Announcing The Transparency Toolkit: Reporting Guide & Template

January 5, 2017

New resource provides practical starting point for companies beginning or improving their transparency reporting of US Government requests for user data.

The Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University and New America’s Open Technology Institute are proud to announce the publication of the Transparency Reporting Toolkit: Reporting Guide & Template, which builds off our survey of best practices, released last year. Our Reporting Guide & Template aims to provide companies the tools they need to publish transparency reports that are more consistent, easier to understand, and more effective.

In the wake of the Snowden revelations, many companies began publishing transparency reports, which included information released to the public about the frequency, and the authority by which a government requests user data from the company. However, a diversity of approaches to reporting quickly led to a fragmentation of practices that have made it impossible to meaningfully compare or aggregate metrics across companies.

Last March, we released the eight-part Transparency Reporting Toolkit Survey & Research Memos, which identified various best practices in reporting based on an extensive survey of current practices. This newly published Reporting Guide & Template is an extension of that work. It provides practical assistance to help companies translate those best practices into their reports by walking companies through the reporting process. Utilizing a text-based guide alongside a template of introductory text and tables for reporting on user data requests, we explain the methods currently used by companies in their transparency reports, and highlight the best practices our teams have identified. We explain why each best practice was selected, and have also highlighted innovative practices that a company might consider adopting.

“We hope this guide and template  can empower advocates for transparency within companies and make it easy for companies to adopt more effective and consistent practices,” said report co-author Ryan Budish, a senior researcher at the Berkman Klein Center.  

"Transparency reporting is key to our understanding of the online and digital privacy landscapes.  By strengthening transparency reporting we hope to make the report data more accessible and usable while also educating consumers about government requests for information," said report co-author Liz Woolery, a senior policy analyst at the Open Technology Institute.

As companies work to implement this guidance, the authors welcome feedback and news about reporting changes. Feedback and updates about reporting practices can be shared with: transparency_toolkit@cyber.harvard.edu.

Related content: "How to Make Transparency Reports Better" by Ryan Budish on Medium.

Last updated

January 12, 2017