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GNI Report Shows Internet Companies are Institutionalizing Privacy and Free Expression Principles

Today the Global Network Initiative (GNI) reached a critical milestone when it published its first independent assessment of Internet companies on their fulfillment of commitments to meet GNI’s principles and guidelines on free expression and privacy. The report showed that the three companies examined – Google, Microsoft and Yahoo – are all meeting those rigorous standards. This is an important result because it shows that the world’s leading Internet companies are embracing these fundamental human rights principles and making them an institutionalized company practice. At the same time, it is important to remember that compliance is not about perfection. It is about continuous improvement and the independent assessments revealed areas where companies may need to focus additional attention.

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International Human Rights Bodies Starting to Address NSA Surveillance Practices

Last Monday, I attended an important hearing at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) that addressed the U.S. security surveillance programs and the implications for freedom of expression. This was the first time the U.S. has been called on to speak about its surveillance programs in front of an international human rights body, and its response was less than satisfying. After compelling testimony from a panel assembled by the ACLU, the U.S. representative announced that the government did not have enough time to prepare a response because of the government shutdown. The frustration of the Commissioners was palpable.

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Congratulations to Alissa Cooper

Technologists so rarely understand the mysteries of policy, and policy makers so rarely understand how policy choices impact the Internet’s technical architecture. Yet policy wonks and technologists alike make decisions that greatly impact the free and open nature of the Internet. So when someone comes along who can navigate both worlds at the highest levels with ease and sophistication, he or she is truly a rare bird. CDT’s departing Chief Computer Scientist, Alissa Cooper, is one of those people. She is brilliant, passionate and possesses a preternatural ability to speak truth to power across the technology-policy divide. She is a leader poised to shape the future of the Internet for a generation to come.

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CDT Submits Comments to the President’s Review Group on Surveillance Reform

Today, CDT made a series of recommendations to the President’s Review Group on Surveillance Reform focusing on Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act, Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (“FISA”) as amended by the FISA Amendments Act, enhanced transparency, and the structure of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (“FISC”).

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Ignoring Democracy in the Name of Security

Last week’s revelation that the National Security Agency (NSA) is building vulnerabilities and backdoors into the Internet’s core infrastructure is beyond alarming. Ultimately, the NSA has made our country’s critical infrastructure less secure in the name of security, while showing blatant disregard for the democratic process. While the fact that the NSA decrypts encrypted data should not itself be cause for outrage by the American public – cracking codes is the core job of the NSA – its approach is what’s outrageous.

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Government Surveillance Viewed though a Global PRISM

Important questions are being raised about the surveillance practices of the US government, and the Center for Democracy and Technology is at the center of efforts to reform US law. However, in assessing PRISM, it would be a mistake to focus only on trans-Atlantic differences over privacy. There are at least three bigger questions that industry, privacy advocates, and policymakers on both sides of the Atlantic and in the rest of the world have to grapple with.

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A Message to the CDT Community, from President Leslie Harris

I am writing to let you know that I plan to step down as President of CDT by CDT’s 20th anniversary celebration, March 2014. The Board has appointed a search committee and we have retained a search firm to guide us through the search process. We are beginning the search now in order to ensure that we have selected my successor well in advance of that date and ideally that we will have some overlap time to ensure a smooth transition.

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After NSA Revelations, Google Takes Lead on Pushing for Transparency

Once again, Google has taken the lead in pressing for more transparency around government demands for Internet users’ private data. Google just this afternoon released a letter from its Chief Legal Officer David Drummond calling on Attorney General Eric Holder to permit Google to report on the aggregate number of orders it receives under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and the number of customer accounts impacted by those orders.

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Facebook Joins GNI, Taking Significant Step in Protecting Users’ Rights

This morning at the Stockholm Internet Forum, Facebook announced it is joining the Global Network Initiative, becoming the sixth company to join GNI. As a founding Board Member of GNI, I am extremely pleased to be in Stockholm to witness Facebook make this important announcement, joining GNI founding companies Google, Microsoft, Yahoo! as well as Evoca and Websense, in stepping up its commitment to protect the human rights of its users. GNI strives to protect global human rights by working with technology companies, civil society, academics, and investors to help companies responsibly navigate the increasing number of complex laws and government requests to censor content and access personal information. Importantly, GNI members also commit to work together on Internet policy globally, because it is countries that must adopt the laws that protect the human rights of Internet users.

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CISPA Changes Show Power of Internet Advocacy

Last week CISPA, the cybersecurity information-sharing bill, passed the House. Though fundamentally flawed, the bill is very different from when it passed the House a year ago, demonstrating the power of a growing Internet advocacy community that sometimes underestimates its own influence. Two game-changing achievements stand out.

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