA will not subsequently transfer the IANA functions to a government or intergovernmental organization in the future, or that such successor organization will not eventually fall under the undue influence of other governments?
  • How did NTIA determine that ICANN is the appropriate entity to lead the transition process, and how will NTIA ensure that ICANN does not inappropriately control or influence the process for its own self-interest? 
  • Does NTIA believe ICANN currently is sufficiently transparent and accountable in its activities, or should ICANN adopt additional transparency and accountability requirements as part of the IANA transition? 
  • Is it realistic to expect that an acceptable transition plan can be developed before the IANA functions contract expires on September 30, 2015?  Is there another example of a similar global stakeholder transition plan being developed and approved in just 18 months? 
  • How will NTIA ultimately decide whether a proposed transition plan for IANA, developed by global stakeholders, is acceptable?  What factors will NTIA use to determine if such a proposal supports and enhances the multistakeholder model; maintains the security, stability, and resiliency of the Internet Domain Name System; meets the needs and expectation of the global customers and partners of the IANA services; and maintains the openness of the Internet? 
  • Will NTIA also take into account American values and interests in evaluating a proposed transition plan?  How? 

US to Relinquish Control of the Internet?

On Friday, the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) announced it is giving up control of a system that directs Internet traffic and Web addresses. As a result, Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the nonprofit organization charged with managing the Internet, is tasked to convene global stakeholders to develop a proposal to transition the current role played by NTIA in the coordination of the Internet’s domain name system (DNS). This announcement came as a surprise to many but a coalition of nations has been calling for the US to relinquish control of the Internet for at least the last nine months. Politically this takes the US out of the line of fire but practically what does this do for the culture of the Internet?

Why is this important to you? Because it may change the Internet as you know it….

What exactly was the US Doing?

NTIA is the Executive Branch agency that advises the President on telecommunications and information policy issues. NTIA’s programs and policymaking focus largely on expanding broadband Internet access and adoption in America. NTIA controls the DNS which essentially converts the web addresses (URLs) we type in to the search bar into the correct IP address to retrieve the website you requested. Whether you are accessing a Web site or sending e-mail, your computer uses DNS to look up the domain name you’re trying to access. This system is essential to the functionality and security of the Internet.

If not the US, then who?
This contract to control DNS has allowed the U.S. government to exert what some claim is too much influence over the Internet. technology that plays such a pivotal role in society and the economy. So if not the US, then who with the world feel comfortable wielding that power and influence?

There’s a meeting, ICANN 49, March 23 in Singapore and the future of the Internet is at the top of the agenda.

According to Lawrence Strickling, assistant secretary at the Commerce Department, “[The department] will not accept a proposal that replaces the NTIA’s role with a government-led or intergovernmental solution.” Does that leave ICANN or a similar organization to maintain the DNS?

Why should you care?
Because this could mean a very different Internet…

While companies like Verizon applaud the moveITIF and other organizations have argued before that U.S. government oversight has played an essential role in maintaining the security, stability, and openness of the Internet and in ensuring that ICANN satisfies its responsibilities in effectively managing the Internet’s DNS. Without the U.S. government’s presence some lawmakers and members of the tech industry have expressed concern that relinquishing control of IANA will open up the Internet to threats from other governments that seek to censor it.  This could mean a very different Internet.

Are their concerns justified? No one really knows right now but what we can surmise is that the Internet is in for some changes in the years to follow the change of control. Many countries have dealt with privacy and censorship in ways different from that of the US. How will ICANN deal with these conflicting views democratically and ensure Internet users from all economies and sovereign nations will be represented and heard? Will the standards of openness and free flow of information embraced today remain the baseline? Does the “global multistakeholder community” NTIA is referring to exist? What is the legal jurisdiction for both ICANN and this new multistakeholder body?

There are no answers to these questions because so little is known about whats to come. I look forward to the information and ideas that flow from the ICANN meeting next week.  The questions need to be among those at the top of the list.

Do Not Track Me… But Cater to Me

We have all become accustomed to having our technology cater to most of our needs in very personal way. However, we all desire to retain a certain amount of privacy.  For example, our cellphones track our every move and click while occasionally make calls – and yet we would be lost without the maps and ability to request anything from “Siri.” Our cable boxes may bring our favorite shows and movies but they also report back to providers all of your family’s television viewing habits.  We all appreciate the convenience that customization provides however that means a loss of privacy….

Why Are We Worried?
The latest buzz word is the The Internet of Things (IoT). What is that? “The Internet of Things” refers to the concept that the Internet is no longer just a global network for people to communicate with one another using computers, but it is also a platform for devices to communicate electronically with the world around them. The result is a global “network of physical objects that contain embedded technology to communicate or interact with people, things, and the external environment. It includes everything from traffic sensors to refrigerators, thermostats, medical devices, and wristwatches that can track or sense the environment and use the data they collect to provide a benefit, or transmit the data to a central repository for analysis, or both.”

This network of objects enables providers of goods and services to use your personal behavior to profile and evaluate your activities and habits.  The Internet of Things will result in increased data collection, amplifying the importance of simplifying choices and giving control to individuals with real-time notices. Transparency will facilitate consumer understanding of the collection, use and sharing of personal data. However, there is a real danger of data being used in unexpected ways. The Internet of Things has created a potential perfect storm of four major information policy concerns: online safety, privacy, security, and intellectual property issues. The goal is to determine what “reasonable” expectations regarding data usage should be, and then manage consumer expectations accordingly. Measures ensuring the network’s resilience to attacks, data authentication, access control and client privacy need to be established.  An ideal framework would consider the underlying technology and involve collaboration on an international scale.

The need to balance reasonable activity on the Internet and use of The Internet of Things with responsible privacy protections is exponentially increasing. This balance is extremely important because the last thing we want is to stifle innovation by over legislating this area.

Laws to Watch
At least 14 states have proposed legislation on the 2014 docket that is intended to increase privacy protection for consumers and limit both government and private sector surveillance via the Internet of Things. At the federal level, several bills are already making their way through Congress.

State
AB370, an amendment to the California Online Privacy Protection Act of 2003 (“CalOPPA”). CalOPPA requires owners of commercial websites and online service providers (“operators”) to conspicuously post a privacy policy. The privacy policy must disclose to consumers, among other things, the categories of personally identifiable information (PII), such as name, hone address, email address, social security number,  the operator collects and with whom the operator shares such information. Operators affected by CalOPPA include website operators and, as interpreted by the California Office of Attorney General, operators of software and mobile apps that transmit and collect PII online.

Federal 
The Black Box Privacy Protection Act is a bill in front of Congress that prohibits the sale of automobiles equipped with event data recorders-unless the consumer can control the recording of information. Additionally, the data collected would belong to the vehicle owner.

The We are Watching You Act is a bill in front of Congress that requires the operator of a video service (such as a DVR or Xbox) to display the message “We are watching you” as part of the programming provided to the consumer prior to the device is collecting visual or auditory information from the viewing area. This is not likely to pass but its a sign of legislation to come.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has this phenomenon on its radar, it hosted an all-day workshop entitled, “Internet of Things: Privacy and Security in a Connected World in November. The FTC has also released a number of reports and guidelines that direct business on how to protect consumer privacy.

International 
With Internet Governance on the forefront of international discussion, international “Internet of Things” legislation is not the priority and likely to be left up to each country to decipher. International collaboration on issues like this early is one out come I hope comes from these Internet Governance talks…. but we’re a long way out from that happening.

The examples listed are a narrow sampling of privacy legislation designed to protect users from unwanted intrusions. Most notably, states have passed a number of laws protecting privacy rights in recent years.

Conclusion
The Internet of Things will bring tremendous new benefits to consumers but we must balance the need for consumer privacy. State, federal and international regulators must work to restrict government and private-sector collection and control of the data IoT will create. In the meantime, make sure you are aware of the information you provide through your IoT. Explore privacy settings and read privacy policies if you are concerned about sharing too much data with providers. Know what your priorities are as it relates to customization and privacy. If you value convenience and do not mind a prying eye or two, if it means a personalized user experience, share your data freely. However, if you value preserving your privacy be proactive about doing so until lawmakers can find the appropriate balance. Do not shun technology just educate yourself.

Five things you should know as the new gTLDs launch

What is a gTLD? gTLD stands for generic top-level domain and is an Internet extension such as “.COM,” “.NET” or “.ORG.” Right now there are a little over two dozen gTLDs, but soon, there could be hundreds. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is responsible for the coordination of the global Internet’s systems of unique identifiers and, in particular, ensuring its stable and secure operation. According to ICANN the new gTLD program was developed to increase competition and choice in the domain name space. As the new gTLDs launch and threaten to change the Internet as we know it there are a lot of things you should know but here are five to start. For additional background information about new gTLDs, please visit some of my previous posts “What do you know about the new top level domains?” & “Will You Be Confused When The New Generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs) Launch?”

1. Be careful of services “guaranteeing” to get a domain name for you

Cyrus Namazi, Vice President of DNS Industry Engagement for ICANN, published a blog post today titled “Pre-Reserve a Domain Name, or Not? ICANN Answers the QuestionNamazi warns against services that “guarantee” they’ll get the domain name for you:
 
 
As responsible Registrars are advising, successful pre-registration of a domain cannot be guaranteed. ICANN seconds that advice, cautioning that registrants should be wary of anyone who claims to be able to guarantee a domain registration on a new gTLD. There are several situations that can impact the availability of a domain name and some domain names may never be available for purchase.”
 
 
Namazi points out that competition between registrars for a single domain, domains claimed in sunrise, reserved domains, premium domains, and name collision domains make it impossible to guarantee. He also notes that some TLDs may not even end up being delegated.

 

2. The first non-Latin character new gTLDs were delegated 

What does delegated mean? This means that the gTLDs or strings have successfully completed the new gTLD Program and has officially been selected as a new gTLD that will go live for use. This will be the first time non-Latin characters can be used in a TLD and not just in the second level domain. Click here for more information from ICANN. 

One is شبكة, the Arabic word for “web” or “network”, while another is 游戏, which means “game” in Chinese.The other two – онлайн and сайт – are both Russian words, meaning “online” and “website” respectively

3. First nine LATIN new gTLDs​ were delegated

The first nine new gTLDs delegated last week were:

  • .CAMERA
  • .CLOTHING
  • .EQUIPMENT
  • .GURU
  • .HOLDINGS
  • .LIGHTING
  • .SINGLES
  • .VENTURES
  • .VOYAGE

The “sunrise period” for registration of the first seven gTLDs is “.BIKE,” “.CLOTHING,” “.GURU,” “.HOLDINGS,” “.PLUMBING,” “.SINGLES,” “.VENTURES.” will begin November 26 and general availability to anyone will begin January 29, 2014.  Keep any eye out for new gTLDs as they are delegated. Consider whether you or your company wants to purchase a domain. And monitor the official launch of these new gTLDs starting in January. Monitor how your brand and ineffectual property are being used on this new gTLDs. To keep up with delegated strings click here.

4. The launch of new gTLDs multiplies the size of the Internet and presents increased security and intellectual property infringement risks.

  • Pay attention to the gTLD in the address bar. New gTLDs give malicious actors more platforms to attack the unsuspecting. Pay attention to the address you are trying to get to and make sure all parts of the address are correct.  Also if you search for a website make sure the site that comes up is the legitimate website.
  • Companies must monitor the use of their intellectual property on new gTLDs. Companies should currently have a plan in place to protect their IP investments through motoring, preemptive registrations, the Trademark Clearinghouse and other rights protection mechanisms provided by ICANN. Be proactive!

5. Launch of new gTLDs presents a number of opportunities to market your brand or yourself. This will present business and consumers with a new and unique user experience and online footprint. There will be a lot more room for customization online and opportunities for marketers to be creative with how to reach consumers. I am excited to see the innovative means of reaching the public that are birthed from the new gTLD launch.Please ask any questions you have about new gTLDs, protecting yourself, rights mechanisms, IP protection, security concerns etc. Start the discussion!

New gTLD Timelines

ICANN
New gTLD timeline

ICANN has released two new timelines for when we can expect the launch of the first new gTLDs (the part of the URL behind the “.” such as “.com” or “.mobi”).

The launch of these new gTLDs will have a lasting and significant effect on the way we use and operate the Internet. This fact is why new gTLDs have yet to launch. The industry is a buzz with the pros and cons of every aspect of this change. The confusion of consumers, protecting intellectual property, domain name approvals, potential monopolies, privacy, and other business concerns are on the forefront.  No interest group wants things to remain the same but with competing interests and priorities carving out new policy has been slower than anticipated.

I encourage consumers to remain aware of this development. This will develop the way we consume online information.   I will continue to write about the developments. Also visit some of my previous posts such as Will You Be Confused When the New gTLDs Launch?  Visit ICANN’s site on new gTLDs for developments.

What are you concerned about? Are you interested in hearing more about the effect this will have on businesses and families?

 

Will You Be Confused When The New Generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs) Launch?

With the impending release of the new generic top level domain (gTLD)program there has been a lot of discussion and disagreement about how gTLDs, especially “closed gTLDS” should be handled. The new gTLDs are “dot-anything” domain extensions that go beyond .com, .net, .org, .info., .ca., and the other domain endings that we’re used to.

As part of a planned expansion, the new gTLD program, ICANN accepted applications in the first half of 2012 from organizations willing to pay a hefty price tag to run a domain extension. This includes companies such as IBM, Google, Amazon, Audi and YouTube.

In all, 1,930 applications for new domain extensions have been filed for various types of extensions, ranging from the truly generic (.love, .shop, .app), to the brand-specific (.goog, .bmw, .aol) and the geo-specific (.nyc, .boston, .paris).

Companies given the right to manage these new gTLDs don’t necessarily have to open them to the public. Domains that are truly generic have been termed “closed generics” like .art and . music. This issue is important because of its effects on consumer perception, information, and market share. For example if a hotel chain is granted .hotel and it is recognized as the space to go to find hotel information there is a lot of room for monopoly creation and excluding of the competition. The victorious hotel chain could include information for hotels that are not direct, price-point, competitors but market the domain as an authority on hotels or the domain to use when planning your next hotel stay. This ability to craft a misleading message has the potential to cause consumer confusion as most consumers will be unaware of who owns the domain and create unfair advantages that will skew competition. This leaves the consumer with incomplete information which runs counter to purpose of trademark and other intellectual property protections afforded innovators and disrupts the delicate balance of competition that is necessary to preserve fair pricing.

Intellectual property maven,  Professor J. Thomas McCarthy,  has filed a statement opposing closed generic gTLDs as being inconsistent with trademark law and its goals.  According to McCarthy

“Trademark law in every country in the world forbids individuals to gain exclusive property rights in generic names of products. One of the primary rationales for this rule is to prevent a single person or company from gaining an unfair competitive advantage in the marketplace. Private ownership of generic language is not consistent with free enterprise and fair competition in an open economy. If ICANN were to approve closed, generic gTLDs, these important goals would be undermined…

Transparency and consumer choice are goals of the trademark system of every country in the world. In our view, these values are threatened by closed, generic gTLDs. Indeed, should these types of new gTLDs be approved, consumers may mistakenly believe they are using a gTLD that allows for competition, when in reality the gTLD is closed and the apparently competitive products are being offered by a single entity. This would allow the owner of the generic gTLD to gain exclusive recognition as the provider of a generic service, something that is prohibited by Trademark law.”

Domain names are a niche of trademark protections and should abide by similar rules because they are designed for a similar purpose. Consumer confusion and brand value are an important part of investing in domains and seeking to purchase these gTLDs. With that in mind, ICANN should be seeking to protect the consumer first and then to protect and promote brands. If the consumer is place first there should be some additional rules and regulation for these truly generic domain extensions.  They should be clearly defined and then regulated to a degree. Either companies keep them exclusively for their use so consumers know the term is closed or if they make it available for competitors they cannot exclude any competitors or legitimately interested parties.

chrome-domains_610x604
Image from Cnet

In response to these recent concerns, Google claims that if they are awarded the right to manage the domain registrations for .search, .app, .blog, and .cloud, there is a “good chance” that it won’t just use them for its own services  and will open them up for non-Google properties, too.  Google accounts for about 100 of the over 1,900 applications ICANN received. Some of these are brand specific but Google, like others, also applied for the right to manage some very generic top-level domains. This was an excellent business move on the part of Google but should really cause ICANN to consider how these domains can best serve the entire internet community and preserve competition on the Internet.

In a letter sent to ICANN recently, Google Chief Information Officer Ben Fried said the organization should allow closed generic string applications to proceed (PDF). The company believes that an “unfettered process is paramount in opening up the domain name space and increasing innovation in a market that has always been, effectively, stagnant.”

Google also clearly stated that it would expand the use of certain gTLDs beyond its own products:

After careful analysis, Google has identified four of our current single registrant application that we will revise: .app, .blog, .cloud and .search. These terms have been identified by governments (via Early Warning) and others within the community as being potentially valuable and useful to industry as a whole. We also believe that for each of these terms we can create a strong set of user experiences and expectations without restricting the string to use with Google products.

The completely “unfettered process” requested by Google leaves too much unknown. Most things to get the desired result require at least a modicum of regulation. I do not suggest that ICANN begin to dictate how all gTLDs should be run but I do think guidelines and prevention of consumer confusion are important considerations when relinquishing control of very generic domain extensions to private companies.

ICANN CEO Fadi Cherhade announced the release of new gTLDS starting April 23.  These closed gTLDs will not be apart of that roll out but will follow shortly thereafter. The important question is how are these very generic extensions going to be handled?  Will there be additional regulation to prevent consumer confusion, preserve healthy market competition, and prevent monopolies? I wouldn’t doubt that these are considerations for ICANN and that they have ideas in the works to combat these issues. Hopefully, the initial launch will help to solidify any lingering questions.

TechFreedom believes that this type of regulation should be left to antitrust regulators, however, the law is always behind and this regulation would be reactionary rather than proactive. Antitrust regulators can fine tune and regulate on a micro level but implementation should begin with macro regulation or guidelines.

Who Runs the Internet?

I know a lot of you are confused or have questions about exactly how the internet is run.  ICANN has released a graphic that aims to provide a high-level view of how the internet is run. Quoting from the document:

No One Person, Company, Organization or Government Runs the Internet
The Internet itself is globally distributed computer network comprised of many voluntary interconnected autonomous networks. Similarly, its governance is conducted by a decentralized and international multi-stakeholder network of interconnected autonomous groups drawing from civil society, the private sector, governments, the academic and research communities, and national and international organizations. They work cooperatively from their respective roles to create shared policies and standards that maintain the Internet’s global interpretability for the public good.

Who Runs the Internet? Graphic designed to provide a high-level view from ICANN (Click to Enlarge)