The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) released its fourth annual Who Has Your Back report which examines the privacy policies, terms of service, public statements, and courtroom track records of more than two-dozen major companies that represent the biggest Internet service providers, email providers, social networking sites, and mobile services providers.
“The sunlight brought about by a year’s worth of Snowden leaks appears to have prompted dozens of companies to improve their policies when it comes to giving user data to the government,” said EFF Activism Director Rainey Reitman.
“Our report charts objectively verifiable categories of how tech companies react when the government seeks user data, so users can make informed decisions about which companies they should trust with their information.”
The EFF report ranks companies on a scale of up to six “gold stars,” in multiple categories such as whether they require a warrant before turning over users’ data to the government and whether they issue publicly accessible transparency reports which describe how users’ data is protected.
“Last year, just two companies we surveyed earned a full six stars – Sonic, a California ISP, and Twitter.* This year, Apple, CREDO Mobile, Dropbox, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo all joined Sonic and Yahoo in receiving six full stars, and several others – LinkedIn, Pinterest, SpiderOak, Tumblr, Wickr and WordPress – only missed getting all six stars because they did not have to bring public court battles on behalf of their users,” the EFF said.
The survey this year found that the majority of the companies have now made formal commitments to inform users when if their data was requested, an emerging best practice the EFF said was pioneered by Twitter which has long advocated for permission to inform users about any government request for information in the wake of the WikiLeaks case, and most companies now publish transparency reports detailing government requests.
However, some companies like photo-messaging service Snapchat received poor reviews due to the “sensitive nature of photos and the company’s young user base.”
“Snapchat joins AT&T and Comcast in failing to require a warrant for government access to the content of communications. That means the government can obtain extraordinarily sensitive information about your activities and communications without convincing a judge that there is probable cause to collect it,” said EFF Staff Attorney Nate Cardozo.
“We urge these companies to change course and give their users this simple and needed protection from government overreach.”
The Full EFF Report is Here…