By Niels

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HTTP workshop hosted by DATACTIVE

This week, the fourth HTTP Workshop is taking place in Amsterdam, hosted by DATACTIVE in the University of Amsterdam. This event gathers people who work on and use the Web’s protocol to talk about how it’s working, what needs improving and where it might go in the future. As such, it’s an open, frank round table of people who work on Web browsers, servers, proxies, content management systems, and CDNs, along with those who use it to deploy Web sites big and small, as well as use HTTP for things like APIs.

This is different from a standards body, where normative decisions about the design of the Internet and Web are made; rather, it’s an informal discussion that’s designed to gather input from and inform those who don’t have time or money to go to multiple standards meetings.

Although many topics are likely to be discussed, one of the primary things we always focus on is security and privacy. In the past, we’ve explored how to improve adoption of HTTPS after the Snowden revelations. This time, current topics are likely to include even stronger measures against network attackers and observers, such as Encrypted SNI, DNS-over-HTTP (DoH), and anti-traffic analysis measures.

We’re also scheduled to talk about the continued deployment of HTTP/2 and its implications, along with the upcoming HTTP/3, and a large number of blue-sky proposals to evolve the protocol. We’ll also examine how we can grow to be more diverse and inclusive. It’s usually an exciting event and we’re looking forward to the discussion, as well as our time in Amsterdam.

For more information about the HTTP Workshop, see https://httpworkshop.github.io/
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Subversion in Vienna

Niels ten Oever held a talk on the subversion of equality and freedom of users in the Internet architecture at the Privacy and Sustainable Computing Lab of the Vienna University of Economics and Business. The talk built on a mixed methods analysis of the Internet architecture and its technical governance, and showed how the Internet protocol community structurally did not uphold the values it professes, such as end-to-end, permissionless innovation, and openness. This opened up a discussion how such governance institutions could then be expected to safeguard external principles, such as the public values, which might run counter to the interests of many of the represented stakeholders. This sparked a lively discussion among the attending academics and policy makers about value frameworks and analytical tools and approaches that transverse the fields of technologists, policy makers, the law, and academia.

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Thinking global while also acting local: DATACTIVE and the Amsterdam digital agenda

The municipality of Amsterdam published its Digital Agenda in which it presents its ambitions to become a free, inclusive, and creative digital city. Amsterdam is grounding its ambitions on the early experiences with networking technology in the Netherlands, after which the agenda was called: The Digital City (De Digitale Stad). At DATACTIVE Niels ten Oever thoroughly analyzed the agenda and commend the city for its ambition to base the digital city of the future on digital rights. The approach of the city is anchored in concepts such as privacy, inclusivity, transparency, sovereignty, autonomy, universal access, transparency, openness, participation, and security, which are to be developed in a ‘Cities Coalition for Digital Rights’, and through interviews and cocreation sessions.

While the ambition is very laudable, the agenda has little to no references to existing legal, ethical, or technical standards on which this work can build. This could lead to a duplication of efforts, and a repetition of (expensive) mistakes that have already been made. This is why Jeroen de Vos represented DATACTIVE at the meeting of the Amsterdam Municipal Commission on Art, Diversity, and Democratization and offered suggestions that could assist the successful design, implementation, and evaluation of the Digital Agenda. The full text of the contribution can be read underneath (in Dutch). In the contribution DATACTIVE reiterates the importance of human rights in general and the United Nations Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights, the international standards for state and corporate accountability in specific, in the implementation of technical infrastructures.

We hope and trust that our analysis of the report, which we shared with the municipality, will be our first contribution to the construction of a public information infrastructure in Amsterdam.

The original text of the oral contribution as read by Jeroen de Vos:

Geachte leden van de Raadscommissie Kunst Diversiteit en Democratisering,

Ik spreek hier namens DATACTIVE, een onderzoeksgroep aan de universiteit van Amsterdam die de sociale en democratische consequenties van datastromen onderzoekt. Wij namen dan ook met grote waardering kennis van de ambitie van de gemeente om een digitale strategie te ontwikkelen waarin mensenrechten een belangrijke plek krijgen. De gemeente plaatst zich hiermee midden een debat over de technologische infrastructuur van onze samenleving.

Wij hopen dat de gemeente niet zal proberen het wiel opnieuw uit te vinden: er zijn reeds veel digitale vrijheidsverklaringen, mensenrechtenverdragen, en technische standaarden ontwikkeld op dit gebied die de gemeente zo kan overnemen. Hierover wordt niets gezegd in de digitale agenda. Dat zou een gemiste kans zijn.

Wij willen van harte aanbevelen dat de gemeente in kaart brengt op welke verdragen, implementatieraamwerken, en technische standaarden ze zich gaat baseren. Dat kan worden gedaan als aanvulling op de agenda en meegenomen worden bij de uitvoering. Dit zal ook de implementatie van de agenda ten goede komen, omdat er dan heldere indicatoren en evaluatie criteria zijn en daarmee goed duidelijk wordt wat de digitale agenda gaat betekenen voor Amsterdammers.

Een van de belangrijke raamwerken die al bestaan, zijn de zogenaamde Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights van de Verenigde Naties. Dat is wereldwijd zowel in bij overheden als bij bedrijven de gouden standaard voor de implementatie van digitale rechten. Het zou goed zijn als deze wordt betrokken bij de uitvoering van de Agenda Digitale Stad.

Als de gemeente dat niet doet, zal zij geen kennis hebben van best practices, vanaf het begin achterlopen met de implementatie, en reeds gemaakte fouten en werk dupliceren.

Wij zijn natuurlijk bereid mee te denken, Amsterdam te situeren in de voorhoede van de infrastructurele digitale mensenrechten discussie.

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bigbang

BigBang v0.2.0 ‘Tulip Revolution’ released

DATACTIVE has been collaborating with researchers from New York University and the University of California at Berkeley to release version 0.2.0 of the quantitative mailinglists analysis software BigBang. Mailinglists are among the most widely used communication tools in Internet Governance institutions and among software developers. Therefore mailinglists lend themselves really well to do analysis on the development of the communities as well as topics for discussion and their propagation through the community. BigBang, a python based tool, is there to facilitate this. You can start analyzing mailinglists with BigBang by following the installation instructions.

This release, BigBang v0.2.0 Tulip Revolution, marks a new milestone in BigBang development. A few new features:
– Gender participation estimation
– Improved support for IETF and ICANN mailing list ingest
– Extensive gardening and upgrade of the example notebooks
– Upgraded all notebooks to Jupyter 4
– Improved installation process based on user testing

En route to this milestone, the BigBang community made a number of changes to its procedures. These include:

– The adoption of a Governance document for guiding decision-making.
– The adoption of a Code of Conduct establishing norms of respectful behavior within the community.
– The creation of an ombudsteam for handling personal disputes.

We have also for this milestone adopted by community decision the GNU Affero General Public License v3.0.

If you have any questions or comment, feel free to join the mailinglist,
join us on gitter chat or file an issue on Github.

If you are interested in using BigBang but don’t know where to start, we are happy to help you on your way via videochat or organize a webinar for you and your community. Feel free to get in touch!

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Niels presented his work in London, Gothenborg and Berlin

This Spring Niels ten Oever hit the road and gave different talks about the Internet architecture and infrastructure at:
– the Alan Turing Institute in a Workshop on Protocol Governance: Internet Standard Bodies and Public Interest questions.
– the University of Gothenburg’s School of Global Studies, Department of Political Science and Department of Social Work in a Conference on Internet Governance and Human Rights.
– the Humboldt Instut fuer Internet und Gesellschaft in a Workshop: “We are on a mission”. Exploring the role of future imaginaries.

This helped Niels to gather feedback on his preliminary findings in his research on Internet imaginaries, architecture consolidation, and quantitative mailinglist analysis. Next to that he got to engage with other Internet governance researchers on Internet imaginaries and governance innovations.

The questions, comments and talks by other researchers led to a lot of insights which Niels is now reworking into two forthcoming articles.
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