Feeds

Now you see us, now you don't: ICANN goes transparent

What about those voting rights, again?

SANS - Survey on application security programs

ICANN San Juan 2007 The Wednesday ICANN-arama wrapped up with a session covering ICANN's ongoing efforts to improve its management and accountability practices: the "Accountability and transparency management operating principles" workshop.

Maybe the title itself had something to do with it, but this very lightly attended workshop had the ring to it of one of those obscure sessions where useful information tends to get swept out of sight and mind. Much of the discussion revolved around making the ICANN board actually accountable to someone other than, well, the ICANN board. There are procedures already in place at ICANN that allow appeals of board decisions, but those procedural appeals always seem to circulate back to the board itself.

Milton Mueller contrasted ICANN's structure with that of the American Cancer Society, which has a national council that decisions may be taken up with. Mueller also recommended bringing back the short-lived direct election of board members, a suggestion we endorse here at El Reg, too. We believe there are enough clever people at ICANN to work out the technical kinks of direct elections - after all, we've given them the authority to run the entire internet.

Of course, ICANN is a California nonprofit corporation, and as such is bound by California law, which means that public or even private attorney general actions are a possibility. However, litigation is never the ideal solution and ICANN is wise to consider some institutional options before someone takes matters into their own hands.

Part of the problem at ICANN is the size of the decision making body itself. In its effort to be a "from the ground up" consensus body, ICANN has a rather ramshackle structure in which various "stakeholders" have representation on the ICANN board. This consists of 15 voting members and six non-voting members. At least, that's how it's supposed to work according to ICANN's bylaws.

Paul Levins, vice president of corporate affairs and moderator of this session, let slip, however, that under Chairman Vint Cerf, formal voting requirements have frequently been relaxed, and the opinions of non-voting members have been given equal weight in the decision-making process. This is clearly a violation of the corporate by laws and clearly not a model for transparent management. That may be a way to encourage wider input and greater consensus, but that also means that non-voting members have more of a say than widely believed, which hardly encourages transparency.

If the board wants those other parties to have a stronger voice, they should amend the bylaws, rather than just ignoring them when convenient. It also creates an unwieldy de facto voting board of 21 members - hardly a model of efficiency. This is also why there is lingering public paranoia about the role the government affairs committee (GAC)-and particularly the US Department of Commerce (DOC)- in the decision-making process, since GAC meetings are typically closed to the public and the GAC is one of these "non-voting" members.

The other focus of the discussion were the ongoing outreach programs organized by Kieren McCarthy, formerly with El Reg. Much greater emphasis is being put on providing up-to-date translations of documents and whatnot put out by ICANN. This welcome internationalization of ICANN public participation is really a recognition of the impact that internationalized domain names will have on ICANN itself. If ICANN is truly to fend off groups such as the Internet Governance Forum (IGF), and maintain control over the management of the internet, it will have to establish that it is capable of fulfilling that international mandate.

Burke Hansen, attorney at large, heads a San Francisco law office

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Putin tells Snowden: Russia conducts no US-style mass surveillance
Gov't is too broke for that, Russian prez says
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
Record labels sue Pandora over vintage song royalties
Companies want payout on recordings made before 1972
Edward Snowden on his Putin TV appearance: 'Why all the criticism?'
Denies Q&A cameo was meant to slam US, big-up Russia
Lavabit loses contempt of court appeal over protecting Snowden, customers
Judges rule complaints about government power are too little, too late
MtGox chief Karpelès refuses to come to US for g-men's grilling
Bitcoin baron says he needs another lawyer for FinCEN chat
Don't let no-hire pact suit witnesses call Steve Jobs a bullyboy, plead Apple and Google
'Irrelevant' character evidence should be excluded – lawyers
EFF: Feds plan to put 52 MILLION FACES into recognition database
System would identify faces as part of biometrics collection
Ex-Tony Blair adviser is new top boss at UK spy-hive GCHQ
Robert Hannigan to replace Sir Iain Lobban in the autumn
Judge halts spread of zombie Nortel patents to Texas in Google trial
Epic Rockstar patent war to be waged in California
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.