(CN) – Nine companies earned the maximum five stars in the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s annual report on Internet privacy.
The nonprofit’s “Who Has Your Back” report measured “which companies fight the hardest to protect their customers from government data grabs,” the EFF said.
The EFF said that for more than a year it has urged Google and Twitter to tell users about government data requests, even when notice had to be delayed by a gag order, “but both companies have yet to improve their policies and earn a star.” Nonetheless, Google got three stars and Twitter four.
AT&T, which was fined $100 million this week for throttling users’ data, earned only one star.
Nine companies got stars across the board: Adobe, Apple, CREDO, Dropbox, Sonic, Wickr, Wikimedia, WordPress.com and Yahoo.
The EFF evaluated 24 companies in five categories: Follows industry-accepted best practices; tells users about government data demands; discloses policies on data retention; discloses government content-removal requests; and pro-user public policy: opposes back doors.
WhatsApp, a cross-platform mobile messaging app, got just one star, despite notice last year that it would be included in the report and its acquisition by Facebook that gave it “plenty of resources to protect its customers,” the EFF said.
EFF spokesman Rainey Reitman said: “We entrust countless intimate details about our personal life to digital service providers. Often it’s corporate policies, not legal safeguards, that are our best defense against government intrusion.”
In praising the companies that got five stars, Reitman said in a statement that “we’re impressed that this group of nine has stepped up and met our ambitious new standards.”
EFF says there has “been significant improvement in privacy practices” as a result of “Who Has Your Back.”
Amazon released its first-ever transparency report last week, a 1-page document.
Amazon’s chief information security officer Stephen Schmidt said the company was never part of the National Security Agency’s PRISM program, which gained access to private communications of users of nine popular Internet services.
PRISM enabled “collection directly from the servers” of Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook and other online companies, according to a classified PowerPoint presentation leaked by Edward Snowden.
EFF said its report is “not all good news,” and its staff attorney Nate Cardozo called on companies to take users’ privacy seriously.
“Every day, our digital lives require us to trust the digital services we use more and more, and consumers deserve clear and reliable information about policies and procedures that protect them,” Cardozo said. “It’s time for all companies to take their users’ privacy seriously and reach the new standards we’ve laid out in ‘Who Has Your Back.'”
AT&T and Apple did not reply to requests for comment.
Best practices outlined by the EFF, a member-supported nonprofit founded in 1990, have become industry standards, the group says.
“Overwhelmingly, tech giants began publishing annual reports about government data requests, promising to provide users notice when the government sought access to their data, and requiring a search warrant before handing over user content,” the report states. “Those best practices we identified in early reports became industry standards in a few short years, and we’re proud of the role our annual report played in pushing companies to institute these changes.
“It’s time to expect more from Silicon Valley.”
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