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Esther Dyson on Internet privacy
April 27, 2002

Back in the heyday of the Internet in the late 1990s, Esther Dyson was often referred to as the chief guru of the tech world, a reputation enhanced by the publication of her 1997 book, Release 2.0: A Design for Living in the Digital Age.

But during a recent talk at Wharton, Dyson, chairwoman of EDventure Holdings, admitted embarrassment at several of her Release 2.0 predictions and worried about some of the fallout from the coming of that digital age. She cited, among other concerns, the treatment of personal data on the Internet and frustration with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the independent agency in charge of managing policy for the Internet's name and address systems.

"ICANN has become a real cesspool," said Dyson, who served for two years as chairwoman of the agency. As Dyson sees it, ICANN--whose activities have grown to include not just approving new extensions for Internet domain names but also resolving disputes and setting policy--is itself mired in disputes about authority, accountability and openness.

Acknowledging the controversy it has generated almost since its inception in 1998, ICANN issued a report at the end of February calling for major reforms in its operations. After a comment period, the ICANN board plans to issue recommendations for change at the end of May. Already, according to news articles, the ICANN report has caused a stir among consumer groups, members of Congress and policy makers in the U.S. Commerce Department (which had a large role in creating ICANN), all of whom have their own strong opinions about how ICANN should be run.

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