Online services increased their effort to protect user data, EFF says

The Electronic Frontier Foundation hopes to stimulate transparency and encourage companies to stand up for user privacy

While some online services are stepping up their efforts to protect private user data from government requests, there is plenty room for improvement, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) said on Thursday. It is time for all companies that hold private user data to make public commitments to defend their users against government overreach, the foundation said.

The EFF measured the commitment of 18 U.S. companies hosting users' personal data, including Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft, to protect that data from U.S. government requests. It examined their privacy policies, terms of service, published law enforcement guides if available, and the track record of companies defending user privacy in courts.

The companies were awarded stars and half stars in four categories. The EFF investigated whether users were informed about government data demands, determined whether the companies were transparent about government data requests, whether they were willing to fight for user privacy in courts, and whether the companies were fighting to protect user privacy in the U.S. Congress.

The EFF said it was pleased that Facebook, Dropbox and Twitter have stepped up their game since last year, when it published its first report on the topic. Twitter was awarded an extra star because it started fighting for user privacy rights in Congress, and showed more effort to fight for users rights in courts, EFF data showed. The microblog service now has 3.5 stars.

Facebook gained half a star for being more transparent about government requests, bringing its total up to 1.5 stars and Dropbox gained two stars for becoming transparent about government requests and telling users about data demands, bringing its total to three out of four stars.

Sonic.net, an ISP based in California, is the first company to receive a full gold star in each category, the EFF said.

Google maintained its position with two whole and two half stars.

Apple, Microsoft and AT&T still have one star, for fighting for user privacy in Congress, while Comcast picked up its first star for protecting its users' privacy in the courts, according to the EFF data.

Verizon, Myspace and Skype failed to score a star in any of the categories.

"The overall poor showing of AT&T, Verizon and Comcast, who provide Internet connectivity to so many people, is especially troubling," the foundation said.

The EFF added five new companies to the list this year including location based services Foursquare and Loopt. Foursquare was awarded zero stars and Loopt got one for defending privacy in Congress. "We're hopeful that next year we'll see more protections for users from location services providers like Loopt and Foursquare, since location information is so sensitive and increasingly sought by the government," the EFF said.

By publishing the report, the EFF hopes to stimulate companies to improve transparency about what data flows to the government and to encourage the companies to stand for user privacy when it is possible to do so, the foundation said.

Loek covers all things tech for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to loek_essers@idg.com

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Loek Essers

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?