Global Commission on Internet Governance: Digital privacy and trust through new global social compact

The Hague, NetherlandsApril 15, 2015The Global Commission on Internet Governance (GCIG) advocates that governments, in collaboration with individuals, private corporations and technical community stakeholders, adopt measures in a new global social compact to achieve digital privacy and trust.

Toward a Social Compact for Digital Privacy and Security was presented at a press conference today by Carl Bildt, chair of the GCIG and former prime minister of Sweden, on behalf of the GCIG. The Commission met April 14 and 15 in The Hague, Netherlands.

Why a New Social Compact?

It is now essential that governments, collaborating with all other stakeholders, take steps to build confidence that the right to privacy of all people is respected on the Internet. It is essential at the same time to ensure the rule of law is upheld. The two goals are not exclusive; indeed, they are mutually reinforcing. Individuals and businesses must be protected from the misuse of the Internet by terrorists and cyber criminal groups, as well as from the overreach of governments and businesses that collect and use private data.

Core Elements of the New Social Compact

The following are the core elements that the Commission advocates in building the new social compact:

  1. Privacy and Personal Data Protection as a Fundamental Human Right:
    Fundamental human rights, including privacy and personal data protection, must be protected online. Threats to these core human rights should be addressed by governments and other stakeholders acting both within their own jurisdiction and in cooperation.

  2. The Necessity and Proportionality of Surveillance:
    Interception of communications, collection, analysis and use of data over the Internet by law enforcement and government intelligence agencies should be for purposes that are openly specified in advance, authorized by law (including international human rights law) and consistent with the principles of necessity and proportionality. Purposes such as gaining political advantage or exercising repression are not legitimate.

  3. Legal Transparency and Redress for Unlawful Surveillance:
    Laws should be publicly accessible, clear, precise, comprehensive and non-discriminatory, openly arrived at and transparent to individuals and businesses. Robust, independent mechanisms should be in place to ensure accountability and respect for rights. Abuses should be amenable to appropriate redress, with access to an effective remedy provided to individuals whose right to privacy has been violated by unlawful or arbitrary surveillance.

  4. Safeguarding Online Data and Consumer Awareness:
    Businesses or other organizations that transmit and store data using the Internet must assume greater responsibility to safeguard that data from illegal intrusion, damage or destruction. Users of paid or so-called “free services” provided on the Internet should know about, and have some choice over, the full range of commercial use on how their data will be deployed, without being excluded from the use of software or services customary for participation in the information age. Such businesses should also demonstrate accountability and provide redress in the case of a security breach.

  5. Big Data and Trust:
    There is a need to reverse the erosion of trust in the Internet brought about by the non-transparent market in collecting, centralizing, integrating and analyzing enormous quantities of private information about individuals and enterprises — a kind of private surveillance in the service of “big data,” often under the guise of offering a free service.

  6. Strengthening Private Communications:
    Consistent with the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, communications should be inherently considered private between the intended parties, regardless of communications technology. The role of government should be to strengthen the technology upon which the Internet depends and its use, not to weaken it.

  7. No Back Doors to Private Data:
    Governments should not create or require third parties to create “back doors” to access data that would have the effect of weakening the security of the Internet. Efforts by the Internet technical community to incorporate privacy-enhancing solutions in the standards and protocols of the Internet, including end-to-end encryption of data in transit and at rest, should be encouraged.

  8. Public Awareness of Good Cyber-Security Practices:
    Governments, working in collaboration with technologists, businesses and civil society, must help educate their publics in good cyber-security practices. They must also collaborate to enhance the training and development of the software workforce globally, to encourage creation of more secure and stable networks around the world.

  9. Mutual Assistance to Curtail Transborder Cyber Threats:
    The transborder nature of many significant forms of cyber intrusion curtails the ability of the target state to interdict, investigate and prosecute the individuals or organizations responsible for that intrusion. States should coordinate responses and provide mutual assistance to curtail threats, to limit damage and to deter future attacks.

The GCIG is a two-year initiative launched by the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) and Chatham House. With twenty-nine commissioners and thirty-six research advisers, the GCIG will produce a comprehensive stand on the future of multi-stakeholder Internet governance, with a final report in 2016. To read the entire GCIG statement Toward a Social Compact for Digital Privacy and Security, please visit: Follow the Commission on Twitter @OurInternetGCIG.

The Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) is an independent, non-partisan think tank on international governance. Led by experienced practitioners and distinguished academics, CIGI supports research, forms networks, advances policy debate and generates ideas for multilateral governance improvements. Conducting an active agenda of research, events and publications, CIGI’s interdisciplinary work includes collaboration with policy, business and academic communities around the world. CIGI was founded in 2001 by Jim Balsillie, then co-CEO of Research In Motion (BlackBerry), and collaborates with and gratefully acknowledges support from a number of strategic partners, in particular the Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario. For more information, please visit
Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs, is based in London. Chatham House’s mission is to be a world-leading source of independent analysis, informed debate and influential ideas on how to build a prosperous and secure world for all. The institute: engages governments, the private sector, civil society and its members in open debates and confidential discussions about significant developments in international affairs; produces independent and rigorous analysis of critical global, regional and country-specific challenges and opportunities; and offers new ideas to decision-makers and -shapers on how these could best be tackled from the near- to the long-term. For more information, please visit