EFF Report Finds Twitter Has Your Back, Apple Doesn't
May 2, 2013

EFF Report Finds Twitter Has Your Back, Apple Doesn’t

Michael Harper for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online

The Internet plays a significant role in the lives of many people. This means these users are asking several companies to keep their personal information – addresses, credit card numbers, current location – safe from intruders or even the government.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) yesterday released their annual “Who Has Your Back?” report, a sort of report card which scores the Internet´s top companies on how well they handle user information as well as how active they are in the fight to protect this information from snooping eyes. This year Twitter took top honors, scoring six out of six stars along with Internet Service Provider Sonic.net.

On the other end of the spectrum Apple, AT&T, Myspace and Verizon all scored on the low end, with the latter two earning zero stars.

The EFF examined the terms of service, privacy policy and other guidelines for the 18 scored companies to make their decisions. Each of these companies were judged based on six criteria, including if they require a warrant to hand over information, their transparency about governmental data requests, and their activity, if any, in the courts and Congress.

The EFF first began publishing this report in 2011. In the beginning, the scorecard was meant to highlight those companies who displayed exemplary privacy practices in different categories.

“Two years later, we´re pleased to see that some of the best practices we´ve been highlighting in this campaign are becoming industry standards,” reads the latest EFF report.

“While we are pleased by the strides these companies have made over the past couple years, there´s plenty of room for improvement. Amazon holds huge quantities of information as part of its cloud computing services and retail operations, yet does not promise to inform users when their data is sought by the government, produce annual transparency reports, or publish a law enforcement guide,” according to the report.

The EFF also chides Facebook for never publishing a transparency report and Yahoo for not performing up to their standards.

Apple earned only one star in the report for fighting for users´ privacy in congress. The EFF notes that both Apple and AT&T take part in the Digital Due Process coalition, but failed to perform up to the EFF´s standards last year.

Google and Microsoft were both praised in the report for alerting their users about National Security Letters, or NSLs. These letters allow the federal government to send a secret request to Internet companies requesting names, addressees and length of service of their users. Courts do not need to approve these requests, and the FBI does not allow companies to disclose when they´re issued NSLs. Google challenged NSLs last month and an earlier ruling found that these requests are unconstitutional. This decision is still pending appeal, however.

Google was once again praised for their commitment to transparency as evidenced by their regularly issued transparency reports. This is a move which was mimicked this year by Dropbox, LinkedIn, Sonic.net, SpiderOak and Twitter.

Overall, the EFF says Internet users should be “heartened” by the improvements made by these companies over the last two years. The privacy advocacy group is still pushing for improvements from AT&T, Verizon and the others, but says civil liberties groups are helping to encourage Internet companies to improve their outdated privacy laws.