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Google and Others Preparing Code of Conduct?

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

Tuesday, January 23, 2007
17 years ago9,424 views

Short version:

<<Microsoft, Google and two other technology companies will develop a code of conduct with a coalition of nongovernmental organizations to promote freedom of expression and privacy rights, they announced Friday.>>

Press release (courtesy of Barry/ Google):
Companies, Human Rights Groups, Investors, Academics and Technology Leaders
to Address International Free Expression and Privacy Challenges

January 18, 2007 11:02 AM Eastern Time

SAN FRANCISCO & WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--A diverse group of companies, academics, investors, technology leaders and human rights organizations announced today its intention to seek solutions to the free expression and privacy challenges faced by technology and communications companies doing business internationally.

The process – which aims to produce a set of principles guiding company behavior when faced with laws, regulations and policies that interfere with the achievement of human rights – marks a new phase in efforts that these groups began in 2006.

Last year, Google, Microsoft, Vodafone and Yahoo! (Nasdaq:YHOO), with the facilitation of Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) and advice from the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School, initiated a series of dialogues to gain a fuller understanding of free expression and privacy as they relate to the use of technology worldwide.

At the same time, the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) was also convening technology leaders, investors and human rights advocates to discuss how to advance civil liberties on the Internet in the face of laws that run contrary to international standards for human rights.

Both processes benefited from dialogue, research and policy expertise on internet filtering and surveillance practices from the OpenNet Consensus, a coalition of academic institutions including the University of California Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism and School of Law-Boalt Hall, the Berkman Center and others.

The new combined group, in addition to developing the principles, seeks to advance their effectiveness by establishing a framework to implement the principles, hold signatories accountable and provide for ongoing learning.

"Technology companies have played a vital role building the economy and providing tools important for democratic reform in developing countries. But some governments have found ways to turn technology against their citizens – monitoring legitimate online activities and censoring democratic material," CDT Executive Director Leslie Harris said. "It is vital that we identify solutions that preserve the enormous democratic value provided by technological development, while at the same time protecting the human rights and civil liberties of those who stand to benefit from that expansion."

BSR CEO Aron Cramer said that the discussions over the past year have already proven valuable.

"Thanks to the extraordinary commitment of the companies and other participants in this process we've already learned a great deal about the obstacles we face and the ways business and other stakeholders can join forces to address those challenges," Cramer said. "This important dialogue reflects a shared commitment to maximize the information available via the internet on the basis of global principles protecting free expression and privacy. This dialogue could prove a key step in unlocking the communications potential of the internet."

Members of the group plan to complete the process in 2007. The following companies and stakeholders have agreed to participate:

Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School
Boston Common Asset Management
Business for Social Responsibility (Facilitator)
Calvert Group
Center for Democracy and Technology (Facilitator)
Committee to Protect Journalists
Domini Social Investments LLC
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Enterprise Privacy Group
F&C Asset Management
Google, Inc.
Human Rights First
Human Rights in China
Human Rights Watch
International Business Leaders Forum
International Council on Human Rights Policy
International Human Rights Law Clinic and Samuelson Law, Technology, &
Public Policy Clinic, Boalt Hall School of Law, UC Berkeley
Reporters Without Borders
Trillium Asset Management
United Nations Special Representative to the Secretary-General on business &
human rights (Observer status)
Yahoo! Inc.

Let's hope this results in something, other than good PR for the companies involved.

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