* Says they spending billions on surveillance technology
* Comments highlight disagreement over Internet regulation
* New players could be key to future shape of Internet
By Stephanie Nebehay
GENEVA, March 7 China and Russia are buying
increasingly powerful surveillance technologies to intercept
communications and try to take control of the Internet, a senior
U.S. official said on Thursday.
Alec Ross, the U.S. secretary of state's senior adviser for
innovation, said new players such as Thailand and Ukraine would
determine the future shape of the Internet by deciding whether
to open up globally or operate more closed national "Intranets".
His comments further demonstrate the lack of agreement over
how the Internet will be regulated after an attempt to establish
a global governance policy collapsed last year.
"Many Middle Eastern countries, Russia, China and others I
believe, are going to take an increasingly aggressive stand to
try to control the Internet," Ross told a news briefing.
"In a world where countries like Russia, China and others
are in a completely different place than the United States and
when there is a completely different vision for how the Internet
should be governed, then I think it's going to be very difficult
to get to the point of resolution on some of these issues."
He said China, Russia and others had bought surveillance
technology, but lacked the limits required in the United States,
where only a judge can order their use for a defined period.
"So part of what I see are billions and billions of dollars
of investment going into the next generation of surveillance
technologies going into these countries," Ross said.
The United States and China have been squaring off for
months over the use of the Internet, each accusing the other of
hacking into sensitive government websites.
The Obama administration is committed to defending Internet
freedom, a "pillar of America's foreign policy priorities" which
led it to reject the global treaty last year, Ross said.
The attempt to establish a worldwide policy for oversight of
the Internet collapsed in Dubai in December after many Western
countries said a compromise plan gave too much power to United
Nations and other officials.
The United States and allies fought to keep the mandate of
the International Telecommunication Union, a U.N. agency, from
extending to oversight of the Internet, fearing it could lead to
increased censorship and a dramatic reduction in anonymity.
A bloc of countries led by Russia wanted language that could
open the door to more regulation of cyberspace on issues from
spam, security and the assignment of addresses to web pages.
However, Ross said some 30 new country players, rather than
only the existing Internet giants, will take a decisive role in
determining whether there is an open global Internet or a
"patchwork of national Intranets".
"That's not going to just be decided by the very large
countries like the United States, China and Russia, it is going
to be increasingly decided by countries like Thailand, Ukraine
and a great many others that are becoming newly networked
themselves and are establishing the governance norms within
their own telecommunications systems," he said.
Ross, who said he was leaving government to write a book and
start a company, was speaking in Geneva where the United States
honoured six "Internet Freedom Fellows" working to overcome
challenges in countries including Russia and Iran.
(Editing by Alison Williams)