Big tech doesn’t care about your digital rights
Big tech companies talk a big game about privacy and freedom of expression, but their policies and practices often undermine it. Digital rights have become an integral part of fundamental human rights. However, tech companies frequently prioritize profits and growth over it.
According to the data presented by the Atlas VPN team, Twitter scored the best on its policies and practices affecting people’s rights to freedom of expression and privacy. While Amazon and Tencent got the worst ratings for their actions on people’s digital rights. However, none of the companies earned a passing grade.
The data is based on the Ranking Digital Rights (RDR). The organization evaluates companies on 58 indicators in three categories: governance, freedom of expression and information, and privacy.
The percentages of the chart below represent an average company performance score across all RDR Index indicators. Each indicator has a list of elements, and companies receive credit (full, partial, or no credit) for each element they fulfill.
Twitter (currently X) received the best score of 56% on practices and policies they have on governance, freedom of expression, and privacy. The company took the top spot for its detailed content policies and public data about moderation of user-generated content.
It is important to mention that this score was calculated before Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter. It will be interesting to see how billionaire’s changes to the platform will affect this result in the future.
Yahoo got 54% on the digital rights scorecard. Since its acquisition by private equity firm Apollo Global Management, Yahoo gained almost three points, thanks to improved security and data breach policies.
Microsoft received 50% on its practices and policies around digital rights. Microsoft lacks comprehensive policies protecting freedom of expression. Its LinkedIn platform lagged behind other social media peers on this metric, failing to explain content removals fully.
Google scored 47%, but its score declined for the second straight year due to outdated policies. Specifically, on notifying search service users of content restrictions and failing to provide encryption for Gmail and Google Drive.
Meta got 46% despite releasing a new human rights policy. It failed to fully commit to upholding human rights in algorithms and did not disclose how its algorithms moderate ads.
Apple, which often boasts about its privacy commitments, scored 44%. The company's score increased since last year due to expanded reporting on content moderation and App Store rules. However, Apple lacks transparency in its policies and practices on targeted advertising.
Kakao tied Apple at 44% as the only non-US company in the top half. It formed a board committee to oversee privacy, freedom of expression, and other issues following a chatbot controversy.
On the flip side, Amazon and Tencent scored an awful 25% due to significant shortcomings in policies and practices affecting digital rights. Both lack transparency around content moderation and compliance with government restrictions. Their failure to respect freedom of expression and privacy led to their low scores.
Fighting back against big tech
With big tech companies increasingly dominating the digital landscape, individuals face growing threats to online privacy and freedom of expression. However, there are steps internet users can take to better protect their digital rights in the age of Silicon Valley's unprecedented influence.
First and foremost, become informed. Do research to learn how major tech companies like Google, Facebook, and Amazon handle critical issues like data collection, content moderation, and government requests for information.
Adjusting privacy settings is another effective tactic. Take time to limit the amount and type of data you share on social media, e-commerce sites, and other platforms. You can review and restrict app permissions, turn on two-factor authentication for accounts, and opt out of targeted advertising in many cases.
When it comes to social media and online accounts, avoid linking platforms together in ways that may expose your data to broader surveillance. Keep services isolated instead of granting permissions. Think twice before connecting Facebook to Instagram or merging contacts.
Big tech’s relentless data collection and algorithms working without oversight threaten privacy and freedom of expression. Individuals should educate themselves, minimize data sharing, and use privacy tools to take more control of their digital rights in their own hands.