EFF Quits Global Network Initiative To Protest Tech Firms' Inability To Be Transparent On Surveillance Issues
from the incompatible dept
An interesting bit of fallout from the NSA revelations: the EFF has resigned from the Global Network Initiative, a big coalition of public interest groups, academics, investors and companies that are trying to advance concepts of freedom of expression and the right to privacy around the globe. The group is pointing out that the forced gag orders on the tech companies who are a part of GNI mean that it is now uncomfortable having its name associated with the group. The fear is that if the companies can’t speak freely about what’s going on, it harms the overall mission of GNI.
EFF has been a civil society member of the multi-stakeholder human rights group since GNI was founded in 2008 to advance freedom of expression and privacy in the global information and communication technologies sector. While much has been accomplished in these five years, EFF can no longer sign its name on joint statements knowing now that GNI’s corporate members have been blocked from sharing crucial information about how the US government has meddled with these companies’ security practices through programs such as PRISM and BULLRUN.
“We know that many within the industry do not like or approve of such government interference, and GNI has, in statements, made it clear that member companies want permission from the US government to engage in greater transparency,” EFF’s International Director Danny O’Brien and Director for International Freedom of Expression Jillian C. York write in a letter to GNI leadership. “However, until serious reforms of the US surveillance programs are in place, we no longer feel comfortable participating in the GNI process when we are not privy to the serious compromises GNI corporate members may be forced to make. Nor do we currently believe that audits of corporate practice, no matter how independent, will uncover the insecurities produced by the US government’s—and potentially other governments’—behavior when operating clandestinely in the name of national security.”
While this may be more symbolic than anything else, it highlights the wider breakdown in trust that the NSA’s overreach has brought about. The NSA and its defenders like to pretend that there’s no downside to their dragnet surveillance efforts, and the secrecy that encases every program. But it has a very real impact for so many people, organizations and companies.