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Businesses Google Microsoft The Internet Yahoo! Privacy Censorship Your Rights Online

Tech Giants In Human Rights Deal 97

Ostracus writes "Microsoft, Google and Yahoo have signed a global a code of conduct promising to offer better protection for online free speech and against official intrusion." Anyone want to know what this means for China & Australia? I bet it means even less to all of us in America where every major data center has a secret room where the government sniffs our packets.
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Tech Giants In Human Rights Deal

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  • Re:Paranoia (Score:4, Informative)

    by FourthAge ( 1377519 ) on Wednesday October 29, 2008 @09:23AM (#25553571) Journal
    It's not far off reality. There isn't an NSA room in every data centre, but there might as well be, since their placement at major Internet hubs throughout the USA is equivalent. The [gameshout.com] story [theregister.co.uk] is quite well known.
  • by gillbates ( 106458 ) on Wednesday October 29, 2008 @09:27AM (#25553625) Homepage Journal

    Any contract or promise contrary to the law is null and void.

    "It is very little more than a broad statement of support for a general principle without any concrete backup mechanism to ensure that the guidelines will be followed."

    This is little more than a PR stunt used to shore up their public image. The agreement language is vague, and there are questions about if it is even binding. It can probably not even be enforced, because in most countries, conspiracy is a crime. So if a company should do anything which would hinder prosecution, they could be charged with:

    • Conspiracy, if it can be shown that they knew, or should have known, of illegal activity using their systems.
    • Obstruction of justice (USA) if it can be shown that they destroyed evidence of illegal activity, or failed to comply with mandatory logging requirements.
    • In the US, their assets could be seized under RICO... While this might sound like a stretch, RICO has been used against political protesters in the past.
    • In the US, the ability to wiretap voice communications is required under CALEA. The government has made no secret of the fact that even following the law need not be a hindrance when there's a question of terrorism involved, and has punished companies which refused to break the laws regarding limits on surveillance.
    • Given that there is legislation pending, or perhaps even signed into law, which allows civil forfeiture for copyright violations, trumping up "probable cause" to seize a company's assets is little more than a paper shuffle these days. If the war on drugs is any indication, the government will use laws such as these to ensure that companies are "cooperative" with its surveillance efforts, legal or not.

    I'm not counting on this having any effect other than people saying, "Look, Google really isn't evil!". Which is exactly the intended effect.

  • Re:Paranoia (Score:5, Informative)

    by krappie ( 172561 ) on Wednesday October 29, 2008 @09:31AM (#25553663)

    I used to work as a sysadmin for a major datacenter. There was no room as far as I knew. If there was, it was pretty hidden from everyone.

    We did have people from the FBI or Secret Service come in every once in a while and ask for a hard drive out of a server. We'd tell the customer he had hardware problems as we mirrored the drive.

    Also, it seems obvious that if the government wanted to spy on traffic, they wouldn't do it at endpoints like datacenters. They would do it at major routers.

  • Re:Paranoia (Score:3, Informative)

    by doas777 ( 1138627 ) on Wednesday October 29, 2008 @09:37AM (#25553711)
    No, we just pay attention to Congressional Testimony. http://www.wired.com/science/discoveries/news/2006/05/70908 [wired.com]
  • http://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2008/10/global-network-initiative [eff.org]

    For almost two years, EFF has been a participant in negotiations between human rights groups, investors, academics and Internet companies -- including Yahoo!, Google, and Microsoft -- aimed at improving how those businesses deal with free expression and privacy issues around the world.

    Today, the results of that discussion have been announced. The Global Network Initiative is a set of principles on free expression and privacy that the companies have agreed to follow in all countries they do business within, together with a set of implementation guidelines and a skeleton for an independent watchdog body that will monitor companies for compliance with these principles.

    Still, the EFF isn't completely satisfied with the results:

    It's not a perfect set of documents. EFF continues to work in the Initiative, but we do have concerns with the limits of this initial agreement:

            * There is no obligation to inform Internet users of the storage location of personal data, and from where it is accessible.
            * There is no commitment to inform users when they hand over their information to agents of government and law enforcement.
            * There is no binding requirement to develop privacy and anti-censorship technologies and include them in new products.
            * GNI assessors are selected by the companies themselves from a list of neutral groups, and do not have untrammeled access to all relevant company documents.

    When it comes to addressing their involvement in worldwide human rights abuses, the first step for Internet companies had been admitting that there is a problem. With the Global Network Initiative, Microsoft, Yahoo, and Google have gone further, and begun to embed human rights assessments into their own company structure. We hope many other companies will join them.

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