WG 3 – Privacy and Transparency Online

 The mandate of FOC Working Group 3 “Privacy and Transparency Online” ended in May 2017. This page holds a record of their work.

The Freedom Online Coalition Working Group on Privacy and Transparency Online focuses on the relationship between governments and information & communications technology (ICT) companies, with a particular emphasis on respecting human rights online, including freedom of expression and privacy. The Working Group is comprised of experts from governments, ICT companies, civil society and academia from across six continents.

The Group supports FOC member governments’ implementation of the 2014 Tallinn Agenda for Freedom Online, which emphasizes the importance of enhancing transparency and protecting privacy as part of a commitment to Internet freedom. We aim to provide operational guidance to FOC government members and stakeholders, and to contribute to the global discussion on transparency and accountability with respect to the relationship between governments and ICT companies.

In our first year, we conducted research on transparency about government requests to ICT companies for user information and content restriction. We conducted consultations with companies and governments, focusing specifically on how the parties interact on issues related to law enforcement and national security. We examined the role of transparency as a tool for government and corporate accountability, and as a fundamental part of empowering individuals to fully exercise their rights online, including freedom of opinion and expression. We published a report in November 2015 outlining our findings and proposing recommendations for companies and governments.

We strive to encourage companies and governments to be transparent in a way that empowers individuals with the information necessary to exercise their rights freely and safely online. The Group is pursuing a number of activities toward this goal:

  • Defining transparency: We are developing a multi-stakeholder definition of what corporate and government transparency means from the user perspective. This framework will encompass company and government reporting, and statistical reporting as well as the disclosure of laws, policies, and processes. We will open the draft definition to public comment.
  • Analysis of emerging issues: We are launching a blog series looking at emerging issues related to transparency in the ICT sector. An initial area of focus is the rise of informal and extra-legal requests to companies related to concerns over terrorist use of the internet.
  • Policy development: We are pursuing longer-term projects to address major research gaps on transparency and partner with governments and companies developing relevant policies and practices. Our initial focus is on developing models for more robust government transparency reporting, which we found to be an underdeveloped area in our research.

Blog Series

In this blog series, members of the group will expand on our report findings and provide analyses of emerging issues related to transparency and privacy. We will comment on current events, highlight best practices in transparency, and identify areas for further research. Our blog is a way to engage with the broader community working to encourage companies and governments to be transparent in a way that empowers individuals to exercise their rights freely and safely online.

The views expressed in this blog represent the views of individual authors, informed by the Working Group’s goals, themes, and recommendations. They do not represent the views of the Freedom Online Coalition or its members.

Structure and Membership

The work of the WG is carried out by its members. The group consists of 15 selected individuals who join the WG Co-chairs – the UK Government and Katharine Kendrick of Georgetown University– as well as other FOC government members who have expressed interest in participating. Activities of the WG are supported by the FOC Support Unit. The majority of the WG’s work is done remotely, with in-person meetings and consultations on the margins of international events.

Public Input

Non-members of the WG will be able to provide input to the WG at various points in the process through consultations in person and online. We welcome engagement with any initiatives and individuals working in these policy areas. To contact the Group, please email info@freedomonlinecoalition.com