At the end of the year, nations belonging to the United Nations International Telecommunications Union (ITU) are scheduled meet in Dubai to finalize negotiations over rules to regulate and control the Internet.
The goal of the World Conference on International Communications (WCIT), at least for countries like Russia and China, is to establish a firmer government hand on the world's biggest information network: Russian President (then Prime Minister) Vladimir Putin said last summer that he wants the UN to establish "international control over the Internet using the monitoring and supervisory capabilities of the International Telecommunication Union."
Talks over exactly what the agreement will say are already underway, and a number of proposals have already been put forth. There's real reason to worry about what will come of these talks and the agreement they're intended to generate. Vincent Cerf, who helped develop the Net as we know it and now serves Google's chief Internet evangelist, warned last month that ITU "proposals raise the prospect of policies that enable government controls but greatly diminish the 'permissionless innovation' that underlies extraordinary Internet-based economic growth to say nothing of trampling human rights."
The problem is that we don't know what, exactly, the ITU plans to do. That's because so far, the proposals have not been collected and posted publicly: Access is available only though a password-protected ITU website.
Jerry Brito and Eli Dourado, both tech policy research fellows with the The Mercatus Center at George Mason University, hope they've found a way to solve this problem. They've created a website called WCITLeaks.org that allows officials with access to ITU proposals to anonymously upload drafts.
There's nothing illegal about making the documents public. They're not classified or otherwise protected by law. But transparency isn't really a priority for the ITU. As Brito writes in a blog post announcing the new site, "publishing these documents is probably not considered polite in the rarefied diplomatic circles of the ITU. So, I thought we'd give folks with access to the documents a helping hand." Hopefully, that's all it will take.