The Electronic Frontier Foundation has released its annual “Who Has Your Back” report card for online privacy.
When using the internet, you entrust your conversations, status updates, check-ins and inane photos to a bunch of online companies from Google to Facebook. Do these companies comply when the government demands your private information?
In this year’s reports the Foundation examined the policies of major internet companies from ISP’s to email and cloud storage providers. Then the assess whether or not they publicly stand on the side of users when the government attempts to seek access to private data.
The idea is to give the companies incentive for transparency regarding data flows to government agencies. It also is meant to encourage them to take a stand for user privacy when possible. According to Gizmodo, the data on each company was based on six criteria:
- Require a warrant for content of communications. In this new category, companies earn recognition if they require the government to obtain a warrant supported by probable cause before they will hand over the content of user communications. This policy ensures that private messages stored by online services like Facebook, Google, and Twitter are treated consistently with the protections of the Fourth Amendment.
- Tell users about government data requests. To earn a star in this category, Internet companies must promise to tell users when the government seeks their data unless prohibited by law. This gives users a chance to defend themselves against overreaching government demands for their data.
- Publish transparency reports. We award companies a star in this category if they publish statistics on how often they provide user data to the government.
- Publish law enforcement guidelines. Companies get a star in this category if they make public policies or guidelines they have explaining how they respond to data demands from the government, such as guides for law enforcement.
- Fight for users’ privacy rights in courts. To earn recognition in this category, companies must have a public record of resisting overbroad government demands for access to user content in court.1
- Fight for users’ privacy in Congress. Internet companies earn a star in this category if they support efforts to modernize electronic privacy laws to defend users in the digital age by joining the Digital Due Process Coalition.
Among the new trends discovered with internet companies today is that more and more companies are apt to inform users if their data has been accessed. Several companies have law enforcement guidelines in their policies and more companies are fighting for users rights on capital hill than ever.