Key Telecommunication Players Seek to Advance Freedom of Expression and Privacy Rights


The Global Network Initiative (GNI) has announced a two-year collaboration with a group of eight global companies that belong to the Telecommunications Industry Dialogue on Freedom of Expression and Privacy.

GNI Executive Director Ms Susan Morgan said by working together, GNI and the Industry Dialogue aim to effectively advance freedom of expression and privacy rights in the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector.

Ms. Susan Morgan, Global Network Initiative Executive Director

The companies that are currently participating in the industry dialogue are: Alcatel-Lucent, France Telecom-Orange, Millicom, Nokia Siemens Networks, Telefonica, Telenor, TeliaSonera, and Vodafone. The companies have a global footprint, providing services and equipment to consumers, businesses, and governments worldwide.

GNI is a 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. It will house the work of the Industry Dialogue and provide a common platform to exchange best practices, learning, and tools.

GNI provides resources for ICT companies to help them address difficult issues related to freedom of expression and privacy that they may face anywhere in the world.  The firm has created a framework of principles and a confidential, collaborative approach to working through challenges of corporate responsibility in the ICT sector.

During the two years of collaboration, the members of GNI and the Industry Dialogue aim to find a shared and practical approach to promoting freedom of expression and privacy rights around the world. There is a review process which will assess progress during the years of collaboration.

“Telecommunications play an essential role in facilitating the free flow of information, and today the human rights and economic impacts of the sector are in the global spotlight,” said Ms Morgan, adding that “The GNI believes that strength lies in numbers and this is an important opportunity to pursue shared goals and a common approach to human rights.”

The Industry Dialogue has developed a set of Guiding Principles on telecommunications and freedom of expression and privacy, which will form the beginning of a more extensive external dialogue with key stakeholders.

Ms Morgan said the Industry Dialogue remains open to other telecommunications companies committed to advancing freedom of expression and privacy rights in the sector.

“This is a positive step from some of the world’s largest companies providing communications and Internet access to consumers around the world and we hope that this effort will lead to full implementation of human rights standards through membership in GNI,” said Arvind Ganesan, director of business and human rights at Human Rights Watch (HRW).

Mr. Ganesan noted: “This is an opportunity for GNI to learn from telecom companies about the complex human rights challenges they face and for them to learn from GNI about how they can develop an accountable system to safeguard human rights.”

The Telecommunications Industry Dialogue is a group of global telecommunications operators and vendors who have been meeting to discuss freedom of expression and privacy rights in the telecommunications sector in the context of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.  The Telecommunications Industry Dialogue was formed in 2011 to jointly address freedom of expression and privacy risks within the sector. The Industry Dialogue Guiding Principles are available in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, Spanish and Turkish.