The 2019 Ranking Digital Rights Corporate Accountability Index

The 2019 Ranking Digital Rights Corporate Accountability Index

The 2019 Ranking Digital Rights Corporate Accountability Index evaluated 24 of the world’s most powerful internet, mobile ecosystem, and telecommunications companies on their publicly disclosed commitments and policies affecting freedom of expression and privacy. These companies held a combined market capitalization of nearly USD 5 trillion. Their products and services are used by a majority of the world’s 4.3 billion internet users.

New Leaders for 2019 Microsoft earned first place n this year’s ranking, mainly due to strong governance and consistent application of policies across all services. Google and Verizon Media (formerly Oath and originally Yahoo) are now tied for second place among internet and mobile ecosystem companies—as well as in the RDR Indexoverall. Telefónica shot ahead of all other telecommunications companies in 2019, disclosing significantly more than its peers about policies affecting freedom of expression and privacy. The Madrid-cbased multinational with operations across Latin America and Europe also made more improvements than all other companies in the RDR Index by a wide margin. Vodafone, which led in c2018, is now in second place, ahead of AT&T, which fell to third.

People have a right to know. Companies have a responsibility to show. The 2019 RDR Index evaluated 24 companies on 5 indicators examining disclosed commitments, policies, and practices affecting freedom of expression and privacy, including corporate governance and accountability mechanisms. RDR Index scores represent the extent to which companies are meeting minimum standards. Yet few companies scored above 50 percent. While the results reveal some progress, many problems have persisted since the first RDR Index was launched in 2015.

Progress: Most companies have made meaningful efforts to improve. Of the 22 companies evaluated in the previous RDR Index, 9 companies disclosed more about theircommitments, policies, and practices affecting users’ freedom of expression and privacy.

Many companies improved their privacy-related policies. New privacy regulations in the European Union and elsewhere drove many companies to improve disclosuresabout their handling of user information.


Some companies improved their governance and oversight of risks to users. More companies improved their public commitment to respect users’ human rights.

Persistent problems: People around the world still lack basic information about who controls their ability to connect, speak online, or access information, or who has the abilityto access their personal information under what circumstances. Governments are responding to serious threats perpetrated through networked communications technologies. While some regulations have improved company disclosures, policies, and practices, other regulations have made it harder for companies to meet global human rights standardsfor transparency, responsible practice, nd accountability in relation to freedom of expression and privacy. Even when faced with challenging regulatory environments in manycountries, companies must take more affirmative steps to respect users’ rights.

PRIVACY: Most companies still fail to disclose important aspects of how they handle and secure personal data. Despite new regulations in the EU and elsewhere, most of he world’s internet users are still deprived of basic facts about who can access their personal information under what circumstances, and how to control its collection and use. Fewcompanies were found to disclose more than required by law.

GOVERNANCE: Threats to users caused or exacerbated by companies’ business models and deployment of new technologies are not well understood or managed. Mostcompanies are not prepared to identify and mitigate risks such as those associated with targeted advertising and automated decision-aking. Nor do companies offer adequategrievance and remedy mechanisms to ensure that harms can be reported and rectified.

EXPRESSION: Transparency about the policing of online speech remains inadequate. As companies struggle to address the harms caused by hate speech and disinformation, they re not sufficiently transparent about who is able to restrict or manipulate content appearing on or transmitted through their platforms and services, how, and under whatauthority. Insufficient transparency makes it easier for private parties, governments, and companies themselves to abuse their power over online speech and avoid accountability.

GOVERNMENT DEMANDS: Transparency about demands that governments make of companies is also uneven and inadequate. Companies disclosed insufficient informationabout how they handle government demands for access to user data, and to restrict speech. As a result, n most countries, government censorship and surveillance powers are notsubject to adequate oversight to prevent abuse or maintain public accountability.

To view in-depth results and data visualizations, download the full datasets, and access related resources, news, and updates, please visit: 

rankingdigitalrights.org/index2019

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