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Issues

The Global Network Initiative publishes statements and resources on a regular basis to highlight trends and issues of concern for all stakeholders in the information and communications technology (ICT) sector. As a multi-stakeholder initiative, GNI draws on the collective expertise of our members and on our cumulative experience in the global implementation of the GNI Principles. 

Global Network Initiative Welcomes Action By United States and Europe on Human Rights and Technology

Date: 
Wednesday, April 25, 2012 - 15:57

The Global Network Initiative (GNI) commends recent action by the U.S. government and Europe to press for accountability from Information and Communications Technology (ICT) companies in relation to human rights abuses in Iran and Syria. This is particularly important as at the same time some Internet technologies empower citizens to communicate in new ways, related technologies expose them to new risks, including surveillance that can facilitate serious human right violations.

GNI welcomes the announcement by the Obama administration of new sanctions targeting enablers of human rights abuses in Iran and Syria facilitated by computer and network disruption, monitoring, and tracking by those governments. Although the Executive Order targets only Iran and Syria, we believe that government and company action to curtail the use of ICTs to enable human rights abuses should not be limited to these two countries, indeed, it is a global challenge.

GNI is rooted in Principles on Free Expression and Privacy that commit our member companies to conduct due diligence and consider the human rights impact of their business decisions, and we encourage companies across the ICT sector to do the same. We support the approach adopted by the White House, which narrowly targets specific entities and seeks to avoid unintended chilling effects on free expression that broad sanctions can create by denying citizen’s access to ICT products and services.
 
GNI also welcomes recent European efforts around human rights and information and communications technology, including the European Parliament resolution calling for regulations on the export of ICTs to autocratic states, as well as the earlier inclusion of ICTs in EU sanctions on the government in Syria.
 
Later this year, GNI will release a report addressing how governments, companies, and civil society can find the balance points between free expression, privacy, law enforcement, and national security, including through export controls.
 

First Independent Assessments of GNI Founding Companies Completed

Date: 
Tuesday, March 6, 2012 - 09:49
The three founding Global Network Initiative (GNI) companies—Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo!—have undergone the first independent assessments to determine how they are implementing their GNI commitments so far. This was the world's first independent assessment of corporate policies and procedures in the Information & Communications Technology (ICT) industry to address freedom of expression and privacy rights.
 
These assessments demonstrate that the companies are putting into place the necessary policies and processes to implement the GNI Principles. The non-company participants, including civil society organizations, responsible investors and academics experts, found the process rigorous and credible. The companies found the use of independent assessors a useful learning process in refining their policies and procedures. Although challenges remain, the findings and subsequent discussions lay the basis for further improvements. The companies expressed determination to continue to develop their practices and work with all participants in the process.
 
Further detail about the assessments will be contained in GNI's second annual report to be published in Spring 2012.
 
GNI is a multi-stakeholder group of companies, civil society organizations (including human rights and press freedom groups), investors and academics, who have created a collaborative approach to protect and advance freedom of expression and privacy in the ICT sector. GNI provides resources for ICT companies to help them address difficult issues related to freedom of expression and privacy that they may face anywhere in the world. GNI has created a framework of principles and a confidential, collaborative approach to working through challenges of corporate responsibility in the ICT sector.

GNI Statement on Protecting Intellectual Property and Upholding Free Expression and Innovation Online

Date: 
Friday, January 20, 2012 - 17:33

The Global Network Initiative (GNI) welcomes the decision by Congressional leaders to postpone immediate consideration of proposed intellectual property legislation in the Senate and House of Representatives. GNI supports the goal of protecting intellectual property online, but we firmly believe that the approach used in the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect-IP (PIPA) is flawed and poses an unacceptable threat to global online freedom of expression and innovation.

We are encouraged by the worldwide outpouring of concern around these issues and urge Congress to adopt an inclusive and transparent approach as it considers how legislation might effectively protect intellectual property and uphold fundamental rights to free expression online. As the U.S. government considers alternative measures, the companies, civil society organizations, investors, and academics that make up GNI collectively recommend a transparent approach that not only includes content and Internet companies, but also civil society organizations and representatives of the users of the Internet.  

The interconnected nature of the Internet means that a well-intended but narrow effort to address one set of problems can have serious unintended consequences on the integrity of the Internet and the rights of its users. Crafting effective legislation on technology requires the engagement of diverse stakeholders, especially those with deep understanding of both technical and human rights considerations.

The global implications of U.S. legislation merit particular attention, as laws and policies developed in Washington can serve as precedent or justification for those of other countries, with the potential to undermine the Internet’s capacity as a tool for protecting and advancing fundamental freedoms. With this in mind, we encourage the careful assessment of the global impact of proposed legislative provisions on human rights, especially freedom of expression and privacy.

GNI is a multi-stakeholder group of companies, civil society organizations (including human rights and press freedom groups), investors and academics, who have created a collaborative approach to protect and advance freedom of expression and privacy in the ICT sector. GNI provides resources for ICT companies to help them address difficult issues related to freedom of expression and privacy that they may face anywhere in the world. GNI has created a framework of principles and a confidential, collaborative approach to working through challenges of corporate responsibility in the ICT sector.

Open Letter on Freedom of Expression, Intellectual Property and H.R. 3261, the Stop Online Piracy Act

Date: 
Tuesday, November 15, 2011 - 17:16

On 15 November 2011, GNI wrote to the Committee on the Judiciary of the U.S. House of Representatives about freedom of expression, intellectual property and H.R. 3261, the Stop Online Piracy Act. The text of the letter is below.

Dear Chairman Smith and Ranking Member Conyers,
 
The Global Network Initiative (GNI) is concerned that provisions of the proposed U.S. law H.R. 3261, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and related legislation could have dangerous unintended consequences for freedom of expression and economic innovation in the U.S. and around the world. The protection of intellectual property rights on the Internet is an important concern for the companies, civil society organizations, investors, and academics that constitute GNI. But GNI believes it is possible to craft legislation that promotes economic innovation, protects intellectual property, and safeguards human rights all at the same time.  

As Congress moves forward in its consideration of measures to curb copyright infringement, we urge lawmakers to consider carefully the potential global human rights ramifications of SOPA and other legislation being considered by Congress. Proposed bills should narrowly tailor the measures used to enforce intellectual property, so as not to broadly impact lawful expression or use of legitimate communications tools.
 
GNI is particularly concerned by the new powers that SOPA would give to both the U.S. government and private rightsholders, as well as the technical methods of filtering that would restrict the free flow of information around the world. SOPA imposes new responsibilities on websites and Internet intermediaries, effectively obliging them to proactively monitor and police the information their users publish or transmit in order to avoid costly litigation or government action.

In shaping this legislation, we urge Congress to ensure that free speech and due process rights of individuals are respected, and to shape a regime worthy of imitation and that Congress would be comfortable having mirrored by other governments. It is critically important that Congress avoid measures that could erode free expression norms in a way that would set dangerous precedent for other countries considering similar measures, and make it more difficult for companies everywhere to resist surveillance and censorship demands that infringe upon individual rights.

While the GNI supports the goal of protecting intellectual property rights, we ask that the U.S. Congress fully consider the unintended consequences that the provisions of SOPA could inflict on the free flow of information and economic innovation. We look forward to working constructively with the Committee and other interested members as legislation on this important issue moves forward.   

Sincerely,
 

Susan Morgan
Executive Director of the Global Network Initiative

GNI is a multi-stakeholder group of companies, civil society organizations (including human rights and press freedom groups), investors and academics, who have created a collaborative approach to protect and advance freedom of expression and privacy in the information and communication technologies (ICT) sector. GNI provides resources for ICT companies to help them address difficult issues related to freedom of expression and privacy that they may face anywhere in the world. GNI has created a framework of principles and a confidential, collaborative approach to working through challenges of corporate responsibility in the ICT sector.

GNI at the Silicon Valley Human Rights Conference

Date: 
Friday, October 28, 2011 - 17:02

As entrepreneurs, engineers, and activists gathered in San Francisco, California for the inaugural Silicon Valley Human Rights Conference on October 25-26, 2011, the work of the Global Network Initiative was “at the center of debate” according to Politico, and repeatedly highlighted as a crucial component of wider efforts to manage the human rights implications of new technologies.

The conference, organized by Access, brought together speakers from corporations, governments, and civil society, but most notably featured activists on the frontlines of the global human rights struggle. Egyptian blogger Alaa abd el Fattah, targeted for his activism by the Egyptian military, challenged companies to think about practical things they can do in the face of government requests such as the internet shutdown in Egypt. “If you hear of plans or orders you don’t like, go to court, ask for due process,” he said. Journalist Chiranuch “Jiew” Premchaiporn, currently facing a possible penalty of 20 years in prison for not moving fast enough to remove user comments from her website that allegedly defamed the Thai monarchy, called for collective action to amend the harsh intermediary liability laws in Thailand.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Michael Posner specifically highlighted GNI, noting “this group has wrestled collectively with the thorniest issues of the day.” GNI Board Secretary Bennett Freeman explicitly challenged companies to join GNI, saying “This is the moment we must grasp. This is the time when companies have to step up and be responsive.”

GNI board members Rebecca MacKinnon and Bob Boorstin also gave keynote presentations, and GNI staff, board members, and participants led workshops on a wide range of topics, from incorporating human rights "by design" to social networks. GNI Executive Director Susan Morgan presented on the GNI and the implementation of UN Guidelines on Business and Human Rights. Cynthia Wong from the Center for Democracy and Technology moderated the panel on intermediary liability. 

Learn more about the Silicon Valley Human Rights Conference.

GNI announces workshop at IGF 2011 in Nairobi

Date: 
Wednesday, September 7, 2011 - 16:15

The Global Network Initiative is pleased to announce it will be hosting a workshop at the 6th Annual Internet Governance Forum 2011, held September 27th-30th at the United Nations Office in Nairobi, Kenya. GNI would like to welcome all those interested to attend the workshop, entitled "The Business of Human Rights: Corporate Responsibility and ICTs".

This workshop will discuss:

  • The impact and implications of public discourse taking place on private networks
  • How human rights risks may arise in the provision of ICT products and services
  • Strategies some ICT companies have adopted to promote the free flow of information, protect privacy, and minimize possible risk to human rights of their users
  • The value of a multi-stakeholder approach to finding solutions to these challenges
  • More about the work of GNI

The workshop will be moderated by Dele Olojede, publisher of NEXT, NextOnSunday and 234NEXT.com and Chair of GNI’s Advisory Board. Panelists will include:

  • Pedro Less Andrade, Senior Policy Counsel, Google Latin America
  • Dan Baer, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, US State Department
  • Eduardo Bertoni, Director of the Center for Studies on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information (CELE) at Palermo University School of Law, Argentina
  • Susan Morgan, Executive Director, The Global Network Initiative
  • Brett Solomon, Executive Director and co-founder, Access

Where and When: The GNI workshop is scheduled for September 28th, at 14:30 – 16:00, in workshop room 9 (conference room 4). See the IGF website for the latest schedule of workshops.

About the IGF: The Internet Governance Forum is an international conference for multi-stakeholder dialogue on policy issues surrounding the Internet. The IGF was begun by a mandate in the United Nations’ 2005 Tunis Agenda for the Information Society. Registration is open until September 9th; for more information visit: http://www.intgovforum.org/cms/

GNI Statement in Response to Violence in London

Date: 
Thursday, August 11, 2011 - 17:08

In his response to the violent unrest in the UK over the past week, UK Prime Minister David Cameron said the government is considering whether it would be right to place limits on social media access in certain cases. While criminality and violence deserve condemnation and prosecution under the full extent of the law, the Global Network Initiative (GNI) urges the British government to consider the domestic and global ramifications for civil liberties and human rights as it develops specific proposals. 

Both policymakers and technology companies must consider the global consequences of their decisions, beyond the country specific pressures of the moment.

While the first duty of a government is to protect its citizens and public safety, it should do so in ways consistent with other fundamental rights, including internationally recognized standards of freedom of expression and privacy.

A UK government response to violence that erodes legal due process or demonstrates a lack of respect for internationally recognized human rights and free speech norms could make it more difficult for Internet and telecommunications companies everywhere to resist surveillance and censorship requests of governments that infringe user rights.

Similarly, information technology companies must uphold core, universal principles on free expression and privacy to ensure their users and customers rights are protected. The GNI’s articulation of these principles, based on widely recognized international human rights standards can be found at:

http://www.globalnetworkinitiative.org/principles/index.php

The relationship between people, government and society in all its forms is increasingly mediated by information technology and online services, including online platforms, news outlets, and the networks and equipment that are at the core. This new reality creates complex challenges regarding the responsibilities of users, civil society, and governments - and in particular the social responsibilities of information and communication technology (ICT) companies. The GNI urges all actors to avoid panic and hasty actions likely to erode public trust in government and companies, and instead rise to the new challenges of the Internet age with foresight and wisdom.

GNI is a multi-stakeholder group of companies, civil society organizations (including human rights and press freedom groups), investors and academics, who have created a collaborative approach to protect and advance freedom of expression and privacy in the ICT sector. GNI provides resources for ICT companies to help them address difficult issues related to freedom of expression and privacy that they may face anywhere in the world. GNI has created a framework of principles and a confidential, collaborative approach to working through challenges of corporate responsibility in the ICT sector.

GNI statement on UN Work on the Human Right of Freedom of Expression

Date: 
Friday, August 5, 2011 - 16:00

On the 28th of July, the Human Rights Committee of the United Nations approved a new “General Comment” of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, giving clear guidance on the legitimate restrictions on freedom of expression that states can make.

The Global Network Initiative (GNI) welcomes reference to how developments in Information and Communications Technologies, specifically the Internet and mobile devices, have substantially transformed communication around the world and the responsibility of states to ensure access to these services.

This recent document follows other important steps from the UN and other intergovernmental organizations in recent months:

1. The endorsement by the UN Human Rights Council of the Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights developed by the UN Special Representative of the Secretary General on Business and Human Rights, John Ruggie. These Guiding Principles carry forward the “Protect, Respect and Remedy” framework unanimously welcomed by the Human Rights Council in 2008.

 

2. The report released by Frank La Rue, the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, which considers some of the key issues such as intermediary liability and the protection of privacy. This report attracted a cross regional statement of support by over 40 governments including representatives from Europe, Latin America, Africa and Asia

 

3. The joint declaration on Freedom of Expression and the Internet issued by the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, the Organization for Security and Co-operation (OSCE) Representative on Freedom of the Media, and the Organization of American States (OAS) Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information.

 

4. A UNESCO released publication covering not only the state of free expression but also the interrelationship between free expression and economic and development issues and how reducing the digital divide could support freedom of expression.

    As an initiative providing a framework for company decision making on these issues based on internationally recognized laws and standards for human rights, GNI looks forward to the continued work of the UN and other multilateral institutions.

    GNI Concerned About Lack of Transparency and Accountability in YouTube Censorship (UPDATE: April 1, 2009)

    Date: 
    Wednesday, March 25, 2009 - 17:00

    UPDATE: April 1, 2009 - YouTube has been blocked again in China. After being temporarily unblocked on Sunday and Monday (China time), YouTube was blocked again starting Monday, March 30 late in the day PDT. As before, no official explanation has been given for the blockage.

    Additional resources:
    Herdict Web reports – YouTube in China


    //

    Around the globe, government authorities often use legal or technical means to censor information and communications online. The recent blocking of YouTube in China was done without notice to the public or any explanation of the legal basis for the action. Such actions are inconsistent with the rule of law and the right to freedom of expression.

    The Global Network Initiative was formed to help stakeholders in the technology industry uphold global human rights norms in the face of censorship pressures.  The Initiative brings together a broad spectrum of companies, civil society organizations, investors, and academics to establish global operational principles for companies to uphold human rights norms, and to collaborate on public policy -- including encouraging governments to be specific, transparent, and mindful of internationally recognized human rights.
     
    Ongoing and recurring incidents around the world have highlighted the need for this Initiative.  Recent blocking in China of the online video site YouTube is one illustrative case of practices that result in inappropriate restrictions on freedom of expression.

    The Chinese government’s statements to date have not provided an explanation of whether YouTube is officially blocked, and if so what content may have violated the law, or on whose authority the blocking was imposed.

    The GNI calls on governments across the world to comply with international human rights standards and the rule of law in using legal process or control of infrastructure to remove or limit access to online information. Governments should only take such action in specific and narrowly defined cases, and should publicly articulate the basis for such action.  

    Freedom of opinion and expression is a human right and guarantor of human dignity. The right to freedom of opinion and expression includes the freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

    Broad public access to information and the freedom to create and communicate ideas online are critical to the advancement of knowledge, economic opportunity, and human potential.

    Since 2007, YouTube has been blocked in over a dozen countries. In blocking YouTube, many governments are falling short of human rights principles in troubling ways. Many blocking remedies appear to be broader than necessary to further local law and policy goals.  Such overbroad actions inhibit the exercise of basic human rights to freedom of expression and access to information.  Blocking not only impacts the right of people in that country to speak and access information, but also the right of the world to speak to people in the country imposing the block.   
        
    This incident is only the latest example of increasing threats to freedom of expression around the world. Responding to such threats requires collaboration among a broad spectrum of companies, civil society organizations, investors, and academics, working with governments and multilateral organizations that support international human rights and the rule of law.
     

    GNI Responds To Increased Censorship of Online Publishing Services and User Generated Content

    Date: 
    Wednesday, May 20, 2009 - 17:00

    In responding to the removal, censorship and blocking of online publishing services – home to increasingly popular user generated content such as blogs, videos and photos – the Global Network Initiative stated today that its participating companies will continue to take steps to minimize the impact on users and the public and to encourage governments to protect the right to freedom of expression.

    Around the globe, government authorities often use legal or technical means to censor information and communication over the Internet. This increasingly means restricting the ability of individuals to publish their own work and express themselves online through personal blogs, the uploading of videos or the sharing of photos and, in turn, the ability of individuals to access such published content.

    The GNI brings together a diverse group of companies, civil society organizations, investors, and academics to establish global operational principles for companies to respect human rights, and to collaborate on public policy -- including encouraging governments to allow their citizens to seek, receive and impart information freely.
     
    Ongoing and recurring incidents around the world have highlighted the need for this Initiative. Recent blocking of online video sites and forced removal of blog content or photos by governments are illustrative of practices that can result in inappropriate restrictions on freedom of expression and the free flow of information and ideas. 

    GNI stated:

    The Global Network Initiative (GNI) believes that responding to restrictions on rights to free expression and access to information requires collaboration among a broad spectrum of companies, civil society organizations, investors, and academics, working with governments and multilateral organizations that support international human rights and the rule of law.

    In the case of participating GNI companies who offer or support online publishing services, these companies are committed to taking steps to help advance the free flow of information in responding to blocks or other restrictions on online publishing.  These steps include:

    • Requiring governments to follow established domestic legal processes when they are seeking to restrict freedom of expression, and seek to encourage transparency, due process and rule of law;
    • Interpreting government restrictions and demands so as to minimize the negative effect on freedom of expression, such as removing content only for local markets rather than worldwide.
    • Interpreting the governmental authority’s jurisdiction so as to minimize the negative effect on freedom of expression, such as removing access content only subject to a legally binding notice, or if the content violates the service’s terms of use.


    The full GNI membership will be working collaboratively to help companies follow through on these commitments and to encourage governments around the world to look to international standards, and to be transparent and follow rule of law, when restricting the publication of information and ideas.

    About GNI: http://www.globalnetworkinitiative.org/

    For more information, contact press@globalnetworkinitiative.org.

     

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    Op-Ed: Tech Companies Should be Allowed to Disclose Government Requests

    Date: 
    Wednesday, November 13, 2013 - 08:55

    This piece by GNI Independent Chair Jermyn Brooks and Policy & Communications Director David Sullivan originally appeared at Guardian Sustainable Business:

    The disclosure of secret documents detailing massive government surveillance programs has triggered an outcry around the globe. The bulk collection of US call records and revelations about secret orders that US intelligence agencies make of Internet companies, as well as recent reports of surreptitious siphoning of traffic between company data centers—has shaken the world's confidence in the electronic networks we rely on to communicate.

    Responses to these revelations range from "no-spying" pacts between allies to data localisation requirements that could fundamentally change how the Internet operates. But we are still missing essential information necessary to evaluate these proposals: empirical data on the number of secret national security orders being issued to private companies under specific legal authorities, and the number of users specified in those requests.

    Unless we know not only how many of these orders governments make, but also how many companies receive, it will be impossible for individual users of communications services to grasp the scale and scope of surveillance.

    Read the full article at Guardian Sustainable Business.

    2013 Learning Forum in Brussels

    Date: 
    Friday, November 8, 2013 - 10:34

    The Global Network Initiative and the Telecommunications Industry Dialogue on Freedom of Expression and Privacy present their 2013 joint Learning Forum in Brussels, Belgium.

    2013 Learning Forum 
    13 November 2013

    Brussels Marriott Hotel 
    Brussels, Belgium

    Moderated by John Kampfner, this first joint multi-stakeholder learning forum will bring to Brussels an exciting line up of international speakers on cutting-edge issues relating to freedom of expression and privacy rights online:

    09:30 – 10:00     Welcome and introduction to the collaboration between GNI and the Industry Dialogue

    •  Jermyn Brooks, GNI Independent chair
    • Yves Nissim, Industry Dialogue chair

    10:00 – 10:45     The evolving free expression and privacy challenges in the ICT sector 

    What do we now know about communications surveillance and government access to data? What are the human rights implications? How can universal rights be protected when laws and international agreements give different levels of protection based on territoriality or citizenship?

    • Leslie Harris, Center for Democracy and Technology
    • Jeanette Hofmann, Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society
    • Marília Maciel, Center for Technology & Society - FGV Law School
    • Dewi van de Weerd, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands

    10:45 – 12:15     Free expression and privacy issues across the Atlantic and around the globe

    What are the different challenges in developed and emerging markets? How are the communications surveillance issues highlighted in the last few months having an impact in countries around the world? Are there unique responsibilities for the US given its unique position in the global communications network?

    • William Echikson, Google
    • Elonnai Hickock, Centre for Internet & Society
    • Patrick Hiselius, TeliaSonera 
    • Carina Lundberg Markow, Folksam 
    • Rebecca MacKinnon, New America Foundation 

    For more information about the Learning Forum, please contact David Sullivan at dsullivan@globalnetworkinitiative.org. Please note that the Learning Forum is invitation only. If you have any questions regarding the conference, please contact us by email.

    GNI Applauds Tech Company Letter on Surveillance Reforms

    Date: 
    Friday, November 1, 2013 - 09:36

    The Global Network Initiative applauds the letter sent by six technology companies—including GNI members Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo!—to U.S. Senate leaders urging transparency and reforms to government surveillance practices that would include substantial enhancements to privacy protections and appropriate oversight and accountability mechanisms for those programs.

    GNI believes that legislative reforms should also address the privacy rights of people around the world, not just U.S. citizens. As an international initiative that brings together companies with human rights and press freedom organizations, investors, and academics, we look forward to working with the U.S. Congress and the Executive branch—as well as other governments—to address legitimate security concerns while protecting privacy and freedom of expression.

    GNI Writes to the 21 Governments in the Freedom Online Coalition

    Date: 
    Thursday, September 19, 2013 - 09:47

    The Global Network Initiative has written to the 21 governments in the Freedom Online Coalition, asking them to report on the requests they make for electronic communications surveillance and to make it legally possible for companies to report regularly to the public on the government requests that they receive from law enforcement as well as national security authorities. The letters were sent to senior government officials responsible for foreign affairs, justice, and security, with copies to data protection authorities. Copies were also sent to permanent representatives to the United Nations offices in Geneva, in advance of discussions on human rights and communications surveillance at the 24th session of the Human Rights Council. 

    The Freedom Online Coalition is a group of governments committed to collaborating to advance Internet freedom. The participating countries include: Austria, Canada, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Estonia, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Ireland, Kenya, Latvia, the Republic of Maldives, Mexico, Mongolia, The Netherlands, Sweden, Tunisia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

    Presidential and Congressional Steps on Communication Surveillance Programs

    Date: 
    Saturday, August 10, 2013 - 06:06

    The Global Network Initiative welcomes the commitment by President Obama to work with Congress on the reform of section 215 of the Patriot Act and to increase transparency and oversight around communications surveillance programs in the United States.

    The Global Network Initiative is encouraged by the introduction of bills like the Surveillance Transparency Act of 2013, into the Senate by Senator Al Franken (D-Minn.) and the Surveillance Order Reporting Act, into the House by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.). The bills would remove legal barriers preventing the U.S. government and companies from disclosing the number of national security requests. This will help enable a thoughtful public debate on human rights and communications surveillance.

    “GNI has called for more transparency as a prerequisite for the necessary informed global public debate on the balance between national security and privacy and freedom of expression rights,” said GNI Executive Director Susan Morgan. “We look forward to working with Congress and the Executive branch to develop even stronger mechanisms to increase transparency and ensure that surveillance programs are subject to internationally recognized human rights laws and standards”.

     

    GNI Comments to the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board

    Date: 
    Wednesday, August 7, 2013 - 10:52

    The Global Network Initiative submitted comments to the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) regarding surveillance programs operated pursuant to Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act and Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act. 

    Worldwide concerns about U.S. surveillance practices seriously threaten the United States’ reputation as a champion of Internet freedom. Keeping in mind the global leadership role of the United States, we urge the Board to protect the privacy rights of people around the world, not just in the United States, and demand greater transparency on the part of U.S. government agencies. Specifically, we recommend that the Board urge all government agencies to: 

    1. Address the international human rights implications of U.S. communications surveillance programs.
    2. Create a process to declassify significant legal opinions to enable oversight of government actions and inform public debate. 
    3. Revise the provisions that restrict discussion of national security demands. 
    4. Encourage the United States to report on its own surveillance requests.

    Read GNI's comments.

    Opening the Lines: A Call for Transparency from Governments and Telecommunications Companies

    Date: 
    Wednesday, July 24, 2013 - 18:00

    Executive Summary available in Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian, and Spanish.

    The human rights obligations of telecommunications companies are in the global spotlight in the wake of recent reports about national security-related communications surveillance. Companies committed to respecting free expression and privacy rights should take this opportunity to work with governments to increase transparency according to a new report by the Global Network Initiative.  

    The report, “Opening the Lines: A Call for Transparency from Governments and Telecommunications Companies,” illustrates the types of requirements telecommunications companies face and explores how they can respond to them in ways that respect human rights. Informed by case study review of the laws and regulations governing telecommunications companies in the European Union, and at the national level in Russia, Sweden, and the United Kingdom, the report shows that the risks to free expression and privacy in the sector are not limited to the United States. Authored by Chris Tuppen, senior partner of Advancing Sustainability LLP and the former Chief Sustainability Officer at BT, the report makes specific recommendations around how to increase transparency.

    Read the report. 

    New Report Calls for Transparency from Governments and Telecommunications Companies

    Date: 
    Wednesday, July 24, 2013 - 18:00

    Report Executive Summary available in ArabicChineseFrenchRussian, and Spanish.

    Washington, DC — The human rights obligations of telecommunications companies are in the global spotlight in the wake of recent reports about national security-related communications surveillance. Companies committed to respecting free expression and privacy rights should take this opportunity to work with governments to increase transparency according to a new report released today by the Global Network Initiative.  

    The report, “Opening the Lines: A Call for Transparency from Governments and Telecommunications Companies,” illustrates the types of requirements telecommunications companies face and explores how they can respond to them in ways that respect human rights. Informed by case study review of the laws and regulations governing telecommunications companies in the European Union, and at the national level in Russia, Sweden, and the United Kingdom, the report shows that the risks to free expression and privacy in the sector are not limited to the United States. 

    “Governments pursuing legitimate responsibilities for national security and law enforcement face real challenges, but as the worldwide reaction to communications surveillance by the U.S. government makes clear, the necessity and proportionality of surveillance measures are far from resolved,” said GNI Executive Director Susan Morgan. “It’s time for telecommunications companies to demonstrate their commitments to the rights of their users wherever they operate.”  

    The report, authored by Chris Tuppen, senior partner of Advancing Sustainability LLP and the former Chief Sustainability Officer at BT, makes specific recommendations around how to increase transparency. “Telecommunications companies seeking to mitigate their human rights risks have an opportunity to work with governments and other stakeholders to increase transparency in a number of areas, particularly volume of requests made and complied with,” says Tuppen. 

    The report was commissioned prior to GNI entering into a two-year collaboration with eight global companies in the Telecommunications Industry Dialogue on Privacy and Freedom of Expression, and is not endorsed by the Industry Dialogue companies. 

    Responding to the report Patrik Hiselius, Senior Advisor at TeliaSonera and current Chair of the Industry Dialogue, said: “The Industry Dialogue welcomes GNI’s first report on telecommunications and freedom of expression. The report will help different stakeholders understand the complex operating environment of telecommunications companies and sheds light on some of the challenges in defining the boundaries of responsibility regarding freedom of expression within our sector. We look forward to working together, and with the GNI and its members, to further promoting informed debate and practical solutions to these challenges.”

     ###

    GNI is a multi-stakeholder group of companies, civil society organizations (including human rights and press freedom groups), investors and academics, who have created a collaborative approach to protect and advance freedom of expression and privacy in the ICT sector. GNI provides resources for ICT companies to help them address difficult issues related to freedom of expression and privacy that they may face anywhere in the world. GNI has created a framework of principles and a confidential, collaborative approach to working through challenges of corporate responsibility in the ICT sector.

    The Global Network Initiative Joins Internet Companies & Advocates to Demand More Transparency Around Government Surveillance

    Date: 
    Thursday, July 18, 2013 - 09:01

    The Global Network Initiative has joined a coalition of technology companies and advocates for free speech and privacy rights to deliver a letter to the US government demanding greater transparency around national security-related surveillance of Internet and telephone communications. Organized by GNI member the Center for Democracy & Technology, the signatories include GNI companies, civil society organizations, and investors among a diverse array of companies and organizations. 

    In the wake of recent revelations about the breadth of the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs, the letter presses both the Obama Administration and Congress to allow Internet and telephone companies to publish general numerical information about the different types of government requests they receive and the number of people affected. The letter further pushes for the government to issue its own “transparency reports” detailing similar information about the scope of its surveillance activities. And a newly launched petition directed at the White House via WeNeedToKnow.info invites the public to add their voice to the call for greater transparency around government surveillance.

    Read coverage of the letter in the New York Times and Washington Post. 

    ThinkProgress: How To Bring More Transparency To U.S. Surveillance Programs

    Date: 
    Wednesday, July 3, 2013 - 17:04

    This piece by GNI Policy and Communications Director David Sullivan originally appeared on ThinkProgress:

    There is no shortage of divergent views about the once secret NSA surveillance programs former contractor Edward Snowden allegedly leaked. But there is one point on which even the fiercest critics and staunchest defenders of national security communications surveillance seem to agree: more transparency from the U.S. government is required.

    Whether one views the NSA intelligence programs overseen by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court as a shocking privacy breach, business-as-usual for a signal intelligence agency, or a positive example of intelligence oversight, it’s increasingly clear that the public lacks the basic information needed to objectively evaluate the costs and benefits of the status quo.

    With more disclosure, there is an opportunity to assess the human rights risks that may arise from the technological advances in the era of big data. In turn, we can determine through democratic processes the appropriate legal safeguards that should apply to surveillance, and develop international norms to protect the right to privacy across borders.

    Read the full article on ThinkProgress. 

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