The results of the latest Ranking Digital Rights survey are in, and it’s not looking good for many of the world’s leading tech companies. Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter, Tencent and Orange all failed to offer their users satisfactory disclosure on their privacy and censorship policies, according to the study which was carried out by the New America Foundation think tank in Washington, D.C.
“Even the companies that ranked highest are missing the mark in some ways,” says the group. “Improvements are needed across the board to demonstrate a greater commitment to users’ freedom of expression and privacy.” Google fared the best, with a ranking of 65/100, but based on the study’s grading system none of the companies included in the research scored any higher than a ‘D’. Almost half of the companies fell below the 25 per cent mark, due to “a serious deficit of respect” for users’ rights.
The study examined two years’ worth of data, including privacy policies, user agreements and terms of service, in order to come up with a balanced grade for each company. “The picture is quite remedial,” says Ranking Digital Rights lead Rebecca MacKinnon. “Part of the problem is that this is a new world with the Internet, and we are so dependent on these companies that we really need them to get it right. And they have a lot of work to do.” It is now more important than ever for users to have a clear understanding of terms of service across all social networks, she adds: “A lot of activists that depend on Facebook feel like the opacity, given how dependent people are on the platform, is not socially responsible.”
Facebook has met with harsh criticism in the past for working with governments to censor users in order to stay operational in as many countries as possible. Google is also guilty of removing user content without providing a clear explanation why. However, the report did acknowledge that transparency reporting was up on the whole, with many companies demonstrating a greater willingness to report government requests for user information.