Recent revelations about NSA surveillance and the demands placed on U.S. Internet and telecommunications companies have certainly highlighted a central theme of this book: How communications technology companies can serve as an opaque extension of state power if the public is not vigilant in holding both governments and companies accountable for how they collect and share our personal information.
For the past eight months I have been working on addressing a specific part of this problem in a very concrete way. I have published no articles and written few blog posts this year because I have been spending all my time launching a new start-up research and advocacy project called Ranking Digital Rights. Here is our mission statement from the project website:
Internet and telecommunications companies, along with mobile device and networking equipment manufacturers, exert growing influence over the political and civil lives of people all over the world. These companies share a responsibility to respect human rights. The Ranking Digital Rights project brings together a group of international researchers and advocates. We are developing a methodology to evaluate and rank the world’s major Information and Communication Technology (ICT) companies on policies and practices related to free expression and privacy in the context of international human rights law.
Our work aims to a) inform companies, individual users, civil society, academics, investors, governments, and the public about the relationship between the ICT sector and human rights; b) encourage companies to develop, deliver and manage products and services in a manner consistent with international human rights norms; c) identify what specific legal and political factors prevent or hinder companies from respecting users’ and customers’ human rights.