Digital rights report hits Apple for its secrecy

The world’s biggest tech companies have some pretty poor digital rights grades, according to a new study.

A new report scoring tech companies’s support for digital rights comes to some surprising conclusions. It ranks Google (GOOG, GOOGL) above Apple (AAPL), puts AT&T (T) atop telecommunications firms and even says some modestly nice things about firms in China and Russia.

But before you rush to the comments to denounce the 2017 Ranking Digital Rights Corporate Accountability Index, realize this report grades transparency, not just conduct — and that it’s not too complimentary about the effort any of the 22 firms surveyed put into defending your freedom of speech and privacy.

“We have two companies that got a D and everybody else got an F,” said Ranking Digital Rights director Rebecca MacKinnon at a Thursday-morning event in Washington introducing the Washington-based non-profit’s report.

Microsoft, Google and everybody else

Those two corporations are Google and Microsoft (MSFT), which earned passing averages — 65 and 62 out of 100, respectively — across the report’s three categories: governance, freedom of expression and privacy.

The first judges a company’s institutional commitment to protecting human rights, as seen in things like having senior-level oversight, assessing the risks to them posed by products and providing customers with responsive complaint mechanisms.

The second rates such free-speech defenses as clear terms of service, a documented process for dealing with requests to remove customers’ content, transparency about content removal and policies that don’t require you to use your real name.

The third covers customers’ control of their data, transparency about both corporate usage of that data and outside demands for it, responses to security vulnerabilities and data breaches and encryption of your data to protect it from snooping.

Both Google and Microsoft ingest massive amounts of customer…

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