Amazon, Google and Apple among the least transparent companies in the world

Amazon.com ranked as least transparent tech company

Apple, Amazon.com and Google are among the least transparent companies in the world, according to a survey of 105 publicly traded multinationals published by Transparency International on Tuesday.

Transparency International studied 105 of the world's largest publicly traded multinationals, looking at their reporting between June and Oct. 15, 2011 of anticorruption programs covering bribery, facilitation payments and whistle blower protections; their organizational transparency, and country-by-country reporting of financial results and tax payments.

Together the companies are worth more than US$11 trillion and have influence on the lives of people in more than 200 countries, the study said. The companies' influence can be a source of innovation and prosperity, but when misused can result in economic stagnation, poverty and inequality, the researchers wrote. Transparent companies are more likely to prevent a financial crisis by giving stakeholders the chance to make informed decisions and influence corporate behavior, the report said, adding that transparency reduces the opportunity for misuse of public money.

The organization gave Amazon a transparency score of just 2.8 out of 10, putting it in 98th place out of 105 and making it the least transparent technology company in the report. Google, in 96th place, scored 2.9; camera maker Canon scored 3, and Apple scored 3.2, putting it in 92nd place.

Other major tech companies are not much more transparent then Google, Apple and Amazon, according to the report. Verizon scored 3.3, Microsoft and Cisco 3.4, Oracle 4.1, IBM 4.2 and Samsung Electronics 4.3. Qualcomm, Intel, AT&T and Hewlett-Packard (HP)also scored above 4, according to the report.

The first tech company that scores higher than a 5 is SAP (5.8), followed by Deutsche Telekom (6), T鬩fonica (6.2) and Siemens (6.3). The two highest scoring technology companies are telecom operators Vodafone (6.4) and France T鬩com (6.6), which finished in 10th place out of 105.

Overall, companies are becoming more transparent though. Two-thirds of the 105 companies report on their corruption prevention programmes. This compares to less than half in 2009, the last time Transparency International analyzed corporate transparency, Transparency International stated on its website. And the vast majority of companies have codes of conduct and provide training for all employees, it said.

Tech companies aren't the worst when it comes to transparency: The worst performers are still in the financial sector, with the lowest-scoring companies in Europe, Asia and America all banks.

Mining, oil and gas companies disclosed the most information, and companies from these industries took six of the top 10 positions in the ranking.

Loek covers all things tech for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to loek_essers@idg.com

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