Concerned about your online privacy? You should be according to a new study from the Electronic Frontier Foundation in which they investigated the privacy policies of 18 major Internet brands and companies in an effort to assess whether these companies will publicly commit to protecting their users when a government agency seeks access to user data.
The EFF looked at criteria such as company’s terms of service, privacy policies, published law enforcement guides (if any) when putting together their list of "Who’s Has Your Back?"
Other criteria considered was the company’s past history of advocating for user privacy in the courts and if they were members of the Digital Due Process coalition who works to improve outdated communications laws. EFF also contacted the companies directly with their finding to give each an opportunity to respond and provide evidence of improved policies or practices.
The EFF states that the purpose of this report is an attempt to hold accountable those companies that hold private user data. EFF hopes this report will encourage these companies to make public commitments to defend its users against over-reaching government bodies.
"The purpose of this report is to incentivize companies to be transparent about what data flows to the government and encourage them to take a stand for user privacy when it is possible to do so."
Some factors that the EFF used to evaluate each of the companies:
- A public commitment to inform users when their data is sought by the government.
- Transparency about when and how often companied hand data to the government.
- History of Fighting for user’s privacy rights in the courts.
- Will fight for user’s privacy in congress.
The short answer is that the worst companies for protecting user privacy were shown to be Skype, Verizon, Yahoo!, AT&T, Apple & Microsoft.
- Facebook, Dropbox and Twitter have upgraded their practices in the last year.
- Comcast and Yahoo! gained a recognition for advocating for user privacy, but failed in all other areas.
- AT&T, Microsoft & Apple, although members of the DDP coalition did not observe any other best practices factored into the report.
- AT&T, Verizon and MySpace Comcast were rated the lowest in overall privacy protection; which is especially troubling considering that they provide internet connectivity to many thousands of subscribers.