Noting that “it is time to expect more from Silicon Valley,” the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) found that nine of the 24 companies reviewed for its fifth annual “Who Has Your Back” report “show that it is practical for major technology companies to adopt best practices around transparency and stand by their users when the government comes knocking."
Adobe, Apple, Yahoo, Dropbox, WordPress, CREDO, Sonic, Wickr and Wikimedia each earned stars in every category that the privacy rights organization used to assess how well companies are protecting consumer privacy.
“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,” EFF Staff Attorney Nate Cardozo said in a press release.
The report rated the companies in five categories—industry-accepted best practices and whether it tells users about government data demands, discloses policies on data retention, and describes government content removal requests and the pro-user policy of opposing backdoors.
“For the first time this year, we evaluated companies on whether they were transparent about what deleted data they stored,” the report said. “Often, users may not realize that data they delete from an email service provider or off a social network is still stored and available to law enforcement agencies upon request.”
The report noted that some companies excelled or had shown improvement since the EFF started evaluating them, noting, for instance, that Apple “has adopted every best practice we've identified as part of this report,” requiring warrants before turning over information to law enforcement and promising to give users advance notice about government data demands, among other practices.
Dropbox, too, requires warrants and publishes transparency reports.
Others, like Twitter and Amazon.com, didn't fair quite so well, earning three stars. And both AT&T and WhatsApp ended up at the bottom of the barrel, only garnering a single star each.
While the EFF commended AT&T for adopting the best practices that the organization put forth in earlier reports and urged the company "to integrate the new 2015 standards,” AT&T does not, the report said, promise to provide users with advance notice of government data demands nor does it disclose content removal requests. The telecommunications company earned its sole star in the best practices category for requiring warrants for data requests.
In a statement, EFF Activism Director Rainey Reitman noted that “often it's corporate policies, not legal safeguards, that are our best defense against government intrusion," and that “technology companies must have the strongest possible policies to protect privacy.”
EFF's Cardozo also adds: “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'.”