Archives for February 2014

Phase 1 Methodology discussion draft

Thanks to case study research conducted by our research partners and coordinated by a hard working team, we have developed a “discussion draft” of potential methodology elements to be used in ranking 50 Internet and telecommunications companies on freedom of expression and privacy criteria.

Right now we are proposing to ask 50 questions about these 50 companies. Answers to the questions will be scored. Companies will be ranked according to their total scores, likely with sub-scores for “privacy” and “freedom of expression” since we anticipate some companies will be stronger in one or the other and it will be meaningful to show those differences.

We welcome comments from anybody who might be affected by such a ranking. We would also like to hear from people who might want to use it in different ways: as users of technology, as investors, as activists, as policymakers, or as journalists.

There is still much work to be done before the methodology is ready to implement in full.  After presenting it at RightCon next week and receiving initial feedback, we will try to work out some of the unresolved issues, make another set of revisions, then post the revised version online for a six week public comment period. We will publish a final Phase 1 Pilot Methodology along with the case studies that helped us develop it by mid-2014. In the second half of 2014 we will conduct a pilot study looking at approximately 10 of the companies listed in the draft. The results of the pilot will inform further revisions, as long as a set of advocacy, engagement, and media strategies.

If all goes as planned we will then implement the full “Phase 1” ranking for Internet and telecommunications companies in 2015.  “Phase 2” adding device, equipment, and software companies will follow in 2016.

Please click here to download the full PDF document. Comments are welcome publicly via this blog’s comments section, or privately via e-mail to Rebecca MacKinnon (mackinnon AT newamerica DOT org).

RDR at Rightscon next week

Our friends at Access have organized an exciting conference called RightsCon, a three-day gathering in San Francisco next week “where human rights experts, investors, corporate leaders, engineers, activists, and government representatives from around the world work to advance solutions to human rights challenges by concentrating on the possibilities within the technology sector.”

The Ranking Digital Rights team will hold a workshop at 10:30am on Wednesday March 5th in a room called “The MiniHub”. If you are coming to RightCon, please join us. (For the full conference schedule click here.)

In this brainstorming workshop, members of our  team will present our draft methodology for an annual ranking of the world’s most powerful Internet and telecommunications companies. We will invite RightsCon participants to help brainstorm on the best way to use the ranking to hold companies accountable.

Progress report: From case studies to a draft methodology

In the five months since I last posted a public update, our research partners in the United States, Brazil, the UK, Germany, Hungary, Russia, Egypt, China, and India have been hard at work conducting case study research on the Phase 1 Draft Criteria. We are all grateful to  human rights specialist and research coordinator Allon Bar, and research coordinator Richard Danbury, for their indispensable work in coordinating and conducting research as well as conducting outreach with civil society and corporate stake-holders. (Click here to learn more about Allon and Richard.)

Based on the results and recommendations made by our case study researchers (whose work will be published later this spring), we are now working to produce a discussion draft of the full methodology that will eventually be applied to evaluate and rank up to 50 major Internet and telecommunications companies across the world.

We plan to publish that discussion draft online for public comment in early March, both on this website as well as on the websites of allied organizations. The draft will also be presented at workshops at conferences such as Rightscon in San Francisco and Cyber-dialogue in Toronto. We will arrange further opportunities to for online and in-person feedback by stakeholders (civil society groups, investors, and companies) on the methodology as well.

In April and May we will revise the methodology based on the feedback we have received. The revised version will be published in May alongside the edited case studies, plus other research materials that will provide context and background for those wanting to understand how the methodology was developed.

Before our methodology is  applied to dozens of the world’s most powerful ICT sector companies in a public ranking, it is important to prepare the field so that those we are seeking to serve (civil society advocates and investors) and influence (companies and policymakers) will be in a position to use and act upon the data that we aim to generate on an annual basis.

To that end, we continue to re-evaluate and revise our work plan and timeline for 2014 and 2015.  In the Summer and Fall of 2014 we are likely to conduct a pilot study applying the methodology we are now developing, with the aim of rolling out the full annual ranking in 2015.  The precise nature and scope of that pilot study will be shaped by the results of the methodology consultation phase that we are about to launch.

None of the above would be possible without the continued support of our funders. We continue to reach out to other potential funders and  partners whose support would be compatible with maintaining the integrity and independence of our work. Suggestions are always welcome!