The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) published its annual "Who Has Your Back?" report and nine technology companies got the highest ranking.
The fifth annual "Who Has Your Back?" report from the EFF looks into the transparency and privacy practices of various online service providers in regards to government requests to access user data.
The digital rights organization points out that major Internet players have shown progress in being more transparent with users when it comes to government data requests, and nine technology companies have received the maximum five-star ranking for protecting user data from such requests. It's worth pointing out that the latest report also imposed stricter evaluation criteria compared with the previous four reports, suggesting that Silicon Valley can and should do more.
The nine technology companies that managed to obtain a perfect five-star ranking are Adobe, Apple, CREDO, Dropbox, Sonic, Wickr, Wikimedia, Wordpress and Yahoo.
The EFF used five evaluation criteria to determine company practices and policies, as follows:
- Follow industry-accepted best practices
- Inform users about government data requests
- Disclose data retention policies
- Disclose government content removal requests (and how often the company complies)
- Pro-user public policy: Opposing Backdoors
The nine companies who got a perfect score met each and all of the above-listed criteria.
Apple, for instance, receives praise for adopting every best practice the EFF has identified in the report. The company requires a search warrant before giving content to law enforcement, publishes a transparency report, promises to give users advance notice regarding government data demands, publishes information regarding its data retention policies (including deleted content and IP address retention), discloses content removal requests in detail (how many times governments demand the removal of user content or accounts, as well as how frequently the company complies), and publicly opposes backdoors.
In fact, Apple has been one of the companies with the strongest stance in regards to backdoors, repeatedly defending its end-to-end encryption and strongly opposing the request to include deliberate security weaknesses so the government would gain access to encrypted data.
"Apple has never worked with any government agency from any country to create a 'back door' in any of our products and services. We have also never allowed any government access to our servers. And we never will," the company notes in its statement on government information requests.
In this day and age, privacy is paramount not only for customers, but only for technology companies. Amid alarming cases of data breaches, news about NSA mass surveillance, and increasing government pressure for encryption backdoors, technology companies have a great responsibility for protecting users' data from government requests.
The EFF concludes that major technology companies are making notable efforts to be more transparent and better protect user data and privacy.
"We are pleased to see major tech companies competing on privacy and user rights," the EFF notes in its report. "Practices that encourage transparency with users about government data requests are becoming the default for companies across the web."