The Fourth US-China Internet Industry Forum

Posted by Pamela Passman
Corporate Vice President, Global Corporate Affairs

Beijing is in many respects an ancient city, but this week we were privileged to help organize an event that brought US and Chinese participants together for a look at the future:  the Fourth U.S.-China Internet Industry Forum (“USCIIF”).  Microsoft and the Internet Society of China have convened this Forum since 2007, and we’re very pleased to have discovered a structure and rhythm for productive discussions on Internet policy and business topics.  The Forum involves a set of public keynotes, as well as private, off-the-record discussions, and informal networking among senior U.S. and Chinese business leaders, government officials, academics and civil society representatives. 

Our dialogue this year, as in years past, covered many topics and noted the importance of transparency and international cooperation on Internet policy matters.  The Forum featured candid and open exchanges on sensitive topics including freedom of expression and basic rights to privacy.  But we noted two topics in particular:  the impact of cloud computing on the Internet, business and society, and the role that trust plays in allowing societies to realize the potential of cloud computing.

Fostering trust has been a discussion point since the first of our gatherings.  E-commerce has always depended on user confidence in privacy, security and safety.  So have online communications, from email to newer social networking and gaming services.  The architecture of the Internet itself relies on trust – confidence that ISPs will pass packets along to their intended destination in a trustworthy manner. 

The advent of cloud computing brings with it still greater reliance on the integrity of Internet connections, concerns for the security of personal and sensitive data, and more significant consequences for obstacles to the free flow of information across borders.  Because of the economic and social potential the cloud offers, security and privacy issues online have very real impacts on economic growth and opportunity for both the US and China.

Cybercrime and network attacks cost billions; these costs impact the US and China alike.  Responding to these crimes requires international cooperation, particularly between law enforcement.  And it will require some meaningful changes in how Internet systems are designed and operated, including improved identity and authentication systems, and trusted national and international institutions to respond to the problem of infected PCs.

To succeed, responses to these challenges should be rooted in an international approach, built on a foundation that respects fundamental rights and incorporates national interests. This is essential to foster inter-governmental cooperation and create the public support for change.   We believe the US-China Internet Forum is one important catalyst to the types of conversations that can lead to solutions to these very difficult challenges.  The conversations held in Beijing bear this out. 

Within that context, Microsoft offered three suggestions for further action as part of that approach:

1) We should consider opportunities for academic exchange in areas such as the economics of the internet, online privacy and identity, security, and best practices for increasing safety for children online;
2) We should extend our dialogue on improvements in privacy protection laws, in particular building on the APEC privacy framework to improve user trust and the environment for online commerce; and
3) The US and Chinese governments, in particular, should continue to develop their ongoing engagement on law enforcement matters.  This should include exchanges on enforcement of intellectual property rights and prosecution of cybercrime.

We appreciate all that we learned from the US and Chinese participants in this year’s Forum, and we are particularly grateful to the Internet Society of China and China’s State Council Information Office. We are committed to working further on these issues in the coming months and reviewing progress again next year.

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