Digital devices (your phone, your refrigerator, your TV), those apps, and the websites you visit—all are collecting and sharing data about you. What are companies doing with all that information? Is it being treated in the aggregate as Big Data, or are our personal privacy rights at risk?
We don’t really know. To that end, Consumer Reports is partnering with Ranking Digital Rights to develop standards for consumer privacy and securityprotections.
Ranking Digital Rights (RDR) is a non-profit specializing in the evaluation of privacy standards of telecom and internet companies. Rebecca MacKinnon, director of RDR, explains, “What we’re looking for in the Ranking Digital Rights Corporate Accountability Index is companies’ public commitments and disclosures about what their policies are affecting users’ privacy as well as their freedom of expression, and the company’s general governance.” RDR believes that companies should be disclosing with whom they are sharing our information, both commercially and governmentally, and should be letting us know what kinds of requests they are getting from governments about content removal.
Currently, there are no legal requirements for companies to disclose information about requests for blocking or a user for removing content. Additionally, if you find your content removed or are being prevented from accessing information, these companies don’t have to disclose who made this decision or how the decision was made.
Through the establishment of industry standards, companies will know what is expected of them, and RDR can rate each company to provide the consumer with information on how well corporations are adhering to the standards.
The goal is for the consumer to know who to hold accountable when these standards are violated. In the US, our fundamental rights to privacy and freedom of expression are at stake. And for those countries where these rights are limited or non-existent, international corporate compliance with these standards may influence political leaders to take a step toward granting their citizens these fundamental human rights.
These standards provide an avenue for companies and users to do more to stay secure with smart devices as the world undergoes the digital transformation.