The Importance of Being Transparent: Looking at the ICT Companies’ Transparency Reports Through the Prism of the NSA Surveillance Leak
58 Pages Posted: 27 Apr 2014
Date Written: August 30, 2013
This research paper looks at the transparency policies of the major ICT companies and the accountability format of Transparency Report. Their study is set against the backdrop of a case study of the leak about the US NSA surveillance practices (6-7 June 2013). The involvement of the major Internet-companies at the early stage of the scandal as allegedly colluding with the state put the issues of the transparency high on the agenda in the ICT industry reflecting new challenges in data protection and privacy policies that they face as aggregators of vast amounts of data, which they also must disclose to the state authorities in response to lawful requests. The study has revealed the increased salience of the transparency agenda in the corporate policies whereby the companies, already issuing transparency reports on compliance with state requests on user data, have reiterated their commitment to user trust and the values of human right of privacy operationalised inter alia by these reports; other companies, having made earlier pledges about coming up with their reports in the near future, were able to highlight the value of the report both as a trust-building instrument and a corporate lobbying tool as tested by the recent event. This has indicated that transparency reports, although not comprehensive at the moment, are developing as the ICT industry accountability standard, which was further stimulated by the event. At the same time it was revealed that apart from more expectations about the content of the reports, much more transparency is anticipated from the governments on how they access and use citizens’ data. The study has taken place at the very start of a new wave of debates around online privacy following shortly the above mentioned event.
Keywords: transparency, privacy, surveillance, transparency report, user data, Internet policies, ICT, accountability, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo, NSA, Snowden, trust
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