Network Working Group                                      M. Nottingham
Internet-Draft                                            March 14, 2019
Intended status: Informational
Expires: September 15, 2019

                     The Internet is for End Users


   This document explains why, when a conflict cannot be avoided, the
   IETF considers end users as its highest priority concern.

Note to Readers

   The issues list for this draft can be found at [1].

   The most recent (often, unpublished) draft is at [2].

   Recent changes are listed at
   pages/for-the-users [3].

   See also the draft's current status in the IETF datatracker, at [4].

Status of This Memo

   This Internet-Draft is submitted in full conformance with the
   provisions of BCP 78 and BCP 79.

   Internet-Drafts are working documents of the Internet Engineering
   Task Force (IETF).  Note that other groups may also distribute
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   Internet-Drafts are draft documents valid for a maximum of six months
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   This Internet-Draft will expire on September 15, 2019.

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Copyright Notice

   Copyright (c) 2019 IETF Trust and the persons identified as the
   document authors.  All rights reserved.

   This document is subject to BCP 78 and the IETF Trust's Legal
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   ( in effect on the date of
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   described in the Simplified BSD License.

Table of Contents

   1.  Introduction  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   2
   2.  What Are "End Users"? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   4
   3.  Why End Users are Prioritised . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5
   4.  How End Users are Prioritised . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5
     4.1.  Examples  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   6
   5.  IANA Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   6
   6.  Security Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   6
   7.  References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   6
     7.1.  Informative References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   7
     7.2.  URIs  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   8
   Appendix A.  Acknowledgements . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   8
   Author's Address  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   8

1.  Introduction

   The IETF, while focused on technical matters, is not neutral about
   the purpose of its work in developing the Internet; in "A Mission
   Statement for the IETF" [RFC3935], the definitions include:

      The IETF community wants the Internet to succeed because we
      believe that the existence of the Internet, and its influence on
      economics, communication, and education, will help us to build a
      better human society.

   and later in Section 2.1, "The Scope of the Internet" it says:

      The Internet isn't value-neutral, and neither is the IETF.  We
      want the Internet to be useful for communities that share our
      commitment to openness and fairness.  We embrace technical
      concepts such as decentralized control, edge-user empowerment and
      sharing of resources, because those concepts resonate with the

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      core values of the IETF community.  These concepts have little to
      do with the technology that's possible, and much to do with the
      technology that we choose to create.

   However, many in the IETF are most comfortable making what we believe
   to be purely technical decisions; our process is defined to favor
   technical merit, through our well-known bias towards "rough consensus
   and running code".

   Nevertheless, the running code that results from our process (when
   things work well) inevitably has an impact beyond technical
   considerations, because the underlying decisions afford some uses
   while discouraging others; while we believe we are making purely
   technical decisions, in reality that may not be possible.  Or, in the
   words of Lawrence Lessig [CODELAW]:

      Ours is the age of cyberspace.  It, too, has a regulator... This
      regulator is code -- the software and hardware that make
      cyberspace as it is.  This code, or architecture, sets the terms
      on which life in cyberspace is experienced.  It determines how
      easy it is to protect privacy, or how easy it is to censor speech.
      It determines whether access to information is general or whether
      information is zoned.  It affects who sees what, or what is
      monitored.  In a host of ways that one cannot begin to see unless
      one begins to understand the nature of this code, the code of
      cyberspace regulates.

   This impact has become significant.  As the Internet increasingly
   mediates key functions in societies, it has unavoidably become
   profoundly political; it has helped people overthrow governments and
   revolutionize social orders, control populations and reveal secrets.
   It has created wealth for some individuals and companies, while
   destroying others'.

   All of this raises the question: For whom do we go through the pain
   of gathering rough consensus and writing running code?

   There are a variety of identifiable parties in the larger Internet
   community that standards can provide benefit to, such as (but not
   limited to) end users, network operators, schools, equipment vendors,
   specification authors, specification implementers, content owners,
   governments, non-governmental organisations, social movements,
   employers, and parents.

   Successful specifications will provide some benefit to all of the
   relevant parties, because standards do not represent a zero-sum game.
   However, there are sometimes situations where there is a need to
   balance the benefits of a decision between two (or more) parties.

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   In these situations, when one of those parties is an "end user" of
   the Internet - for example, a person using a Web browser, mail
   client, or other agent that connects to the Internet - the IETF tends
   to protect their interests over those of parties such as network
   operators or equipement vendors.

   This document explains what is meant by "end users" in Section 2, why
   they tend to be prioritised in IETF work in Section 3, and how that
   is done in Section 4.

2.  What Are "End Users"?

   In this document, "end users," means non-technical users whose
   activities IETF protocols are designed to support, sometimes
   indirectly.  Thus, the end user of a protocol to manage routers is
   not a router administrator; it is the people using the network that
   the router operates within.

   An end user could be an individual, or it could be a collection of
   them; whether that be a social movement, a business, or a government
   that represents a large number of people.

   That said, end users are not necessarily a homogenous group; often,
   but not always, interactions on the Internet are characterised by a
   seller/buyer, publisher/reader, or service provider/consumer

   Also, it's important to note that even though we use the term "user"
   here, this does not necessarily denote a passive relationship with
   the Internet; someone producing content, selling goods or providing a
   service is equally a user of the Internet.  The emphasis here is on
   "end" - as in endpoint [RFC3724].

   Similarly, a person whose interests we need to consider might not
   directly be an end-user of a specific system connected to the
   Internet.  For example, if a child is using a browser, the interests
   of that child's parents or guardians may be relevant; if a person is
   pictured in a photograph, that person may have an interest in systems
   that process that photograph, or if a person entering a room triggers
   sensors that send data to the Internet than that person's interests
   may be involved in our deliberations about how those sensor readings
   are handled.

   While such less-direct interactions between people and the Internet
   may be harder to evaluate compared to those involving people with
   accounts on some web service, such people are nonetheless included in
   this document's concept of end-user.

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3.  Why End Users are Prioritised

   While networks need to be managed, employers and equipment vendors
   need to meet business goals, and so on, the IETF's mission is to
   "build a better human society" [RFC3935] and - on the Internet -
   society is composed of end users, along with groups of them forming
   business, governments, clubs, civil society organizations, and other
   institutions that influence it.

   Prioritising end users helps the IETF achieve its mission, and also
   helps to assure the long-term health of the Internet.  By
   prioritising their concerns, we assure that the Internet reaches the
   greatest number of people, thereby delivering greater utility by
   maximising its network effect.

   Prioritising end users' needs also helps to assure that the Internet
   itself retains end users' trust, preserving the benefit its network
   effect brings.

4.  How End Users are Prioritised

   The IETF community does not have any specific insight into what is
   "good for end users"; to help make decisions involving them, it
   interacts with the greater Internet community.  Because end users are
   typically not technical experts, the IETF has a responsibility to
   consider their interests, and engages with those who understand how
   IETF work will affect end users, such as civil society organisations,
   as well as governments, businesses and other groups representing some
   aspect of end user interests.

   When we've identified a conflict between the interests of end users
   and another stakeholder (e.g., a network operator), and need a
   "tiebreaker", we should err on the side of finding a solution that
   doesn't harm end users.

   Note that "harm" is not defined in this document; that is something
   that the relevant body (e.g., Working Group) needs to discuss.

   The IETF has already established a body of guidance for situations
   where this sort of conflict is common, including (but not limited to)
   [RFC7754] on filtering, [RFC7258] and [RFC7624] on pervasive
   surveillance, [RFC7288] on host firewalls, and [RFC6973] regarding
   privacy considerations.

   When such advice is not yet available, we try to find a different
   solution, or another way to frame the problem, distilling the
   underlying principles into more general advice where appropriate.

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   When the needs of different end users conflict; for example, between
   governments and individuals, we again try to minimise harm - this
   time, to the greatest number and most specific of end users.  In
   other words, when a decision improves the Internet for end users in
   one jurisdiction, but at the cost of potential harm to others
   elsewhere, that is not a good tradeoff.

   There may be cases where genuine technical need requires compromise.
   However, such tradeoffs are carefully examined, and avoided when
   there are alternate means of achieving the desired goals.  If they
   cannot be, these choices and reasoning ought to be carefully

4.1.  Examples

   o  IPv6 [RFC8200] can be used to assign a client with a unique
      address prefix - even though this provides a way to track end user
      activity and helps identify them - because it is technically
      necessary to provide networking (and despite this, there are
      mechanisms like [RFC4941] to mitigate this effect, for those users
      who desire it).

   o  Different network operator communities have, from time to time,
      asked for a mechanism that would allow them to insert themselves
      into HTTPS [RFC7231] connections to interpose caching and other
      performance optimisations.  This was rejected for a number of
      reasons, including that end users' conception of HTTPS as an
      encrypted end-to-end protocol had already formed, so that changing
      it would harm user security.

   TODO: more examples.

5.  IANA Considerations

   This document does not require action by IANA.

6.  Security Considerations

   This document does not have direct security impact; however, failing
   to prioritise end users might well affect their security negatively
   in the long term.

7.  References

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7.1.  Informative References

   [CODELAW]  Lessig, L., "Code Is Law: On Liberty in Cyberspace", 2000,

   [RFC3724]  Kempf, J., Ed., Austein, R., Ed., and IAB, "The Rise of
              the Middle and the Future of End-to-End: Reflections on
              the Evolution of the Internet Architecture", RFC 3724,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC3724, March 2004,

   [RFC3935]  Alvestrand, H., "A Mission Statement for the IETF",
              BCP 95, RFC 3935, DOI 10.17487/RFC3935, October 2004,

   [RFC4941]  Narten, T., Draves, R., and S. Krishnan, "Privacy
              Extensions for Stateless Address Autoconfiguration in
              IPv6", RFC 4941, DOI 10.17487/RFC4941, September 2007,

   [RFC6973]  Cooper, A., Tschofenig, H., Aboba, B., Peterson, J.,
              Morris, J., Hansen, M., and R. Smith, "Privacy
              Considerations for Internet Protocols", RFC 6973,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC6973, July 2013,

   [RFC7231]  Fielding, R., Ed. and J. Reschke, Ed., "Hypertext Transfer
              Protocol (HTTP/1.1): Semantics and Content", RFC 7231,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC7231, June 2014,

   [RFC7258]  Farrell, S. and H. Tschofenig, "Pervasive Monitoring Is an
              Attack", BCP 188, RFC 7258, DOI 10.17487/RFC7258, May
              2014, <>.

   [RFC7288]  Thaler, D., "Reflections on Host Firewalls", RFC 7288,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC7288, June 2014,

   [RFC7624]  Barnes, R., Schneier, B., Jennings, C., Hardie, T.,
              Trammell, B., Huitema, C., and D. Borkmann,
              "Confidentiality in the Face of Pervasive Surveillance: A
              Threat Model and Problem Statement", RFC 7624,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC7624, August 2015,

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   [RFC7754]  Barnes, R., Cooper, A., Kolkman, O., Thaler, D., and E.
              Nordmark, "Technical Considerations for Internet Service
              Blocking and Filtering", RFC 7754, DOI 10.17487/RFC7754,
              March 2016, <>.

   [RFC8200]  Deering, S. and R. Hinden, "Internet Protocol, Version 6
              (IPv6) Specification", STD 86, RFC 8200,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC8200, July 2017,

7.2.  URIs





Appendix A.  Acknowledgements

   Thanks to Edward Snowden for his comments regarding the priority of
   end users at IETF93.

   Thanks to the WHATWG for blazing the trail with the Priority of

   Thanks to Harald Alvestrand for his substantial feedback and Mohamed
   Boucadair, Stephen Farrell, Joe Hildebrand, Lee Howard, Russ Housley,
   Niels ten Oever, Mando Rachovitsa, Martin Thomson, and Brian Trammell
   for their suggestions.

Author's Address

   Mark Nottingham


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