As you head to the beach or hammock for a bit of R+R this summer, here is one that you might want on the reading list.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has been publishing a report entitled “Who Has Your Back” since 2010. The point of the report is to assess major digital companies’ attitude toward consumer privacy in the context of responding to government inquiries for consumer data. According to EFF, the report will “turn a spotlight on how the policies of technology companies either advance or hinder the privacy rights of users when the U.S. government comes knocking, and we’ll highlight those companies advocating to shore up legal protections for user privacy”—hence—“Who Has Your Back.”
The criteria evaluated to complete the report include:
- Follows Industry-Wide Best Practices
- Tells Users About Government Data Requests
- Promises Not to Sell Out Users
- Stands Up to National Security Letters
- Pro-User Public Policy: Reform 702 (which deals with the surveillance powers of the National Security Agency. “EFF awards credit to companies that support reforming this section to reduce the collection of information on innocent people.”)
The findings of the Report are that:
- Every company evaluated has implemented best practices including publishing a transparency report and requiring a warrant before releasing user content to the government
- Nine companies received full credit in each of the five categories (Adobe, Credo, Dropbox, Lyft, Pinterest, Sonic, Uber, Wickr and WordPress).
- All telecom companies were the lowest performing (AT&T, Comcast, T-Mobile and Verizon)
- Amazon and WhatsApp’s policies were graded lower than the other companies’ policies (“these two companies are not acting as leaders…we urge both Amazon and WhatsApp to improve their policies in the coming year so they match the standards of other major online services”)
EFF provides an important service to consumers in the evaluation of these companies’ protection of consumer data. Consumers can consider EFF’s evaluation of these companies when purchasing online products and services.