Non-profit

Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT)

Website:

cdt.org/

Location:

WASHINGTON, DC

Tax ID:

52-1905358

Tax-Exempt Status:

501(c)(3)

Budget (2016):

Revenue: $4,878,909
Expenses: $5,251,059
Assets: $2,191,011

Formation:

1994

Type:

Left-Wing Technology Advocacy Group

Founder:

Jerry Berman

President:

Naula O’Connor

The Center for Democracy and Technology is a center-left nonprofit founded in 1994 that advocates for internet privacy, “net neutrality” regulations, and transferring governance of internet domain names away from the United States to an international body, among other issues. Its largest donors include major technology conglomerates including Amazon, Google, Facebook, Apple, and Microsoft. [1] Left-of-center foundations, including George Soros’s Foundation to Promote Open Society, the Ford Foundation,[2] and the MacArthur Foundation, have also contributed to CDT. [3]

According CDT’s 2016 tax return, Kaspersky Labs, a Russia-based software company banned from working on U.S. government projects due to what The Hill characterized as “concerns about the firm’s ties to the Russian government,” provided CDT with $120,000. [4] [5]

Background

Jerry Berman, a former lawyer with the liberal American Civil Liberties Union and later director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, started the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) in 1994. [6] In 1996, Berman organized a coalition to challenge anti-indecency provisions of the Communications Decency Act. The Supreme Court struck down the provisions in 1997. [7]

CDT is based in Washington, D.C., where it acts as a lobbying organization and presents itself as a consumer watchdog. The organization also advocates for international technology issues from an office in Brussels. [8]

In the name of privacy, the organization has opposed numerous bills in Congress targeting terrorists, human traffickers and other criminals that use the Internet for their crimes. The organization has been highly critical of the National Security Agency for data collection. [9]

CDT helped defeat a Federal Election Commission plan to apply campaign finance laws to online political content in the mid-2000s. [10]

The organization began collecting the Congressional Research Service reports and established OpenCRS.com. This site eventually closed, but it spawned similar websites to archive the CRS documents. [11]

Present Activities

The organization lists four key campaigns: federal privacy legislation, election security, an Internet education program it calls “Techsplanations,” and advice and tools on public policy for technology startups. [12]

In recent years, it has advocated for numerous other causes.

Net Neutrality

Like CDT funders Amazon and Facebook,[13] CDT advocates in support of the “net neutrality” regulations controlling internet service providers enacted by the Obama administration’s Federal Communications Commission in 2015. The Obama administration FCC imposed rules regulating the Internet as a public utility; the Trump administration FCC reversed the rule. [14]

CDT joined technology companies, 22 states, and the District of Columbia to support the case of Mozilla v. FCC, suing the Federal Communications Commission over its decision to overturn the 2015 Obama-era Net Neutrality rule. [15] Lisa Hayes, CDT general counsel and vice president of strategy, argued, “Net neutrality protections are crucial to all Americans’ ability to freely communicate, access information of their choosing, and earn a living.” [16]

ICANN Control

In 2016, a longstanding contract governing the internet’s system of address domain names between the National Telecommunications Information Administration (NTIA), a division of the U.S. Department of Commerce, and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) expired at the direction of the Obama administration. [17] The contract had given the U.S. Government special influence over the system of internet domain names; [18] its expiration ceded such control to ICANN, a nonprofit corporation which follows a “multi-stakeholder” model including representation of foreign states. [19]

CDT signed a coalition letter supporting the transition in 2016 arguing: “The transition of these functions away from the US government removes an excuse for authoritarian countries to demand greater oversight and regulation of Internet issues.” [20] Conservatives and some internet freedom groups expressed fear that the transition would empower authoritarian foreign governments to stifle free speech. [21]

On CDT’s 2016 tax return, the organization reported receiving six-figure contributions from Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Kaspersky Labs, Microsoft, and Mozilla. [22] Kaspersky Labs is a Russian-owned internet security company; in 2017, the U.S. Government barred Kaspersky software from use by the government over what the Wall Street Journal called “concerns the Moscow-based firm may have ties to Russian intelligence.” [23]

Nuala O’Connor, CDT’s president, formerly worked for Amazon as vice president for compliance and consumer trust and associate general counsel for data and privacy protection. O’Connor also previously worked as the global privacy leader for General Electric. [24] She earned $369,656 in 2016, according to CDT’s tax return. [25]

Other major technology corporation officials hold positions with CDT: Microsoft deputy general counsel Julie Brill serves on the CDT board, and Microsoft lobbyist Fred Humphries and Google public policy chief Adam Kovacevich both serve on CDT’s advisory council. [26]

Alan Davidson left his job as associate director of the CDT to become a lobbyist for the policy group New America Foundation, which is heavily backed by Google. [27]

Leadership

In addition to her work with major technology corporations, CDT president Nuala O’Connor served in the George W. Bush administration as chief privacy officer at the Department of Homeland Security from April 2003 to September 2005. [28]

Chris Calabrese, vice president for policy at CDT, previously served worked as the ACLU’s legislative counsel. [29] He earned $202,742 in 2016. [30]

Lisa A. Hayes, vice president for strategy and the general counsel was previously a private practice lawyer in Washington state, where she also served on the state’s Gender and Justice Commission. [31] She earned $212,438 in 2016. [32]

Brian Wesolowski, the vice president for external affairs, previously served as the director of communications for Qatar’s Supreme Council of Information and Communication Technology, the country’s government technology policy body and telecommunications regulatory authority. [33]

References

  1. Center for Democracy and Technology, Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990), 2016, Schedule B
  2. Center for Democracy and Technology, Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990), 2016, Schedule B
  3. “Center for Democracy and Technology.” MacArthur Foundation. Accessed February 19, 2019. https://www.macfound.org/grantees/1043/.
  4. Center for Democracy and Technology, Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990), 2016, Schedule B
  5. Thomsen, Jacqueline. “Appeals Court Upholds US Government Ban on Kaspersky Software.” The Hill. November 30, 2018. Accessed February 19, 2019. https://thehill.com/policy/cybersecurity/419177-appeals-court-upholds-us-government-ban-on-kaspersky-software.
  6. “Jerry Berman.” Center for Democracy & Technology. Accessed February 19, 2019. https://cdt.org/about/staff/jerry-berman/.
  7. “Jerry Berman.” Center for Democracy & Technology. Accessed February 19, 2019. https://cdt.org/about/staff/jerry-berman/.
  8. “About.” Center for Democracy & Technology. Accessed February 19, 2019. https://cdt.org/about/.
  9. Charlie Savage; “U.S. Tries to Make It Easier to Wiretap the Internet;” The New York Times; September 27, 2010; https://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/27/us/27wiretap.html
  10. Leslie Harris; “The Political Revolution That Almost Wasn’t Digitized;” ABC News; November 26, 2008; https://abcnews.go.com/Technology/Politics/story?id=6334644&page=1
  11. “CRS Reports Indexed, Archived Online;” Secrecy News; Federation of American Scientists; June 28, 2005; Volume 2005, Issue 60; https://fas.org/sgp/news/secrecy/2005/06/062805.html
  12. “Campaigns.” Center for Democracy & Technology. Accessed February 19, 2019. https://cdt.org/campaigns/.
  13. Wattles, Jackie. “Net Neutrality: Facebook, Amazon, Netflix React to FCC’s Vote.” CNNMoney. December 14, 2017. Accessed February 19, 2019. https://money.cnn.com/2017/12/14/technology/business/fcc-net-neutrality-reactions/index.html.
  14. Downey, Caroline. “Keep Calm & Celebrate the End of Net Neutrality.” Capital Research Center. June 26, 2018. Accessed February 19, 2019. https://capitalresearch.org/article/keep-calm-celebrate-the-end-of-net-neutrality/.
  15. “CDT Urges DC Circuit to Protect Net Neutrality.” Center for Democracy & Technology. January 31, 2019. Accessed February 19, 2019. https://cdt.org/press/cdt-urges-dc-circuit-to-protect-net-neutrality/.
  16. “CDT Urges DC Circuit to Protect Net Neutrality.” Center for Democracy & Technology. January 31, 2019. Accessed February 19, 2019. https://cdt.org/press/cdt-urges-dc-circuit-to-protect-net-neutrality/.
  17. “QUARTERLY REPORT ON THE TRANSITION OF THE STEWARDSHIP OF THE INTERNET ASSIGNED NUMBERS AUTHORITY (“IANA”) FUNCTIONS (Q4 FY2016).” National Telecommunications Information Administration. Winter 2016. Accessed February 19, 2019. https://www.ntia.doc.gov/files/ntia/publications/final_ntia_iana_8th_quarterly_report_q4_fy_2016.pdf.
  18. Goldsmith, Jack. “The Tricky Issue Of Severing US “Control” Over ICANN.” Hoover Institution. February 24, 2015. Accessed February 19, 2019. https://www.hoover.org/research/tricky-issue-severing-us-control-over-icann.
  19. Lee, Dave. “Has the US Just given Away the Internet?” BBC News. October 01, 2016. Accessed February 19, 2019. https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-37527719.
  20. https://cdt.org/insight/coalition-statement-in-support-of-completing-the-iana-transition/
  21. Fred Lucas; “Sue Obama to Block Internet Power Grab, Group Urges,” Fox News; August 15, 2016; https://www.foxnews.com/politics/sue-obama-administration-to-block-internet-grab-group-urges
  22. Center for Democracy and Technology, Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990), 2016, Schedule B
  23. Volz, Dustin and Stu Woo. “Judge Dismisses Kaspersky Suit Challenging Software Ban.” The Wall Street Journal. May 30, 2018. Accessed February 19, 2019. https://www.wsj.com/articles/judge-dismisses-kaspersky-suit-challenging-software-ban-1527711772.
  24. “Nuala O’Connor.” Center for Democracy and Technology. Accessed February 19, 2019. https://cdt.org/about/staff/nuala-o’connor/
  25. Center for Democracy and Technology, Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990), 2016, Part VII
  26. Noah Peters; “Online Sex Trafficking Act Victory Shows Big Tech’s Lobbying Tactics No Longer Work;” The Daily Caller; March 23, 2018; https://dailycaller.com/2018/03/23/online-sex-trafficking-act-shows-big-techs-secretive-lobbying-failure/
  27. Alana Goodman; “Consumer Watchdog Took Millions from Google, Quiet on Privacy Concerns;” Washington Free Beacon; May 3, 2016; https://freebeacon.com/issues/consumer-watchdog-took-millions-google-quiet-privacy-concerns/
  28. Sara Kehaulani Goo and Spencer S. Hsu; “First Privacy Officer Calls ‘Experiment’ a Success;” The Washington Post; September 29, 2005; http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/09/28/AR2005092802173.html
  29. “Chris Calabrese.” Center for Democracy and Technology. Accessed February 19, 2019. https://cdt.org/about/staff/chris-calabrese/.
  30. Center for Democracy and Technology, Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990), 2016, Part VII
  31. “Lisa A. Hayes.” Center for Democracy and Technology. Accessed February 19, 2019. https://cdt.org/about/staff/lisa-hayes/.
  32. Center for Democracy and Technology, Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990), 2016, Part VII
  33. “Brian Wesolowski.” Center for Democracy and Technology. Accessed February 19, 2019. https://cdt.org/about/staff/brian-wesolowski/.
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Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: December - November
  • Tax Exemption Received: September 1, 1995

  • Available Filings

    Period Form Type Total revenue Total functional expenses Total assets (EOY) Total liabilities (EOY) Unrelated business income? Total contributions Program service revenue Investment income Comp. of current officers, directors, etc. Form 990
    2016 Dec Form 990 $4,878,909 $5,251,059 $2,191,011 $703,046 N $4,886,927 $0 $536 $637,713
    2015 Dec Form 990 $3,974,040 $5,102,387 $2,154,822 $294,707 N $4,073,093 $0 $1,059 $818,399 PDF
    2014 Dec Form 990 $4,591,525 $5,052,889 $3,265,890 $277,428 N $4,864,784 $0 $4,617 $805,513
    2013 Dec Form 990 $3,792,863 $4,853,981 $3,699,307 $250,271 N $3,729,074 $0 $5,669 $1,166,819 PDF
    2012 Dec Form 990 $4,249,906 $4,176,039 $4,592,609 $80,127 N $4,209,508 $0 $8,530 $751,802 PDF
    2011 Dec Form 990 $4,973,098 $3,933,665 $4,525,334 $85,852 N $4,950,795 $0 $7,668 $675,773 PDF

    Additional Filings (PDFs)

    Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT)

    1401 K ST NW STE 200
    WASHINGTON, DC 20005-3497