The U.S. government will push for the protection of privacy and other fundamental freedoms in cyberspace and for other nations to support the free flow of information across the Internet, according to the nation's first comprehensive cyberspace strategy, released Monday.
The 30-page strategy, released by the White House, focuses the U.S. government's efforts on promoting an open, interoperable, secure and reliable Internet.
"The United States will work internationally to promote an open, interoperable, secure, and reliable information and communications infrastructure that supports international trade and commerce, strengthens international security, and fosters free expression and innovation," the strategy reads. "To achieve that goal, we will build and sustain an environment in which norms of responsible behavior guide states' actions, sustain partnerships, and support the rule of law in cyberspace."
Cyberspace needs to be open to new innovation, secure enough to support people's work and reliable enough to earn their trust, said John Brennan, President Barack Obama's domestic security advisor.
"To our international guests, the president's message here is clear," Brennan said during a White House unveiling of the strategy. "If you seek an Internet that has all the same benefits of today, and fewer risks, you have a partner in the United States. If you want to see a world where more countries have access to these technologies, where people can use them without compromising their safety, privacy, or their rights of free expression, you have a partner in the United States."
The U.S. can't ensure the privacy and security of Internet users by itself, added Hillary Clinton, U.S. secretary of state. Those protections depend "a great deal on the policies we will adopt together," she said to foreign leaders.
Clinton's Department of State has focused on Internet freedom as a main policy goal, but the new strategy ties together several issues facing the Internet, she said.
The Internet provides great opportunity for communication, but it also "gives governments new tools for clamping down on dissent," Clinton said. "And while the Internet creates new economic opportunities for people on every point of the development spectrum, it also gives criminals new opportunities to steal personal data and intellectual property."
In the strategy, the U.S. government seeks to expand the opportunities the Internet provides, while "sharpening our response to deal with the threats and the problems and the disputes that are part of cyberspace," Clinton added.
The new strategy is an attempt to build consensus about Internet policy, but not a prescription telling other nations how to develop their own views of cyberspace, Clinton said.
Several groups praised the new strategy. The new document describes the fundamental values that underlie U.S. policies and gives a guide to U.S. agencies as they create their own Internet strategies, said the Center for Democracy and Technology, a digital rights group.
"By putting these principles forward, the Administration has invited civil society and the world at large to hold the government accountable to the principles it has articulated," CDT President Leslie Harris said in a statement. "As is the case with any document of this breadth, some principles outlined in the strategy will sometimes come into conflict -- one measure of who we are as a nation will be how those conflicts are resolved."
The Information Technology Industry Council, a trade group, said the strategy is the "correct path" forward because it balances U.S. economic goals with its diplomatic and national security priorities. U.S. leadership is critical for an international consensus on Internet policy, the group said.
Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.