Milton Mueller

Position

Endowed professor in the field of the security and privacy of internet users, Faculty of TPM, chair instigated by internet provider XS4ALL. Also attached to the iSchool (School of Information Studies) at Syracuse University, United States. 
Member of the editorial team for the journals Telecommunications Policy, The Information Society, and Info: the journal of policy, regulation and strategy for telecommunication, information and media. Partner in the Internet Governance Project, an interdisciplinary collaboration of researchers in the area of internet management and policy. 

Author of works including Ruling the Root: Internet Governance and the Taming of Cyberspace (2002).

Motivation

I am utterly fascinated by the way communication technology brings about change in institutions and in human behaviour. My fascination began when I followed the breakup of AT&T when I lived in California in the early nineteen-eighties, where I found myself in the grips of the 'information revolution'. Nowadays, I am mainly interested in the trans-national politics of the internet. It is a world-wide network, which can no longer be seen purely in a national context. Problems relating to security and privacy must be tackled from a cross-border perspective.

TPM

The chair in Delft has given me a base both in Europe and America. I am very happy about this. It puts me in an even better position to explore the international aspects of internet management. In Delft, I shall be focusing on privacy in combination with mobile internet. I am delighted to be allied to a progressive internet provider like XS4ALL. I have access to first-hand information about the workings of the internet.

For the next few months, I shall be spending ten days a month in Delft, and the rest of my time at the Syracuse University in the State of New York, but I shall be in Delft full-time in September and October. Naturally I shall be conducting research, and alongside this supervising two PhD students and giving various lectures.

The Netherlands

Dutch cultural values are very similar to my own convictions, so the decision to come to the Netherlands was not a difficult one. If you look the way we approach the internet, there are huge differences between the Dutch and the Europeans on the one hand, and the Americans on the other. In the United States, we see the internet in a global perspective, whereas here, people tend to focus more on their own country. Americans explore broad-based coordination problems relating to the internet, and tend to project their values and practices globally. Here in the European Union, the perspective is national and regional. Although Dutch policy-makers are certainly aware of the world-wide implications of the internet, the legislation concentrates firmly on Dutch users. These differences are also apparent in industry. There is much less pressure from the commercial sector to enforce rules about the use of internet than there is in America. This too is the result of the local focus and the smaller overall scale. In Hollywood, for example, there are powerful economic interests surrounding copyright and trademark rights. As a result, the call for protective measures is loud and clear. Over here, the debate on issues like this is more balanced.

Biggest challenge

The biggest challenge is to get the relevant data for my research disclosed. As my research often involves politically or commercially sensitive data, internet providers or the justice authorities and police are reluctant to reveal it. Moreover, data changes and needs to be updated so quickly. The problems we faced two or three years ago with domain names or spam have more or less solved themselves, and we are now having to tackle other issues. In my efforts to keep pace with development in these areas, I find myself being pulled further into the depths of the internet.

Biggest pitfall

The most difficult facet of my work is to round off research at the precise point when policy-makers can make good use of the information you are providing. The rapid pace of developments on the internet often means that your interesting ideas or conclusions are six months too late.

And five years from now?

No idea. Perhaps my three-year appointment here at TPM will be extended to five years. If so, in another five years I shall be reconsidering my position at here at Delft. But first of all, I want to concentrate on the next three years!

Milton Mueller

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