Electronic Frontier Foundation: Most tech giants doing better at protecting data

Last year, only one ISP achieved six out of six stars in protecting user data. Now, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft, among a handful of others, have stepped up.


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The Electronic Frontier Foundation took a pulse check on which tech companies do the best job of protecting their users from government data demands, and the results are starkly different than they were just 12 months ago.

A few major players in tech had already been publishing data request transparency reports ahead of the NSA revelations nearly one year ago.

But the discovery of the then-secret PRISM program, uncovered via leaks courtesy of former government contractor Edward Snowden, served as a wake-up call for ordinary consumers and the companies they entrust with their personal data alike.

As a result, it turns out many tech titans have taken considerable strides in shoring up data protection methods and informing their customers about how data is managed -- not to mention how often government and law enforcement agencies worldwide check in for information requests.

In its fourth annual report, the EFF honed in on the actions (or lack thereof, in some cases) of 26 companies to be precise, ranking each of them on a six-star scale evaluating "published terms of service, privacy policy, transparency report, and guidelines for law enforcement requests, if any."

In 2013, the EFF awarded six stars to only one company: Sonic.net, a San Francisco-based Internet service provider touting to offer inexpensive, robust Internet connectivity.

This year, the top of the podium is crowded as Apple, Credo Mobile, Dropbox, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter, and Yahoo (along with Sonic) all received six out of six stars.

LinkedIn, SpiderOak, Tumblr, Wickr and Wordpress all trailed with five out of six stars. According to the EFF, they missed out on the extra star "because they did not have to bring public court battles on behalf of their users."

On the other side of the spectrum, there are other tech companies that still have a long way to go to earn the trust and respect of their users. Just glancing at the chart, AT&T, Comcast, and Amazon stand out with only a few stars each.

The most glaring example is Snapchat, which only obtained one star solely for "publishing law enforcement guidelines."

EFF Staff Attorney Nate Cardozo commented further in Thursday's report, calling out the popular photo sharing service along with AT&T and Comcast for "failing to require a warrant for government access to the content of communications."

"That means the government can obtain extraordinarily sensitive information about your activities and communications without convincing a judge that there is probable cause to collect it," Cardozo continued.

The EFF's full list of tech industry rankings is available online now.

Image (cropped) via Electronic Frontier Foundation