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Vint Cerf: We owe to ourselves and to those who will follow us: improving the safety and security of the Internet while preserving its freedoms

Vint Cerf

Istanbul, September 1.

At the Internet Governance Forum, Marconi Fellow Vint Cerf shared some thoughts after 40 years on the net. He called for “Cooperation and Collaboration on a global scale” in a speech in the style of Marcus Aurelius. In short:

As technologists and academics, we should be researching ways to reinforce the security, confidentiality and robustness of the Internet’s design and implementation.

As users of the Internet, we are responsible to ourselves and others to exercise care to avoid congestion.

As private sector operators, we are obligated to enhance the safety and security of our customers and users.

As government, we are obliged to shape policy to encourage the development, adoption and use of practices that protect users from harm.

Here’s the full text.

Vint Cerf Intervention in the High Level MeetingPreceding the Internet Governance Forum

Safety and Security are a Shared Responsibility
September 1, 2014

Excellencies, distinguished speakers, noted participants, ladies and gentlemen. It is an honor and pleasure to engage with you in dialog in advance of the Ninth Internet Governance Forum. I am grateful to the organizer of this meeting, his Excellency, Minister Elvan, for his invitation to participate.

As I observe the state of the 2014 Internet, I continue to be impressed by the remarkable robustness of the multi-stakeholder collaboration that has produced and continues to develop this rich, entrepreneurial information-sharing and digital services environment. All stakeholders from the private sector and academia to the technical community, civil society and governments have roles to play in the implementation, operation and continued evolution of this global communication medium.

Earlier this year, I had occasion to write about Internet governance in its most general sense. My colleagues and I concluded that Internet governance is a shared responsibility. All stakeholders have roles to play. I would like to suggest to you today that the same may be said about the safety and security of the Internet. The Internet will not be conducive to users, operators, businesses and governments if it is not a reasonably safe and secure environment in which to pursue our individual and collective interests. I am persuaded that we have a collective responsibility to improve these aspects of the Internet’s operation.

As users of the Internet and members of civil society, we are responsible to ourselves and others to exercise care to avoid ingestion and spread of malware, use of weak passwords, inadvertent contribution to spam email and unintentional enabling of harmful and even criminal use of the Internet. We should learn to recognize and avoid phishing attacks. We should heed warnings about malware-bearing websites, We should make use of security enhancing technology such as two-factor authentication where this is available.

As technologists and academics, we should be researching ways to reinforce the security, confidentiality and robustness of the Internet’s design and implementation and seek to standardize best practices that produce these outcomes. We should be helping users to avoid and clear infections from our computers, laptops, desktops, pads and smart phones, to say nothing of the coming Internet of Things.

As private sector operators and providers of services through the Internet, we are obligated to make use of technical and procedural methods that enhance the safety and security of our customers and users.

As members of government, we are obliged to broker cooperation and set incentives to shape policy to encourage the development, adoption and use of practices that protect users from harm and visit consequences on bad actors motivated to use the Internet to harm others for their own satisfaction or gain.

All of this effort must, of course, be undertaken in the context of preserving the freedoms that the Internet has offered us all: to speak, to hear, to assemble, and to produce and share information and services.

Because the Internet is a global resource and its operation transcends national boundaries, our ability to achieve these objectives will depend in large measure on our ability to cooperate and collaborate on a global scale. Successful exercise of this joint responsibility that all stakeholders share is a necessary ingredient for the long-term utility of the Internet. I hope sincerely that this IGF will produce a collective commitment to improving the safety and security of the Internet while preserving its freedoms. We owe this to ourselves and to those who will follow us into the future.