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India’s Draft National E-Commerce Policy: A Bollywood Drama in Four Acts

Wto, 2019-03-19 00:19

This article was co-authored with Prof Emeritus & Senior Scholar, York University, Sam Lanfranco.

India's recently published Draft National e-Commerce Policy, prepared by the Indian Commerce Ministry think-tank, can be read like the script of a four-act Bollywood drama.

Act 1: A match Made in Heaven

They were the dream couple: Princess India and Prince IT.

She was full of cultural richness and diversity, with beauty, mystique and natural resources. She also a dark side. She harbored the world's largest number of impoverished people, with little infrastructure, and facing sparse economic prospects.

He was young, with enormous potential. One day he would conquer all. He arrived like the sun rising after a long cold night. He had a solution to every problem. He would bring equality of access to a nearly unlimited economic playing field

She had the people and the land he needed. He would put them on the path to prosperity. Her children would become fat and content.

She was a willing lover, giving him all he asked. She sent her children to school to learn his ways. Programs like Digital India "Power to Empower" initiative, launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi midyear 2015, were implemented to strengthen his hold of over the land. The dream would become a reality.

The Princess had good reason to believe in her choice. Her Prince, shining and full of promise, made significant progress on some fronts. 1.23 of her 1.3 billion children carried Aadhaar digital biometric identity cards. Nearly all (1.21 billion) had mobile phones, almost half with smartphones and connected to the Internet. Her country became the world's fastest-growing fifth-largest economy. By 2017 exported IT services garnered $154 billion in revenue, were the fastest-growing part of the economy and the largest private-sector employer. Technology start-ups mushroomed to 3,100 in 2018–19.

Their big wedding dance scene, insanely happy, had predicted this bright future!

Act 2: Disenchantment

Even matches made in heaven can fade with the passage of time. The Princess traveled her land, and something seemed not quite right. The resources that had gone into the Prince's IT efforts resulted in a 51 percent growth in e-commerce but captured only about 3 percent of the national retail market. Some of her children had become much richer, but they were mostly the few who had been rich before — most of her children, those supposed to prosper, were as poor as ever. What had gone wrong she asked her people. They were quick to answer. Mother of us all who cares, we know that you and the Prince wanted to help, but the Prince has many distant relatives who have bad intentions. When we started to use the technologies, they came from abroad and destroyed our businesses. They used investor money to undercut every effort we made until we were gone. They took control of marketplaces and dictated prices that made them unimagined profits which they took abroad to their homes.

That was not enough for them. The "price" of their technology was access to our personal data. They mined and monetized our data for their profits. The Prince and his relatives have taken our money and our souls. We have gotten little in return.

When the Princess heard this, she became furious and turned into the Hindu Goddess Kali, in her earliest guise, as a destroyer of evil forces. She's clever and vicious, but to plot her revenge she turned to those who were even more dangerous and fiendish than she: her bureaucrats. She asked: What can I do to make my people prosper and punish the wrongdoers?

Her bureaucrats went into their ministry. They thought and thought, and talked and talked. They came forth with a policy egg they named the "Draft National e-Commerce Policy," a policy egg pregnant with bureaucratic self-interest.

Enter the slow waltz dance of the bureaucrats, to seduce the goddess Kali.

Act 3: The Reckoning

And the bureaucrats said: Your people are right. The relatives of the Prince are greedy, unscrupulous robber barons. It is the people's data they take, and it makes them rich. They monetize data into marketable products. They monetize and sell data that is not their own. Like drug addicts, they are hooked and totally dependent on data. Day and night, they think about nothing other than how to get more data, and how to turn it into more marketable products.

They profess to collect data in the name of development, prosperity, and innovation. They love India not for what they give it, but for what they can get as India's people become one of the world's biggest sources of monetized data. The more data they control, the more they can monopolize markets and innovation. They tell the Princes that this will obstruct her children's access to innovation and economic opportunity. This will negate Prince IT's promise of equal access to nearly unfettered opportunity. Oligopolies controlled by the few will never permit access to equitable prosperity!

The Princess/Kali is reminded that data in and of itself is not a bad thing. Processed big data will be the lifeblood of future socio-economic activity. The importance of data will grow as Artificial Intelligence (AI), and the Internet of Things (IoT) populate the data cloud with clusters of data asteroids of use for a myriad of innovative uses.

This causes Princess India to shed Kali and return with three questions. What are one's rights with regard to the uses of one's individual data? What are the proper uses for data in the cloud? How is this done to promote equitable prosperity? Princess India begins to glimpse the light in the data cloud, and the promise of "India's Data for India's Development." Good policies will bring advantages and opportunities to all. The IT Prince husband's marital promise will come to pass.

Princess India, convinced she would get her will, returns to bull benevolent human form and asks: My wise servants, what shall I do? They reply: To control data, you need to establish who owns it, and the rights and obligations of ownership. Your subjects must know that only they own the rights to their data and that the data cannot be used without their consent. Even anonymous data need policies to regulate the use and protect rights under the law.

The Princess is told don't be alarmed by such control in the hand of your subjects. As the world's largest democracy India will become the world's largest digital democracy. Indian data and all that comes from it belongs to India and its citizens. The sovereign right to this data cannot be assigned to strangers, even if they are your husband's distant relatives.

Entities that collect or process data deemed private under Indian law, even if stored abroad, would be required to adhere to Indian data policies. India will be like an island with data sniffer dogs at every port. Transgressions will be caught and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

Cross-border data flow regulations will ensure that Indian data generates value for India. Negotiated access will adhere to Indian data use policies. India's governance structures will do what is necessary under its laws and regulations to ensure that it will fulfill its holy duty to you, Princess India, to generate equitable benefits, including appropriate taxes and revenues to finance governance.

The bureaucrats further tell the Princess that proper policies and data regulations will benefit India in many ways:

  • Protecting the privacy and data ownership rights of citizens
  • Enabling proper data access for start-ups and Indian data use innovation
  • Promoting the domestic use of data for Indian economic gain
  • Controlling and pricing access to government data for legitimate uses
  • Requiring e-commerce entities operating in India to be registered in India
  • Having taxing and duty structures that level the economic playing field
  • Ensuring that taxes, duties and economic gains from India data stay in India
  • Enacting data use policies that protect national security and law and order
  • Regulating intellectual property to fight counterfeits and protect brands

The bureaucrats propose a robust administrative, regulatory and legal structure, using a multi-pronged six issue approach dealing with: data assembly, regulatory issues, infrastructure development, e-commerce marketplaces, digital economy development; and e-commerce export promotion.

Collecting and analyzing data is also a strategic national task. Data focused agencies need to be established or strengthened, to support evidence-based data policy, and to track the economy through a digital "data lens."
Issues like compulsory intellectual property and data-licensing will require extensive research and review. Such practices can run afoul of principles of data privacy and data ownership.

India's position on policies like the World Trade Organization (WTO) efforts to permanently exempt electronic transmissions from duties will require extensive research and review. They may unfairly benefit rich developed country companies while preventing poorer countries like India from extract taxes on cross border trade. This is particularly problematic when cross border digital trade can consist of digital objects of considerable value, such as 3D printer production algorithms, AI algorithms, and the like.

The complex relationship between cross border source code flows, the terms of technology transfer, and the impacts on local industry and national security again require extensive research and review. This calls for appropriate national research funding and digital/data focused authorities with a remit to explore consequences and policies in these areas.

There are multiple emergent foreign investments and cross-border trade models. Some reflect a presence, with local supply lines, in a national marketplace. Others reflect a cross-border inventory-based model of sale and distribution. National policy has to balance foreign engagement in the Indian 'marketplace', investment restrictions, and cross-border inventory-based commerce.

Act 4: Princess India's dream: Dance of the Data Ministry. (heavy stomp!)

Content for the moment, the Princess falls into a slumber and is soon dreaming. In her dream, she sees an enormous mountain range made up of data, from which has sprung a mighty river of rupees that flows to nourish the country. But soon the river begins to dry until there is only a trickle, and the land turns to dust.

"What happened?", asked the Princess as she awakes. The land answers: "Your bureaucrats did exactly what they told you." They build an enormous all-knowing and powerful ministry of data that controlled all data. First, they took the data to control the marketplace, but instead of creating opportunities for all they just used it to create opportunities for their benefit, and to generate taxes and revenues. They did not care about opportunities and equitable prosperity. They forgot the people. They gave the data to the IT Prince's relatives who had learned how best to work with bureaucratic interests within the government.

The ministry was charged with empowering the citizens, protecting their rights and maintain their dignity. But gradually the ministry claimed those rights, imposing data governance from above and curtailing digital democracy from below.

Soon the ministry wielded more power, using artificial intelligence algorithms to extend control across all aspects of life in the land. The bureaucrats argued that AI made better, cheaper and faster decisions than could citizens with traditional governance processes. As the machines demanded more data, and the bureaucracy was given more control, the results left the poor even more marginalized. Left with little access to Prince IT's digital opportunities, and unable to sustain themselves on what little data they retained, despair permeated the land.

The Princess wept and asked: What shall I do? The country answered again: Do not leave control in the hands of the bureaucrats. Let them learn. Let us all learn that development and sustainability do not come from more data alone, but from its selective and wise uses. Help us understand that e-commerce does not mean more data manipulation, so customers buy more or buy what others want us to buy. Put data first in the service of needs, not wants.

Let us rebuild our social fabric, where sustainable human relationships are based on trust and respect. Sustainable commerce is a beneficial relationship between humans and not a crass want generation calculation.
Help us remember that sustainable and equitable business models are based on trust, dignity, and respect. Anything less makes a mockery of our human experience and the lessons learned. The marriage to the IT Prince should be to build on the shoulders of that historical experience, and not squander the Prince's promise in the pursuit of hegemonic market or political power.

With that, the Princess fully awake, looked at the mess the bureaucrats had created. She called them together, and said only two words: Think again! She continued: We are the world's biggest democracy and that should extend to the digital sphere and be in the service of all. How do we get there from here?


Like all Bollywood dramas, this one will end with a big dance scene. Will it be an elite affair, a waltz of the oligarchs, or an engaged dance of the people? The Princess is looking to her people to lead to which it will be.

Written by Klaus Stoll, Digital Citizen

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More under: Cloud Computing, Cybersecurity, Intellectual Property, Internet Governance, Internet of Things, Policy & Regulation, Privacy

A Short History of DNS Over HTTP (So Far)

Pon, 2019-03-18 20:21

The IETF is in the midst of a vigorous debate about DNS over HTTP or DNS over HTTPS, abbreviated as DoH. How did we get there, and where do we go from here?

(This is somewhat simplified, but I think the essential chronology is right.)

Javascript code running in a web browser can't do DNS lookups, other than with browser.dns.resolv() to fetch an A record, or implicitly by fetching a URL which looks up a DNS A or AAAA record for the domain in the URL.

It is my recollection that the initial impetus for DoH was to let Javascript do other kinds of DNS lookups, such as SRV or URI or NAPTR records which indirectly refer to URLs that the Javascript can fetch or TXT records for various kinds of security applications. (Publish a TXT record with a given string to prove you own a domain, for example.) The design of DoH is quite simple and well suited for this. The application takes the literal bits of the DNS request, and sends them as an HTTP query to a web server, in this case probably the same one that the Javascript code came from. That server does the DNS query and sends the literal bits of answer as a DNS response. This usage was and remains largely uncontroversial.

About the same time someone observed that if the DoH requests used HTTPS rather than HTTP to wrap DNS requests, the same HTTPS security that prevents intermediate systems from snooping on web requests and responses would prevent snooping on DoH. This was an easy upgrade since browsers and web servers already know how to do HTTPS, so why not? Since DoH prevents snooping on the DNS requests, a browser could use it for all of its DNS requests to protect the A and AAAA requests as well, and send the requests to any DoH server they want, not just one provided by the local network.

This is where things get hairy. If the goal were just to prevent snooping, there is a service called DNS over TLS or DoT, which uses the same security layer that HTTPS uses, but without HTTP. A key difference is that even though snooping systems can't tell what's inside either a DoT or a DoH transaction, they can tell that DoT is DNS, while there's no way to tell DoH from any other web request, unless it happens to be sent to a server that is known to do only DoH.

Mozilla did a small-scale experiment where the DNS requests for some of their beta users went to Cloudflare's DNS service, with an offhand comment that maybe they'd do it more widely later.

On the one hand, some people believe that the DNS service provided by their network censors material, either by government mandate or for the ISP's own commercial purposes. If they use DoH, they can see stuff without being censored.

On the other hand, some people believe that the DNS service blocks access to harmful material, ranging from malware control hosts to intrusive ad networks (mine blocks those so my users see a blue box rather than the ad) to child pornography. If they use DoH, they can see stuff that they would rather not have seen. This is doubly true when the thing making the request is not a person, but malware secretly running on a user's computer or phone, or an insecure IoT device.

The problem is that both of those are true, and there is a complete lack of agreement about which is more important, and even which is more common. While it is easy for a network to block traffic to off-network DNS or DoT servers, to make its users use its DNS or DoT servers, it is much harder to block traffic to DoH servers, at least without blocking traffic to a lot of web servers, too. This puts network operators in a tough spot, particularly ones that are required to block some material (notably child pornography) or business networks that want to limit the use of the networks unrelated to the business, or networks that just want to keep malware and broken IoT devices under some control.

At this point, the two sides are largely talking past each other, and I can't predict how if at all, the situation will be resolved.

Written by John Levine, Author, Consultant & Speaker

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More under: Cybersecurity, DNS, Internet Protocol

WIPO Reports Cybersquatting Cases Grew by 12% Reaching New Records in 2018

Pon, 2019-03-18 19:58

According to a report from the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), trademark owners filed a record 3,447 cases under the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) with WIPO’s Arbitration and Mediation Center in 2018.

"WIPO’s 2018 caseload covered 5,655 domain names in total." Disputes involving domain names registered in new generic Top-Level Domains (gTLDs) accounted for some 13% of the total, with disputes most commonly found in .ONLINE, .LIFE, and .APP. Representing 73% of the gTLD caseload, .COM demonstrated the continuing popularity of the legacy gTLDs.

The top three sectors of complainant activity were banking and finance (12% of all cases), biotechnology and pharmaceuticals (11%), and Internet and IT (11%).

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More under: Domain Management, Domain Names, Intellectual Property, UDRP

ICANN Terminates AlpNames

Pią, 2019-03-15 23:23

AlpNames has been sent a notice of termination by ICANN. Unlike many termination notices that specify a future date, the one they were sent has an immediate effect.

As reported in multiple fora over the last few days AlpNames had gone offline, and at time of writing still is. They've also become unresponsive. It's on the basis of this that ICANN decided to terminate their contract straight away.

What this means is that AlpNames has lost their "license" to sell domains from ICANN. The existing domains will have to be moved to another registrar, though it's unclear who will take over the domain portfolio. The registrar's back-office operations are with LogicBoxes, so it's fairly safe to assume that the data has been escrowed and will be available to the new registrar.

So what happened?

The Gibraltar based registrar was sent multiple notices by ICANN since the beginning of March but did not respond. Also, they owe ICANN fees.

As a registrar, their track record with abuse was far from stellar. Spamhaus has been listing them as one of the worst registrars for DNS abuse on the planet for a long time. ICANN's report on "competition, consumer trust and consumer choice" calls out AlpNames:

Alpnames Ltd., based in Gibraltar, was associated with a high volume of abuse from the .science and .top domain names. The Study notes that this registrar used price promotions that offered domain name registrations for USD $1 or sometimes even free. Moreover, Alpnames permitted registrants to randomly generate and register 2,000 domain names in 27 new gTLDs in a single registration process. Registering domain names in bulk using domain generation algorithms are commonly associated with cybercrime. However, there is currently no contractual prohibition or safeguard against the bulk registration of domains.

Historically AlpNames was linked to Famous Four Media, which changed ownership in the last few months.

AlpNames has about 700 thousand names in new gTLDs. I'm not sure how big they were in legacy gTLDs or if there were any ccTLD domains under management.

Written by Michele Neylon, MD of Blacknight Solutions

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More under: Domain Management, Domain Names, ICANN

Portrait of a Single-Character Domain Name

Śro, 2019-03-13 19:57

Irregularities surrounding O.COM RSEP reveal coloring outside the lines.

Let's take some crayons and draw a picture of the current state of affairs regarding single-character domain names (SCDNs), and specifically O.COM.

During the public comment period for the current O.COM RSEP, ICANN's own Intellectual Property and Business constituencies recommended implementation of rights protections mechanisms (RPMs) for intellectual property, including Sunrise and Priority Access periods. It is curious that such hard-won protections are being so easily set aside by Verisign and ICANN.

No matter, however, because this isn't just about trademarks. This is also a simple issue of internationalized domain names (IDNs). We can forego the finer points of trademark law, because Verisign has, since at least July 2013, been unequivocal in the commitments it has made numerous times in correspondence with ICANN, in response to questions raised by financial analysts during quarterly earnings calls, and which can still be found — in living color — on their website blog today:

Use Case No. 2: John Doe does not have a registration for an second-level domain name. John Doe registers a second-level domain name in our Thai transliteration of .com but in no other TLD. That second-level domain name will be unavailable in all other transliterations of .com IDN TLDs and in the .com registry unless and until John Doe (and only John Doe) registers it in another .com IDN TLD or in the .com registry.

The blog goes on to helpfully explain that VeriSign's objective with this strategy is to avoid cost and confusion and will benefit the community by creating "a ubiquitous user experience." Ubiquity appears to have a different meaning here.

Just for fun, let's apply Use Case No. 2 to the facts at hand regarding the single-character "O", replacing John Doe with First Place Internet and substituting Hebrew for Thai.

First Place Internet does not have a registration for second-level domain name. First Place Internet registers O in the Hebrew transliteration of .com but in no other TLD. O will be unavailable in all other transliterations of .com IDN TLDs and in the .com registry unless and until First Place Internet (and only First Place Internet) registers it in another .com IDN TLD or in the .com registry.

Since it seems that there might be a number of different ways to look at this predicament, let me break it down, super-simple style:

Want this to be a trademark issue? Then First Place Internet owns USPTO Registration Number 1102618 which is active and, having been registered in 1978, is older than I am.

Want this to be an IDN.IDN issue? Then, at precisely 2018-07-31 T14:29:51Z, employing its validated Trademark Clearinghouse SMD file for its U.S. Trademark # 1102618, First Place successfully registered VeriSign's Hebrew o.קום (o.xn--9dbq2a) IDN domain name in VeriSign's Sunrise Period.

Want this to be about an open and transparent DNS? Read VeriSign's words and then get acquainted with the United States Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

We have rules in America that intend to ensure a level playing field — that seek to even things out between a rich, powerful and dominant industry player and its competitors and consumers. First among these is something my grandfather taught me when I was a little boy (still younger than USPTO Reg. No. 1102618): a person lives up to their commitments. Years of mandatory annual compliance training provided by the publicly-traded corporations that I've had the privilege to work for reinforces the significance of commitments made publicly in correspondence to a so-called regulator, to investors and analysts during quarterly earnings calls, and to an unsuspecting public in policy stated on the corporate website.

Over the years, I've learned — sometimes the hard way — that this rule means having to do something I didn't want to when I misspoke and then had to make it right.

If this auction proceeds and Verisign is permitted to color outside the lines by welching on commitments it has made and that can still be found on their website today, then multi-stakeholder governance will have failed — not to mention any sense of fair play — and the image of an open and equitable DNS dies by the auctioneer's gavel.

Maybe it's appropriate and relevant to ask: Is Verisign's trademark — USPTO Registration Number 3060761 for "It's a Trust Thing" — dead from discontinued use?

Written by Greg Thomas, Managing Director of The Viking Group LLC

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More under: Domain Names, ICANN, Intellectual Property, Internet Governance, Law, Policy & Regulation, Registry Services, New TLDs

ICANN Chair Elections Test Its Institutional Integrity

Śro, 2019-03-13 18:05

The ICANN Board will soon be considering candidates for election to the position of ICANN Chairperson and Vice Chair, which compels me to remind both the Board and the ICANN community of the fact that one of the members pursuing the Chairmanship is the subject of an on-going Australian Freedom of Information Act, which was initiated by the irregularities that brought about this individuals dismissal from the .au Domain Administration. In pursuit of bringing the facts of the matter to light for all concerned, following receipt of the initial declination to release the requested information, on 07 March 2019 the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner has "...concluded that aspects of the Department's decision to refuse access to the documents requested are incorrect. Consequently, [the Information Commissioner has] invited the Department to issue a revised decision pursuant to [section] 55G of the FOI Act or final submissions if it disagrees with [the Information Commissioner's] view by 14 March 2019."

Coupled with this notice from the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner is the fact that there is also an on-going police investigation into this matter, which in fact was the catalyst for the initiation of the Freedom of Information Act request in the first place.

Recently, I brought the ICANN Board's attention to something that the Board Governance Chair had been derelict in his duties, i.e., vetting all Board members through background checks, in the same manner as all Nominating Committee Board appointees, to ensure that the ICANN Board meets basic governance standards. To Chairman Chalaby's credit, the Board took swift action to ensure those Board members who had not been, were indeed properly vetted within the very week of that ICANN meeting.

In the same way — to protect the institution of ICANN — to ensure that ICANN is kept separate and apart from what may or may not prove to be a serious, avoidable, self-inflicted wound for an institution that so many have tirelessly dedicated countless hours and effort to establish — I call on the Chair and ICANN Board to ensure that no candidate who may be standing under a cloud of any type be considered for the highest position and authority within ICANN.

As we move forward to when the ICANN Board will vote on the next Board Chair and Vice Chair, I urge the members of the Board to respect the importance of having the utmost integrity within itself, and to respect the fact that the impact of any shadow — no matter how large or small — will impact the larger volunteer community that is ICANN.

Thus, for all candidates for Vice Chair and Chair, I ask that the Board ensure such individuals are held to the highest standards of integrity; anything less is unacceptable if ICANN is to be a true steward of the Internet. In today's world, perceptions matter.

When one is a leader at the Board level within ICANN, it is not only that the ICANN Community must have their faith and trust in our leaders be returned, but that trust must be validated. Any deleterious halo effect has a decidedly negative reflection on all of the hundreds of volunteers, and ultimately on the organization as a whole.

So I caution the Board that a mistake made here will dramatically harm the global perception of our (ICANN's) institutional integrity.

Written by Ronald N. Andruff, President & CEO, dotSport LLC

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More under: ICANN, Internet Governance, Policy & Regulation

4G Mobile Trials Have Begun in Cuba - What Is Their 3/4/5G Strategy?

Śro, 2019-03-13 04:01

Early 4G speed test (Source)During the first month of 3G mobile service, Cuban Internet use increased substantially. At the end of January, ETECSA had 5.4 million mobile users, 35% of which use the Internet and they are adding 5,000 new data customers per day. According to Eliecer Samada, head of ETECSA's wireless access group, the company is now at 160% of the expected capacity.

As a result of that unexpected demand and damage due to the tornado that hit Havana in January, both data and phone service have been slow and unreliable.

To alleviate these problems, ETECSA announced last week that they were accelerating 4G mobile trials along the north coast from Mariel through Havana to Varadero. That is a distance of about 100 miles with 44 4G base stations. The trial will be open to about 10,000 high-volume users who have 4G-compatible phones and have been using at least 2.5 GB of 3G mobile data per month in that area. (ETECSA reports that 7% of 3G network users account for 52% of the traffic).

Andy García ran a speed test using his neighbor's account and recorded a download speed of 5.52 Mbps, upload speed of 1.18 Mbps and a 24.17 ms latency, but a few days later, he observed slower rates and Armando Camacho recently recently reported a speed of 3.2 Mbps download and 5.8 Mbps upload and he has posted the locations of 21 base stations in Havana. We can't draw conclusions about the post-trial speeds from a few tests, but they will surely be faster than current 3G speeds and considerably slower than the US LTE speeds reported last month by Tom's Guide.

Current US 4G speeds (Source)ETECSA expects this trial to divert enough traffic to improve 3G and voice service. If that is the case, it seems the current congestion is at the base stations rather than in backhaul from them. Regardless, I expect that backhaul capacity from faster 4G base stations will constrain 4G rollout in this and other regions.

I don't know what ETECSA's mobile deployment strategy is — what the balance will be between 3 and 4G capacity and pricing — but I have suggested that they will gain trained, demanding users if they focus on bringing the cost down as quickly as possible. That would argue for cheap or even free 3G service.

The average price of 1 GB of mobile data in Cuba is higher than that in 184 of 230 nations. (The price in ten of the 28 Caribbean nations is higher than in Cuba and India is the lowest-price nation). The source does not indicate the speeds of these services and it would be interesting to see them normalized for per-capita income as an indication of affordability, but there seems to be room for price cutting in Cuba.

Regardless of the deployment and pricing of 3 and 4G mobile Internet access in Cuba, both should be regarded as stopgap measures and plans should be made for 5G deployment.

Written by Larry Press, Professor of Information Systems at California State University

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More under: Access Providers, Mobile Internet, Wireless

ICANN Postpones Amazon Domain Decision, Crusade Continues Between Amazon Nations and Amazon Inc.

Śro, 2019-03-13 00:22

ICANN on Monday extended the deadline to April for Amazon basin nations to reach a deal with the tech giant Amazon Inc in their seven-year battle over the .amazon domain name. Reuters reports: "[ICANN] meeting this week in Kobe, Japan, decided to put off a decision that was expected to favor use of the domain by the world's largest online retailer. Amazon basin countries Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana and Suriname have fought the domain request since it was made in 2012, arguing that the name refers to their geographic region and thus belongs to them."

Amazon nations remain "firmly opposed" to Amazon Inc gaining exclusive control of the domain name, says Brazil's foreign ministry. He adds: "Brazil and its seven Amazon partners will continue to negotiate in good faith with to try to reach a 'mutually acceptable solution' to the domain dispute."

Supporting .Amazon domain strengthens global internet cooperation, says Christian Dawson of i2Coalition: "Though we should all be sympathetic to the position of the governments of Brazil and Peru, we should also be impressed with the extensive efforts that Amazon has undertaken in order to assuage as many of those concerns as possible. They have made formal signed commitments to not use the TLDs in a confusing manner. They have promised to support future gTLD applications to represent the region using the geographic terms of the regions, including .AMAZONIA, .AMAZONICA or .AMAZONAS. They also offered to reserve for the relevant governments certain domain names that could cause confusion or touch on national sensitivities.

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More under: Domain Names, ICANN, Internet Governance, New TLDs

The Pace of Domain Growth Has Slowed Considerably, Reports CENTR

Wto, 2019-03-12 20:01

The global Top-Level Domain market is currently estimated at 348 million domains across all recorded TLDs. Although the overall domain count has continued to grow in all regions and types, the Council of European National Top-Level Domain Registries (CENTR) reports that the pace of growth has slowed considerably. "As of January 2019, it has seen its lowest recorded year-on-year rate of 3.7%."

"While domain count and growth are not the only measurement of market health, they can provide an indication of general uptake and interest in domain names. At present, the indication is a continued slow-down. This may be explained by multiple factors, such as a market saturation, alter- native online presence choices (e.g. social media) or even a concentra- tion of market share to fewer TLDs."

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More under: Domain Names, New TLDs

How to Track Online Malevolent Identities in the Act

Wto, 2019-03-12 18:52

Want to be a cybersleuth and track down hackers?

It may sound ambitious considering that malevolent entities are extremely clever, and tracing them requires certain skills that may not be easy to build for the typical computer user.

But then again, the best defense is offense. And learning the basics of sniffing out cybercriminals may not only be necessary nowadays, it has become essential for survival on the Web. So where can you begin?

Place Honeypots

Hackers take great care to cover their tracks. So, it's important to catch them with their hand in the cookie jar. You can do so by setting up a bait — called a honeypot — to lure them out. It can take the form of a spammable domain or an easily hackable virtual machine which can appear as legitimate targets.

Once attacked, honeypots help you observe what intruders do to the system, know the tricks that they employ to infect devices, and subsequently find ways to counter them. Such forensic evidence enables law enforcers to track unsolicited access and then locate and catch perpetrators.

Reverse-Engineering Malware

Let's say that despite all the precautions, malware still succeeded in infiltrating your company's system. Instead of losing sleep, you can use the infection to understand how the malicious program operates and what it's been engineered to do, such as what vulnerabilities it's been designed to exploit.

This process is called reverse engineering. It involves disassembling the program to be able to analyze and retrieve valuable information on how it is used or when it was created. It is extremely helpful in finding substantial evidence such as encryption keys or other digital footprints that can lead investigators to the cybercriminals.

Leverage WHOIS Information

When a complaint is received over a dangerous website, the first step in the investigation is to identify the operator of the suspect domain.

This can be done by querying the domain name registry where the site has been registered. A whois database download service, for example, enables users to retrieve the WHOIS data that contains the name, location, and contact details of domain registrants. With this information in hand, security teams can report the matter to law enforcement agents who can then track down malicious operators and apprehend them on the spot.

Inspect Files' Metadata

Once in possession of files and devices from a suspicious entity, you can analyze the evidence that is saved in them and discover crucial details that can be followed back to the source.

Word, Excel, or PowerPoint files, for example, contain relevant information, called metadata, that can blow a hacker's cover. They include the name of the person that created the file, the organization, the computer, and the local hard drive or network server where the document was saved.

It is also important to analyze the grammar used in comments that are embedded in the software code. Socio-cultural references, nicknames, language, and even the use of emojis — all can reveal clues on the nationalities of the criminals or their geographical location.

Go On with Tracerouting

One of the best ways to catch perpetrators is by identifying their IP addresses. However, they usually hide these IPs by spoofing or by bouncing communications from different locations. Luckily, no matter how shrewd and clever these individuals may be, malicious addresses can still be identified through an approach called tracerouting.

The technique works by showing the hostnames of all the devices within the range of your computer and a target machine. More often than not, the last machine's hostname address belongs to the hacker's Internet Service Provider. With the ISP known, investigators can then pinpoint the geographical location and the areas where the culprit is probably situated.

* * *

Every time you venture online, you're exposed to malevolent entities that can harm your system and disrupt business operations. Knowing how to trace the source of an attack can stop it in its tracks and prevent the intervention from happening again.

Written by Jonathan Zhang, Founder and CEO of Threat Intelligence Platform

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More under: Cybersecurity, Malware, Spam, Whois

Putting Cyber Threats Into Perspective

Wto, 2019-03-12 18:37

As society uses more digital technologies we are increasingly also faced with its problems.

Most of us will have some horror stories to tell about using computers, smartphones, and the internet. But this hasn't stopped us from using the technology more and more. I believe that most people would say that their lives would be worse without technology — in developed countries but equally in the developing world, where mobile phones and the internet have revolutionised the lives of hundreds of millions of individual people, resulting in great personal benefits involving, for example, employment, business, education (information) and healthcare.

And, while there are certainly also downsides, with hacks, identity theft, populism, cyberbullying, cybercrime and so on, the positives of ICT still far outweigh the negatives. Yet in recent years cybersecurity has achieved political importance that greatly exceeds its actual threat.

Despite the various and ongoing cyber threats the world seems to function quite well; and, as my colleague Andrew Odlyzko in his recent paper Cyber security is not (very) important argues, there have been many other security threats that are having a far greater impact on us than all the cyber threats combined. Think of the recent tsunamis, earthquakes, floods, epidemics, financial collapse (2008), 9/11 and so on. What about the massive damage done by guns in America or the hundreds of thousands of car casualties around the world every year? We seem to treat that as acceptable collateral damage.

In many of these cases, there is little political will to address the underlying issues like climate change, inequality and oligarchy, environmental degradation, gun control and so on.

Interestingly, many of those disasters do have some predictability and, if we wanted to, we could do much more about them. But that would require far more political attention around those more serious issues, and most politicians shy away from this. Cybersecurity seems to be an easier target.

If we look at history, we see that the collapse of societies has far more to do with those environmental issues than with technology. That is not to say that we should ignore cybersecurity. Of course not. But looking back on the last few decades cybersecurity has followed the same growth patterns as technology, and there is no reason to believe that this is going to change. We seem to be able to manage the cyber threats in the same way we can deal with other social problems such as crimes like theft and robbery, and so there is no overwhelming need to over-emphasise cyber threats.

As Andrew puts it, with all other social imperfections, we will never be able to get absolute cybersecurity. And, yes, there will be technological disasters, but it is unlikely that they will ever be on the scale of all the other disasters that humanity is facing.

So let's put this into perspective; and I would argue let's concentrate on how to address those far more dangerous developments, such as climate change, and how to look at ways ICT technology can assist humanity in finding solutions for this.

Amazingly it is here that government policies are moving backward, with relatively fewer funds being made available for innovation, research and development, education, e-health and so on.

There is also an important psychological element in cybercrime. Cyber breaches are widely reported but we must realise that vote rigging, gerrymandering and vote stacking, carried out in far more traditional ways, have a much greater impact on election outcomes than the influence of cybercrime.

Another example here is that, while many financial databases have been hacked and millions of credit cards have been captured, relatively little damage has been done, as banks have sophisticated ICT systems in place that can detect fraudulent transactions. Yet the financial damage of greedy banks nearly brought economies down in 2008.

Nevertheless, my greatest worry is still the Big Brother effect of cybersurveillance. It has the potential to further undermine our already weakening democratic structures. This has nothing to do with cybersecurity — in fact, cybersecurity can't be used to solve this problem. And, despite the fact that the issue is now being far more seriously investigated by law-makers and regulators, especially in Europe and Australia, the major issue continues to be the lack of political will to address these issues.

The ICT world with all its 'goods and bads' reflects our messy society and it is that same society that has led us to where we are now. And in many cases, our progress has been based on muddling on, with the occasional starburst.

While there are certainly many worrying signs in society today it remains our responsibility not to charge blindly in the same direction as some of our forebears did, which led to the collapse of many previous civilisations. We are now in a far better position to understand what causes those collapses and we are capable of innovation and diversifying to avoid disaster. And we — the people in the ICT industry — are in the privileged position of being able to assist societies by creating the right tools to further prosperity for all.

Written by Paul Budde, Managing Director of Paul Budde Communication

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More under: Cyberattack, Cybercrime, Cybersecurity, Internet Governance, Policy & Regulation

Some Thought on the Paper: Practical Challenge-Response for DNS

Pon, 2019-03-11 21:22

This post reflects on ideas suggested in the paper: Practical Challenge-Response for DNS, 2018 by Rami Al-Dalky, Michael Rabinovich, and Mark Allman.

Because the speed of DNS is so important to the performance of any connection on the 'net, a lot of thought goes into making DNS servers fast, including optimized software that can respond to queries in milliseconds, and connecting DNS servers to the 'net through high bandwidth links. To set the stage for massive DDoS attacks based in the DNS system, add a third point: DNS responses tend to be much larger than DNS queries. In fact, a careful DNS response can be many times larger than the query.

To use a DNS server as an amplifier in a DDoS attack, then, the attacker sends a query to some number of publicly accessible DNS servers. The source of this query is the address of the system to be attacked. If the DNS query is carefully crafted, the attacker can send small packets that cause a number of DNS servers to send large responses to a single IP address, causing large amounts of traffic to the system under attack.

Carrying DNS over TCP is one way to try to resolve this problem because TCP requires a three-way handshake. When the attacker sends a request with a spoofed source address, the server attempts to build a TCP session with the system which owns the spoofed address, which will fail. A key point: TCP three-way handshake packets are much smaller than most DNS responses, which means the attacker's packet stream is not being amplified (in size) by the DNS server.

DNS over TCP is problematic, however. For instance, many DNS resolvers cannot reach an authoritative DNS server using TCP because of stateful packet filters, network address translators, and other processes that either modify or block TCP sessions in the network. What about DNSSEC? This does not prevent the misuse of a DNS server; it only validates the records contained in the DNS database. DNSSEC just means the attacker can send even larger really secure DNS records towards an unsuspecting system.

Another option is to create a challenge-response system much like the TCP handshake, but embed it in DNS. The most obvious place to embed such a challenge-response system is in CNAME records. Assume a recursive DNS server requests a particular record; an authoritative server can respond with a CNAME record effectively telling the recursive server to ask someone else. When the recursive server sends the second query, presumably to a different server, it includes the response information it has in order to give the second server the context of its request.

To build a challenge-request system, the authoritative server sends back a CNAME telling the recursive server to contact the very same authoritative server. In order to ensure the three-way handshake is effective, the source IP address of the querying recursive DNS server is encoded into the CNAME response. When the authoritative server receives the second query, it can check the source address encoded in the second resolution request against the source of the packet containing the new query. If they do not match, the authoritative server can drop the second request; the three-way handshake failed.

If the source of the original request is spoofed, this causes the victim to receive a CNAME response telling it to ask again for the answer — which the victim will never respond to, because it did not send the original request. Since CNAME responses are small, this tactic removes the amplification the attacker is hoping for.

There is one problem with this solution, however: DNS resolvers are often pooled behind a single anycast address. Consider a resolving DNS server pool with two servers labeled A and B. Server A receives a DNS request from a host and finding it has no cache entry for the destination, recursively sends a request to an authoritative server. The authoritative server, in turn, sends a challenge to the IP address of server A. This address, however, is an anycast address assigned to the entire pool of recursive servers. For whatever reason, the challenge — a CNAME response asking the recursive server to ask at a different location — is directed to B.

If the DNS software is set up correctly, B will respond to the request. However, this response will be sourced from B's IP address, rather than A's. Remember the source of the original query is encoded in the CNAME response from the responding server. Since the address encoded in the follow-on query will not match B's address, the authoritative server will drop the request.

To solve this problem, the authors of this paper suggest a chained response. Rather than dropping the request with an improperly encoded source address, encode the new source address in the packet and send another challenge in the form of a CNAME response. Assuming there are only two servers in the pool, the next query with the encoded list of IP addresses from the CNAME response will necessarily match one of the two available source addresses, and the authoritative server can respond with the correct information.

What if the pool of recursive servers is very large — on the order of hundreds or thousands of servers? While one or two "round trips" in the form of a three-way handshake might not have too much of a performance impact, thousands could be a problem. To resolve this issue, the authors suggest taking advantage of the observation that once the packets being transmitted between the requester and the server are as large as the request itself, any amplification gain an attacker might take advantage of has been erased. Once the CNAME packet grows to the same size as a DNS request by adding source addresses observed in the three-way handshake process, the server should just answer the query. This (generally) reduces the number of round trips down to three or four before the DNS is not going to generate any more data than the attacker could send to the victim directly, and dramatically improves the performance of the scheme.

I was left with one question after reading this paper: there are carefully crafted DNS queries that can cause very large, multipacket responses. These are not mentioned at all in the paper; this seems like an area that would need to be considered and researched more deeply. Overall, however, this seems like it would be an effective system to reduce or eliminate the use of authoritative servers in DDoS reflection attacks.

Written by Russ White, Network Architect at LinkedIn

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More under: Cyberattack, Cybersecurity, DNS, DNS Security

Facebook and Privacy

Pon, 2019-03-11 21:12

Mark Zuckerberg shocked a lot of people by promising a new focus on privacy for Facebook. There are many skeptics; Zuckerberg himself noted that the company doesn't "currently have a strong reputation for building privacy protective services." And there are issues that his blog post doesn't address; Zeynep Tufekci discusses many of them While I share many of her concerns, I think there are some other issues — and risks.

The Velocity of Content

Facebook has been criticized for being a channel where bad stuff — anti-vaxxer nonsense, fake news (in the original sense of the phrase...), bigotry, and more — can spread very easily. Tufekci called this out explicitly:

At the moment, critics can (and have) held Facebook accountable for its failure to adequately moderate the content it disseminates — allowing for hate speech, vaccine misinformation, fake news and so on. Once end-to-end encryption is put in place, Facebook can wash its hands of the content. We don't want to end up with all the same problems we now have with viral content online — only with less visibility and nobody to hold responsible for it.

Some critics have called for Facebook to do more to curb such ideas. The company itself has announced it will stop recommending anti-vaccination content. Free speech advocates, though, worry about this a lot. It's not that anti-vaxxer content is valuable (or even coherent...); rather, it's that encouraging such a huge, influential company to censor communications is very dangerous. Besides, it doesn't scale; automated algorithms will make mistakes and can be biased; people not only make mistakes, too, but find the activity extremely stressful. As someone who is pretty much a free speech absolutist myself, I really dislike censorship. That said, as a scientist, I prefer not closing my eyes to unpleasant facts. What if Facebook really is different enough that a different paradigm is needed?

Is Facebook that different? I confess that I don't know. That is, it has certain inherent differences, but I don't know if they're great enough in effect to matter, and if so, if the net benefit is more or less than the net harm. Still, it's worth taking a look at what these differences are.

Before Gutenberg, there was essentially no mass communication: everything was one person speaking or writing to a few others. Yes, the powerful — kings, popes, and the like — could order their subordinates to pass on certain messages, and this could have widespread effect. Indeed, this phenomenon was even recognized in the Biblical Book of Esther

3:12 Then were the king's scribes called on the thirteenth day of the first month, and there was written according to all that Haman had commanded unto the king's lieutenants, and to the governors that were over every province, and to the rulers of every people of every province according to the writing thereof, and to every people after their language; in the name of king Ahasuerus was it written, and sealed with the king's ring.

3:13 And the letters were sent by posts into all the king's provinces, to destroy, to kill, and to cause to perish, all Jews, both young and old, little children and women, in one day, even upon the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month Adar, and to take the spoil of them for a prey.

3:14 The copy of the writing for a commandment to be given in every province was published unto all people, that they should be ready against that day.

3:15 The posts went out, being hastened by the king's commandment, and the decree was given in Shushan the palace. And the king and Haman sat down to drink; but the city Shushan was perplexed.

By and large, though, this was rare.

Gutenberg's printing press made life a lot easier. People other than potentates could produce and distribute fliers, pamphlets, newspapers, books, and the like. Information became much more democratic, though, as has often been observed, "freedom of the press belongs to those who own printing presses". There was mass communication, but there were still gatekeepers: most people could not in practice reach a large audience without the permission of a comparative few. Radio and television did not change this dynamic.

Enter the Internet. There was suddenly easy, cheap, many-to-many communication. A U.S. court recognized this. All parties to the case (on government-mandated censorship of content accessible to children) stipulated, among other things:

79. Because of the different forms of Internet communication, a user of the Internet may speak or listen interchangeably, blurring the distinction between "speakers" and "listeners" on the Internet. Chat rooms, e-mail, and newsgroups are interactive forms of communication, providing the user with the opportunity both to speak and to listen.

80. It follows that unlike traditional media, the barriers to entry as a speaker on the Internet do not differ significantly from the barriers to entry as a listener. Once one has entered cyberspace, one may engage in the dialogue that occurs there. In the argot of the medium, the receiver can and does become the content provider, and vice-versa.

81. The Internet is therefore a unique and wholly new medium of worldwide human communication.

The judges recognized the implications:

It is no exaggeration to conclude that the Internet has achieved, and continues to achieve, the most participatory marketplace of mass speech that this country — and indeed the world — has yet seen. The plaintiffs in these actions correctly describe the "democratizing" effects of Internet communication: individual citizens of limited means can speak to a worldwide audience on issues of concern to them. Federalists and Anti-Federalists may debate the structure of their government nightly, but these debates occur in newsgroups or chat rooms rather than in pamphlets. Modern-day Luthers still post their theses but to electronic bulletin boards rather than the door of the Wittenberg Schlosskirche. More mundane (but from a constitutional perspective, equally important) dialogue occurs between aspiring artists, or French cooks, or dog lovers, or fly fishermen.

Indeed, the Government's asserted "failure" of the Internet rests on the implicit premise that too much speech occurs in that medium, and that speech there is too available to the participants. This is exactly the benefit of Internet communication, however. The Government, therefore, implicitly asks this court to limit both the amount of speech on the Internet and the availability of that speech. This argument is profoundly repugnant to First Amendment principles.

But what if this is the problem? What if this new, many-to-many communications, is precisely what is causing trouble? More precisely, what if the problem is the velocity of communication, in units of people per day?

High-velocity propagation appears to be exacerbated by automation, either explicitly or as a side-effect. YouTube's recommendation algorithm appears to favor extremist content. Facebook has a similar problem:

Contrast this, however, with another question from Ms. Harris, in which she asked Ms. Sandberg how Facebook can "reconcile an incentive to create and increase your user engagement when the content that generates a lot of engagement is often inflammatory and hateful." That astute question Ms. Sandberg completely sidestepped, which was no surprise: No statistic can paper over the fact that this is a real problem.

Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have business models that thrive on the outrageous, the incendiary and the eye-catching, because such content generates "engagement" and captures our attention, which the platforms then sell to advertisers, paired with extensive data on users that allow advertisers (and propagandists) to "microtarget" us at an individual level.

The velocity, in these cases, appears to be a side-effect of this algorithmic desire for engagement. Sometimes, though, bots appear to be designed to maximize the spread of malicious content. Either way, information spreads far more quickly than it used to, and on a many-to-many basis.

Zuckerberg suggests that Facebook wants to focus on smaller-scale communications:

This is different from broader social networks, where people can accumulate friends or followers until the services feel more public. This is well-suited to many important uses — telling all your friends about something, using your voice on important topics, finding communities of people with similar interests, following creators and media, buying and selling things, organizing fundraisers, growing businesses, or many other things that benefit from having everyone you know in one place. Still, when you see all these experiences together, it feels more like a town square than a more intimate space like a living room.

There is an opportunity to build a platform that focuses on all of the ways people want to interact privately. This sense of privacy and intimacy is not just about technical features — it is designed deeply into the feel of the service overall. In WhatsApp, for example, our team is obsessed with creating an intimate environment in every aspect of the product. Even where we've built features that allow for broader sharing, it's still a less public experience. When the team built groups, they put in a size limit to make sure every interaction felt private. When we shipped stories on WhatsApp, we limited public content because we worried it might erode the feeling of privacy to see lots of public content — even if it didn't actually change who you're sharing with.

What if Facebook evolves that way, and moves more towards small-group communication rather than being a digital town square? What will be the effect? Will smaller-scale many-to-many communications behave this way?

I personally like being able to share my thoughts with the world. I was, after all, one of the creators of Usenet; I still spend far too much time on Twitter. But what if this velocity is bad for the world? I don't know if it is, and I hope it isn't — but what if it is?

One final thought on this… In democracies, restrictions on speech are more likely to pass legal scrutiny if they're content-neutral. For example, a loudspeaker truck advocating some controversial position can be banned under anti-noise regulations, regardless of what it is saying. It is quite possible that a velocity limit would be accepted — and it's not at all clear that this would be desirable. Authoritarian governments are well aware of the power of mass communications:

The use of big-character-posters did not end with the Cultural Revolution. Posters appeared in 1976, during student movements in the mid-1980s, and were central to the Democracy Wall movement in 1978. The most famous poster of this period was Wei Jingsheng's call for democracy as a "fifth modernization." The state responded by eliminating the clause in the Constitution that allowed people the right to write big-character-posters, and the People’s Daily condemned them for their responsibility in the "ten years of turmoil" and as a threat to socialist democracy. Nonetheless, the spirit of the big-character-poster remains a part of protest repertoire, whether in the form of the flyers and notes put up by students in Hong Kong's Umbrella Movement or as ephemeral posts on the Chinese internet.

As the court noted, "Federalists and Anti-Federalists may debate the structure of their government nightly, but these debates occur in newsgroups or chat rooms rather than in pamphlets." Is it good if we give up high-velocity, many-to-many communications?

Certainly, there are other channels than Facebook. But it's unique: with 2.32 billion users, it reaches about 30% of the world's population. Any change it makes will have worldwide implications. I wonder if they'll be for the best.

Possible Risks

Zuckerberg spoke of much more encryption, but he also noted the risks of encrypted content: "Encryption is a powerful tool for privacy, but that includes the privacy of people doing bad things. When billions of people use a service to connect, some of them are going to misuse it for truly terrible things like child exploitation, terrorism, and extortion. We have a responsibility to work with law enforcement and to help prevent these wherever we can". What does this imply?

One possibility, of course, is that Facebook might rely more on metadata for analysis: "We are working to improve our ability to identify and stop bad actors across our apps by detecting patterns of activity." But he also spoke of analysis "through other means". What might they be? Doing client-side analysis? About 75% of Facebook users employ mobile devices to access the service; Facebook clients can look at all sorts of things. Content analysis can happen that way, too; though Facebook doesn't use content to target ads, might it use it for censorship, good or bad?

Encryption also annoys many governments. Governments disliking encryption is not new, of course, but the more people use it, the more upset they will get. This will be exacerbated if encrypted messaging is used for mass communications; Tufekci is specifically concerned about that: "Once end-to-end encryption is put in place, Facebook can wash its hands of the content. We don't want to end up with all the same problems we now have with viral content online — only with less visibility and nobody to hold responsible for it." We can expect pressure for back doors to increase — but they'll still be a dangerous idea, for all of the reasons we've outlined. (And of course, that interacts with the free speech issue.)

I'm not even convinced that Facebook can actually pull this off. Here's the problem with encryption: who has the keys? Note carefully: you need the key to read the content — but that implies that if the authorized user loses her key, she herself has lost access to her content and messages. The challenge for Facebook, then, is protecting keys against unauthorized parties — Zuckerberg specifically calls out "heavy-handed government intervention in many countries" as a threat — but also making them available to authorized users who have suffered some mishap. Matt Green calls this mud puddle test: if you drop your device in a mud puddle and forget your password, how do you recover your keys?

Apple has gone to great lengths to lock themselves out of your password. Facebook could adopt a similar strategy — but that could mean that a forgotten password means loss of all encrypted content. Facebook, of course, has a way to recover from a forgotten password — but will that recover a lost key? Should it? So-called secondary authentication is notoriously weak. Perhaps it's an acceptable tradeoff to regain access to your account but lose access to older content — indeed, Zuckerberg explicitly spoke of the desirability of evanescent content. But even if that's a good tradeoff — Zuckerberg says "you'd have the ability to change the timeframe or turn off auto-deletion for your threads if you wanted" — if someone else (including a government) took control of you're account, it would violate another principle Facebook holds dear: "there must never be any doubt about who you are communicating with".

How Facebook handles this dilemma will be very important. Key recovery will make many users very happy, but it will allow the "heavy-handed government intervention" Zuckerberg decries. A user-settable option on key recovery? The usability of any such an option is open to serious question; beyond that, most users will go with the default, and will thus inherit the risks of that default.

Written by Steven Bellovin, Professor of Computer Science at Columbia University

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More under: Internet Governance, Policy & Regulation, Privacy, Web

Russians Take to the Streets to Protest Against New Internet Restrictions

Pon, 2019-03-11 19:54

Thousands of Russians in Moscow and other cities rallied on Sunday against tighter internet restrictions. The protest is reported to be one of the most prominent in the Russian capital in years. Reuters reports: "Lawmakers last month backed tighter internet controls contained in legislation they say is necessary to prevent foreign meddling in Russia's affairs. But some Russian media likened it to an online 'iron curtain' and critics say it can be used to stifle dissent. ... The legislation is part of a drive by officials to increase Russian 'sovereignty' over its Internet segment." The new bill passed in the Russian parliament in February aims to route Russian internet traffic and data through points controlled by the state and proposes building a national DNS as an alternate platform in the event the country is cut off from foreign infrastructure.

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More under: Access Providers, Internet Governance, Policy & Regulation

Five Inconvenient Facts about the Migration to 5G Wireless

Nie, 2019-03-10 20:39

An unprecedented disinformation campaign purposefully distorts what consumers and governments understand about the upcoming fifth generation of wireless broadband technology. A variety of company executives and their sponsored advocates want us to believe that the United States already has lost the race to 5G global market supremacy and that it can regain it only with the assistance of a compliant government and a gullible public. Stakeholders have identified many new calamities, such as greater vulnerability to foreign government-sponsored espionage carried out by equipment manufacturers, as grounds for supporting the merger of two of only four national wireless carriers and preventing U.S. telecommunications companies from buying equipment manufactured by specific, blacklisted Chinese companies.

How do these prescriptions promote competition and help consumers? Plain and simple, they do not, but that does not stop well-funded campaigns from convincing us that less competition is better. Set out below, I offer five obvious but obscured truths.

1) Further concentration of the wireless marketplace will do nothing to maintain, or reclaim global 5G supremacy.

It requires a remarkable suspension of disbelief to think that allowing Sprint and TMobile to merge remedies a variety of ills, rather than further depletes conditions favoring competition in an already extremely concentrated marketplace. Advocates for the merger want us to believe that it is our patriotic duty to support the combination because it will enhance the collective fortunes of wireless carriers and customers, help the U.S. regain 5G market leadership from the Chinese and achieve greater competition, innovation and employment than what two separate companies could achieve.

Nothing has prevented Sprint and TMobile from acquiring funds needed for 5G investments. Ironically, considering the rampant fear of foreign ventures doing business in the U.S. telecommunications marketplace, both companies have primary ownership by powerful foreign ventures: Softbank (Sprint) and Deutsch Telekom (TMobile). Interest rates have rarely reached such low levels and both companies have matched AT&T and Verizon in terms of preparing for the future migration from 4G to 5G infrastructure.

A merger would combine the two mavericks in the marketplace responsible for just about every consumer-friendly pricing and service innovation over the last decade from "anytime" minutes, to bring your own device, to attractive bundling of "free" and "unmetered" content. A merged venture would reduce the number of wireless towers, total radio spectrum used to provide service and incentives for enhancing the value proposition of next-generation wireless technology.

2) Carriers Cannot Expedite 5G with Labels.

Branding handsets and service as "5G evolving" contributes to the hype without expediting the ready for service date. An emphasis on puffery and marketing distracts the carriers and their subscribers from an emphasis on the hard work needed to make 5G a reality. There are no short cuts in spectrum planning, network design, equipment installation and coordination between carriers and local authorities. Even before the rollout of definitive 5G standards and equipment, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai wants to limit local regulators by establishing a "shot clock" deadline on permitting and site authorizations no matter how complicated and locality specific.

3) Ignoring or Underemphasizing International Coordination will Backfire.

Next generation network planning typically requires years of negotiation between and among national governments. For wireless services, the nations of the world attempt to reach consensus on which frequencies to allocate and what operational procedures and standards to recommend. This process requires patience, study, consensus building and compromise, characteristics sadly out of vogue in the current environment newly fixated with real or perceived threats to national security, fair trade and intellectual property rights. These important matters increase the need to coordinate with nations, rather than offer enhanced, first to market opportunities for nations acting unilaterally and independent of traditional inter-governmental forums.

4) Invoking Patriotism, Trade and National Security Concerns Will Harm U.S. Ventures.

Advisors to Sprint and TMobile probably are congratulating themselves on having come up with a creative, national security rationale for unprecedented and ill-advised merger approval and outlawing market entry by foreign equipment manufacturers. Their short term objectives ignore the great likelihood of long term harm to efficiency, innovation, employment, nimbleness and speed in market entry. Concentrating a market reduces competitive incentives by making it easier for dominant ventures to establish an industry-wide consensus on service rates and terms. Antitrust experts use the term "conscious parallelism" to identify the all too frequent decision by competitors not to devote sleepless afternoons competing rather than implicitly accepting a high margin path of least resistance.

5) Politicizing Next Generation Wireless Harms Everyone.

Planning for a major new generation of wireless technology did not always have a political element, divided along party lines. The process is tedious and incremental, perhaps not well too slow to accommodate the pace of changes in technologies and markets. However, its primary goal seeks to optimize technology for the greatest good. Historically, when nations favored domestic standards and companies, markets fragmented and profit margins declined.

Incompatible transmission standards, like that currently in use by wireless carriers, have increased consumer cost and frustration because an AT&T handset will not work on the Verizon network. Incompatible standards and spectrum assignments typically harm consumers and competition by increasing the likelihood of incompatible equipment and networks.

I cannot understand how two political parties can apply the same evaluative criterion and reach total opposite outcomes. By law, the FCC and Justice Department must consider whether the TMobile-Sprint merger would "substantially lessen" competition. Measuring markets and assessing market impacts should not cleave along a political fulcrum, yet it does with predictably adverse consequences. One cannot see any harm in a business initiative that concentrates a market, while the other one cannot anticipate how a merger might enhance competition, or at least cause no harm.

If politics, national industrial policy and false patriotism become dominant factors in spectrum planning and next-generation network, consumers will suffer as will ventures who have become distracted and unfocused on how to make 5G enhance the wireless value proposition.

Written by Rob Frieden, Pioneers Chair and Professor of Telecommunications and Law

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More under: Cybersecurity, Networks, Policy & Regulation, Wireless

Thousands of UK Businesses, Individuals to Lose Their .EU Web Address in a No-Deal Brexit

Sob, 2019-03-09 22:35

The British government is urging close to 340,000 registered holders of .EU domain in Britain to make contingency plans as their web addresses will disappear if the UK does not agree on a deal with Brussels. Updated government guidance according to The Guardian report warns if the UK leaves without a deal at the end of March then domain owners based in the UK will have two months leeway to move their principal location to somewhere within the EU or EEA. "After a year, all the British-registered .EU domains will be made available for purchase by individuals and companies who continue to reside in the EU."

Impact on European TLDs not limited to .EU: "The rights of UK residents to hold domain names in all of the following countries will also be affected post-Brexit," reports JDSRUPA:

.FR (France)
.HU (Hungary)
.IT (Italy)
.RE (Reunion Island)
.YT (Mayotte)
.PM (Saint Pierre and Miquelon)
.WF (Wallis and Futuna Islands)
.TF (French Southern and Antarctic Territories)

This is because above TLDs generally require a registrant located in the EU (or in the territory of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland).

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More under: Domain Names, Policy & Regulation

Supporting Dot Amazon Strengthens Global Internet Cooperation

Pią, 2019-03-08 02:28

With the backlash against tech companies gaining steam, we've seen certain contrarian members of the media taking indiscriminate aim at companies and issues without due cause. This is what happened when Financial Times columnist Gillian Tett, in a paywalled March 7th editorial, inaccurately portrayed a process involving the Amazon's gTLD application for .AMAZON, an issue the i2Coalition has been engaged in for years.

While we respect that columnists have limited time to write pieces and short space to make their argument, this column argues that the story of .AMAZON is one of attempted exploitation. This is not the case. The columnist praises ICANN's global consultative process and its slow and deliberative action, and yet she goes on to immediately rush to judgment about what it should do with the gTLD itself. Rather than try to understand ICANN's processes, this columnist prefers to complain that it's simply too complicated. "[M]y heart lies on the side of the jungle," she writes, going on to say that proceeding with the .AMAZON delegation would threaten Internet cooperation.

Given looming deadlines to solve this protracted conflict in the right way, we wish to state that the opposite is true.

Amazon applied for .AMAZON and its Chinese and Japanese translations, among many others, when ICANN launched the new gTLD program seven years ago. Under the 2012 gTLD Applicant Guidebook process, the ".AMAZON" application received perfect scores, and ICANN's Geographic Names Panel, which had been consulting with governments for multiple years on the subject, said the domain was neither a prohibited geographic name nor one which required government approval.

ICANN operates under the multi-stakeholder model. The multi-stakeholder model of Internet governance serves to keep the Internet free and open, by bringing the interests of all parties to the table and ensuring that the Internet is free of undue control by any one group, including governments who have an important but not overreaching role to play. It was under this system that the .AMAZON application was made. Amazon met all the requirements under ICANN's articles, bylaws, and guidebook, and drew top marks across the board for its' application.

Amazon is a member of the i2Coalition, but our interest in this matter goes well beyond the commercial interest of a single member of our community. ICANN is seven years into a gTLD delegation process in which the rules were clearly spelled out in advance, with governments at the table when the rules were made. Attempts to change them after the fact, in ways that are not driven by consensus of the global multi-stakeholder community, are corrosive to the trust we have in the multi-stakeholder model of Internet governance. In short, ICANN needs to follow through with the .AMAZON application, and follow its' own rules, to maintain the credibility of its' systems.

Though we should all be sympathetic to the position of the governments of Brazil and Peru, we should also be impressed with the extensive efforts that Amazon has undertaken in order to assuage as many of those concerns as possible. They have made formal signed commitments to not use the TLDs in a confusing manner. They have promised to support future gTLD applications to represent the region using the geographic terms of the regions, including .AMAZONIA, .AMAZONICA or .AMAZONAS. They also offered to reserve for the relevant governments certain domain names that could cause confusion or touch on national sensitivities.

We strongly believe that the Internet community and the Board of ICANN now has an opportunity to show the entire multi-stakeholder community that its' systems work. By upholding its Applicant Guidebook, its community-developed bylaws, and independent dispute resolution process, the ICANN Board's approval of the .AMAZON applications will increase community trust, and show that the Board takes ICANN's core principles of transparency and accountability extremely seriously. For those reasons, we call on the Board of ICANN to approve the .AMAZON applications.

Written by Christian Dawson, Executive Director, i2Coalition

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More under: ICANN, Internet Governance, Policy & Regulation, New TLDs

UDRP Panelists: Getting the Standard Right Where No Response is Filed

Czw, 2019-03-07 20:46

Applying the Incorrect Evidentiary Standard in Default Cases Can Result in Unjustified Transfers

Over three-quarters of the more than 55,000 UDRP cases decided since 1999 have been undefended.[1] Requiring adequate evidentiary support of the complainant's allegations in disputes where the respondent has not filed a response, is therefore critical for producing just outcomes under the UDRP.

While most UDRP disputes involve clear cybersquats that are indefensible, a significant number involve domain names that are not clearly cybersquats, such that the justification for a requested transfer may be questionable. For example, some undefended domain names can easily be identified as common descriptive or generic terms or are potentially suitable for many legitimate uses. Such a domain name may be the subject of a UDRP complaint simply because it is desirable, not due to any violation of the Policy. Panels, therefore, ought to ensure that allegations in a complaint are adequately supported by evidence even when the respondent fails to file a response, in order to avoid an unjustified transfer.

Over the years, some panelists have apparently relied upon an incorrect interpretation of the UDRP that purports to authorize transfers in undefended disputes in reliance on factually unsupported or boilerplate, generalized allegations. Such panelists have been inadvertently led astray by unclear Rules regarding no-response cases and by a prevalent misreading of an early UDRP decision concerning the domain name, The decision in the dispute has been routinely misunderstood as supporting a low evidentiary burden in undefended cases.

Those panelists who have applied a lower evidentiary burden in no-response cases indirectly encourage complainants to file baseless or faulty complaints in the hope that the respondent will not defend, and that the panel will order a transfer despite inadequate evidence of trademark rights, bad faith, and a respondent's lack of legitimate interest. Just outcomes under the UDRP require that allegations be proven even when the respondent fails to appear.

Allegations Must Be Proven

The Policy sets forth a three-part test to determine whether a transfer is justified and requires that "the complainant must prove that each of [the] three elements are present."[2] Even in no-response cases, therefore, panels must evaluate the allegations and the evidence presented by the complainant to determine whether the complainant has proven each of the Policy's three elements. As stated by Panelist David Bernstein: "even though the Respondent defaulted, it is still Complainant's burden to prove that Respondent lacks rights or a legitimate interest in the disputed domain name".[3] Similarly, in another no-response case, Bernstein held that:

Complaint has shown that it cannot prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that Respondent registered the Domain Name in bad faith… The burden is on Complainant to prove that this is a case of abusive cybersquatting and Complainant has failed to sustain that burden in this case.[4]

Maintaining the burden of proof on the complainant even in a no-response case is consistent with the consensus view articulated in WIPO's Jurisprudential Overview 3.0:

Noting the burden of proof on the complainant, a respondent's default (i.e., failure to submit a formal response) would not by itself mean that the complainant is deemed to have prevailed; a respondent's default is not necessarily an admission that the complainant's claims are true.[5]

Panels have denied over 1,500 complaints[6] even when the respondent has defaulted due to a failure by the complainant to meet its burden of proof.[7] Reasons for such denials include the Complainant's failure to show any registered or even any common law trademarks,[8] the Complainant's admission that there was a contractual relationship wherein the Respondent had an interest in the domain name,[9] where there is an absence of evidence that the Respondent targeted the Complainant,[10] where the website associated with the Domain Name shows non-commercial usage of a common descriptive term,[11] or where the Complainant failed to prove registration and use in bad faith because the Complainant did not demonstrate trademark rights prior to the registration of the domain name by the Respondent.[12] It does not, therefore, follow from the absence of a response, that every UDRP complaint contains credible allegations, such that a transfer is merited under the Policy.

In some disputes, despite the respondent's failure to file a response, not only have panels rejected complaints, but have at times found the complainant guilty of Reverse Domain Name Hijacking (RDNH). In Mister Auto SAS v. Wharton Lyon & Lyon, WIPO Case No. D2018-1330, August 3, 2018 (, Panelist John Swinson noted that "the onus of proving [the three UDRP] elements remains on the Complainant even though the Respondent has not filed a Response", and that "the Respondent's failure to file a Response does not automatically result in a decision in favor of the Complainant".[13] As the disputed domain name's registration pre-dated the Complainant's existence and trademark, Swinson rejected the Complainant's baseless allegations of bad faith registration and instead entered a finding of Reverse Domain Name Hijacking. In Spy Optic, Inc. v. James Lee, WIPO Case No. D2013-1411, October 1, 2013, (, Panelist Richard Lyon determined that where a complainant's material allegations are identified as being contradicted by the complainant's own evidence, RDNH can be found: "If the face of the complaint itself demonstrates a settled reason why the complaint must be denied, a panel may make a finding of RDNH".[14]

Likewise in M. Corentin Benoit Thiercelin v. CyberDeal, Inc., WIPO Case No. D2010-0941, August 10, 2010, (,[15] even in the absence of a Response, Panelist Tony Willoughby found that the Complainant's "flagrantly insupportable claim" that the disputed domain name was registered in bad faith when the registration preceded any trademark rights of the Complainant was deserving of a finding of Reverse Domain Name Hijacking. In Insight Energy Ventures LLC v. Alois Muehlberger, L.M.Berger Co.Ltd., WIPO Case No. D2016-2010, December 12, 2016, (,[16] despite the lack of a formal response, Panelist John Swinson found that the Complainant had "asserted without any supporting evidence that the Disputed Domain Name was registered in bad faith" and made a finding of RDNH.

The above RDNH findings are among several RDNH decisions issued despite the respondent's failure to appear.[17] These instances of complainants making allegations that are clearly baseless, even in the absence of a response, demonstrates the need for panelists to require evidentiary support for each material allegation and highlights the danger of any guidance suggesting that a panel should uncritically accept a complainant's allegations in a default case, as doing so may result in a panel's unwitting approval of the hijacking of a lawfully registered domain name.

In the UDRP, as in any credible adjudication system, allegations must be proven. As expressed by Panelist Richard Lyon: "Few things are more settled, or more fundamental under the Policy and Rules, than the requirement that material factual allegations must be proven, not simply alleged".[18]

A Mistaken Approach to Undefended Disputes

Despite this bedrock principle that allegations must be proven, there is a long line of UDRP cases holding that when a respondent fails to file a response, material factual allegations need not actually be proven. As will be discussed below, certain panelists have been under the apparent misapprehension that the burden of proof ceases to rest on the complainant where the respondent fails to submit a response and that instead a complainant's allegations can be accepted despite inadequate supporting evidence.

The Rules themselves, which operate in conjunction with the Policy, have unfortunately undermined the otherwise clear language in the Policy that the complainant must prove its case. The Rules state that in the absence of a Response, a panel is entitled to decide the case based upon the complaint alone[19] and is entitled to draw inferences "as it considers appropriate" from a party's failure to participate in the process.[20] This raises the critical question as to what is the appropriate inference to draw from a respondent's failure to appear.

Two of the most frequently cited UDRP decisions for guidance in answering this question are Vertical Solutions Management, Inc. v. webnet-marketing, inc., NAF Claim Number: FA0006000095095, July 31, 2000 ([21] and Talk City, Inc. v. Robertson, WIPO Case No. D2000-0009, February 29, 2000 ( issued by David Bernstein as sole panelist.[22] These two cases have appeared side-by-side in many Forum decisions from the early days of the UDRP as providing the appropriate guidance for deciding a dispute where the respondent defaults. These cases have therefore figured prominently in panelists' views of the appropriate standard of evidence required in no-response cases.

Vertical Solutions holds that in the absence of a response, "all reasonable inferences of fact in the allegations of the Complaint will be deemed true" (emphasis added). This language appears to be derived from Rule 14(b), which speaks of drawing "appropriate" inferences from a failure to participate in the UDRP process but has qualified "appropriate" inferences as necessarily being confined to those which are "reasonable". What constitutes an appropriate or even a reasonable inference, however, is not clear from the Vertical Solutions citation, nor is it spelled out in the Rules, nor is it entirely clear from the established case law, such that Vertical Solutions despite being routinely cited for its guidance offers little in the way of helpful guidance.

Contrasted with Vertical Solutions's vague standard of "reasonable inferences", Talk City is cited for the principle that "In the absence of a response, it is appropriate to accept as true all allegations of the Complaint”. This purported standard appears to eliminate any requirement that the complainant substantiate its allegations with supporting evidence, such that the mere default of the respondent is sufficient to establish its guilt. This purported holding is in direct conflict with the requirement in the Policy that the complainant must prove its allegations. It is also in direct conflict with other decisions issued by David Bernstein, the sole-panelist in Talk City, who, as noted above, has consistently held that the burden of proof rests with the complainant even when the respondent defaults.

In nearly every dispute handled by the Forum in which the respondent fails to appear, Talk City is cited in the decision for the above-purported holding that it is "appropriate to accept as true all allegations of the Complaint". This citation appears in approximately two-thirds of all Forum published decisions, totaling over 15,000 cases dating from 2000 to the present. Talk City is quite possibly the most frequently cited decision in all of UDRP jurisprudence and has thereby influenced countless panelists.

There is a serious flaw in this citation of Talk City, however. The oft-quoted statement, "In the absence of a response, it is appropriate to accept as true all allegations of the Complaint," appears nowhere in the decision. The purported holding attributed to Talk City is instead a misquotation that distorts the genuine findings in the decision.

The actual language of the Talk City decision is subtly but importantly different:

Given Respondent's failure to submit a substantive answer in a timely fashion, the Panel accepts as true all of the allegations of the complaint. The Rules expressly provide that the Panel "shall draw such inferences" from the Respondent's failure to comply with the rules "as it considers appropriate." Rule 14(b). Moreover, when a respondent defaults, the Rules direct the Panel to "proceed to a decision on the complaint." Rule 14(a); see also Rule 5(e). Furthermore, the Panel is charged with rendering its decision "on the basis of the statements and documents submitted." Rule 15(a).[23]

Rather than standing for an entirely different evidentiary standard than that in Vertical Marketing, the Talk City holding is fully consistent with the Vertical Marketing standard that a complainant's allegations are not to be blindly accepted but rather the panel is to use its judgment to reasonably "draw such inferences" "as it considers appropriate." By shifting the meaning and the placement of the word "appropriate", the misquotation transforms the holding in Talk City from one that properly held that the panel should exercise its independent judgment to draw appropriate inferences into an improper holding directing the panel that it is appropriate to accept all allegations, whether well founded or not.

Moreover, in understanding the findings in Talk City, it is crucial to note the unusual circumstances of that case. The Panel in Talk City received informal communications from the Respondent first indicating that the Respondent was "ready, willing and able to transfer" the disputed domain name and then later stating that it had already "taken steps to transfer the domain name" to the Complainant.[24] The panelist chose to accept as true all the Complainants allegations not merely because the respondent failed "to submit a substantive answer in a timely fashion", but with the knowledge from the Respondent's informal communications that the Respondent was consenting to the transfer.

The facts in Talk City are so exceptional that the case offers no useful precedential value for disputes in which the respondent has not consented to the transfer. It is unfortunate that so many panelists have relied so heavily on a decision that has no genuine precedential value in cases where it is cited. And it is even more troubling that its holding has been contorted to promote an evidentiary standard that undermines the integrity of the UDRP, when its actual holding is wholly consistent with UDRP principles and jurisprudence.

The Consequences of the Talk City Misquotation

The purported guidance in the Talk City citation that allegations need not be supported by evidence in no-response cases inserts unauthorized "default" provisions into the UDRP, which is antithetical to the UDRP framework. This mistaken guidance has unfortunately led some panelists astray.[25]

A number of decisions have been issued over the years citing Talk City in which disputed domain names are ordered transferred despite the failure of the complainant to support its allegations with solid evidence. In Tianrong Internet Products and Services, Inc. v. Josue da Silva, Forum Claim Number: FA0208000123866, October 22, 2002 ( Panelist James Crary stated as follows:

Furthermore, when Respondent fails to submit a Response the Panel is permitted to make all inferences in favor of Complainant. See Talk City, Inc. v. Robertson, D2000-0009, (WIPO Feb. 29, 2000) ("In the absence of a response, it is appropriate to accept as true all allegations of the Complaint").[26]

Apparently influenced by the Talk City misquotation, Crary ordered the transfer of the domain name despite the absence of evidence that the Respondent registered the domain name to target the Complainant rather than due to the everyday meaning of "phone calls". The evidence presented by the Complainant was that the domain name was being used for non-infringing advertising and that it was being offered for sale to the general public, thereby demonstrating that there was no factual basis for the Complainant's allegations of bad faith. Nevertheless, Crary ordered the transfer of apparently under the influence of the false standard articulated in the distorted citation from Talk City.

Similarly, in Enlightened, Inc. v. Nil, Forum Claim Number: FA050800054919, October 18, 2005, (,[27] Panelist Ralph Yachnin cited to Talk City while shifting the burden of proof from the Complainant to the Respondent. As it is impossible for the non-appearing Respondent to discharge this burden, Yachnin's approach becomes in effect a "win by default" for the Complainant:

Respondent did not provide evidence that would suggest that Respondent is holding the disputed domain name for any non-infringing purpose. Without an indication that Respondent registered the domain name with the intention of using it for a legitimate purpose, the Panel finds that Respondent's passive holding of the <> domain name for almost seven years constitutes bad faith registration and use under Policy ¶ 4(a)(iii).[28]

Yachnin ordered the transfer of a common dictionary word domain name,, despite an absence of infringing use and despite a total absence of evidence that the domain name had been registered because of the Complainant's mark. This case demonstrates how a misapplication and misapprehension of the appropriate standard in no response cases can lead to a troubling reversal of the well-established burden of proof on a complainant.

In Intercontinental Exchange Holdings, Inc. v. Dmitry Vasilev / Elmaco Ltd., NAF Claim Number: FA1612001709953, February 12, 2017, (, Panelist Debrett Lyons, although not citing to Talk City, adopted a similar approach as in Enlightened. Although no evidence was offered that the Respondent was aware of or was targeting the Complainant, Lyons found the Respondent guilty of acting in bad faith. Lyons did so by shifting the burden of proof from the Complainant to the Respondent, such that the Respondent was considered guilty unless it could demonstrate its innocence. This presented an insurmountable hurdle for the Respondent due to its failure to appear:

Noticeable by its absence is any use of THE ICE as either a trademark or in some other way [by the Complainant] might be questioned what evidence exists that Respondent here targeted Complainant at the time of registration… [THE ICE] has a trademark "ring" to it. Enough so, the Panel finds, that its adoption by Respondent required some explanation in these Administrative Proceedings. None was given and since, as indicated, the operation of paragraph 4(b)(iv) might only be suspended on clear evidence of good faith registration, the Panel finds registration and use in bad faith under paragraph 4(b)(iv) and accordingly finds that Complainant has satisfied the final element of the Policy.[29]

The problem with drawing a rebuttable inference of bad faith where the respondent has not appeared means that it nearly assures a finding of bad faith registration in every no-response case, since after the respondent fails to rebut the allegation of lack of legitimate interest, bad faith can be imputed as a result. This creates a domino effect where the complainant's possession of trademark rights, however tenuous, leads to an unrebutted inference of lack of legitimate interest, which in turn leads to an unrebutted inference of bad faith, such that the three-part test required to justify a transfer collapses into what amounts to a one-part test of whether the complainant has met the very low bar of having some trademark rights.[30]

Relying Upon Irrelevant Cases in an Attempt to Support Unjustified Inferences

The vague admonition in the Rules that panels draw appropriate inference from the respondent's failure to appear is another source of error in no response cases as it offers an apparent justification to make speculative leaps by merely asserting such inferences are "appropriate" and thus in accordance with the Rules. This willingness to rely upon speculative leaps of inference in no-response cases may also have been influenced by the disregard for evidentiary standards expressed in the Talk City mis-citation.

Instances of transfers ordered in reliance on inferences that are not grounded in adequate evidence can often be identified by looking at the cases cited in support of the panel's findings. An indication that an inference is neither "appropriate" nor "reasonable" is when the cases cited for support rely upon entirely different and more robust evidentiary support than in the present case. The difficulty in finding cases to cite as precedent that have similar facts is a warning flag to the panel that it is likely making inferences that are overly speculative and are not adequately supported by the evidence.

Panelist Neil Brown ordered the disputed domain name transferred in Irving Materials, Inc. v. Black, Jeff / PartnerVision Ventures, Forum Claim Number FA1710001753342, November 7, 2017.[31] The respondent did not appear. The Complainant is an aggregate materials company that had no registered trademark in IMI when the domain name was registered 23-years prior, in the early days of the commercial Internet. Brown apparently overlooked (or it was not drawn to his attention) that the Whois record showed that the Registrant's business name was "Internet Marketing Inc.", thereby suggesting that the Respondent had a legitimate interest in the domain name. Brown, in support of his finding that in 1994 the Registrant was aware of the unregistered rights in a common acronym of a company operating in an obscure industrial niche, cited to Univision Comm'cns Inc. v. Norte, FA 1000079 (Forum Aug. 16, 2007)([32] for its holding, in part, that "the panel found that the respondent had knowledge of the complainant's rights in the UNIVISION mark when registering the disputed domain name". Yet Univision was a famous, distinctive mark when was registered. Moreover, the respondent in that dispute acknowledged it was intentionally targeting the Univision mark for a parody website. As the circumstances that supported the bad faith finding in the dispute are entirely lacking in the dispute, Brown's reliance on highlights instead the apparent absence of evidence to support Brown's finding that was registered in bad faith. The decision in was heavily criticized[33] and the Respondent filed a Federal lawsuit seeking to prevent the transfer of the domain name and alleging Reverse Domain Name Hijacking under the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act.[34]

In Zynex Medical, Inc. v. New Ventures Services Corp, Forum Claim Number FA1805001788042, July 2, 2018, (,[35] Panelist John Upchurch found registration in bad faith despite making no determination as to when the registration of the disputed domain name occurred. was first registered in 2000, while the trademark relied upon by the Complainant was registered in 2012. This suggests that Upchurch made an unsupported inference in finding that the registration of the disputed domain name was in bad faith. To justify his finding that the Respondent had registered in bad faith, Upchurch cited to a decision concerning[36] That decision relied upon evidence that the Respondent was a serial cybersquatter with a history of targeting the famous ALAMO mark. No comparable evidence was presented in the decision, thereby highlighting the lack of evidence to support an inference of bad faith registration.

In AREAS, S.A. v. Andres Sanchez Garcia, WIPO Case No. D2015-1482, November 9, 2015, (,[37] Panelist Alejandro Touriño ordered the transfer of the inactive 17-year-old domain name despite a lack of evidence to support a reasonable inference of either registration or use in bad faith. Lacking any evidence on which he could draw even a highly speculative inference of bad faith, Touriño instead held that it was the Respondent's failure to appear that in itself provided the necessary evidence of bad faith: "a failure to respond [sic] the Complaint can be evidence of bad faith".

Yet the dispute[38] that Touriño relied upon is readily distinguishable from the dispute, as it involved two competing Greek hotels, one of which registered its competitor's distinctive brand to drive traffic to its own website, such that the Panelist found the appearance of guilt to be so compelling that it required an explanation from the Respondent. The lack of a similar factual background in the dispute highlights that Touriño's finding of bad faith from a mere failure to respond was unjustified and did not support the troubling transfer of an aged common word domain name that was put to no infringing use.

The guidance providing in the Rules that a panel make inferences "as it considers appropriate" from a respondent's failure to appear does not grant permission to panels to make speculative inferences that are not grounded in solid evidence. In the above cases, the Panels did not require that the Complainants prove their allegations. Instead the Panels accepted the allegations by making inferences that were not supported by the evidence presented in the case. That the facts in the cases that they cited as support were entirely different and more compelling than the facts in their own cases should have suggested to the Panelists that the inferences they were making were not well founded.

The Proper Approach is to Only Accept Allegations Adequately Supported by Evidence

From the earliest days of the UDRP, the treatment of no-response cases has suffered from an unclear and often misapprehended approach. As the great majority of UDRP disputes are undefended, this incorrect approach has become widespread throughout UDRP jurisprudence. The holding in the most heavily relied-upon decision for the evidentiary standard in no-response cases, Talk City, has been misread and misapplied, directing panelists to accept unsupported allegations of bad faith as true whenever no response is filed. This error in undefended cases has remained uncorrected in over 15,000 citations for over 18 years. The Rules permitting panelists to draw appropriate inferences from a respondent's failure to appear has likewise been misapplied to justify inferences that do not follow from the evidence.

Appropriate inferences well supported by the evidence, accurate citation, and correct application of UDRP precedent are critical to the integrity and authority of the UDRP Policy, in both defended and undefended cases alike. Reflexive and unwarranted transfer of domain names in undefended cases, based on unsupported allegations, undermines confidence in the process and rewards misuse of the UDRP. The Policy and good practice demand careful review of all complaints for sufficient evidentiary support.

[1] Data from, which incorporates cases from WIPO, the Forum and the Czech Arbitration Council.
[2] See Paragraph 4(a) of the Policy (
[3] See (
[4] See: (
[5] See:
[6] (n 1).
[7] See Paragraph 4(1) of the Policy;
[8] See for example, Mystery Tackle Box, Inc. v. John Connolly, NAF Claim Number: FA1812001819248, January 8, 2019 ( and Silver Streak Industries, LLC v. Vietze, Dan / Frederick Manufacturing, Forum Claim Number: FA1510001643236, November 23, 2015 (
[9] See for example, Thermotion, LLC v. ISIS, NAF Claim Number: FA1811001817477, January 2, 2019 (
[10] See PCO AG v. Register4Less Privacy Advocate, 3501256 Canada, Inc., WIPO Case No. D2017-1778, October 30, 2017 ( and Zeca S.p.A. v. Whois Privacy Protection Service, Inc. / Domain Vault LLC, WIPO Case No. D2017-0158, April 3, 2017 (, Olsen Holding GmbH v. Domain Admin, Whois Privacy Group / Domain Admin, Mighty Products, Inc., WIPO Case No. D2018-0568 ( See also
[11] See World Future Society v. S.F.P. Koopmans, BCG eBrpojects B.V., WIPO Case No. D2016-2347, January 13, 2017 (
[12] See Zoyo Capital Limited v. A. Zoyo, WIPO Case No. D2018-2234, November 13, 2018 (, TDBBS, Inc. v. Mark Dimitrijevic, WIPO Case No. D2016-2111, December 2, 2016 (, and Sanabul v. Wasea Qubadi, Forum Claim Number: FA1709001748693, October 18, 2017 (
[17] As identified at
[18] Dean & Simmons, Sàrl and Heintz Van Landewyck S.à.r.l. v. Domain Capital / Moniker Privacy Services, WIPO Case No. D2015-0080, March 27, 2015 (, a defended case.
[19] See Paragraph 5(f) of the UDRP Rules.
[20] See Paragraph 14(b) of the UDRP Rules, ibid.
[23] ibid
[24] ibid
[25] Many panelists are not led astray by the incorrect evidentiary standard attributed to Talk City, even when the decisions they issue cite to Talk City. Talk City appears to be included as boilerplate language in Forum decisions when no response is filed, whether or not the Panelist relies on the guidance set forth in the purported quote from Talk City. Many decisions that cite to Talk City appropriately require that the complainant meet its burden of proof.
[28] ibid
[30] See dissent of Panelist Diane Cabell in dispute over “Today, many panels will find proof of all three of the Policy's elements simply from the existence of a mark of any kind with arguments that any mark is by definition identical or confusingly similar, that any use by any party other than a mark owner can only be illegitimate, and that bad faith necessarily exists if there is no legitimate interest. That takes us back to the beginning, which I find disheartening.”
[33] See : "A similarly false inference was made in Irving Materials, Inc. v. Black, Jeff / PartnerVision Ventures";;
[38] See

Written by Zak Muscovitch, General Counsel, Internet Commerce Association

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ICANN to Grant Verisign Right to Sell a Single-Character .com Domain for First Time in Over 25 Years

Czw, 2019-03-07 19:10

ICANN's board of directors is due to vote next Thursday at the conclusion of ICANN 64, which begins Saturday in Kobe, Japan, to approve a complex proposal allowing Verisign to auction off, with almost all of the proceeds going to good causes. Kevin Murphy reporting in Domain Incite: "ICANN had referred the Verisign proposal, first put forward in December 2016, to the US government, and the Department of Justice gave it the nod in December 2017. There was also a public comment period last May. The request almost certainly came about due to’s incessant lobbying."

The only single character .com domains currently registered are, and

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Facebook Enters Wholesale Fiber Business, Plans to Sell Unused Capacity on New Fiber Routes

Czw, 2019-03-07 00:42

Facebooks says it intends to allow third parties — including local and regional providers — to purchase excess capacity on its fiber. "Unlike a retail telecommunications provider, we will not be providing services directly to consumers," said the company in a recent post providing an update to its backbone network infrastructure. Kevin Salvadori, Facebook's Director of Network Investments, says: "We will reserve a portion for our own use and make the excess available to others. This means you'll start to see a Facebook subsidiary, Middle Mile Infrastructure, operating as a wholesale provider (or, where necessary, as a telecommunications carrier)."

Facebook's entry into the wholesale fiber market is part of a larger trend says Data Center Frontier's Rich Miller: "As hyperscale companies like Facebook continue to grow, the huge volumes of user data prompt them to add data centers. This leads to larger cloud campuses, with truly massive volumes of data moving between them. The volume of this 'East-West' traffic between data centers far surpasses the volume of data traveling to other campuses and the Internet — known as "North-South" traffic."

Facebook's latest fiber routes will connect data centers in Ohio, Virginia, and North Carolina.

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More under: Access Providers, Broadband, Cloud Computing, Data Center