65 rights groups from 31 countries and regions open letter to Mark Zuckerberg citing issues with Internet.org

Platform violates Net Neutrality, harms security, and fails to provide true access to the internet, groups say

Global – Today 65 organizations from 31 countries and regions released an open letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg detailing significant concerns about Facebook’s Internet.org initiative. The project, which seeks to “connect two-thirds of the world that don’t have internet access,” is increasingly under fire for violating net neutrality and, in its latest iteration, fails to protect the security and privacy of users.

“The need to extend the internet to the billions who don’t have it is real,” said Access’ Advocacy Director, Josh Levy. “But we fundamentally disagree with Facebook about the direction Internet.org is taking. The platform creates a two-tier internet that exacerbates, rather than bridges, the digital divide.”

“Universal connectivity is not an either/or proposition,” continued Levy. “We can find a way to provide everyone with access to the full internet while still upholding their basic rights.”

Specifically, the letter takes issue with the use of Facebook as a proxy for all web browsing, which harms user privacy; the program’s ban on the use of SSL, TLS, or HTTPS for participating services, which needlessly puts users’ security at risk; zero rating, which offers only a specific set of services or applications free without a data plan, or without counting against existing data caps.

Increasingly, people in Facebook’s target countries — India, Indonesia, Philippines, Colombia, Ghana, and elsewhere — are realizing that Internet.org’s “walled garden” model exacerbates, rather than fixes, digital inequality.

“The banning of encrypted connections is short sighted,” Levy continued. “It exposes internet users to well-known security risks, and raises questions about how Facebook treats personal data.”