Archives for September 2016

RDR launches 2017 Corporate Accountability Index research cycle

Ranking Digital Rights (RDR) is pleased to announce that research has begun for the 2017 Corporate Accountability Index, which ranks the world’s largest ICT companies’ public commitments to users’ freedom of expression and privacy rights.

A team of 28 researchers based around the world are contributing to this year’s research. The 2017 Index research cycle is an exciting new year for the RDR, as we have expanded our ranking to include new companies, products and services. The 2017 Index will evaluate 22 companies, which includes all companies previously ranked in 2015 as well as six new companies. The 2017 Index ranking also includes makers of mobile devices and software products that create what we call “mobile ecosystems.”

Click here to view or download the full 2017 Index methodology, research guidance, and definitions glossary that our researchers are now using to evaluate companies.

We anticipate launching our findings in March 2017. Companies’ scores and accompanying analysis will be generated through a rigorous process including peer review, company feedback, and quality control.

We encourage stakeholders to review the following documents for details on the changes we made to the 2017 Index methodology, which the RDR team finalized this month after concluding a process of public consultation.

  • The 2017 Index methodology, research guidance, and definitions glossary
  • The “Summary of revisions” document that outlines key changes introduced to the 2017 Index methodology
  • A table comparing the 2015 indicators to the 2017 indicators

Stay tuned for more updates from the RDR team.

What do we mean by mobile ecosystems?

People around the world increasingly access the Internet through handheld devices we call “smartphones.” These devices are of course much more than telephones: they are handheld computers, photo and video camera—the gateways to data stored in remote servers, GPS-enabled maps, tracking devices, and more. Companies that produce these devices are gatekeepers for countless types of software applications that are downloaded via their app stores that have serious implications with both free expression and privacy.

RDR has therefore expanded the 2017 Index to include Apple (iOS), Google (Android) and Samsung (implementation of Android)—makers of mobile devices and software products that we call “mobile ecosystems.”

But what do we mean by “mobile ecosystems”? Our definition is: “the indivisible set of goods and services offered by a mobile device company, comprising the device hardware, operating system, app store and user account.”

Broadly speaking, consumers can choose between two competing product families for mobile Internet access, each of which is centered around a private company: Google and Apple (there are other mobile ecosystems (ie Windows and Blackberry) but these companies currently represent a small share of the market).

The two product families differ in many ways. While all components of Apple’s iOS ecosystem are firmly under the company’s control, the Android ecosystem is more fragmented. The Android operating system is open-source, which allows a variety of manufacturers to adapt it for their own devices. And unlike with iOS, there are a number of Android app stores from which users can download apps.

However Google and Apple are alike in one key aspect: with either product, users must create a user account with the company, they are limited in their choice of hardware (Google offers more options but it still excludes iPhones and Windows phones); they must commit to a particular operating system; and they will generally install new software (apps) through the app store associated with the company in question. Crucially, users can’t mix and match, pairing (for example) Apple hardware with the Android operating system, and installing apps from both the Apple and Google App Stores. They must commit to one set of products and services, which are linked through the user account (Google account or Apple account).

In addition to its core elements (hardware, operating system, app store, and user account), each ecosystem involves more-or-less optional services for which it is possible to mix and match between Google, Apple, and other providers, or not to use at all: email, cloud storage, office software, web browsers, music subscription services, messaging apps, and more. Such services are evaluated separately.