Center for Democracy and Technology

CDT is a champion of global online civil liberties and human rights, driving policy outcomes that keep the internet open, innovative, and free.

aka CDT   |   Washington, DC   |


The Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) works to strengthen individual rights and freedoms by defining, promoting, and influencing technology policy and the architecture of the internet that impacts our daily lives. We preserve the unique nature of the internet; enhance freedom of expression globally; protect our fundamental right to privacy; limit government surveillance; and define the boundaries of technology in our daily lives.

Ruling year info


President & CEO

Alexandra Givens

Main address

1401 K Street NW Suite 200

Washington, DC 20005 USA

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NTEE code info

Censorship, Freedom of Speech and Press Issues (R63)

Research Institutes and/or Public Policy Analysis (Q05)

Research Institutes and/or Public Policy Analysis (R05)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Despite the growing percentage of our lives we spend online, our society's laws and policy remain mired in pre-internet frameworks, unable to even keep up with ubiquitous technologies such as email. These gaps in foresight can be exploited in ways ranging from intrusive surveillance programs and broad law enforcement demands for data that cross national boundaries, to sensitive personal data being exposed or collected for unwelcome purposes. They can also be used to exclude individuals from civic dialogue, such as censorship, when intermediaries are pressured by authorities to take down or block access to “extremist" content, or when algorithmic filters control the type and quality of information people receive. In such an interconnected world, poorly-conceived policy or sweeping court decisions can have a ripple effect on other countries' laws and policy decisions. Ill-crafted or out of date technology policy has real world ramifications on equity and social justice issues like student advancement, risk assessments for parole, loan approvals, and hiring practices. CDT is working to ensure that the policies that control our interaction with technology view the practical applications of technology through the lens of social justice to ensure that civil and human liberties are protected as innovation occurs.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Cybersecurity & Standards

Public and private-sector entities face a growing challenge in protecting the internet against malicious actors. In working to make the internet more secure, it’s essential to support fundamental human rights when creating and deploying technology. By engaging a team of technical experts in our policy advocacy, CDT develops policies and technical standards that respect fundamental rights while making critical communications infrastructure more secure. From our engagement in a number of core internet standards & governing bodies, to our work to improve the cybersecurity of elections worldwide, CDT’s is working to ensure that fundamental rights are embedded in the technical fabric of our digital world. We also work to empower individuals to take greater control of their own cybersecurity, while serving as key technical translators for policymakers working to address a range of societal issues impacted by new technologies.

Population(s) Served

The internet and new technologies give individuals the ability to publish and receive information, participate in political processes, and share knowledge. CDT has fought to extend the highest level of free speech protections to the internet and to keep new technologies free of government censorship and content gatekeepers. Private online service providers need to be protected from legal liability for content posted by users so that they will be willing to host it. User choice and control, which allow individuals to decide what to say, publish and access online, are essential parts of protecting free expression rights.

Population(s) Served

New technologies have given governments around the world unprecedented means to collect and access personal information. This includes law enforcement agencies demanding content from tech companies, intelligence agencies tapping directly into internet cables, and the use of surveillance technologies such as license plate readers or facial recognition cameras.

Much of this government surveillance is aimed at enhancing national security and safety, yet in order to ensure all people can seek information and express themselves freely, there must be reasonable checks and balances on governments’ ability to access, collect, and store individuals’ data. Both security and freedom can be protected, but only through balanced laws and policies that uphold human rights.

Population(s) Served

An open internet allows its users to maximize the opportunities for free expression and innovation offered by an accessible, interconnected, and unrestricted platform. To help the internet retain its democratic values and openness, we work to protect users’ rights to access, create, and share content and services.

Governments and companies that control vital communications infrastructures should not be allowed to leverage that control to limit access, expression, or innovation. But neither should companies be saddled with the responsibility to protect the interests of content owners. Moreover, competition among infrastructure owners, platforms, content owners, and other players in the internet ecosystem plays a vital role in ensuring that the internet is accessible to all and continues to drive innovation.

CDT works with lawmakers, industry, and the public to balance the rights of users, rights-holders, and infrastructure providers, to promote our vision of an open and innovative internet.

Population(s) Served

Individuals and communities worldwide are demanding greater control of their personal data, especially as they learn more about the potential and real uses and misuses by an array of corporate actors. With the European Union taking proactive action on the privacy rights of citizens, the U.S. is witnessing states work towards solutions in the absence of federal law.

CDT has been leading the way on issues around privacy, data, and society for 25 years, and is driving the global conversations on what policies and principles are needed around the next generation of data-driven technologies. We call for reasonable limits on the use of sensitive data and believe individuals must have greater rights to control their data.

From the impact of artificial intelligence to the privacy rights of students, CDT is answering the more pressing privacy questions of today while shaping innovative, rights-centered policies for the future.

Population(s) Served

Where we work

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

CDT's primary goals and areas of focus are:
1. To support meaningful, comprehensive commercial privacy legislation;
2. To shape government surveillance laws and practices to provide strong privacy protections for new technologies;
3. To promote laws, technology, and policy that encourages free expression and platform accountability while preserving necessary liability protections;
4. To seek to enshrine net neutrality principles into law; and
5. To protect against discrimination in digital decisionmaking and help technology better serve democratic institutions, including in voting and education.

CDT leads coalitions, influences key policymakers, releases conversation-changing reports, educates the public, focuses media attention, informs the courts, works directly with industry to design and implement better products and policies, and drafts technical standards that shape internet architecture globally. Our collaborative approach and expert staff of advocates, lawyers, and technologists draw key stakeholders together around practical solutions to difficult problems.

CDT's insights and analysis benefit greatly from the diversity of our team, which includes lawyers, technologists, policy analysts, and academics. Our staff bring a wealth of experience from government, industry, start-ups, international organizations, and Congressional offices. We also benefit from our extensive network of contacts and partnerships. We are a trusted convener of multi-stakeholder conversations with 25 years in the tech policy space, and a history of measured, thoughtful and implementable work.

Just a few of the many highlights over CDT's more than 25 years of existence include:

-Fighting for the extension of the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act to the internet
-Defeating the U.S. government’s attempt at backdoors in phones, the Clipper Chip
-Helping to draft the Internet Freedom and Family Empowerment Act, which becomes known as “Section 230”
-Ensured free expression rights are respected in the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA)
-Helped launch the Anti-Spyware Coalition
-Helped convene process that leads to creation of the Global Network Initiative
-Helped Digital Due Process Coalition to build consensus on updating the Electronic Communications Privacy Act
-Helped defeat SOPA/PIPA
-Led campaign to pass the USA FREEDOM Act
-Sued the FCC to protect strong net neutrality rules
-Called for comprehensive federal privacy rules in the U.S.; was the first group to release a draft bill for discussion

To learn more about CDT and our work, please visit our website at, view our writing at, or follow us on social media.


Center for Democracy and Technology

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The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.


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Connect with nonprofit leaders


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  • Analyze a variety of pre-calculated financial metrics
  • Access beautifully interactive analysis and comparison tools
  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

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Center for Democracy and Technology

Board of directors
as of 06/16/2020
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

William W. Bernstein

Manatt, Phelps & Philips, LLP

William Bernstein

Manatt, Phelps & Philips, LLP

Andrew Pincus

Mayer Brown

Julie Brill


Dr. Carl Landwehr

George Washington University

Mark Seifert

Brunswick Group

Philippa Scarlett

Alan Davidson


Peter Hustinx

Former European Data Protection Supervisor

Travis LeBlanc

Boies Schiller Flexner LLP

Bruce Mehlman

Mehlman Castagnetti Rosen & Thomas

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? Yes
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? Yes
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? Yes

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 06/16/2020

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? GuideStar partnered on this section with CHANGE Philanthropy and Equity in the Center.


The organization's leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
Decline to state
Sexual orientation
Decline to state
Disability status
Decline to state

Race & ethnicity

No data

Gender identity

No data


No data

Sexual orientation

No data


No data