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Human Rights Protocol Considerations

The information below is for an older version of the current proposed rechartering effort
Document Proposed charter Human Rights Protocol Considerations RG (hrpc) Snapshot
Title Human Rights Protocol Considerations
Last updated 2023-01-29
State Start Chartering/Rechartering (Internal Steering Group/IAB Review) Rechartering
RG State Active
Send notices to (None)



The research group takes as its starting point the problem statement that human-rights-enabling characteristics of the Internet might be degraded if they are not properly defined, described and sufficiently taken into account in protocol and standarization development. Not protecting these characteristics could result in (partial) loss of functionality and connectivity.

Moreover it is widely accepted that technical design decisions about the Internet are not value neutral [RFC3935] and can have lasting impacts on public policy and individual human rights.

As evinced by RFC 1958, the Internet aims to be the global network of networks that provides unfettered connectivity to all users at all times and for any content. Open, secure and reliable connectivity is essential for rights such as freedom of expression and freedom of association. Since the Internet’s objective of connectivity intersects with human rights, its architectural design considerations converge with the human rights framework.

This research group aims to explore the relations between Internet architecture and human rights. It also aims to provide guidance to future protocol development and decision making where protocols impact or are informed by policies that serve the public interest and protect human rights.

Research question

How are human rights and public interest policy considered in the development of the Internet?

The Human Rights and Policy Considerations Research Group is chartered to research of protocol development that is responsible towards and mindful of the human rights of others [RFC3271] and whether standards and protocols can enable, strengthen or threaten human rights, as defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) [1] and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) [2].

Furthermore HRPC researches how protocols can influence policy concerns that intersect with human rights, and vice versa. This research group is a discursive resource for the community to ensure the development process fully recognizes these potential public policy impacts, addresses those impacts adequately, and builds evidence and guidance for policy makers on technical solutions and the necessary design tradeoffs that should be made. The Global Data Protection Regulation [3], principles of necessity and proportionality of surveillance [4], are examples of policy developments that have led to rich areas of work for the IETF through the PEARG and more such regulatory actions are expected as the digital age progresses.


  • To expose the relations between protocols and values, with a focus on the human rights framework, such as the policy implications of technology choices and the technical implications of policy choices.

  • To suggest guidelines to protect the Internet as a human-rights-enabling environment and a global public good in future protocol development.

  • To increase the awareness in both the policy community and the technical community on the importance of the technical workings of the Internet and its impact on human rights and the public interest.

  • To create a place for discussions and analysis on the relationship between protocol development, and their human rights and policy implications by, among other mechanisms, serving as a bridge between the human rights community and the protocols-development one.


The research group plans on using a variety of research methods to create different outputs including, but not limited to:

  • Internet drafts, some of which may be put in IRTF RFC stream. These will concern progress of the project, methodology, and will define any possible protocol considerations.

  • Research papers concerning both policy and academic topics which can include in-depth analysis, discussions and review of the values embedded in the Internet architecture, for publication elsewhere.

  • Data analysis and visualization to research and visualize the language used in current and historic RFCs and mailing-list discussions to expose core architectural principles, language and deliberations on values of those affected by the network.

  • Protocol analysis. Data analysis and visualization of (existing) protocols to research their concrete impact on human rights and the public interest.


Membership is open to any interested parties who intend to remain current with the published documents and mailing list issues.