EFF delves into privacy practices of Apple, Google, Twitter, and others

Our digital lives are leaving data trails through social networking sites, email providers, Internet service providers, and mobile apps. But which companies fight the hardest to protect their customers from government data grabs of this sensitive information?

The EFF released its fifth annual “Who Has Your Back” report, charting tech companies’ commitment to the next frontier of user privacy.

The report evaluates 24 companies, awarding up to five stars in categories like “tell users about government data requests” and “publicly disclose the company’s data retention policies.” Nine companies earned stars in every category available to them:

  • Adobe
  • Apple
  • Dropbox
  • Sonic
  • Wickr
  • Wikimedia
  • WordPress.com
  • Yahoo.

“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,” said EFF Activism Director Rainey Reitman. “Technology companies must have the strongest possible policies to protect privacy, and we’re impressed that this group of nine has stepped up and met our ambitious new standards.”

This year’s “Who Has Your Back” marks a new era in EFF’s annual report. The best practices that we outlined in earlier years have become tech industry standards. So this year, the first star includes the all the main principles from prior reports rolled into a single category called “Industry-accepted best practices.” Four new categories hold companies to an even higher standard of supporting their users’ privacy.

In the months that EFF has been talking to companies to develop “Who Has Your Back,” there has already been significant improvement in privacy practices. For example, just days ago Amazon released its first-ever transparency report.

But it’s not all good news. For more than a year, EFF has urged Google and Twitter to commit to telling users about government data requests, even when that notice must be delayed due to an ongoing emergency or a gag order, but both companies have yet to improve their policies and earn a star. WhatsApp received only one star despite notice last year from EFF that it was going to be included in “Who Has Your Back” and an acquisition by Facebook that gave it plenty of resources to protect its customers.

“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,” said EFF Staff Attorney Nate Cardozo. “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.’”

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