Google, Microsoft, Yahoo Set High Bar with GNI Assessment

Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First today said that a Global Network Initiative (GNI) report detailing progress made by Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo in protecting internet freedom of expression and privacy online marks an important milestone in protecting user privacy and strengthening consumer trust in the face of increasing government demands to limit or circumscribe service. The report is the first following an independent analysis of the policies of GNI member companies. It also details proliferating threats to internet freedom in every corner of the world, including Europe and the United States. The GNI was established in 2008 with the goal of protecting online freedom of expression and privacy in the face of government pressure to comply with domestic laws which may run up against international human rights norms. The multi-stakeholder group is comprised of companies, investors, academics, and civil society organizations, including Human Rights First, a member of GNI’s Board of Directors. “GNI members Google, Microsoft and Yahoo have set a new, higher bar in the ICT sector with their willingness to undertake an independent assessment of their efforts,” said Human Rights First’s Meg Roggensack. “While other companies in the ICT sector have said that they endorse the GNI Principles, they’ve yet to join GNI, a move that would require them to undergo the same independent assessment. Other companies claim they have launched their own efforts to address threats to internet freedom, but those claims shouldn’t be taken at face value. No matter how well-intentioned or serious, internal company assessments will have gaps.” Roggensack notes that GNI reports are crucial for evaluating whether companies take positive steps towards protecting freedom of expression and privacy in practice. This year’s report details the independent external assessments undertaken by Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo. The assessors reported that three companies do have policies and programs in place to implement GNI’s Principles and Implementation Guidelines. Next year’s assessment will look at how companies are applying those policies in the field, with reference to actual case studies, and will be crucial to establishing GNI’s overall credibility and value. “GNI membership is more than a commitment to principles; it is a broader commitment to act responsibly in the face of government demands that threaten freedom of expression and privacy online. This year’s report shows the GNI’s approach to the challenge is on the right track,” concluded Roggensack. “Through collective efforts, the GNI can help promote progress toward the ideal of one internet, where access doesn’t depend on where you live, or on the whims of government censors.”


Published on April 18, 2012


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