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Telecommunications Industry Dialogue Launches Final Annual Report

Read the report here.

The Telecommunications Industry Dialogue (ID) today commemorates more than four years of joint efforts to address issues related to free expression and privacy in the telecommunications sector with the release of the Industry Dialogue 2016–17 Annual Report.

This report details the ID companies’ continued work to set sector-leading standards—through implementation of the ID Guiding Principles—and to share knowledge and develop best practices supporting these efforts. It covers the Industry Dialogue’s endeavors from April 2016 until March of 2017. (For activities from January to March of 2016, see the 2015 report).

Highlights from this period included:

  • The publication of the first-ever joint statement by telecommunications and internet companies with civil society expressing concern about the increase in internet and network-service disruptions.
  • Sharing of best practices and lessons learned in-person and with select stakeholders during four meetings on both sides of the Atlantic: Oslo, Brussels, New York and Paris.
  • Collaboration with UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression David Kaye, raising awareness on human rights issues for the digital access sector.
  • External engagement on numerous shared challenges for companies, including direct state access to telecommunications networks, gaps between domestic regulations and companies’ international human rights commitments, and network-service disruptions.

In March 2017, former Industry Dialogue companies Millicom, Nokia, Orange, Telefónica, Telenor Group, Telia Company and Vodafone Group became official members of the multi-stakeholder Global Network Initiative (GNI).

This brings these former ID companies together with leading internet companies, human rights and press freedom groups, academics and investors in a unique collaboration addressing free expression and privacy across the information and communications technology (ICT) sector.

The final months of the Industry Dialogue further illustrated the importance of our efforts to promote collaboration, engagement, and transparency in the telecommunications sector,” said Laura Okkonen, Head of Human Rights at Nokia, who served as the final chair of the Industry Dialogue through March 2017.

“While GNI membership changes the nature of our collaboration, the principles and best practices we have promoted will only be further refined and will continue to serve as a roadmap for telecommunications companies—and now the entire ICT sector—to respect digital rights to the best of their ability,” Ms. Okkonen said.

Full GNI membership followed a year of informal participation under observer status, as described in this report.

About the Former Telecommunications Industry Dialogue

The Telecommunications Industry Dialogue was a group of telecommunications operators and vendors who jointly addressed freedom of expression and privacy in the telecommunications sector in the context of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. These companies have a global footprint, providing telecommunications services and equipment to consumers, businesses, and governments in nearly 100 countries worldwide. In March of 2013, the Industry Dialogue adopted a set of Guiding Principles, which explored the interaction and boundaries between a government’s duty to protect human rights and the corporate responsibility of telecommunications companies to respect human rights.

The Telecommunications Industry Dialogue’s website remains an archive of joint work since 2013. For information on collaboration moving forward, please visit globalnetworkinitiative.org.

About the Global Network Initiative

Founded in 2008, The Global Network Initiative is an international multi-stakeholder group of internet and telecommunications 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. GNI has built a framework of principles and implementation guidelines based on international human rights standards, on which GNI member companies are independently assessed. Our membership collectively advocates with governments to protect and advance user freedom of expression and privacy rights.

For more information on GNI’s members and the GNI Principles, visit our website.

Industry Dialogue Submission to UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression

Read the full submission here.

Building on last year’s 2016 report to the Human Rights Commission, UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression David Kaye is completing a study of freedom of expression in the telecommunications and internet access sector.

The Industry Dialogue is pleased to share our submission to David Kaye’s study. We highlighted a series of challenges telecommunications companies face, including unclear legal frameworks in their operating environments, governments seeking direct access to company networks, and the rise in government restrictions of networks and communications services — a topic we continue to collaborate on with the Global Network Initiative.

The Special Rapporteur also intends to identify best practices for governments and companies in this next phase of his report.

For governments, we explored elements of good practices on the lawful disruptions of access to online services, including those identified in our submission to the Australian Government’s draft guidelines for the use of Section 313(3) of the Telecommunications Act 1997. Clear laws that respect international conventions and narrowly define by whom, how and in what circumstances law enforcement requests can be made are crucial to protecting privacy and free expression.

Industry Dialogue members urge additional telecommunications companies to join and implement the Industry Dialogue Guiding Principles in their operations to the fullest extent that does not place them in violation of domestic laws and regulations. Our submission offers a model for the sector as we illustrated examples of each of the eight companies in the Industry Dialogue implementing the principles in practice.

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