Boomerang Web and e-mail traffic -- transmissions that start and end in Canada but nevertheless travel to the U.S. -- are causing concern among Canadian Internet users, researchers and industry associations.
Canadian data can be subject to laws and regulations that are not Canadian in origin or application. Privacy advocates and legal experts are concerned about just where our data packets go, and what laws they are subordinate to.
Others see a drag against technology innovation and development in this country that’s the result of a lack of data handling capacity and facilities here.
In that sense, Internet integrity is about the overall health of the Canadian economy, says the Canadian Internet Registration Authority, the organization that manages the .CA Internet domain.
CIRA wants to see more Internet Exchange Points (IXPs) in Canada: IXPs are physical locations where one Internet Service Provider’s network meets up with another operator’s network. IXPs pass along the data – it’s called peering – based on technical, strategic, business and/or jurisdictional agreements.
But the longer the route between or among peering networks, the longer a transmission will take: data latency or lag will increase, and websites will be slower to load.
What’s more, the international nature of Internet traffic and cloud computing means that personal data and confidential business communications are more vulnerable when they cross borders and reside on servers in other jurisdictions.
Asked to comment on peering related issues, several of the country’s leading ISPs declined to comment for Mediacaster Magazine.
In an e-mail exchange with one provider, Bell, a spokesperson wrote:
“While Bell is always looking for the most efficient and cost effective means of delivering Internet services, for commercial and security reasons, we do not comment on how our networks interconnect with others.”
CIRA notes with concern that there are about 350 IXPs around the world, and some 85 in the U.S. - all integral to the Internet infrastructure – but in Canada, there are only two.
“This is not acceptable,” said Byron Holland, president and CEO of CIRA, in calling for a national IXP fabric here. This is about improving security, speed and network resilience, while maximizing the amount of traffic that stays within Canada for the benefit of all Canadians.”
IXMaps is a Canadian developed website and interactive tool that lets users tracks the packets that make up their e-mails, website requests and other data transmissions.
“What IXmaps does is show what’s inside the Internet,” explained Professor Andrew Clement of the Faculty of Information at the University of Toronto; he and Nancy Paterson, Associate Professor, OCAD University, are heading up the project.
“Increasingly, data handling is done behind the scenes,” he said, noting the difficulty there is in finding out how data is handled, where, and by whom.
The IXMap team is not alone in its concerns: in fact, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada seems to share them.
The federal office is providing $500,000 this year for research and awareness projects that look at important privacy issues: IXMaps is among them.
Paterson, Clement and the team will receive support for its ‘Mapping Canadian Privacy Risks in the Internet Cloud’ project, and to conduct an information session about Internet routing and cloud computing, and its privacy implications for all Canadians.
For more Mediacaster Magazine coverage related to this topic, please see:
Internet Society Board Bemoans International Internet Changes