In partnership with the Center for Democracy and Technology and Business for Social Responsibility, in addition to leading human rights groups, academic institutions, socially responsible investment firms, and internet and communications technology (ICT) companies — including Google, Vodafone, France Telecom, Microsoft, TeliaSonera, and Yahoo! — the Berkman Center has participated in an initiative to protect and advance individuals' rights to free expression and privacy on the Internet through the creation of a set of principles and supporting mechanisms for ICT companies.
With the rise in Internet filtering and surveillance around the world, the ICT sector frequently encounters state pressure to assist with censorship and to turn over personal information about users. Through the articulation of a broad set of common principles, the development of resources for implementation and a compliance structure, this collaborative effort is working to formulate an industry-wide response to guide businesses when they encounter laws and practices that may contravene international human rights standards or be at odds with law or culture in their home jurisdiction.
A significant focus of the project is collective action — shared learning, data generation, developing best practices, and garnering support from companies, human rights groups, and civil society organizations. Both the process and the resulting principles are dynamic, characterized by a desire to set strong guidelines and standards of practice that are also flexible enough to account for technological innovation, market changes, and the variety of companies and products that are represented by the membership.
Led by Managing Director Colin Maclay, Professors John Palfrey and Jonathan Zittrain, Faculty Fellow Urs Gasser and a large cast of collaborators, the Berkman team has played a role in the drafting process and in the development of implementation procedures aimed at helping companies to evaluate their adherence to the principles and to have a better sense of the global context for censorship and filtration. As the project enters its next phase, this initiative will advance efforts to further internationalize the process and develop supporting data sets.