recommended reading

Report: Tech companies must stand up against repressive regimes

Eugene Hoshiko/AP

Companies that want to operate in countries with repressive regimes need to minimize the way their technologies can be abused by the government, according to a new report commissioned by an Internet-freedom coalition.
Technology companies have often faced dilemmas in countries like China, where government can abuse the same technology that benefits millions of people.
“Companies faced with state demands that violate human rights have a duty to minimize the extent of any such cooperation,” researchers wrote in the report prepared for the Global Network Initiative, a coalition of Internet companies, nonprofit organizations, and universities. “They must assess in advance the human-rights risks in countries where they operate, take measures to minimize these risks, and help the victims of any enforced cooperation.”
Cisco, for example, has been criticized for selling technology to the Chinese government, and Google and Facebook have both struggled to make inroads in China, where the government holds tight control over the Internet. More countries are also clamping down on Internet speech after online organizing was credited with helping spark revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa.

In April, President Obama issued an executive order prohibiting companies from assisting regimes in Iran and Syria with “computer or network disruption, monitoring, or tracking that could assist in or enable serious human-rights abuses.”
Even in countries considered to have an unfettered Internet, companies have faced increased pressure to provide governments with information in cases involving child pornography, cybersecurity, terrorism, and copyright infringement, among others. On Thursday, authorities in the United Kingdom unveiled an ambitious surveillance plan that calls for monitoring all Web visits, e-mail, phone calls, and text messages.
“Governments are the primary problem here, not companies,” argued Google’s director of public policy, Bob Boorstin, at an event unveiling the report on Thursday.
He said that even if companies don’t want to violate human rights, governments often force them to compromise.

The GNI report’s authors suggest that companies need to stand up against governments around the world by only responding to legal requests for information. The report also recommends that companies limit the amount of information they collect so that governments have less to ask for.
“While states are responsible for protecting human rights online under international law, companies responsible for Internet infrastructure, products, and services can play an important supporting role,” the researchers wrote.
GNI members include Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, and organizations such as the Center for Democracy and Technology.

Threatwatch Alert

Thousands of cyber attacks occur each day

See the latest threats


Close [ x ] More from Nextgov

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • It’s Time for the Federal Government to Embrace Wireless and Mobility

    The United States has turned a corner on the adoption of mobile phones, tablets and other smart devices, outpacing traditional desktop and laptop sales by a wide margin. This issue brief discusses the state of wireless and mobility in federal government and outlines why now is the time to embrace these technologies in government.

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

  • A New Security Architecture for Federal Networks

    Federal government networks are under constant attack, and the number of those attacks is increasing. This issue brief discusses today's threats and a new model for the future.

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

  • Software-Defined Networking

    So many demands are being placed on federal information technology networks, which must handle vast amounts of data, accommodate voice and video, and cope with a multitude of highly connected devices while keeping government information secure from cyber threats. This issue brief discusses the state of SDN in the federal government and the path forward.

  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.