Ranking Digital Rights, a non-profit research initiative, has released its first annual Corporate Accountability Index findings, based on the digital user rights afforded by 16 of the top internet companies and telecom operators in the world. Google has been found to perform the best, while Bharti Airtel has an overall score of 17 percent.
Eight publicly listed Internet companies and eight telecom operators were evaluated on the basis of commitment, freedom of expression, and privacy. The findings show that only six companies managed an overall score above 50 percent. Google has come out on top with 65 percent, while among telcos, Vodafone managed the highest score, with 54 percent. The report says that all the companies are lagging behind in terms of informing users of the company’s practices and policies that affect the freedom of expression and privacy. Rebecca MacKinnon, Director of Ranking Digital Rights, said, “When we put the rankings in perspective, it’s clear there are no winners.”
While Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and Twitter have scored above 50 percent, Facebook has scored 41 percent. However, a majority of the telecom operators have scored between 13 to 22 percent, signalling a “serious deficit in respect for users’ freedom of expression and privacy.” América Móvil, MTN, Bharti Airtel, Axiata, and Etisalat, alongside Tencent and Mail.ru, have all been found deficient in upholding adequate digital rights. The report has clarified that although some companies face considerable political and regulatory hurdles, there are aspects which can be improved upon, notwithstanding the obstacles.
The findings are indicative of the general trends and practices undertaken by the internet companies and service providers. The report has stated that all the companies are trying to improve the situation in some way. Measures like whistleblowing mechanisms, accountability processes and human rights impact assessments are being put in place by nearly half of the companies. There is also a growing awareness about digital user rights, with “Transparency Reporting” becoming a standard practice. “Our hope is that the Index will lead to greater corporate transparency, which can empower users to make more informed decisions about how they use technology,” MacKinnon said.