Compromise by Necessity

By Larry Seltzer  |  Posted 2008-10-29 Print this article Print


You can argue with such a compromise, and there are some NGOs that refused to sign on for this or other reasons, but there was no way you would get any industry participants to cooperate with such an effort without such an approach. Telling them they must not comply with local laws is telling them they can't do business in countries with governments that don't respect human rights. There are few if any governments in the world that don't violate their citizens' rights at times.

Authoritarian states are more interested in controlling information than they are in having the best information services available to their citizens. If efforts like the GNI really spread and the companies signed up really stick to the letter and spirit of it, then we might find one way to gauge who's more authoritarian than whom.

I have to say I'm impressed with both the companies and the human rights groups involved here. They all recognized that no progress can come from being dogmatic. The important thing is to make sure that important companies don't become part of the state censorship and repression machine. In the long term, as the principles put it, information and communications technology companies and the products and services they provide will help to spread ideas of freedom as they help people to communicate more. In the long term, I don't think the machine can compete.

Security Center Editor Larry Seltzer has worked in and written about the computer industry since 1983.

For insights on security coverage around the Web, take a look at Security Center Editor Larry Seltzer's blog Cheap Hack.

Larry Seltzer has been writing software for and English about computers ever since—,much to his own amazement—,he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1983.

He was one of the authors of NPL and NPL-R, fourth-generation languages for microcomputers by the now-defunct DeskTop Software Corporation. (Larry is sad to find absolutely no hits on any of these +products on Google.) His work at Desktop Software included programming the UCSD p-System, a virtual machine-based operating system with portable binaries that pre-dated Java by more than 10 years.

For several years, he wrote corporate software for Mathematica Policy Research (they're still in business!) and Chase Econometrics (not so lucky) before being forcibly thrown into the consulting market. He bummed around the Philadelphia consulting and contract-programming scenes for a year or two before taking a job at NSTL (National Software Testing Labs) developing product tests and managing contract testing for the computer industry, governments and publication.

In 1991 Larry moved to Massachusetts to become Technical Director of PC Week Labs (now eWeek Labs). He moved within Ziff Davis to New York in 1994 to run testing at Windows Sources. In 1995, he became Technical Director for Internet product testing at PC Magazine and stayed there till 1998.

Since then, he has been writing for numerous other publications, including Fortune Small Business, Windows 2000 Magazine (now Windows and .NET Magazine), ZDNet and Sam Whitmore's Media Survey.

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