Apple publishes human rights policy, commits to freedom of information

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Apple on Friday published a document detailing its human rights policy and committing to “freedom of information and expression,” among other things.

“With humility, optimism, and an abiding faith in people, we’re committed to respecting the human rights of everyone whose lives we touch,” the four-page document reads.

At its February annual general meeting a shareholder proposal calling on Apple to publicly commit “to respect freedom of expression as a human right” received more than 40 percent support from shareholders.

According to The Financial Times, Apple’s board of directors approved the policy and published it ahead of a deadline of Sept. 5 for shareholders to submit motions for next year’s investor meeting.

“We believe in the critical importance of an open society in which information flows freely, and we’re convinced the best way we can continue to promote openness is to remain engaged, even where we may disagree with a country’s laws,” Apple states in the policy document.

Apple conceded that they are “required to comply with local laws, and at times there are complex issues about which we may disagree with governments and other stakeholders on the right path forward.”

Apple said its policy was based on the United Nations International Bill of Human Rights and the International Labour Organization’s Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work.

Sondhya Gupta, Campaign Manager at SumOfUs, the consumer advocacy group that drafted the shareholder proposal, said in a statement that they “still have questions about how the policy will be implemented and what oversight there will be.” 

“Apple has a huge influence on people’s freedom of expression globally, and ultimately, the company’s commitment to human rights will be measured by the difference it makes to the lives of millions of Apple customers living under cyber-surveillance in Hong Kong, Tibet, East Turkestan, China, and elsewhere,” Gupta said. 

“We will continue to work alongside shareholders and human rights defenders in dialogue with Apple to ensure the company lives up to this responsibility.”

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