[bc-gnso] NetChoice post on 'consumer trust' and 'public interest' at ICANN
- To: "'bc - GNSO list'" <bc-gnso@xxxxxxxxx>
- Subject: [bc-gnso] NetChoice post on 'consumer trust' and 'public interest' at ICANN
- From: Steve DelBianco <sdelbianco@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Thu, 9 Dec 2010 19:42:27 +0000
Yesterday, John Berard and I attended a workshop here in Cartagena, on a
proposed new 'Consumer Constituency' in ICANN. The proponents were mostly
from ALAC, and they say their goal is bring a 'consumer agenda' to ICANN.
I just posted a blog that suggests a much better way to institutionalize BC
values like 'consumer trust' and the 'global public interest'.
The post is shown below and is at CircleID
Institutionalizing Consumer Trust and Public Interest at
For an organization where people argue for hours over arcane minutiae, it’s
remarkable that virtually everyone agrees that ICANN should serve the “global
public interest” and build “consumer trust” in the Internet.
Although it’s only three pages long, ICANN’s Affirmation of
(AoC) cites “public interest” five times and “consumer trust” eight times. So
at the ICANN meeting today in Cartagena, Colombia, a group of participants
explored ways to “institutionalize” these concepts within the organization.
There’s no argument about whether to institutionalize concepts of public
interest and consumer trust at ICANN. The real question is how to do it in the
At today’s meeting, participants focused on institutionalizing these concepts
by creating a new ‘consumer’ constituency group within ICANN. That’s not
surprising, since ICANN is organized as a constellation of special-interest
stakeholder groups and constituencies. A newly chartered ‘Consumers
Constituency’ would get a box on the ICANN org chart and its own seat at the
table to advocate on behalf of the public interest and consumer trust.
But before we head down that path and create yet another new institution within
ICANN, let’s think about how to instill these values in the institution we
After all, when ICANN committed to accountability in the AoC, there was no rush
to create a new ‘Accountability’ Constituency. Instead, everyone assumed that
AoC commitments apply to the entire ICANN organization and all of its
operations. You might even say that accountability has become
“institutionalized” within ICANN.
ICANN constituencies are special-interest by nature and oppositional by
necessity. They defend the interests of their members against other
constituencies that are advancing their own interests. That’s inevitable in
making zero-sum policy decisions, but is a competing constituency model the
best way to embrace commitments that would be agreed by all and applied to all?
Another issue with the proposed Consumer Constituency is that it would be
placed within the ICANN organization that makes policy only for generic domains
like com, org, and info. That means this Consumer Constituency would have no
bearing on policies for country-code domains such as uk, cn, and br. However,
these country-code domains are growing faster than the generics, and certainly
ought to share the same commitment to consumer trust and the global public
To truly institutionalize a commitment to consumer trust and the global public
interest, it seems the last thing we need is yet another constituency group
housed in one of ICANN’s supporting organizations.
There has to be a better way to institutionalize values across an institution.
Give this a try:
We in the Internet community can develop definitions of “consumer trust” and
the “public interest” in the context of ICANN. They won’t be the same
definitions used by institutions that work in other fields, such as food safety
or global warming. But with some focused attention, we can indeed define
specific elements of consumer trust and public interest in the Internet context.
Next, we design metrics to assess how ICANN is affecting our definitions of
consumer trust and serving the public interest. As Peter Dengate Thrush has
often said, “what get’s measured, gets done,” so ICANN’s management can be
measured and held accountable for minimum metrics and for year-over-year
For my part, I’ll start the conversation with a definition that fits the global
public interest commitment in ICANN’s Bylaws and the Affirmation of
Commitments. For an institution that coordinates the Internet domain name
system, Public Interest means: availability and integrity of registrations and
Availability of the DNS is critical for global users who increasingly rely on
the Internet for information, communications, and commerce. Domain name
resolutions need to be available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, from anywhere
on the globe. Availability also means being able to use any language and any
script for both generic and country-code domains and email addresses.
Availability also applies to domain names sought by registrants: will domains
in new gTLDs be available to the public, or will they be captured by insiders?
That kind of availability should also be part of the public interest test for
Integrity of the DNS is vital to businesses and end-users of the Internet.
Businesses rely upon the integrity of domain name registration to ensure that
their brands are not misrepresented or misappropriated. E-commerce and Internet
financial transactions absolutely require integrity in resolution of domain
names and secure delivery of encrypted data.
Internet users depend upon the integrity of domain name services to provide
accurate and authentic results when they look up a website or send an email.
Integrity is undermined by deceptive practices such as redirecting users to
fraudulent websites or providing false information about the true owner of a
I think Availability and Integrity really do capture the essence of serving the
global public interest in the ICANN context. I’m eager to see what the ICANN
community can do to improve on that definition, and to come up with similar
definition for building and measuring consumer trust.