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This page provides further information on sector-specific human rights risks as well as due diligence processes and mitigation strategies for companies from the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector. The resources presented below are intended as an addition to the information on general elements of human rights due diligence that is relevant to companies from all sectors (Policy Commitment, Assessing & Addressing Human Rights Risks and Impacts, Embedding & Integrating Respect for Human Rights, Tracking & Communicating Performance, Grievance & Remedy). In light of increasing automation the human rights issues discussed in the context of ICT are becoming increasingly relevant to companies from other sectors which can also benefit from the insights provided in this section.
The following section provides general information regarding the implementation of human rights due diligence in the ICT sector.
The web portal Technology & Human Rights of the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre is a digital platform that provides information on news, debates and actions on its focal areas that are artificial intelligence, automatisation and digital freedom as well as "Gig-Economy".
The briefing by the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre serves as a snapshot of human rights in the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector. It provides an overview of cases of human rights allegations and companies reactions to them as well as positive company actions, and guidance materials to improve human rights due diligence in the ICT sector.
The ICT Sector Guide on Implementing the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (2011) provides guidance human rights due diligence by ICT companies. Commissioned by the European Commission, this guide was developed by Shift together with the Institute for Business and Human Rights (IHRB). It offers ICT companies examples on how the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights can be put into practice and refers readers to additional resources.
Focussing specifically on telecommunication companies, the guide Telco Action Plan (2011) published by the international NGO Access (AccessNow.org) presents concrete steps and implementation objectives for the implementation of human rights due diligence in the supply chains of telecommunications companies. The guide addresses the challenges that occur in political and legal contexts in which the rights of freedom of expression, access to information, and privacy are particularly at risk. It provides companies with ideas on how they can act in these environment with respect for human rights.
The documents provided in the following section provide in-depth insights into specific human rights issues and identify mitigation options options.
If forced labour represents a particular issue in your company’s supply chain, please refer to the Resource and Action Guide for ICT Companies (2016) by Know the Chain. This action guide introduces a range of management practices that corporations can use in a targeted manner to reduce risks of forced labour. The guide further provides additional resources that provide ICT companies with the tools, knowledge, and expertise they need to effectively counteract forced labour.
If you are interested in learning more
about the role of ICT companies
in protecting the rights to freedom of
expression and in securing consumer privacy, please refer to the publication by
the Global Network Initiative (GNI) Protecting
Human Rights in the Digital Age (2011). The report first outlines the wide
range of new human rights risks that emerge from the increasingly pervasive interaction
between ICT and society and outlines practical steps that ICT
companies can take to protect and advance freedom of expression and privacy
The study Data Brokers and Human Rights (2016) published by the Institute for Business and Human Rights (IHRB) examines the role and responsibility of ICT companies in the collection, storage, processing and sharing of personal data. The study further provides companies with advice on how to deal with challenges that are associated with big data such as ownership, consent, transparency, accountability and trust.
If you are interested in learning more about the role of ICT companies in protecting the freedom of information and in securing the quality of information distributed through the internet, take a look at the study Harmful Content: The Role of Internet Platform Companies In Fighting Terrorist Incitement and Politically Motivated Disinformation (2017) by the NY Stern Centre for Business and Human Rights. The study examines the steps that ICT companies such as Google, Facebook, Twitter and Microsoft can take to stem the proliferation of terrorist incitement and politically motivated disinformation.
The following section contains an overview of selected initiatives that support ICT companies in the implementation of human rights due diligence. The participation in these initiatives does not replace the integration of human rights due diligence processes in company operations.
The industry initiative Telecommunications Industry Dialogue is a group of telecommunications operators and vendors who jointly address issues regarding freedom of expression and privacy rights in the telecommunications sector with regards to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
The multi-stakeholder initiative Global Network Initiative connects ICT companies (amongst others Evoca, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Procera Networks, Websense, Yahoo!) with civil society organizations (including human rights and press freedom groups) and academics. The initiative seeks to develop approaches to the protection of of freedom of expression and privacy in the ICT sector.
The following benchmarking and ranking initiatives provide information about practices of ICT companies in addressing selected human rights risks
In the 2017 Index of the Ranking Digital Rights initiative, 22 ICT companies were ranked with respect to their public commitments and disclosed policies affecting users’ freedom of expression and privacy. The index is aggregated from the performance of corporations measured across 35 indicators, in three principal categories: governance, freedom of expression and privacy.
In the ICT sector benchmark publication, KnowTheChain reports on the performance of 20 ICT companies with regards to their efforts and performance in mitigating forced labour along their supply chains.
Facebook commissioned an independent human rights impact assessment on the role of its services in Myanmar. The final report concludes that the company was not doing enough to help prevent the platform from being used to foment division and incite offline violence but acknowledges that Facebook has taken the right corrective actions in 2018.
In 2013, Microsoft founded the Technology
and Human Rights Center. The
Center seeks to advance public understanding of the human
rights impacts of ICT, to monitor Microsoft’s human rights impacts and to
integrate continuous human rights due diligence into company processes. As
part of the company’s commitment to communicate transparently about its efforts
to respect human rights, Microsoft regularly reports on its salient human
rights issues as well as the steps it takes to address them. The most recent report can serve as a source of inspiration for ICT companies for how to develop a human rights strategy and associated programmes.
In 2015 the telecommunications company Telia conducted its first Human Rights Impact Assessments (HRIA) to assess and monitor the impacts of Telia’s operations on selected human rights. Based on the findings of this assessment, Telia has developed a targeted approach to dealing with salient human rights risks.
The internet provider Yahoo continually conducts short-form impact assessments for selected human rights issues as part of its Business and Human Rights Program. Building on these assessments Yahoo uses a risk-based approach to develop mitigation actions in order to protect its users’ rights and to promote human rights with its products and platforms.
The study Human Rights Challenges for Telecommunications Vendors: Addressing the Possible Misuse of Telecommunication Systems (2014) published by the Institute for Human Rights and Business (IHRB) presents a case study of the telecommunications company Ericsson. It addresses the challenges that network vendors such as Ericson face in respecting human rights when their technology is misused by third parties. It explores due diligence processes that could be put in place to reduce the possible risk of misuse, in particular regarding the interception of communications.
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