EFF Calls for Limits on Data Collection and Retention

San Francisco - As Congressional hearings about how U.S. Internet companies do business in China are set to begin, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is calling for the industry and government to work together to develop simple guidelines to decrease the harm done by participating in authoritarian regimes.

"Without careful thought, even well-meaning Internet companies can become the handmaidens of state repression. Internet routers can be turned into powerful wiretapping tools," said EFF Activism Coordinator Danny O'Brien. "Web servers and search engines can become honeypots of personal data, plundered by state police to identify dissidents."

In an open letter to the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Human Rights, and International Operations and the Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, EFF says the best course of action for companies concerned about human rights violations and censorship is to avoid repressive countries all together. However, EFF believes that companies deciding to go forward can mitigate some of the harm.

"In considering how these companies might construct their services to best serve global human rights, we believe that simple guidelines, consciously followed, could significantly limit the damage caused by corporate engagement with these regimes," said EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn.

EFF's letter gives five courses of action for companies and the US government to consider, including restricting the collection and storage of personal data in oppressive regimes, "bearing witness" and documenting acts of state control, innovating around censorship, and offering encrypted connections to their web services by default.

The joint Subcommittee hearing, "The Internet in China: A Tool for Suppression?" begins Wednesday at 10am EST.

For EFF's open letter:


Danny O'Brien
Activism Coordinator
Electronic Frontier Foundation

Cindy Cohn
Legal Director
Electronic Frontier Foundation

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