Digital rights are crucial to any tech company, especially at a time when online platforms are virtually their users' world. Privacy, security and freedom of expression are among the rights tech companies should meet for their users. At a time when exploitation of platforms and the people who use them are prevalent, it will be reassuring to see that tech names in which almost everyone has a membership are able to see to it that the rights are met.
According to a recent study done by the New American Foundation, however, the biggest names in the tech industry have fallen short of offering users these basic disclosures, especially regarding privacy and censorship. There were 16 companies surveyed, which included Yahoo, Facebook, Orange, Vodafone, Twitter, Microsoft, Kakao and Mail.ru, among others. They have scored no higher than 65 out of 100 in the digital rights ranking.
The Guardian has reported that the percentage grade is given based on privacy, freedom of expression and commitment to the companies' customers. The bases are analyzed from the companies' user agreements. Google has scored 65 percent, topping the list, while Mail.ru lands at the bottom with only 13 percent. Rebecca McKinnon, who has led the study, said, "On one hand, it's not like nobody's trying at all, but the best-scoring company got a D."
The study has found that the companies have failed to disclose internal censorship. If a content has been removed or edited, for example, Google does not publicly disclose it. Also, transparency varies among different platforms. While Facebook owns Instagram and WhatsApp, its flagship platform has far better user agreement terms than its other programs.
Despite the findings, McKinnon remains optimistic about how the companies will act in response to the issues. She has pointed out that while people expect a lot from the companies, they also need to be responsible in making themselves informed about the companies' terms. "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."