When GNI was launched in 2008, the participating companies publicly committed to implement a set of Principles to integrate decision-making around freedom of expression and privacy issues within their operations.

Independent assessment of compliance with these Principles supports learning and accountability specifically and GNI generally by enabling stakeholders, including users, to understand how companies are fulfilling their commitments and by helping all GNI participants to learn from the companies’ experiences.

2010 saw self-reporting on implementation progress but 2011 marks the first ever third party assessment for these companies on these issues, under GNI or otherwise, and represents for GNI a milestone as it builds its credibility. This year, the assessments will focus on the policies, procedures and structures that companies have put in place to implement the Principles. Assessments in 2012 will look at specific case examples.

Key elements of the assessment process include determining who will serve as assessors, the guidance they will receive and the way they will report their findings. Creating this new assessment process is an ambitious and complex undertaking and has benefited greatly from the diverse perspectives and experiences represented within GNI. As with the other elements of GNI it remains work in progress but we are excited at how we have advanced, including in this important step.

Our expectation is that the assessments will be complete by the end of 2011. In the first quarter of 2012 GNI will publish its second annual report, which will include details of the assessment process and the findings from it.

We will post further updates and progress reports over the course of 2011.