April 25, 2018
The Ranking Digital Rights 2018 Corporate Accountability Index benchmarks 22 companies whose products and services are collectively used by over half of the world’s 4.2 billion internet users. This year’s Index found that while some companies have improved disclosures in the past year, most internet users are still being left in the dark about how their personal information is accessed and used, and how online speech is managed and policed.
“Companies have not been clear enough about how their products, services, business operations and business models might either cause harm, or be used to violate internet users’ rights,” said Rebecca MacKinnon, director of Ranking Digital Rights. “People do not have enough information to make informed choices as consumers or as citizens, exposing them to undisclosed risks.”
Facebook disclosed less about how it handles user data than most of its U.S. peers. It also disclosed less information about options for users to control what is collected about them, and how it is used, than any other company in the Index, including two Chinese companies and two Russian companies.
Most companies withhold basic information about measures they take to safeguard users’ data from breach or theft, preventing users from knowing the risks they may face when using a particular platform or service.
All of the companies evaluated disclosed too little about how they handle users’ information. In addition to Facebook, companies including Google, Twitter, Apple, Samsung, AT&T, Vodafone, Telefónica and Orange disclosed too little about how user information is shared for targeted advertising. This opacity makes it easier for platforms and services to be abused and manipulated by a range of state and non-state actors who seek to attack individuals as well as institutions and communities.
Companies do not adequately inform the public about how they police content on their platforms and services. In light of revelations that the world’s most powerful social media platforms have been used to spread disinformation and manipulate political outcomes in a range of countries, companies’ efforts to police and manage content lack accountability without greater transparency.
Too few companies make users’ rights a central priority for corporate oversight and risk assessment. Companies do not have adequate processes to identify and mitigate the full range of potential harms to users that may be caused not only by government censorship or surveillance, and by malicious non-state actors, but also by the way that companies themselves police content or handle user information.
For the full report with interactive data and analysis, company report cards, methodology, raw data and other resources for download, please visit: https://rankingdigitalrights.org/index2018.