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In this work, the non-governmental organization Roskomsvoboda studies the policies and practices of 11 major Runet companies (VKontakte (VK), Sberbank, Yandex, Mail.Ru, Odnoklassniki, Rambler, Ozon, Avito, HeadHunter (hh.ru), Wildberries, and Habr) to assess the following:
· the availability of information on the procedure for responding to requests from government agencies for user information;
· compliance with the standards of protection of digital rights;
· companys commitment to respecting human rights to privacy and freedom of information.
It must be noted that the researchers used publicly available documents. The study was based on the Ranking Digital Rights methodology which was adapted to the Russian realities. The assessed parameters were grouped into four categories:
· consumer rights,
· privacy, and
· freedom of information.
Today, private companies play a prominent role in protecting civil rights and liberties
In January 2020, the number of active users of Runet (the Russian-language segment of the Internet) reached 94.4 million people. With the growing penetration of the Internet, the number of laws regulating legal relations in the digital space is also increasing, and the role of private companies in protecting civil rights and liberties is growing accordingly. Specifically, the authors of the publication emphasize the obligation of private companies to respect human rights regardless of the duties imposed upon them by the state.
Most companies showed poor results regarding transparency, privacy, freedom of information, and consumer rights
The majority of companies failed to fully comply with their obligations concerning human rights to privacy and freedom of information, although web services in the Mail.ru Group (VK and Odnoklassniki) showed an upward trend. None of the companies received the highest number of points for their complaints policy, that is to say none of the web services has a clear and readily accessible policy for processing complaints. Of all the companies studied, only Habr excelled in publishing a transparency report.
Importantly, concerning the work of the support service, all companies showed good results.
All in all, of the 11 companies assessed, only Habr, gaining 57%, was able to reach an acceptable level of transparency and compliance with standards for protecting digital rights of users (a value exceeding 50% of all indicators). The worst result was shown by Wildberries (14%).
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