Established in 1998, ICANN regulates inter alia the allocation of domain names on the Internet. It has global jurisdiction and its decisions are binding de facto on States. Nevertheless, ICANN is a corporation created under Californian laws, which is hence subject to the California Attorney General and which ultimately falls under the United States Department of Commerce.
And this is all that is alarming the European Union. Following revelations of large-scale surveillance by the U.S National Security Agency, the European Commission is concerned about the lack of transparency of Internet governance. In a press release dated February 12 2014, it proposed a major reform, calling for “a more transparent, accountable and inclusive governance.”
The Commission proposes in particular concrete actions such as the establishment of an agenda for the change in the management of ICANN and IANA (Internet Assigned Numbers Authority), the creation of guidelines for Internet governance, or the establishment of a global process for major decisions. The main objective is to empower the various Internet actors.
In this regard, the Vice-President of the Commission Neelie Kroes stated that “the pluralism of actors on the Internet is an excellent driving force for innovation” and that “Europe must play a strong role in defining what the net of the future looks like.”
In the wake of revelations of large-scale surveillance and the arrival of new domain name extensions on the market, transparent and accountable governance appears to be essential.