Telefónica amongst other six other international telecommunications operator and vendor companies, has joined the multi-stakeholder Global Network Initiative (GNI) in an important step forward for the protection of global freedom of expression and privacy rights.
The GNI is an international multi-stakeholder group of companies, civil society organizations (including human rights and press freedom groups), investors and academics, who have created a collaborative approach to protect and advance freedom of expression and privacy in the ICT sector.
By this means, Telefónica, Millicom, Nokia, Orange, Telenor Group, Telia Company and Vodafone Group join with GNI’s five global internet company members – Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft and Yahoo – and with more than 35 human rights and press freedom groups, academics and investor members in this unique collaboration to strengthen protections for global digital rights. The seven companies were until now members of the Telecommunications Industry Dialogue (ID).
“The challenges posed by online extremism, surveillance, cross-border data laws and government-ordered network shutdowns cannot be solved by governments alone,” said Mark Stephens CBE., international human rights lawyer and GNI Independent Board Chair.
This milestone expansion in membership means the combined customer base of the seven new GNI members – more than 1.5 billion people in over 120 countries in Africa, North, Central and South America, Europe, the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific – will now be covered by the standards and user rights protections to which all GNI company members commit.
GNI’s enlarged membership comes at a critical time for GNI’s advocacy with national governments, who are grappling with their responsibilities to protect the public while ensuring that the privacy, security and expression rights of individuals are not put at risk.
“GNI continues to build an unrivaled multi-stakeholder platform of companies and civil society actors, all committed to working with governments on constructive solutions to uphold and respect the rights of free expression and privacy in the digital realm,” Mr. Stephens said.
Companies participating in the GNI and ID are leaders in their respective sectors in responding to government threats to user rights. This has included developing human rights impact risk assessments, urging governments to be transparent about their requests to companies to censor, access and restrict access to user data, and evolving company policies to empower users with information and tools to protect their rights.