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New BSR Report Helps Companies Protect Human Rights in the Digital Age

SAN FRANCISCO Feb. 14, 2011 BSR Protecting Human Rights in the Digital Age

Dunstan Allison Hope

A key theme in the report is the complex relationship between human rights, ICT companies, law enforcement agencies, and national security concerns. There are legitimate reasons why governments, law enforcement agencies, and companies may restrict the free flow of information (such as removing images of child exploitation) or allow access to personal information (such as tackling violent crime). However, at the same time, there is always the risk that governments and law enforcement agencies will make demands of the private sector to undertake activities that infringe on the human rights of privacy or freedom of expression.

There are a number of different points across the ICT value chain in which governments can interact with private sector companies, sometimes at the level of content or personal information, and sometimes at the product or service functionality level. It is at these intersections between governments and ICT companies that the need to respect, protect, and advance human rights is most significant. The main body of the report sets out these risk drivers across eight segments of the ICT industry:

  1. Telecommunications Services
  2. Cell Phones and Mobile Devices
  3. Internet Services
  4. Enterprise Software, Data Storage, and IT Services
  5. Semiconductors and Chips
  6. Network Equipment
  7. Consumer Electronics
  8. Security Software

Big Business, Big Responsibilities

The report was commissioned by the Global Network Initiative.

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