EFF Rates Google, Apple, Facebook On Protecting User Data Privacy

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a nonprofit digital consumer advocacy and civil liberties group, released its annual “When the Government Comes Knocking, Who Has Your Back?” report. The report analyzes the policies of major internet companies and some not so major ones, “including email providers, ISPs, cloud storage providers, and social networking sites — to assess whether they publicly commit to standing with users when the government seeks access to user data.”

The report assesses who will stand up for consumers and protect their data privacy when the government “comes a knockin’.” Among the companies examined were Amazon, Apple, AT&T, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Twitter, Verizon and Yahoo.

The criteria used to rate these companies were the following (verbatim):

  1. A public commitment to inform users when their data is sought by the government.To earn a star in this category, Internet companies must promise to tell users when their data is being sought by the government unless prohibited by law. This gives users a chance to defend themselves against overreaching government demands for their data.
  2. Transparency about when and how often companies hand data to the government.This category has two parts. Companies earn a half-star in this category if they publish statistics on how often they provide user data to governments worldwide. Companies also earn a half-star if they make public any policies they have about sharing data with the government, such as guides for law enforcement. (If a company doesn’t have law enforcement guidelines at all, though, we don’t hold that against them). Companies that publish both statistics and law enforcement guidelines receive a full star.
  3. Fight for users’ privacy rights in the courts. To earn recognition in this category, companies must have a public record of resisting overbroad government demands for access to user content in court. Not all companies will be put in the position of having to defend their users before a judge, but those who do deserve special recognition.
  4. Fight for users’ privacy in Congress. Internet companies earn a star in this category if they support efforts to modernize electronic privacy laws to defend users in the digital age by joining the Digital Due Process coalition.

The best scores according to the above standards were awarded to the following companies:

  1. Sonic.net (an ISP)
  2. Twitter
  3. LinkedIn, Dropbox (tied)
  4. Google
  5. SpiderOak (cloud-based storage)
  6. Amazon

You can read the full report here. Below is EFF’s chart with at-a-glace results.

Related Topics: Channel: Consumer | Legal: Privacy

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About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog Screenwerk, about SoLoMo issues and connecting the dots between online and offline. He also posts at Internet2Go, which is focused on the mobile Internet. Follow him @gsterling.

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