Archives for March 2015

Phase 1 Pilot Study Report: Results and Lessons Learned

From October 2014-January 2015 the RDR team and our partners at Sustainalytics conducted a pilot study to test our Phase 1 methodology on 12 Internet and telecommunications companies. We have now published the results of that study here.


Company names are redacted because the methodology was experimental. Based on what we learned, we will spend the next several weeks revising and refining the indicators and research process. We will then apply the improved methodology to a public ranking that we expect to release in November.

As you can see from the bar chart of companies’ overall scores taken from page 9 of the report (click on the image to enlarge), the best-performing company scored only 65 out of a possible 100. No other company scored above 50. The lowest-scoring company received partial points on only two indicators. (Click here to read all of the indicator questions.) To be fair, there are plenty of regulatory and government-related factors at play – and those factors will be discussed as part of the analysis accompanying company scores when the public ranking comes out. Nonetheless, we believe that all companies have substantial room for improvement, regardless of the legal and political environments in which they operate. We look forward to setting clear benchmarks for companies’ future progress when we launch the inaugural public ranking in November.

Last month we shared a draft of the pilot report with several dozen investors, human rights advocates, technologists, academics, and experts in business and human rights.  We then sought their feedback either in person or via teleconference in five meetings held across North America and Europe. Some key comments are summarized near the end of the report. All of the very thoughtful suggestions we received will help us to make difficult decisions about how to revise, refine, and streamline the methodology and research process. Importantly, many companies chose to engage with our research team during the methodology development process as well as during the pilot study itself. Company feedback has been invaluable as we consider how to revise our indicators.

Further public feedback and comment on the pilot report are very welcome as we begin the revision process. Comments received before the end of March will be especially useful given that we hope to complete our revision process in April.

RDR @ RightsCon Manila 2015

The RDR team is heading to Manila for next week’s RightsCon, an annual conference “bringing together civil society, engineers, activists, lawyers, companies, and governments on the subject of the internet and human rights.” The program is full of great sessions.

If you are coming be sure to join our special session, “Ranking Digital Rights: Setting Clear Standards for Companies” on Day 2, Wednesday March 25 from 9:15-10:30am in room Ruby A. The purpose is to brainstorm with the community about how the data we produce can be used by activists, researchers, and companies themselves.

We will also hold private meetings with activists and companies to answer questions and brainstorm further about how we can make sure that the ranking will be useful to them and have the greatest impact possible.

In addition to our public session and side meetings we will also be active in a number of other great panels. Please come join us! Here is a full list:

Day 1, 12:45-1:45pm“The GNI: Responsible Company Decision-Making in the ICT Sector” (panelists include: Rebecca MacKinnon)

Day 1, 2:00-3:15pm“Fix-it Felix: Best Practices for Remedying Violations Against Users” (panelists include: Rebecca MacKinnon)

Day 1, 5:00-6:15pm – Lightning talk by Tim Libert: “Smartphones and Human Rights: Developing Evaluative Criteria for Complex Systems”

Day 2, 9:15-10:30am – “Ranking Digital Rights: Setting Clear Standards for Companies” with the RDR team and speakers Charles Mok (Legislative Council, Hong Kong), Nighat Dad (Digital Rights Foundation, Pakistan) and Donny BU (ICT Watch, Indonesia)

Day 2, 10:45am-12:00pm“Establishing Due Process & Transparency for Cross-Border Requests: Challenges in SEA” (panelists include: Rebecca MacKinnon)

Day 2, 12:15-1:15pm“Fostering Freedom Online: The Role of Internet Intermediaries” (panelists include: Allon Bar)

Day 2, 3:00-4:15“Democracy 3.0” (panelists include: Rebecca MacKinnon)