Key findings

Together, the companies evaluated in the Index offer products and services that are used by at least half of the world’s 3.7 billion internet users.

We regret to report that companies do not disclose enough information to their users about policies and practices affecting freedom of expression and privacy. As a result, most of the world’s internet users lack the information they need to make informed choices.

Company disclosure is inadequate across the board. Similar to the 2015 results, the average score for all companies evaluated was just 33 percent. The highest score in the 2017 Index was 65 percent overall. While examples of good practice can be found across the Index, all companies failed to sufficiently disclose policies affecting users’ freedom of expression and privacy. Even the better performing companies had significant gaps in disclosure on key issues that affect what a user can and cannot say or do, or who knows what about their activities.

We are also pleased to report, however, that many companies made meaningful improvements since the 2015 Index.

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Company Highlights

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Key Lessons

When companies work together and with stakeholders to implement human rights commitments, they can make a real difference.

While even the highest scores in the Index showed major room for improvement, many of the top-scoring companies shared one commonality: all are members of either the Global Network Initiative (GNI) or the Telecommunications Industry Dialogue (TID), organizations whose company members commit to uphold principles of freedom of expression and privacy. Additionally, GNI conducts an assessment of whether members have implemented the principles satisfactorily. It has multi-stakeholder membership, and is governed by a multi-stakeholder board.

The 2017 Index data shows that GNI and TID member companies performed better on indicators in the Governance category - measuring the institutionalization of corporate-level commitments to freedom of expression and privacy - than all other companies. However, in other areas of the Index, GNI or TID membership was not necessarily a predictor of strong performance.

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Key Concerns

The Index offers a roadmap for companies to credibly demonstrate respect for their users' rights around the globe. After analyzing this year's data we have identified several major concerns:

The 2017 Index contains seven indicators measuring if and how clearly companies disclose what types of user information they collect, share, for what purpose, how they collect this information, and for how long they retain it. Indicators also look for companies to offer users options to control what is collected and to obtain all of the information a company holds on them. (For a detailed analysis see Section 6 of the full report.)

What is to be done? Read our recommendations.

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