April 29, 2012

Scathing New Report Accuses Google of Unauthorized Air Collection

WASHINGTON (ZAP) -- It's been a bad week for Google. First, a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) report -- released in essentially unredacted form by the search giant itself -- accused the provider of free Internet services of inappropriately collecting fragmentary, unencrypted, publicly available Wi-Fi data via vehicles engaged in their "Street View" mapping project. Though Google asserts that these completely legal activities were not sanctioned by management, and the FCC admits no laws were broken, the Commission demonstrated its condemnation of lawfully receiving plaintext transmissions from public airwaves by fining Google $25,000.

Now -- in a stunning double blow to Google -- comes word of an upcoming joint report from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), that will reportedly castigate Google for permitting their Street View drivers to breath air without prior authorization in the vicinity of homes and businesses passed by Street View vehicles.

A leaked excerpt of the FDA/EPA report states that, "It is likely that Google's Street View drivers directly inhaled carbon dioxide and other atmospheric components that had been previously respired by occupants of local dwellings and commercial facilities, without having first obtained explicit permission to do so. We additionally note the strong probability that Street View drivers so inhaling may have illicitly and at least temporarily incorporated some elements of such insufflations into their body tissues, without practical mechanisms having been prepared by Google for the categorization and separation of authorized vs. clandestine utilization of associated molecular constituents from associated atmospherically amalgamated respiratory contents and gaseous chemical fractions."

The trenchant report also stipulates, "While it is true that virtually any terrestrial oxygen-dependent organisms with conventionally configured lungs would have been easily capable of breathing the same air, in the same locations, in a similar manner, we hold Google to a higher standard than merely what's legal and necessary to sustain life, and are contemplating punitive actions including fines plus strict sanctions and prohibitions against Google employees respiring public atmospheric components, whether authorized or not."

An appendix to the report indicates similar concerns on the part of European Union (EU) leadership, including a quote from the EU Commissioner for Tropospheric Privacy, proclaiming, "Here in Europe, we take the privacy of citizens' exhaled carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and even argon with enormous seriousness. If we determine that Google Street View drivers have been ingurgitating these materials into their bodies without permission while driving public thoroughfares, the full and powerful dynamism of EU enforcement regimes will be brought to bear directly and firmly on such incorrigibly aerobic corporate scofflaws."

A Google spokesman had no immediate comment regarding the new FDA/EPA "breathing violations" report, but could be heard repeatedly bashing his head into a nearby office wall.

- - -

--Lauren--
"Yes, this is a satire."

Posted by Lauren at 12:21 PM | Permalink
Twitter: @laurenweinstein
Google+: Lauren Weinstein


April 27, 2012

Stopping Congress' Cybersecurity CISPA Nightmare

In the wake of the 9/11 tragedies, the U.S. Congress rushed to quickly pass the ostensibly anti-terrorism PATRIOT Act. While we can reasonably view their motives as mostly virtuous at the time, over the years many observers have come to view PATRIOT as a classic example of bad, knee-jerk legislation, that had far more of an impact in terms of damaging the civil liberties of honest citizens than it did genuinely fighting true terrorism.

In their scramble yesterday to pass CISPA -- H.R. 3523: The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act of 2011 -- Congress' House of Representatives has created a framework for attacks on civil rights and privacy that not only far exceed the abusive potential of the much despised (and currently sidelined) SOPA and PIPA legislation, but also that of PATRIOT itself.

It didn't have to be this way. We can all acknowledge that cybersecurity is a serious issue, and that real cybersecurity threats do exist.

But as I've noted in CISPA, Cybersecurity, and the Devil in the Dark and elsewhere, cybersecurity has become a new target for exploitation by intelligence agencies and commercial profiteers alike, and CISPA legislation in particular has seemed increasingly problematic from the word go.

The rumor was that various amendments would be added to CISPA before yesterday's House vote, to correct some of the more egregious privacy problems contained in the main legislation.

Instead, in an absolutely stunning display of disrespect for legitimate privacy concerns and other civil rights, the House not only failed to make the legislation better before passing it by a 248 to 168 margin, but by voice vote they actually made it incredibly more dangerous and outrageous.

The result is one of the most toxic witch's brews against civil rights and privacy as can be imagined.

Overriding decades of privacy protections in current law, CISPA would now permit firms and other organizations to hand over to authorities vast quantities of your personal Internet communications -- essentially any and all of it -- whenever it is felt that essentially undefined "cybersecurity" events are at hand. No judges, no warrants, no probable cause required.

High school student trying to crack a system to download a game for free? Cyberattack declared!

Misconfigured hardware or software causing a denial of service problem? Cyberattack declared!

Anything that seems at all out of the ordinary and you want to pass the buck as quickly as possible? Cyberattack declared!

It's obvious that with only a modicum of imagination it will be trivial to declare a cyberattack or other "cybersecurity event" to trigger CISPA virtually on demand.

But wait, it gets better (as Darth Vader might say). All of this personal Internet data turned over to the government isn't restricted to fighting cybersecurity attacks per se.

Not only can it be shared with intelligence agencies, where it will tickle and enhance vast databases the names of which we couldn't even imagine without an SCIF clearance, but this data could also now be used for a vast range of other purposes, even including (somehow you knew Congress was going to work this in there somehow) fighting child porn.

And any entities sharing your private data with the government under CISPA are covered by broad liability immunities in the legislation, that will encourage them to divulge private data first and ask questions ... maybe never.

We all want to protect against real cyberattacks, child porn, and terrorism.

But CISPA has evolved -- especially after the House's actions yesterday before passage -- into one of the most potent spying and civil liberties adverse pieces of legislation ever proposed, much less passed by a branch of Congress.

In light of this, firms who expressed support for CISPA in the past would be wise to reevaluate their positions, and those who have taken a neutral stance might now wish to at least consider a formal statement against the legislation in the form passed by the House.

The U.S. Senate has yet to take action on CISPA, and President Obama was threatening to possibly veto it even before the House's travesties of yesterday.

But if you objected to SOPA and PIPA, if you care about the privacy of your Internet communications, this is no time to be on the sidelines.

Tell your Senators and the President in no uncertain terms that you want appropriate cybersecurity legislation, but that you are unwilling to flush your civil rights down the toilet in the process. And do keep in mind who voted for CISPA in the House. You may want to express your displeasure to them as well.

CISPA has become a dramatic demonstration of good intentions on the part of some being warped by the bad and greedy intentions of others, and of Congress -- at least the House of Representatives -- seeming to show a disdain of liberty that is awesome in its recklessness.

Like I said, it didn't have to be this way. We do definitely need responsible legislation dealing with serious cybersecurity issues -- no doubt about it.

Yet without major changes to protect our rights, CISPA is a trap, a pit in the darkness, a nightmare in waiting for us all.

CISPA and its kin must be definitively, absolutely, and unambiguously stopped in their tracks.

--Lauren--

Posted by Lauren at 01:02 PM | Permalink
Twitter: @laurenweinstein
Google+: Lauren Weinstein


April 23, 2012

A Reminder About the "DNS Changer" Trojan

There's been a lot in the news today about the DNS Changer trojan, still likely affecting vast numbers of PCs and Macs. With the renewed push to remind users what's at stake, I wanted to very quickly provide a recap and a list of useful resources regarding this important issue.

DNS Trojan has been around for approaching five years or so, but last November a massive effort by the FBI and others resulted in a number of arrests and the seizure of associated server systems.

At its peak, perhaps an estimated 14 million computers were involved globally.

What's particularly insidious about this situation is that users' systems could be infected with DNS Trojan for long periods, which resulted in their Internet activity being diverted through compromised DNS servers and opening up vulnerabilities to even more infections, without users even being aware of what was happening.

When the related server systems were seized, it created a quandary. If the servers were simply disconnected, all user systems currently infected with the trojan would no longer resolve Internet domain names to addresses, and would for all practical purposes be "cut off" from the Internet.

While it is relatively straightforward to solve this situation if you know the procedure and have the necessary information, fixing this is not something that is obvious to most users.

So it was arranged for "clean" DNS servers to temporarily replace the nasty ones, originally until last month, and then extended to July 9. This kept users with contaminated systems from losing most Internet connectivity, but didn't actually remove the trojan, either.

So barring another court extension, systems that are still infected with DNS Changer that have not cleaned out the Trojan and repaired their DNS systems, are going to lose their address resolving capabilities on July 9, and that means they won't be accessing any websites in normal manners.

Whatever your location (this attack was not limited to the U.S. alone), it is important to verify that your systems, both PC and Mac, are free of DNS Changer as soon as possible. Don't wait for the deadline!

Here are some useful resources to help with this:

A good overview article from PC World provides a lot of background information and additional links.

The DNS Changer Check-Up site will give a quick "green" or "red" status on your system, though it is not guaranteed to be 100% accurate since ISP-based actions to deal with this situation may fool this test.

The official FBI page explaining the Trojan and more details regarding what was known as "Operation Ghost Click" is also definitely worth visiting.

The important thing to remember is that while you have a couple of months before the actual shutdown that will affect infected systems, you should act now to make sure your systems are clear of DNS Changer, and avoid being unpleasantly surprised down the line.

If you have any additional questions, please drop me an email and of course I'll try to be of assistance.

Take care, all.

--Lauren--

Posted by Lauren at 08:36 PM | Permalink
Twitter: @laurenweinstein
Google+: Lauren Weinstein


April 21, 2012

Google and Others: Evil, Weird, or Something Else?

An interesting article appeared today in The New York Times, titled Donít Be Evil, but Donít Miss the Train.

While I don't agree with everything in that piece, it does take an unusually nuanced view of complex situations involving Web giants like Google and others, topics that all too often are reduced to simplistic (and inaccurate) platitudes in the media.

I would assert that there's an important, implicit lesson that comes from the article's discussion as well: Communication is Critical.

For example, the article notes the (once again in the news) story of Google's collection of unencrypted Wi-Fi "payload" data from their Street View vehicles, which has triggered complaints both in the U.S. and other countries. The article says about this:

"Evil? Hard to know. But certainly weird..."

This is a particularly interesting assessment. Why is it "hard to know?"

I've long been on the record as believing that way too much has been made of Google's Wi-Fi lapse, which I do believe was entirely accidental.

But we're wrong to assume that everyone will automatically make the same assumption or even believe it.

After all, what percentage of politicians, or Internet users in general, have done packet level debugging, or know what "tcpdump -w" does -- or have even heard of "tcpdump" for that matter? And what proportion of typical Internet users have experienced how easy it can be to accidentally leave debugging code enabled in deployed and distributed software?

In the absence of relevant communications and information, it's an unfortunate aspect of human nature to assume the worse, to start believing the conspiracy theories, and in fact to play into the hands of those forces who purposely spread misinformation about their competitors or other "designated enemies."

When users can't get substantive answers to their questions or meaningful responses and explanations for their problems, they're not going to be concerned with issues of scale, they're only going to know that they feel like they're being ignored. And especially for folks with relatively serious issues, this is a recipe for damaging rumors and bad relations all around, especially when such cases, even when based on misinformation or misunderstandings, go viral and break through into mainstream media. Problems that could have been easily solved early on can quickly evolve from annoyances to public relations nightmares, and worse.

It's all too easy for we technologists to assume, even if only subconsciously, that "most people" will be of a similar mind as ours, and will react in much the same way that we and our colleagues would be expected to behave in any given situation.

Much or even most of the time, this assumption is simply not in conformance with reality.

None of this is usually a question of good or evil per se -- like the rest of the world, technology doesn't actually work that way.

But it is very definitely true that communications with users is key, and in the long run will usually be worth whatever it costs to provide, both in terms of people and funding, for Web services of every size, from the very smallest right on up.

In this way, we all stand a good chance of avoiding having our well-meaning actions (and our innocent mistakes) being misinterpreted as confusing, or arrogant, or weird, or worst of all of course -- as evil.

--Lauren--

Posted by Lauren at 07:50 PM | Permalink
Twitter: @laurenweinstein
Google+: Lauren Weinstein


April 19, 2012

Why Preserving an Open Internet is Now the Most Important Thing in the World

Almost a year ago, in Why the Internet is the Most Important Thing in the World, I suggested that the Net had gained this status due to its massive and increasing role as the infrastructure for all manner of electronic communications and information accessibility on the planet, and as such had become the preeminent enabler for solving all manner of critical problems facing the global community.

In the months since then, we've seen battles over SOPA and PIPA -- both pushed back for now, though anyone who believes the RIAA and MPAA are just taking their marbles and going home should consider the discount purchase of a classic old bridge connecting Manhattan and Brooklyn. In fact, the entertainment behemoths have made it clear that this is only Round One.

We've seen the F.U.D. (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt) regarding "cyberwar" ratcheted up to a fever pitch -- especially by those parties in a position to handsomely profit from the cybersecurity arms race -- giving birth to CISPA legislation that I consider to be highly problematic and potentially dangerous in its current form.

Around the world, countries are generally not becoming more open regarding the Internet, they're become less so, sometimes dramatically less so.

This isn't happening only in China, but also in Australia, India, Great Britain -- and elsewhere, including here in the U.S.A. as well.

All manner of ostensibly reasonable justifications -- from politics to security to economics (and of course "protecting children") -- are being flogged for all possible advantages by those parties who prefer a tightly controlled and censored Internet, rather than an open one. I choose to assume that the purveyors of a restricted Internet truly believe in their causes and mean no evil, even though I feel that their models could easily morph the Internet from a wonder into a nightmare.

And then there are the various Web services' so-called "walled gardens" -- the most obvious of which is Facebook, which has become something of the "roach motel" of user data -- the raw material of the social graph flows in, but very little can be viewed or searched from the outside.

In general, as increasing amounts of Web activity become entrapped inside closed ecosystems, whether Web-based per se or within "restrictive app"-environments (though not all app environments need be restrictive) -- the Open Internet become less and less ... open.

Google's co-founder Sergey Brin recently discussed his concerns about the deterioration of the Open Internet.

I think he was 100% spot on the mark, but some observers have suggested that his comments simply represented Google's economic concerns.

Obviously, Google's fortunes are largely tied to the Open Internet, without which, services such as broad-ranging search and many other key functionalities would be impossible.

But this does not in any way invalidate Sergey's commentary.

Because in many respects Google's ability to "organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful" (as noted in their mission statement) is very much a direct measure of the Internet's openness for all of us.

Google thus becomes the designated target for those forces who wish to remake the Internet into a meek, censored, tightly controlled shadow of itself. And at the same time Google becomes something of a proxy for all of us who depend upon the Open Internet -- even those persons who never use any Google services.

This is the fundamental reason why we see Google at the center of so many battles related to the "soul" of the Internet.

Yes, Google's business model is largely dependent on the Open Internet to succeed, the same Open Internet that is in all of our best interests -- all of us who are true believers in freedom of speech, civil rights, and equitable access to information, that is. And that category of "true believers" also includes everyone I've ever known at Google, irrespective of economic issues.

Ultimately though, this isn't about Google at all, no matter how disingenuously "closed Internet" advocates attempt to frame their arguments.

An Open Internet is increasingly absolutely essential to freedom of communications, freedom to search, freedom to learn, and just about every other freedom you or I could list.

Communications. Information. It is through these concepts, these realities, that innovations are created, problems are solved, dictators are vanquished, and the world advances.

And similarly, it is through control of these constructs, restrictions on information and communications, that ideas are crushed, lives are enslaved, and dictators flourish.

It has always been so, one way or another, since the dawn of mankind.

We need not posit conspiracies or secret societies to understand why the "big picture" concerning the Open Internet is of such concern, or why our actions now are of such crucial importance.

The Internet is the underpinning of our technological future. That future can be open and glorious, or it can be closed and potentially grotesque beyond measure.

Personally, I'll vote for open and glorious, every time.

--Lauren--

Posted by Lauren at 07:52 PM | Permalink
Twitter: @laurenweinstein
Google+: Lauren Weinstein


April 14, 2012

CISPA, Cybersecurity, and the Devil in the Dark

The threat of "cyberattacks" is real enough. But associated risks have in many cases been vastly overblown, and not by accident of chance.

The "cybersecurity" industry has become an increasingly bloated "money machine" for firms wishing to cash in on cyber fears of every stripe, from realistic to ridiculous. And even more alarmingly, it has become an excuse for potential government intrusions into Internet operations on a scope never before imagined.

There are warning signs galore. While we can all agree that SCADA systems that operate industrial control and other infrastructure environments are in need of serious security upgrades -- most really never should have been connected to the public Internet in the first place -- "war game" scenarios now being promulgated to garner political support (and the really big bucks!) for "cyber protection" have become de rigueur for agencies and others hell bent for a ride on the cybersecurity gravy train.

Phony demos purporting to illustrate mass cyber attacks are more akin to Fantasyland than reality, and the turf war between the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and intelligence agencies such as CIA and NSA in this sphere should give all of us cause for significant concern.

The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA - H.R. 3523) has become the embodiment of hopes for those entities who hope to turn overblown fears of cyber attacks into a pipeline for potentially massive access by government into the private data of Internet users.

Sponsors of the legislation tout its relative shortness and generality, but those are precisely among the aspects that make this legislation so problematic.

CISPA effectively overrides virtually all existing laws related to Internet privacy protections. And since CISPA offers firms access to government cybersecurity "threat data" in exchange for ostensibly voluntary feeding of data back from those firms to the government, and provides for broad protective immunity for companies that choose to do so, a pantheon of tech heavyweights have lined up in support.

Just a few of the firms who have to various extents professed direct support of CISPA include Facebook, Symantec, Verizon, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, and Oracle. There are many others.

Notably absent from this list is Google, who has not taken a formal position on the existing CISPA legislation and apparently is unlikely to do so.

Google's current approach to CISPA seems particularly prescient.

While it would be absolutely incorrect to attribute bad motives to the firms supporting CISPA, the legislation itself is in my view so vague and general that it represents largely an "empty vessel" capable of enormous potential damage if deployed and then subjected to the inevitable stream of court interpretations.

CISPA claims to ban using data collected under its authority for other than cyber threat activities. But we've seen such data compartmentalization bans fall many times before in other data collection contexts.

Since the legislation creates such a broad override of existing privacy protections, and such encompassing immunities for firms that provide associated data to the government, the lack of specificity in so many aspects of CISPA creates what could be the opportunity for a "perfect storm" of abuses down the line.

There are indeed genuine risks of serious attacks on the Internet and connected infrastructural systems. But in the fog of the military-industrial complex's rapid push into this area, it has become obvious that realistic assessments are being shoved aside in favor of scare tactics, agency power struggles, and "get rich quick" scheming.

This entire area has become a quintessential example of sowing F.U.D. -- Fear, Uncertainly, Doubt -- while legitimate questions of privacy and individual rights are purposefully being marginalized.

We saw much the same thing happen after 9/11, with the knee-jerk rush to pass the PATRIOT Act and Homeland Security Act, with a range of profiteering and abuses against individual liberties that then resulted -- even leading the U.S. down the evil path of torture.

We must avoid a repeat of this madness.

Information sharing can be a crucial element of cybersecurity, but for legislation addressing this area, the devil is very much in the details, and the lack of details in CISPA is an invitation to possible privacy disasters.

To the extent that cybersecurity threats do exist, the desire to quell them must not be permitted to run slipshod over our personal privacy, liberties, and associated protections in existing laws.

We can work together to help protect ourselves from actual cyber threats, without allowing ourselves to become cyber schnooks in the process.

--Lauren--

Posted by Lauren at 12:01 PM | Permalink
Twitter: @laurenweinstein
Google+: Lauren Weinstein


April 12, 2012

Facebook, Instagram, Google, and the Monopoly Fallacy

Ah yes. The Net is abuzz with the sound of a billion dollars (I'm refraining from the Dr. Evil references with great effort) landing in Instagram's lap, courtesy of Mark Zuckerberg's Facebook. And whatever the associated mix of cash and Facebook stock turns out to be, that's one hell of lot of moolah for a firm that's only been around a couple of years, has a grand total of 13 employees, and zero income (not to mention nada profit).

They don't even have their own infrastructure -- they use Amazon Web Services array of servers, though one might assume now that at some point those functionalities will be assimilated into Facebook's farm.

But what really fascinates me about this acquisition is how it puts another nail firmly in the coffin of false arguments that Google, Twitter, or various other large Web services firms are monopolies in their operational spheres, potentially or currently in need of antitrust enforcement.

What is Zuckerberg really buying with Instagram?

The entire management and staff of the company can be counted on three hands, with fingers to spare. Good people to be sure, but probably not worth a billion dollars.

What of Instagram's core technology -- letting people take photos, pretend to be artists by applying various filters (a capability provided by innumerable other programs and apps), then sharing the results with their so-called friends and followers -- is there a billion dollars of value there?

Some 30 million or so Instagram users come along (like it or not!) with the deal, who will almost certainly find themselves intimately entwined with Facebook's existing 800-odd million users at some stage. A significant collection of warm bodies, but a billion bucks worth? Hmm.

So again, what is Zuckerberg really getting for that billion dollar price tag?

Peace of mind.

My gut feeling is that Facebook saw the shadow of a significant potential competitor forming in cyberspace, and decided to nip it in the bud -- while it was still practical to do so just by throwing a chunk of money in the appropriate direction.

But how could Instagram -- no infrastructure, no income, hardly any employees -- be a threat to the 800-pound gorilla of social networking that is Facebook?

Zuckerberg isn't my idea of a good role model, but he's nobody's fool.

He knows full well what many of us have been saying for years -- that disruptive competition on the Web can appear and grow quickly at any time, and will usually be essentially just a single click away for your current users.

The Cadillac that is Facebook looked in its rear-view mirror, and realized that the little Nash Rambler of Instagram was pulling up with surprising speed.

With users increasingly able to easily extract their data from existing services if they want to switch -- Google has long supported Data Liberation, and Facebook is now moving in a similar direction -- that "one click away" competitive reality is now even more the order of the day.

And the counterexamples are equally instructive.

Where effective competition does not exist, cannot be easily created, or where users cannot move between competitors without pinning the hassle meter in the red zone, we see complacency and often abusive behaviors that indeed do call for regulatory approaches.

Microsoft's antitrust problems were fundamentally the result of their unwillingness to play fair, by their maneuvers to lock PC manufacturers and users into Windows environments whether they wanted to be there or not.

The giant ISPs in the U.S. who control most Internet access have spent decades manipulating the regulatory and political environments to purposely limit effective competition, to make it as difficult as possible for subscribers to switch services where any competition did exist, and to utterly control the "road" that connects subscribers to the Internet itself.

There was no "one-click" escape from Microsoft's anticompetitive behavior, and there isn't one today for users in the increasing concentrated, restrictive, and manipulative world of the immensely powerful major U.S. ISPs.

So perhaps we owe Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg some gratitude after all.

They have helped to illustrate the fallacies of accusations claiming evil monopolistic behavior by Google or other major Web services firms where users are free to easily switch between competitors, while also pointing us toward a better understanding of why regulatory oversight of the dominant ISPs is so badly needed.

The key to understanding Internet competition is in the click.

Facebook has provided us all with a billion dollar lesson in why this is true.

Just please don't send us the bill.

--Lauren--

Posted by Lauren at 07:36 PM | Permalink
Twitter: @laurenweinstein
Google+: Lauren Weinstein


April 01, 2012

ICANN Announces Surprise Termination of Domain Name Expansion Program; Plans Own Dissolution

Sunday, 1 April 2012

MARINA DEL REY, California (ZAP) -- In a stunning and unexpected announcement, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has announced the immediate termination of its controversial and much criticized plan for a vast expansion of generic top-level Internet domain names (gTLDs), and has set an aggressive timetable for the dissolution of ICANN itself.

ICANN has been increasingly condemned for what many observers have called erratic and inappropriate decision-making processes, leading to the U.S. Department of Commerce refusing to renew a key ICANN function last month, and ICANN's own outgoing CEO publicly implying that conflicts of interest on the ICANN board of directors have allowed ICANN to be co-opted by moneyed "domainer" speculation interests.

ICANN spokesman Seymour Murdochian discussed his organization's drastic change of course as he snacked on Beluga caviar spread over Wonder Bread, while watching his Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow being washed and detailed in Beverly Hills.

"I realize that there are many serious allegations outstanding against ICANN these days," said Mr. Murdochian. "We're blamed for ignoring the best interests of the global Internet community. We're accused of implementing an extortionist protection racket via an enormous domain name expansion program, that would ultimately suck billions of dollars out of the Internet economy and would only serve to enrich the "domain-industrial complex" operating those domains. People claim that we arrogantly ignore legitimate concerns of trademark holders, are complicit in helping the U.S. government disable domains around the world without due process, waste money on unnecessary global travel to exotic locales, have become totally owned by a "gold rush" mentality via wealthy powers at the top of the DNS food chain, and even that we use overly expensive hand soap in our office restrooms," added Mr. Murdochian.

"I want to be absolutely clear that the ICANN board of directors takes firm and uncompromising exception to such a characterization. Our hand soap is not outrageously expensive, and given the amount of hand washing we do around here, having quality soap available is a necessity, not a luxury," Murdochian noted.

Murdochian then explained ICANN's recent change of heart. "After extensive discussions internally, with our travel agents, and with our personal portfolio managers, we've decided that the time is ripe for us to bow out of formal Internet affairs. We want to make way for the creation of new Internet governance models that can be purpose-built to better serve the entire Internet community around the world, will reduce the risk of Internet fragmentation that has been rising as domestic governments increasingly threaten not to play along with our current schemes, and will help reduce the risk of a potentially disastrous Internet takeover by politically-encumbered organizations such as the United Nations or International Telecommunication Union."

"Therefore, we've announced that effective immediately, all ICANN activities related to new Internet top-level domains are permanently ended. We will be refunding all associated fees already paid by applicants, and as a token of our appreciation for past support will be including with each refund an approximately 1.5 carat, 'H' color, 'SI' quality diamond from our vaults."

"We have filed appropriate notifications with the Department of Commerce and foreign governments expressing our intention to cease all ICANN operations no later than a year from now on 1 April 2013."

"I'll be reachable for additional comments at my summer home on the Riviera if there are any other questions," said Mr. Murdochian, just before his chauffeur whisked him away.

Asked about these unexpected, dramatic developments, Lauren Weinstein, a long-time Internet technologist and vocal critic of ICANN's domain name plans, said that, "It's indeed encouraging to see ICANN finally doing what's really right for the entire global Internet community, and abandoning their plans to fleece the Internet at large for the benefit of domain speculators and associated opportunists. A new alternative to ICANN and to existing organizations like the ITU and UN is definitely the way that we need to proceed to make the Internet better for everyone around the world. It's a shame though that this process has taken so long, and that this entire article is only an April Fools' Day posting."

ZAP/NYC 20120401 0916

- - -

--Lauren--

Posted by Lauren at 09:16 AM | Permalink
Twitter: @laurenweinstein
Google+: Lauren Weinstein