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The 2019 Ranking Digital Rights (RDR) Corporate Accountability Index evaluated “the world’s most powerful internet, mobile ecosystem, and telecommunications companies on relevant commitments and policies, based on international human rights standards.” The research was based on company policies that were active between January 13, 2018 and February 8, 2019. The new information published by companies after that date was not evaluated.

The RDR Index scores represented the extent to which companies were meeting minimum standards. This information was ranked since “people around the world still lack basic information about who controls their ability to connect, speak online, or access information, or who has the ability to access their personal information under what circumstances.” Over time, some regulations contributed to reinforce the disclosure and policies on human rights within the companies, but others made it harder.

The RDR Index evaluated 24 companies on 35 indicators examining three main categories as follows:
“Governance: Threats to users caused or exacerbated by companies’ business models and deployment of new technologies are not well understood or managed. ”
“Expression: Transparency about the policing of online speech remains inadequate.”
“Privacy: Most companies still fail to disclose important aspects of how they handle and secure personal data.”

The RDR Index assessed company disclosure at the overarching “parent” or “group” level as well as those of selected services and or local operating companies (depending on company structure). Companies received a cumulative score of their performance across all RDR Index categories, and results showed how companies performed by each category and indicator.

Apple was one of the 24 companies rated in the 2019 report. It scored 46% overall. The Company Report Card for Apple stated:
“Apple placed seventh among the 12 ranked internet and mobile ecosystem companies in the 2019 Index. As in previous Index rankings, Apple’s low score relative to its U.S. peers was due to its lack of governance and oversight over human rights risks, and also lack of clear disclosure of policies affecting users’ freedom of expression.2 On privacy and security issues, Apple remains near the top of all ranked companies in this Index. It was the only company to clearly disclose it does not track users across the internet, and disclosed more about its encryption policies than its peers. For its mobile operating system, Apple also disclosed more than Google’s Android and Samsung’s Android about options users have to control location tracking on iOS.
But Apple should be more transparent and accountable to users about policies and practices that affect freedom of expression: Of the user agreements evaluated in the RDR Index, Apple's were among the least accessible. It also lacked adequate disclosure about its rules and how they are enforced. While it disclosed data about government requests to restrict accounts, it disclosed no data about content removal requests, such as requests to remove apps from its App Store.”

Only eight of the 24 companies evaluated scored 50 percent or higher. The highest score was 62 percent. This showed much room for improvement. All companies evaluated in the RDR Index could make many improvements immediately, even in the absence of legal and policy reform.

All the companies ranked, except those which scored 50 percent or higher, lost half a mark under Human Rights, this included Apple.


2019 Corporate Accountability Index (2019)