Report Ranks Tech Companies on Their Privacy Practices

Find out whether services you use share your data

15 August 2017

Adobe, Dropbox, and Uber are among the best high-tech companies when it comes to keeping our data private, while telecommunications companies including AT&T and Verizon are the worst. That’s according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s annual “Who Has Your Back?” report. It ranked 26 companies on their policies about users’ privacy and transparency about divulging information to the government.

The EFF is an international nonprofit civil-liberties group in San Francisco. Its report, released last month, scored the 26 companies in five categories: follows industry-wide best practices; tells users about government requests for their data; stands up to U.S. national security letter (NSL) gag orders; takes the pro-user stance of asking Congress to reform Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which authorizes government monitoring of digital communications; and promises not to sell out users. The EFF introduced the last category this year in response to concerns that companies could permit the government to conduct widespread surveillance based on such factors as users’ immigration status and religion.

The user data held by telecom and technology companies is “a magnet for governments seeking to surveil citizens, journalists, and activists,” Rainey Reitman, the EFF’s activism director, told Gizmodo. “Users are increasingly demanding that companies holding their data enact the toughest policies to protect customer information.”

THE WORST OFFENDERS

The large telecom companies on the list received a passing grade in only one of the five categories—for “follows industry-wide best practices.” They are AT&T, Comcast, T-Mobile, and Verizon. Although they commit to best practices, the EFF says they need to do more, such as notify users when the government requests their data.

Two smaller competitors on the list, however—Credo Mobile and Sonic—got a passing grade in all five categories.

The lowest-scoring tech companies on the list are Amazon and WhatsApp, which got two of five stars.

THE BIG FIVE

Familiar companies that landed stars across the board include Lyft, Pinterest, and WordPress. Wickr, a software developer in San Francisco best known for its instant messaging app, also received all five stars. Its app is encrypted to protect users from data leaks when sending messages, photos, and videos.

Companies that received four stars include Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, and Microsoft. None has a policy on standing up to NSL gag orders. Slack, which offers an online collaboration tool for companies, does not tell users about government data requests. And Apple has not taken a stance on reforming Section 702.

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