No matter who or what you are, opening up to outside scrutiny isn’t an easy or comfortable process. But that's what we agreed to do a few years ago when we helped found the Global Network Initiative (GNI), an amalgam of companies, human rights activists, socially responsible investors and academics formed in response to actions by governments that endanger free expression on the global Internet.
The objectives of GNI are both simple and incredibly complex: promote and support free expression and privacy online; subscribe to principles and follow guidelines supported by measures of transparency and accountability; and educate people and engage policymakers around the world in an effort to create a more open and free Internet.
In starting GNI, the founding companies — Google, Microsoft and Yahoo — agreed to bring in outside assessors to review how we were doing against GNI principles. Our agreement to conduct these assessments is an important part of the organization's credibility.
Now these first assessments are finished and the results have been released as part of GNI's annual report released yesterday. After reviewing them, the non-company members of GNI have told us that while we're by no means perfect, the assessments are credible and rigorous and demonstrate that companies are making progress — a concrete step in our efforts to build trust not only with our GNI partners but with all our users.
The activities of Google to promote free expression and privacy around the world extend well beyond GNI. However, being a part of this group is a compelling opportunity, since it brings together diverse stakeholders and provides a unique forum to address the risks to a free and open internet. Along with the GNI, we welcome other companies and groups to join this effort.