Ranking Digital Rights (RDR) was launched in 2013 by project director Rebecca MacKinnon. The aim was to create a global ranking system that gauges how ICT companies commit to users’ freedom of expression and privacy rights.

The RDR Corporate Accountability Index was developed over three years of research, testing, consultation, and revision. Since its inception, the project has engaged closely with researchers around the globe. For methodology development, pilot study, and the inaugural Index we also partnered with Sustainalytics, a leading provider of ESG (environmental, social, and governance) research to investors.

In 2015, RDR launched its inaugural Index, which ranked 16 internet and telecommunications companies according to 31 indicators.

For the 2017 Index, RDR expanded the ranking to 22 companies, which included all of the companies ranked in 2015 plus an additional six companies. In addition to internet and telecommunications companies, the Index was expanded with new types of services, including those that produce software and devices that we call “mobile ecosystems.” As a result, the RDR team further revised the 2017 methodology based on a detailed review of the raw data from the 2015 Index as well as consultations with stakeholders from civil society, academia, the investor community, and the companies themselves.

The 2018 Index applies the same methodology to evaluate the same 22 companies as for the 2017 Index. This will enable us to produce comparative analyses of each company’s performance and to track overall trends. RDR will also publish a third ranking in April 2018.

Our small but growing RDR team have worked with researchers and advocacy partners around the world to develop the project. Below is a detailed timeline of the project’s progress since inception:


March – June 2017

  • Press engagement for the 2017 Index, which resulted in articles in more than 30 news outlets, and coverage by NGOs around the world (see this blog post for the full report).
  • Presented Index findings at multistakeholder events including RightsCon, Re:publica, and the Stockholm Internet Forum.
  • Launched a crowdfunding campaign with Global Voices to translate translate key components of the 2017 report and methodology into Spanish, French, Arabic, Chinese, and Russian.
  • Translated the Index highlights, and the company results for América Móvil and Telefónica into Spanish.

March 2017: Launch of the second Corporate Accountability Index

October 2016 – March 2017

September 2016

January – August 2016

  • Collected and processed stakeholder feedback for revised methodology, research process, and results.
  • Revised the indicators and methodology and prepared for next round of research.
  • Received major grants that enabled the continuation of two more annual rankings (for 2017 and 2018).

April – May 2016

  • Partner Access Now launched a campaign based on the Corporate Accountability Index in the form of public letters addressed to companies with recommendations to help companies improve their practices affecting users’ rights and freedoms.
  • The Berkman Center adapted the Corporate Accountability Index to the Internet Monitor Dashboard.

November 2015 – March 2016

  • Presented the results at multi-stakeholder events including the Internet Governance Forum, the UN Annual Forum on Business and Human Rights, Computers, Privacy and Data Protection (CPDP), Internet Freedom Festival, and RightsCon.
  • Submitted comments to the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression on the ICT Sector’s Role in Free Expression Online.
  • Produced a whitepaper titled, “Ranking Digital Rights Findings on Transparency Reporting and Companies’ Terms of Service Enforcement.”
  • Press engagement which resulted in articles in over 30 news outlets in the US and countries around the world (see this blogpost for the full report).
  • Translated the Index into Spanish.

November 2015: Launch of the inaugural Corporate Accountability Index

October 2014 – May 2015

  • Conducted a pilot study (covering Internet and telecommunications companies) to test the Pilot Methodology on 12 Internet and telecommunications companies based around the world.
  • Consulted with stakeholders on pilot study results.
  • Revised the indicators and research process.

May – September 2014

  • Published a second draft of the 2015 Index methodology based on feedback from stakeholders and experts; conducted further research.
  • Continued conducting stakeholder and public consultation on the draft methodology.
  • Designed a pilot study to test the 2015 Index methodology.
  • Began methodology research for second iteration companies (software, devices, and networking equipment).

January – April 2014

  • Published a first draft of the 2015 Index methodology based on results of case studies and other research.
  • Engaged with stakeholders about the first draft.

September-December 2013

  • Continued case studies and other elements of research.
  • Continued fundraising and outreach to potential research and advocacy partners.
  • Rebecca MacKinnon and Cynthia Wong, of Human Rights Watch, co-taught a research seminar at the University of Pennsylvania Law School in which students conducted research related to methodology development.

May-August 2013

  • Published draft criteria for the 2015 methodology to rank internet and telecommunications companies.
  • Recruited case study researchers in Europe.
  • Began case study research to test and improve the draft criteria; began additional project research.
  • Began engagement with companies.

January-April 2013

  • Built academic research base for the project at the University of Pennsylvania.
  • Recruited external research partners for “BRIC” country case studies focused on Brazil, Russia, India, and China (funded by Internews).

[last updated 25 July 2017]