Protecting Your Digital Rights – How Do Tech Companies Stack Up?

The project Ranking Digital Rights looks to rank and evaluate tech companies' performance when it comes to freedom of expression, privacy and human rights.

Author Anna Rees, 01.21.15

The project Ranking Digital Rights looks to rank and evaluate tech companies’ performance when it comes to freedom of expression, privacy and human rights.

Tech behemoths like Facebook (which owns photo-sharing platform Instagram), Google and the like often come under fire for privacy issues while questions about the use of conflict minerals and ethical supply chains snap at the heels of hardware companies like Apple and Samsung. More often than not though, these issues and the way these companies act on them tend to only attract widespread, mainstream attention in the aftermath of either a perceived breach of privacy, an act of censorship or when a company makes an announcement about positive strides it has taken in these areas. Simply put, finding unbiased, up-to-date information about a tech company’s record on privacy, freedom of expression and human rights is not always easy.

Given the role that tech plays in our daily lives and the growing influence that tech companies (particularly the larger ones) enjoy, ensuring they adhere to fair and ethical practices is critical. With this in mind, former CNN journalist and founder of citizen media platform, Global Voices Online, Rebecca MacKinnon is currently spearheading the project Ranking Digital Rights. The initiative looks to provide a ranking of these companies based on the following criteria: policies, practices and transparency in the areas of human rights, freedom of expression and privacy. The team will aggregate and assess each company based on information that is publicly available in an effort to provide an accessible information portal to users and encourage tech companies to pursue fairer business standards.

The project officially got underway in 2013 with the team carrying out extensive research. 2014 was spent conducting a pilot study – which analysed a company’s stance on things like advocacy, human rights, data sharing, transparency and security among others – the findings of which are currently being used to build the first ranking. The team will then refine their methodology before finalising and releasing the first results (relating to Internet and telecommunications companies) in a report later this year (the results for software companies will be released next year). To keep up to date with the project’s progress, head to the dedicated website.

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