The Internet has become a foundational component for conducting personal, company, and government business around the world, but it also presents challenges for policymakers on such issues as protecting the privacy and security of their citizens’ digital data. With hacking incidents, breaches in data security, and invasions of privacy on the rise, many governments are working to strengthen their protection regulations.
The European Union, for example, is proposing rules that require data-protection safeguards to be built into new products. Some countries are considering implementing a “right to be forgotten” law, whereby outdated information about an individual must be removed by search engine companies. Others also want to change how apps and websites gather personal information. And all countries are struggling with how best to govern the Internet in their regions.
All these measures can be assisted by technology and can benefit from the involvement of representatives from high-tech companies. IEEE believes that technologists should be involved with shaping technology policy by providing sound guidance for legislators and policymakers so they can better understand the implications of their decisions. That’s why the organization launched the IEEE Internet Initiative, a platform dedicated to bringing together the technical community with policymakers to discuss Internet governance, cybersecurity, and privacy.
“It’s not uncommon for private individuals and companies to talk to legislators when legislation affects them,” says IEEE Member Oleg Logvinov, chair of the initiative. “The initiative is not about IEEE becoming involved with policymaking. It’s about providing a platform for legislators and policymakers from around the world, IEEE members, and the larger technical community to communicate with and educate each other.
“Building on the work of IEEE-USA, which supports the career and public policy interests of U.S. members, this initiative is concerned with global Internet technology policymaking.”
IEEE is uniquely suited to be a credible forum that can help ensure trustworthy applications and best practices in Internet technology and related policymaking, according to the initiative’s program director, IEEE staffer James Wendorf.
After all, IEEE members helped develop just about every aspect of the Internet, and they are at work building its future. Wendorf also points to the organization’s well-regarded reputation for open collaboration and consensus building in its standards-development process, which brings together individuals and organizations with diverse technical and geographic points of view.
“IEEE is a neutral, global platform,” Wendorf says. “We do not speak for one particular country or company.”
And IEEE has been involved with security and privacy issues for more than 30 years. In 2014 it launched the IEEE Cybersecurity Initiative to accelerate innovative research and develop cybersecurity and privacy technologies.
To help members and others understand the issues and get involved with informing and shaping policy, the IEEE Internet Initiative is hosting workshops around the world. The first IEEE Experts in Technology and Policy Forum on Internet Governance, Cybersecurity, and Privacy was held on 18 May in San Jose, Calif., in conjunction with the IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy.
The forum brought together invited cybersecurity and privacy technologists and policy experts from Africa, Asia, the European Union, and the United States. The attendees developed a list of issues and challenges that will be posted on the initiative’s website, along with a white paper that covers the issues in more depth and outlines plans for addressing them. In the future, such workshops will be held in conjunction with other related events.
Members can also join the IEEE Internet Initiative Technology and Policy Community to get the latest news about the initiative.
But the workshops are not the only way IEEE can help, Wendorf notes.
“As technology experts develop their technologies and products, we can connect them to the policy people who, in turn, can inform them about the latest discussions on privacy and security regulations. If you really want technologies that benefit humanity, you must develop them while working with people who are setting the policies on how they will be regulated.”