A group of 12 organizations have come together to lay the groundwork for what they describe as an “alternative internet” to the one controlled by big tech corporations, outlining a set of principles to build a privacy-centric internet for the public good.
The Privacy Pledge has been signed by several well-known developers of privacy-focused services, including web browser operators Brave and Tor Project, mobile search and web browser Neeva, and secure email solutions Proton and Tutanota.
The group says that the five key principles contained in the Privacy Pledge, which does not endorse or reflect any specific public policy or technology tool, will serve as a starting point for restoring the Internet to its creators’ original vision: that of an open platform, democratic and private environment that facilitates the free exchange of information, open communication and individual privacy, as opposed to the regressive attitudes of big technology and surveillance capitalism.
The action comes as a growing wave of ordinary web users turn away from services controlled by the likes of Google and Meta, and as governments around the world consider adopting tougher online privacy laws. As such, the signatories believe it is important that the private sector take the lead in leading towards a private internet.
Andy Yen, founder and CEO of Proton, said it was clear the Internet was no longer working for the benefit of ordinary users.
“What was once a shining light for the free exchange of information, the democratization of knowledge, has become a tool for the powerful. Giant corporations routinely monetize our private lives while trying to sell us a bogus pledge to protect our privacy. But there is another way,” she said.
“Companies, like those that have signed this pledge, are presenting a private alternative to the status quo. By holding to higher ideals, we believe we can set an example for other innovators and offer users genuine privacy. By working together, we can return the Internet to what it was meant to be.”
Sridhar Ramaswamy, CEO and co-founder of Neeva, added: “For too long, big tech has exploited consumer data, abused market share, taxed small businesses and stifled competition to remain the most powerful gatekeepers. of our entire online experience. The ‘free’ Internet model has come at a high price; we pay for it with our attention and our privacy. Consumers deserve a greater variety of services that put user privacy first.”
“In today’s Internet, people give up their right to privacy by agreeing to unread terms and removing privacy warnings,” said Tutanota CEO Arne Möhle.
“The reason for this is simple: we have learned that this is how the Internet works. We were trained to hate clicks. We were trained to hate reading terms. But big tech uses this attitude against us. The Internet we have today is fast, easy, and the enemy of everything private. That’s why we’ve launched the Privacy Commitment along with other companies that put privacy first. Because a better Internet is possible”.
The five principles are established as follows:
- The Internet, above all, must be built to serve people. This means that it respects fundamental human rights, is accessible to all and allows the free flow of information. Companies must operate in such a way that the needs of users are always the priority.
- Organizations should only collect the data necessary to prevent abuse and ensure the basic operation of their services. They must receive consent from individuals to collect such data. People should also be able to easily find a clear explanation of what data will be collected, what will be done with it, where it will be stored, how long it will be stored, and what they can do to delete it. To the extent that organizations must collect information, they must employ data management practices that prioritize user privacy.
- People’s data should be securely encrypted in transit and at rest whenever possible to prevent mass surveillance and reduce damage from hackers and data leaks.
- Online organizations must be transparent about their identity and software. They should clearly indicate who makes up their leadership team, where they are based, and under what legal jurisdiction they are located. Your software should be open source whenever practical and open to audit by the security community.
- Web services should be interoperable to the extent that interoperability does not require unnecessary data collection or undermine strong encryption. This avoids the creation of walled gardens and creates an open and competitive space that encourages innovation.
The current list of signatories includes:
- Data Rights Activist, Educator, and Netflix Subject the big trickprofessor david carroll.
- MailFence encrypted email service.
- Mojeek Trackerless Search Engine.
- Open-Xchange open email platform provider.
- Non-profit digital rights OpenMedia.
- The Tor Project.
- Threema secure chat app.
- And the ad-free, privacy-focused search engine You.com.