Internet Governance aims at formalizing the process on how decisions which shape the Internet are being made – particularly its technical capabilities and basic architecture.
The first laws governing the processing of personal data have been developed in the 1960s. Originally, the main question was how governments and employers are using personal data of citizens and employees for administrative purposes. This has changed with the increasing amounts of personal data, new possibilities to store and analyse it and new perspectives to monetize personal data.
Internet Governance does not only influence data protection and privacy. It also influences aspects such as freedom of expression, equality of users and network access, security (of users and connected or electronically controllable critical infrastructure such as airport systems, power plants or communication networks), opportunities to develop business models and carrying out e-commerce activities etc.
Since everybody has an interest in the opportunities the Internet provides, it is crucial that the “basic structure” of it protects, respects and promotes the rights of all actors equally. With the increased importance of tasks carried out over the Internet it has become increasingly difficult to achieve this goal.
Many legislators have recently tried to generate a more trustworthy and safe Internet by creating new laws. On 6 July 2016 the European Parliament has adopted a “Directive on security of network and information systems” (NIS Directive; (EU) 2016/1148) which aims at harmonising the efforts of member states to protect critical infrastructure and digital service providers.
Additionally, the EU has adopted rules relating to open Internet access (Regulation (EU) 2015/2120) which also relates to the topic of “net neutrality”. The basic question here is whether all users of the Internet should have the right to have their data traffic treated equally (same speed, most effective way to distribute, etc.). Sometimes, Internet and Telecommunication Providers would prefer to manage their networks in a way which allows them to prioritize certain information flows for various reasons (to enable autonomous driving for example). The Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) has issued guidelines on this subject.
As is widely known, there is no single actor which decides upon the rules of the Internet alone. There are several forums and groups that debate regularly about its future. The most prominent are arguably the Internet Governance Forum (IGF; https://www.intgovforum.org), the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN; https://www.icann.org/), the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF; https://ietf.org/), The Internet Society (https://www.internetsociety.org/), the World Wide Web Consortium (https://www.w3.org/) and the International Telecommunications Union (ITU; https://www.itu.int).