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Our focus on free expression and privacy

This report’s main focus is on the rights to privacy and free expression6. These aren’t the only impacts on human rights we may have, but we think they’re the most salient. And they’re clearly connected: if people don’t feel secure in their privacy, then they may self-censor their communications and the information they access online.

We believe everyone should be able to communicate openly, with their privacy protected. We also believe that sometimes it’s right for online content to be blocked. Sometimes, though, it’s right that government and law enforcement agencies access communications content – as long as they do it proportionately and within a strong and transparent legal framework. This will give everyone the confidence that the government is not abusing its powers. However we do recognise that the relevant laws aren’t always perfect or up to date. If government (or another public body) wants to interfere with people’s rights and the basis for doing that isn’t clear to us,
we challenge that request wherever possible.

It’s a complicated scenario. Often issues are in tension with one another. The debate is moving quickly. The best way to weigh up different considerations changes quickly too. We have focussed for now on the UK because it is where we are based operationally and where we control our network. The way the internet works means that communications will often pass through many networks in many countries. Outside the UK, each country will make its own decisions about the issues raised in this report.

Inevitably, we make our own judgements on these issues. We try to be measured and balanced, informed by our core beliefs, and we welcome conversations with all stakeholders on how we can improve in future.

6 We instructed the international law firm Linklaters LLP and Kieron Beal QC to support us in reviewing some of the legal analysis set out in this report. This report does not constitute legal advice by us or them. Neither we nor they accept any legal responsibility or liability for its contents nor should any reliance be placed on its contents. We received feedback from BSR, a global non-profit consultancy with human rights expertise, on a draft of this report.