The Electronic Frontier Foundation, champions of the public interest in matters related to free speech and digital privacy, has just released their latest report on which companies actively help protect your data from the government. It’s called the “Who has your back” report and this is the third year that EFF has published it.
The methodology is simple enough. The EFF looks at 18 prominent tech companies including Facebook, Twitter, Google, Yahoo, Apple, and Amazon, and judges them based on 6 different categories (up from 4 last year). It then awards stars to the companies if their actions in those categories are on the side of protecting user rights.
This year, Twitter and ISP Sonic.net were the only two companies to receive full 6-star ratings from the EFF. Last year, they were the top two performers in the report, scoring a 3.5 and 4 star rating, respectively.
Here are the 6 categories that the EFF looks at for their report:
- Does the company require a warrant for content of communications?
- Does the company tell users about government data requests?
- Does the company publish transparency reports?
- Does the company publish law enforcement guidelines?
- Does the company fight for users’ privacy rights in court?
- Does the company fight for users’ privacy in Congress?
Verizon and Myspace received zero stars, while Apple, AT&T, and Yahoo received 1 star. On the flip side, Dropbox, Google, LinkedIn, and Spideroak got nearly perfect marks, coming in with 5 stars out of 6.
Readers of this year’s annual privacy and transparency report should be heartened, as we are, by the improvements major online service providers made over the last year. While there remains room for improvement in areas such as the policies of location service providers and cellphone providers like AT&T and Verizon, certain practices – like publishing law enforcement guidelines and regular transparency reports – are becoming standard industry practice for Internet companies.
And we are seeing a growing, powerful movement that comprises civil liberties groups as well as major online service providers to clarify outdated privacy laws so that there is no question government agents need a court-ordered warrant before accessing sensitive location data, email content, and documents stored in the cloud.
Remember: you entrust most of these companies with almost everything in your digital life – photos, personal info, location, financial info. It’s important to know exactly where each stands in terms of protecting that info against prying eyes. The EFF warns that the absence of a star doesn’t necessarily mean that the company is thwarting user rights in that category – it simply may mean that they haven’t been given the chance to defend user rights in that arena. Here’s the EFF’s full star report: