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.

In the project’s initial years, the RDR team focused on researching and developing a ranking methodology. The Index methodology, which has been developed over several project phases, is the product of extensive research, stakeholder consultation and public feedback.

In 2015, Ranking Digital Rights (RDR) launched its inaugural Corporate Accountability Index that ranked 16 Internet and telecommunications companies.

For the second iteration of the Index launched on 23 March 2017, RDR expanded the ranking to 22 companies, which includes six new companies, along with additional products and services.

RDR will also publish a third ranking in 2018.

Project director Rebecca MacKinnon and a 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:

September 2016

January 2016 – 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 2016 – 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: 23 March 2017