New group begins ranking international tech companies and telecoms on respect for users' rights

A new research group, that receives funding and partners with various foundations, released its first annual “Corporate Accountability Index,” which ranks 16 of “the world’s largest internet and telec
A new research group, that receives funding and partners with various foundations, released its first annual “Corporate Accountability Index,” which ranks 16 of “the world’s largest internet and telec

A new research group, that receives funding and partners with various foundations, released its first annual “Corporate Accountability Index,” which ranks 16 of “the world's largest internet and telecommunications companies,” according to the group's blog.

The Ranking Digital Rights group said nine companies made a “meaningful effort” to respect users' rights. Google ranked the highest overall with a 65 percent score. Its downfall came from its privacy disclosures, which the group found is lacking in transparency surrounding third-party requests for user data. It also doesn't provide evidence that it respects the “Do Not Track” standard and doesn't deploy industry standard encryption and security, the group reported.

Yahoo came in second place overall with a score of 58 percent; Microsoft followed in third with 56 percent.

Meanwhile, many international telecoms and internet companies flagged with regard to respect for users' expression and privacy. Seven companies, mainly telecoms, scored between 13 and 22 percent in this area.

“While some of these companies face substantial legal and regulatory obstacles to making commitments and disclosures related to freedom of expression and privacy in the jurisdictions where they are headquartered or operate, our research identified many indicators on which all companies in the bottom half of the Index can improve even if their legal and regulatory environments do not change,” the group wrote.

One Asian and African telecom, Bharti Airtel, received a 16 percent score with regard to freedom of expression, the lowest in the entire index. Its terms of services were hard to locate, for example, and it doesn't commit to telling users about changes to those terms.

The group wrote that its index takes 31 indicators into account that focus on “corporate disclosure of commitments, policies and practices that affect users' freedom of expression and privacy.” As for its reason for the index, the group wrote that, “internet and telecommunications companies, along with mobile devices and network equipment manufacturers, exert growing influence over the political and civil lives of people all over the world. These companies share a responsibility to respect human rights.”

Therefore, the index will hopefully be used by human rights advocates, policymakers and responsible investors, Ranking Digital Rights said.

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