New Report Curates Best Practices in Transparency Reporting

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The Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University and the Open Technology Institute surveyed U.S. Internet and telecommunications companies to highlight best practices and encourage standardization in transparency reporting. 

The Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University and the Open Technology Institute at New America (OTI) are releasing The Transparency Reporting Toolkit: Survey & Best Practice Memos. This report, a compilation of eight memos, looks at the major challenges that U.S. Internet and telecommunications companies face when reporting on U.S. law enforcement and government requests for user information, and identifies industry best practices for this transparency reporting. It’s the culmination of more than two years of work by OTI and the Berkman Center cataloguing the diversity of transparency reporting approaches and engaging with a variety of companies and stakeholders about the goals and challenges of transparency reporting.

In 2013, Edward Snowden revealed details of the U.S. government’s classified surveillance programs, including those permitting access to Internet users’ data and the bulk collection of telephone records. In the wake of those revelations, Internet and telecommunications companies scrambled to rebuild lost trust. One approach many companies took was publishing “transparency reports,” publicly disclosing data on the number and type of government requests for user information they received. However, a diversity of approaches to reporting quickly led to a fragmentation of practices that have made it impossible to meaningfully compare metrics across companies.