Internet freedom group splits from tech companies over surveillance concerns

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“Within confidential GNI discussions, human rights experts are expected to share with companies the challenges that vulnerable groups face worldwide,” it wrote in its resignation letter. 

“Likewise, companies are expected to be frank in how their systems can both protect users’ rights and the limits they face in doing so.”

However, this year’s leaks about government surveillance programs have made it “clear that affected companies are unable even to talk about secret orders they have received from the US government,” which “is true for other governments around the world,” the letter said.

“As a result, EFF longer no believes we can sign our name onto joint statements that rely on shared knowledge of the security of company products or their internal processes.”

The EFF said it prefers to “work with companies directly and share what we know under our own name, with our own proviso,” but will continue to support GNI.

In a statement, GNI thanked the EFF for its worked and pledge to move forward on the issues of government surveillance and human rights online.

“The disclosure of secret national security orders highlights the constraints government secrecy imposes on companies,” GNI said, adding that it is “actively calling for transparency from governments on surveillance.” 

“These challenges make GNI’s work to advance freedom of expression and privacy rights more important than ever,” it said.