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In last years’ report to the UN Human Rights Commission, Professor David Kaye, UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, concluded that states pressure on telecommunications companies and Internet service providers (ISPs) to restrict freedom of opinion and expression “requires further documentation and scrutiny.”
In our input to David Kaye’s study, we demonstrate that the GNI Principles and Implementation Guidelines are relevant across the ICT sector as companies respond to government requests that can impact freedom of expression and privacy rights of users. Furthermore, our collaboration with the Telecommunications Industry Dialogue provides a uniquely authoritative voice for engagement with international institutions and governments.
GNI urges governments that have made commitments to human rights online to report on the requests they make of companies to take down content or produce user data and to make it legally possible for companies to report regularly to the public on the requests they receive.
GNI submitted comments for the report that the Special Rapporteur on the protection and promotion of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye, is preparing on the legal framework governing the relationship between freedom of expression and the use of encryption and other technologies to transact and communicate securely online.
The Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) regime—which consists of hundreds of bilateral and multilateral treaties that regulate government-to-government requests for user data—has struggled to keep up with the enormous number of requests for digital evidence arising from global Internet services. A report by the Global Network Initiative, “Data Beyond Borders: Mutual Legal Assistance in the Internet Age,” outlines key principles and specific reforms to drive a human rights-based approach to MLA reform for the twenty-first century.
“When mutual legal assistance does not function swiftly and fairly, governments resort to other tactics such as demanding data localization or attempting to apply their laws extraterritorially,” says report author Andrew K. Woods, assistant professor of law at the University of Kentucky. He added, “It is therefore critical that states work together to make mutual legal assistance more efficient and more protective of human rights. This is not an impossible task: states that are serious about reforming MLA can implement many of the most-urgent reforms in the next year.”
The report recommends that states work together to create a secure electronic system for managing MLA requests, increase staffing for MLA issues, and conduct thorough trainings at all levels of law enforcement to ensure that MLA requests are generated and processed as efficiently as possible and in a way that respects international human rights.
GNI submitted evidence to the UK government review of communications and interception powers by David Anderson QC, Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation.
Specifically, we recommend that the UK government:
The Global Network Initiative (GNI) released a report, “Closing the Gap: Indian Online Intermediaries and a Liability System Not Yet Fit for Purpose,” prepared by Copenhagen Economics, which found that online platforms that support user-generated content can become an important part of India’s Internet economy and contribute approximately INR 2.49 lakh crore (USD 41 Billion) by 2015—in addition to the contribution of other elements of the Internet economy.
This would mean that two years from now their GDP contribution may increase to more than 1.3 per cent, provided that the current legal liability regime is improved. Additionally, the positive productivity effects of online intermediaries will be significant—creating an even greater impact in India in areas like e-sales and e-procurement compared to their impact in Europe or the US.
Read the report here.
Read the executive summary here.