Center for Democracy and Technology

Center for Democracy
& Technology
Founded December 1994
Founder Jerry Berman, Janlori Goldman, Deirdre Mulligan, Jonah Seiger, Daniel Weitzner
Type Non-profit organization
Key people
President & Chief Executive Officer Nuala O'Connor

Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) is a Washington, D.C.-based 501(c)(3) non-profit organization whose mission is to promote an open, innovative, and free Internet.[1]

As an organization with expertise in law, technology, and policy, CDT works to preserve the unique nature of the Internet, enhance freedom of expression globally, protect fundamental rights of privacy, and stronger legal controls on government surveillance by finding practical and innovative solutions to public policy challenges while protecting civil liberties. CDT is dedicated to building consensus among all parties interested in the future of the Internet and other new communications media.[2] In addition to its D.C. office, CDT has an office in San Francisco and a full-time presence in Brussels.

History and approach

In 1994, CDT was founded by Jerry Berman, the former executive director and former policy director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The battle against applying the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) to the Internet - expanding law enforcement wiretapping capabilities by requiring telephone companies to design their networks to ensure a certain basic level of government access - spurred the creation of CDT in 1994.[3] Recognizing a threat to privacy and innovation in CALEA's design mandates, CDT fought the passage of the CALEA and later worked to ensure that its implementation would not extend to the Internet. In the end, CALEA did not contain wiretapping design mandates for the Internet and required transparency surrounding design standards. Today, CDT leads a strong coalition that fights CALEA expansion, issuing reports by leading security experts that demonstrate how the FBI's latest wiretapping proposal would undermine cybersecurity. CDT's launch was assisted by seed donations from AT&T Corporation, Bell Atlantic, Nynex, Apple, and Microsoft.[4]

CDT utilizes an expertise-based advocacy model and acts as a non-partisan convener to bring all parties with a stake in the Internet to the table. CDT advises government officials, agencies, corporations, and civil society on the policy action that will maintain the open and free nature of the Internet. CDT often works with legislators on controversial legislation. For example, CDT offered opinions on the rework of the Internet Integrity and Critical Infrastructure Protection Act of 2000 (S.2448),[5] a computer-crime bill introduced in the 106th Congress by Senators Orrin Hatch, Patrick Leahy, and Chuck Schumer.

Projects and initiatives

Consumer privacy

CDT helped craft the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act in 1998. Testifying before Congress, CDT argued that the FTC should be able to develop rules to protect both adults' and children's privacy online. Forming a coalition of free expression and youth rights groups, CDT and its coalition secured an amendment to limit parental consent to children 12 and under, allowing teenagers to enjoy more freedom online.

Following an influx of spyware in 2003, CDT filed complaints against egregious actors with the FTC, resulting in historic settlements against spyware companies. CDT pulled together the largest anti-spyware and anti-virus companies, leading security product distributors, and public interest groups to create the Anti-Spyware Coalition (ASC). The ASC developed a self-regulatory model for companies based on shared definitions of spyware, a comprehensive risk model, best practices for software companies, and a concise vendor conflict resolution process. Using the ASC outputs, anti-spyware companies could label malicious software and protect consumers without fear of being sued by the companies they were targeting, and advertisers could keep better track of where their advertisements were displayed.

CDT has also voiced privacy concerns over the practice of “deep packet inspection” (DPI), which allows companies to ask Internet Service Providers for data, collecting and categorizing individual Internet traffic streams to service ads based on that information without expressed user consent. CDT conducted legal analysis to show how DPI advertising practices could violate the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) and testified before Congress. In 2009, major ISPs affirmed that they would not use DPI-based behavioral advertising without very robust opt-in provisions. In the same year, CDT launched the Health Privacy Project to bring expertise to complex privacy issues surrounding technology use in health care. A year later, CDT recommended new guidelines for reporting data breaches and for protecting health data used in marketing. These guidelines were incorporated into the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. In 2014, the Health Privacy Project was abandoned by CDT after the resignation of its director, Deven McGraw.

In 2010, CDT launched the Digital Due Process Coalition, establishing four principles for Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) reform. Currently, the coalition has over one hundred members including some of the biggest Internet companies to advocacy groups across the entire political spectrum. The campaign for ECPA reform has brought the need for extending full constitutional protections to the Internet to the forefront of the national debate and has resulted in 2013 coalition-supported bipartisan bills in both houses of Congress.[6]

Free expression

The Communications Decency Act (CDA) of 1996 was the first law to attempt to limit free expression on the Internet in the name of child safety. In response, CDT founded the Citizens Internet Empowerment Coalition (CIEC) that brought together technology companies with publishers, librarians, and free speech groups to work to protect free speech. CIEC argued that empowering users to control access to content themselves, rather than government censorship, was the right way to protect both children and free speech online [7] CDT's campaign to strike down the CDA included the first-ever Internet blackout, with more than 5,000 websites going black to protest the law, and the first real-time announcement of a Supreme Court decision online.[8] In 2005, CDT led grassroots efforts to stop FEC proposed campaign finance rules for the Internet, bringing together a coalition of bloggers and online activists across the political spectrum and collaborating with the Institute for Politics, Democracy & the Internet.

Security, surveillance, and the NSA

In the early 90s, the National Security Agency (NSA) developed and promoted the “Clipper Chip,” an encryption device for telephone calls. The NSA argued that government access to cryptographic keys was essential to national security – the CDT and its allies claimed that the Clipper Chip would introduce greater vulnerabilities into the country's communications networks. On behalf of a coalition of Internet companies such as Apple, Google, Facebook, and Twitter and advocates for free speech and privacy rights such as ACLU, EFF, and Mozilla, CDT delivered a 'We Need To Know' letter to officials in the US government demanding greater transparency in matters of national security-related surveillance of Internet and telephone communications.[9] Advocating for reform, CDT's firm stance is that the NSA's surveillance programs and its interference with Internet security infringe on privacy, are chilling to free speech and association, and threaten the free flow of information that is the foundation of the open Internet. As an advocacy organization, CDT has outlined key reforms to NSA surveillance.[10][11]

Global internet policy and human rights

CDT launched Global Internet Policy Initiative in 2000, partnering with Internews to survey 11 developing countries to assess their telecom and Internet policies. CDT staff have worked with Frank LaRue to shape report on Internet human right and the U.S. Ambassador to the UN Human Rights Council to educate members of the Council on Internet freedom in advance of the successful Resolution on Internet Freedom. CDT also presented a paper at the 2013 Internet Governance Forum on Internet neutrality's role in promoting the exercise of free expression and human rights online.

European Union

CDT has a full-time presence in Brussels, engaging issues such as the General Data Protection Regulation, the EU intellectual property enforcement directive, the European Commission's cybersecurity strategy, and the EU net neutrality policy. CDT was the first civil society group to testify to the inquiry set up by the European Parliament's Civil Liberties Committee in the wake of the Edward Snowden revelations. CDT staff also testified before the European Parliament LIBE Committee Inquiry regarding the electronic mass surveillance of EU citizens.[12]

Internet architecture

In 2001, CDT launched its Standards Project with the aim of educating and engaging civil society groups on Internet standards processes. CDT helped shape the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's (OECD) principles for Internet policy making, chairing the key panel at OECD deliberations. Principles were agreed to by the OECD's 34 member states and included commitments to openness, respect for human rights and rule of law, and the multi-stakeholder approach to policy development. A year later, CDT filed a brief on behalf of cyberlaw and First Amendment scholars in support of the FCC's long-awaited Open Internet Rules.


Thirty-three percent of the organization's support comes from foundations and other associated grants such as the MacArthur Foundation;[13] another third of the organization's annual budget comes from various segments of the tech industry and the remainder split among an annual fund-raising dinner (known in Washington circles as the "Tech Prom"), cy pres awards and other miscellaneous sources.[14]

See also


  1. Helft, Miguel (March 30, 2010). "Technology Coalition Seeks Stronger Privacy Laws". The New York Times.
  2. Nissenbaum, Helen (2009-11-24). Privacy in Context: Technology .. ISBN 9780804772891. Retrieved August 24, 2010.
  3. "CDT Timeline". Retrieved 2014-06-09.
  4. Meeks, Brock (December 20, 1994). "Changes in the Wind At EFF". Cyberwire Dispatch.
  5. "S.2448: Internet Integrity and Critical Infrastructure Protection Act of 2000".
  6. "CDT Timeline". Retrieved 2014-06-09.
  7. "CDT Timeline". Retrieved 2014-06-09.
  8. "CDT Timeline". Retrieved 2014-06-09.
  9. "We Need to Know | Center for Democracy & Technology". Retrieved 2014-06-09.
  10. "CDT Timeline". Retrieved 2014-06-09.
  11. "Four Key Reforms for NSA Surveillance | Center for Democracy & Technology". 2014-03-14. Retrieved 2014-06-09.
  12. "Testimony of Leslie Harris Before the EuroParl LIBE Committee Inquiry on Electronic Mass Surveillance of EU Citizens | Center for Democracy & Technology". Retrieved 2014-06-09.
  13. "Center for Democracy and Technology – MacArthur Foundation". Retrieved 2014-06-09.
  14. "CDT Funding 2012" (PDF).

External links

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