Amazon, Google and Twitter Top EFF's Privacy Scorecard

Amazon, Google and Twitter Top EFF's Privacy Scorecard

Summary: A privacy flap over Dropbox comes just a week after the EFF updated its Privacy and Protection Report Card, a ratings system on today's top tech companies.


Monday's privacy panic over cloud storage service Dropbox's Terms of Service changes came hot on the heels of the EFF updating the Internet Privacy Report Card - as Congress proposed online privacy legislation backed by the companies that scored the worst.

Even if you're not a Senator stashing pictures in your Dropbox account of your mistresses playing naked Homeland Security hopscotch on printouts of Facebook's ToS, you had every right this week to cast a side-eye of WTF at the service's recent changes.

As news hit that Dropbox had racked up 25 million users, a fairly ordinary news item simultaneously let us know that Dropbox had also updated their Security Terms of Service. They are now going to decrypt users' files if the U.S. government asks them to.

The article was pretty clear that this is standard practice for cloud storage services. Still, us privacy geeks clutched our version of Rosary beads (strings of external hard drives) and did a quick Hail Mary (reciting the EFF's phone number).

Blogs and threads debated wording like "valid legal process" and things like subpoenas. But more controversy rightfully raged after blogger Miguel de Icaza's post Dropbox Lack of Security about whether Dropbox's statement that employees don't have access to encrypted files stood in contradiction to the new statement that they would turn over unencrypted files to the government if asked.

It seemed that Dropbox's privacy report card was getting its first tough grades.

The whole hot mess blew up just a week after the EFF had updated their actual Privacy and Protection Report Card - a petition and ratings system on today's top tech companies that asked, "When the government comes knocking, who's got your back?"

The petition calls on the biggest Internet companies to be transparent about their policies and urges them to take stands to protect user privacy. Considering that the Dropbox drama was over a ToS change shared by heavy-hitters on the report card (such as Amazon) and how often each of the corporate darlings swan across the stage of the EFF's TOS Tracking Timeline, they're going to have their hands full with this one.

On the line are Amazon, Apple, AT&T, Comcast, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, MySpace, Skype, Twitter, Verizon and Yahoo!.

The Winners

The scorecard is a work in progress. Companies rated are held over the coals of privacy and transparency until they show their true colors: they've either got your back in a pinch, or they'll sing like yellow canaries when the chips are down and sacrifice you without a second glance.

Companies gain trust points by informing users when the government asks for your data, tell the public when and how often they hand over user info the the government, and when their back is to the wall, they will fight in court and Congress to protect your privacy.

Top dogs right now include Google for recently citing user privacy for refusing to turn over users' search records to the Justice Department (among other things); and Twitter for recently informing users that their data was being requested by the government and giving them a chance to protect themselves (also among other things). Amazon is also in the high rated ranks.

We, The Losers

That the rest of them are a bunch of chumps you wouldn't even want to give your nightmare ex's phone number to isn't a huge shocker. It's basically everyone else on the list.

Yahoo! managed to get one star - and I don't know about you, but after my own user experiences with their ever-shifting Terms, I'm not holding my breath on that score. Facebook did too, which I'm sure will be revoked any day now.

The no-star stoolies include Apple (today's news that the Apple iPhone 4 tracks you everywhere you go notwithstanding), Comcast, MySpace, Skype and Verizon. Word on the street is that they'll rat you out to the Feds faster than you can download porn on your iPad.

It's no surprise, then, to see Facebook and Microsoft's names come up as supporters of a toothless "online privacy bill" recently proposed as legislation. In Privacy Legislation's Proposed Impact on Online Media columnist David Card writes,

Last week, the bipartisan Kerry-McCain bill proposed legislation on a Commercial Privacy Bill of Rights that would put the Federal Trade Commission in charge of policing the online collection, sharing and use of personal information. Because the legislation is watered down relative to prior proposals, the Kerry-McCain bill will face the least industry resistance and is more likely to be passed this year.

The proposed bill is relatively business-friendly, so much so that it’s drawing criticism from privacy rights activists. (...) Big tech companies like Facebook, Microsoft, eBay, Hewlett-Packard and Intel, for example, have already expressed support for the bill.

Strange bedfellows, don't you think?

Topics: Security, Amazon, Google, Legal, Social Enterprise

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  • RE: Amazon, Google and Twitter Top EFF's Privacy Scorecard

    For further paranoia, Larry's piece points out that the data tracked on iPhones and iPads is unencrypted:

    Though he concludes it's all overblown (like some people said about Dropbox).
    Violet Blue
  • I reckon there's an opportunity for Greenland here...

    It isn't subject to the laws of the US or EU and it's bloody freezing. They should draft some ridiculously stringent privacy laws and invite companies that want to prove their commitment to privacy of their users to start building datacentres there.
    • good location

      no datacenter cooling required there.
      Not sure if the have the cables there though.
      Linux Geek
      • RE: Amazon, Google and Twitter Top EFF's Privacy Scorecard

        @Linux Geek

        Nothing some capital infrastructure investment won't fix. I think they'll be getting something of a windfall from oil in the north of the country in the near future, would be a good way to spend it.

        People of Greenland, elect me your leader!
  • Your Ministry of Truth

    As a fan of propaganda, I would like to register my admiration for the author's use of the term "business friendly" to describe legislation that makes it easy for the government to eavesdrop on the citizens. Having "business" be The Bad Guy when the government snoops is so warm and fuzzy don't you think? Fear Apple. Fear Microsoft. But don't worry about the government that's making them turn over your data; the government is just here to help. Long live Big Brother, stooges.
    Robert Hahn
    • RE: Amazon, Google and Twitter Top EFF's Privacy Scorecard

      @Robert Hahn -- If you've got nothing to've got nothing to worry about. If the Govt. wants to check out possible terrorist activities...then more power to them.<br><br>Curly (for Moe & Shemp)-
      Don Giovanni
    • RE: Amazon, Google and Twitter Top EFF's Privacy Scorecard

      @Robert Hahn There are technologies to control and protect your online privacy from everybody, you can also make it economically inefficient to track you
      By using breadcrumbs bogus identity.
      Privacy man
    • RE: Amazon, Google and Twitter Top EFF's Privacy Scorecard

      @Robert Hahn FYI, "business friendly" was GigaOm's David Card's writing, not mine. I excerpted it as I thought it was curious as well. Glad you caught it.
      Violet Blue
  • RE: Amazon, Google and Twitter Top EFF's Privacy Scorecard

    Well, apparently Robert Hahn is rather paranoid after all. I assume it was he who reported my reply to him as "spam". Obviously he can't stand the truth...and if I'm incorrect in my assumption, I sincerly apologize. All I said was- "If you've got nothing to've got nothing to worry about. If the Govt. wants to check out possible terrorist activities...then more power to them.<br><br>Curly (for Moe & Shemp)-<br><br>Don Giovanni-
    Don Giovanni
  • RE: Amazon, Google and Twitter Top EFF's Privacy Scorecard

    More proof that if you want it safe...keep it offline.

    Why the masses are shocked when corporations do underhanded things is beyond me. It is unfortunate that the world has changed, but it has.

    Stay Safe
  • RE: Amazon, Google and Twitter Top EFF's Privacy Scorecard

    McCain Kerry? I'd call *that* "strange bedfellows"
    • RE: Amazon, Google and Twitter Top EFF's Privacy Scorecard

      @calera Agreed. I think the entire situation around that legislation is strange - and worrying.
      Violet Blue
    • RE: Amazon, Google and Twitter Top EFF's Privacy Scorecard

      @calera Mr McCain has established himself as one to ignore certain aspects of freedom. McCain-Feingold come to mind?
  • Strange focus on the state

    It's a strange view of privacy that places so much emphasis on the state. I'm more concerned about firms sharing data with other firms and individuals, especially shady ones linked to advertising and scams, than about sharing data with the state. This 'privacy' scorecard actually looks to be more of an 'anti-state' scorecard. Maybe the people running the EFF are libertarians (which is fair enough, bit calling this a 'privacy' scorecard seems a bit deceptive).
  • RE: Amazon, Google and Twitter Top EFF's Privacy Scorecard

    I'm surprised that Google scored up top... They are the data harvesters that work with the NSA and others with your personal data. On the other hand think of all the people who'd pirated Windows XP and other things which have not been narked to the gov. I remember hearing a story several years ago how someone created a gmail account to be anonymous to send a email to their gov, possibly in Canada and the gov couldn't get the info from the ISP but Google had no problem in supplying the information. Maybe Google is changing? Either way this is more of a loss for the public who is losing their privacy and rights slowly day by day. This all sounds way too fishy.
  • RE: Amazon, Google and Twitter Top EFF's Privacy Scorecard

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  • RE: Amazon, Google and Twitter Top EFF's Privacy Scorecard

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