The Ranking Digital Rights 2015 Corporate Accountability Index has just been revealed and it will not make pleasant reading for privacy advocates.
Looking at the user agreement policies in place with the world’s top technology firms, the report highlights that freedom of expression and user privacy are far from top priorities.
The project’s key findings reveal a lack of transparency on the part of many businesses. The collection, use, sharing, and retention of user data is poorly conveyed and few organisations reveal information about third-party data requests to remove or restrict content. In addition, the report found that many businesses are hampered by legal and regulatory requirements when it comes to respecting user privacy.
“When we put the rankings in perspective, it’s clear there are no winners,” explained Rebecca MacKinnon, director of Ranking Digital Rights. “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.”
The report looked at the practices employed by the likes of Google, Microsoft, Tencent and many others and found that results were disappointing across the board. Google scored highest on the Corporate Accountability Index with just 65 per cent, while seven firms out of the 16 surveyed, scored less than 22 per cent, highlighting the “serious deficit of respect for users’ freedom of expression and privacy.”
Although largely concerning, the report did include some positive findings. All of the companies surveyed had at least one practice or policy in place designed to protect user privacy and transparency reporting was found to be standard practice at nine out of the 16 companies.
Ranking Digital Rights also included a number of recommendations in the report that would enable Internet firms to improve their position on freedom of expression. However, with some governments aiming to erode privacy in the name of national security, many online businesses face an uphill battle.