DNS Transparency Reporting
Transparency reporting has became a popular practice amongst companies across various industries as a means to “know and show” respect for human rights, as described in the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. For companies operating online, shedding light on requests received for content takedown, user data, and ancillary data allows public oversight on decisions that directly impact individuals’ rights, thereby creating a more accountable online ecosystem. Moreover, publicizing data about governmental and third-party requests helps inform policy debates, identify systems that are inefficient or subject to abuse, and reduce misuse of executive power or government institutions.
Yet despite transparency reporting becoming a standard practice amongst major platforms and telcos, this practice not been adopted by Internet Infrastructure providers like registries and registrars. In an attempt to change that, a new DNS Transparency Reporting Initiative was launched within the ICANN community at ICANN62 in June 2018. Stakeholders from civil society, academia, registries, registrars, and security services were involved in the initiative. The outcomes were a short guide enumerating internal procedures and best practices for handling requests and a sample template to facilitate tracking and reporting on how requests are handled.
While the CCWP-HR’s focus remains centred upon harmonizing ICANN’s policies and procedures with internationally recognized human rights, we fully support efforts to promote transparency reporting within the ICANN community and embrace the opportunity to provide resources and a forum for discussions related to making the DNS more accountable and rights-respecting.
DOWNLOAD DNS TRANSPARENCY REPORTING GUIDE & TEMPLATE
CCWP-HR at the 2018 IGF in Paris
The CCWP-HR and NCUC co-organized a workshop to introduce new HRIA models under development in ICANN to the broader internet governance community during the 2018 IGF, held 12-14 November in Paris. HRIAs are an increasingly popular tool in the private sector to identify salient rights, anticipate negative impacts, and mitigate harm.
In the digital space, it remains challenging to define rights-holders amongst internet users and anticipate impacts as technologies evolve. This was highlighted by many attendees, yet there was broad support for companies and standard-setting bodies to introduce human rights commitments and corresponding due diligence mechanisms. Another recurring theme was the value of bridging the internet governance community with the business and human rights field, the benefits of which were showcased during the session.
One area of divergence related to which subset of rights should be prioritized, e.g. children’s, cultural, or LGBTQI rights. HRIA practitioners provided examples demonstrating that impact assessment methodologies can be tailored to address specific, or various, categories of rights. As a result, participants suggested that such tools can make the subject of human rights more practical and tangible while allowing people with divergent positions to engage constructively.
There was widespread multistakeholder support for organizing a Cross-Community Session on the subject of human rights during ICANN64, which will be held in March 2019. This will be an opportunity to gather feedback on ongoing efforts to design and test impact assessments geared toward ICANN policy development processes. Potentially interested parties suggested were the NCSG, NCUC, and GAC working groups on Public Safety and International Human Rights Law. The initial HRIA model can be found here.
VIDEO FROM THE SESSION
WORKSHOP DESCRIPTION & REPORT
Tangible progress was made for human rights at ICANN during its 63rd meeting, held in Barcelona from 20-25 October. Some highlights:
- CCWG-Acc Work Stream 2 recommendations have now been approved by all Supporting Organizations and Advisory Committees. The next step is final approval from the Board, at which point the Human Rights Bylaw will become activated.
- ICANN CEO Göran Marby mentioned their organizational HRIA in his opening remarks during the ICANN63 Welcome Ceremony, clearly citing the community’s success in putting human rights on the agenda. (video, starts at 41:56; more information about ICANN’s HRIA available here)
- HRIAs were also major topic in the NCSG’s meeting with the ICANN Board, where we confirmed that both the methodology and the unredacted results from the assessment will be made public once it has wrapped up. (video, starts at 33:38)
ICANN org’s engagement with human rights sets a positive example in the DNS and the tech sector more broadly. However, it’s important to reiterate that ICANN’s HRIA does not cover DNS policy. As identified in the CCWP-HR’s latest paper, ICANN Policy and Human Rights: A Primer on Current GNSO Policy Development Processes, DNS policy directly impacts the human rights of both registrants and internet users at large. Therefore, it’s important for the ICANN community to continue working to assess the impact of ICANN’s policies and ensure that they live up to the Human Rights Bylaw.
** ICANN policy HRIAs will be the focus of our workshop during the UN Internet Governance Forum Wednesday 14 November in Paris — contributions to the session are highly encouraged, and remote participation will be available.
More broadly speaking, there are currently many conversations underway within the ICANN community about improving the efficiency and effectiveness of consensus-based community policy development processes. During the CCWP-HR’s September call, the GNSO’s “PDP 3.0” and its articulation with the Human Rights Bylaw was a topic of conversation. More recently, presentations on diversity and transparency in Barcelona sparked a lively exchange on the relationship between bottom-up consensus-based processes and standards for legitimacy and accountability. The evolution of ICANN’s multistakeholder model — particularly as it relates to the new community standards for human rights, diversity, transparency, and accountability — will be an important topic to keep track of as conversations evolve.