Peter Dengate Thrush, New Zealand barrister, internet law specialist and former chairman of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), has been appointed to the advisory council of the Centre for Democracy & Technology (CDT).
The CDT is a US-based non-profit organisation which says it promotes an open, innovative and free internet. The council’s role is to advise the CEO, Nuala O'Connor, on the appropriate areas of research and advocacy for the centre to engage in, Thrush told NZ Lawyer.
The council consists of about 50 prominent thought leaders in internet technology and usage areas such as privacy, child protection, intellectual property rights, free expression and their intersections, he added.
With the rapid rise to prominence of the internet, the CDT faces a number of challenges, he said.
“We are at a major crossroads as the internet leaps from something on our phones and computers to TVs, cars, appliances – our whole world is now connected in one way or another.”
The centre is also tackling a number of other issues such as the link between technology & inequality, the development of the “right to be forgotten” online, and the continued existence of the multistakeholder model surrounding internet governance.
Since being appointed as chairman of ICANN in 2007, Thrush has seen remarkable changes in the field of internet law.
“The major practical change has been the ubiquity of the internet, and its application in almost every area of human interaction and engagement.”
In New Zealand, various governments have developed national information policies on the assumption that all formal interactions between governments and citizens will be online.
This shift in expectations has meant the law has had to learn how to apply to existing principles while developing new ones, he said.
“Existing laws that apply to contracts, payments, taxation and insurance for example, have been adapted to work in a new environment. The ancient tort of trespass has been applied to cyber territory, as well as to real estate.”
The massive amounts of data stored online have stretched existing privacy laws too, he added, as new concerns about access to, control and improper publication of personal information have emerged.
The CDT plays a role in managing these trends and different legal rights issues presented through the internet.
“CDT works to balance the protection and enforcement of the copyright that authors and other creators have in their online works with other rights, such as fair comment and free speech,” he said.
Thrush explained that New Zealand has played a significant role in developing today’s present multistakeholder model of internet government.
New Zealanders have worked hard to bring their history of social development to the internet, he said.
“Kiwis have been active in building new institutions such as InternetNZ at home, and ICANN abroad in which protection of human rights and fair play for all have been embedded as basic building blocks.”
By continuing its participation in both new and existing internet institutions, New Zealand can ensure Kiwi values of accountability, tolerance, respect for diversity and fair play will continue to apply online, he said.