Amazon, Whatsapp and the big US telcos have work to do when it comes to protecting their users’ data from governments, according to a new report from The Electronic Frontier Foundation.
The 7th annual ‘Who has your back’ report analyses the policies and advocacy positions of major technology companies when it comes to handing data over to the government.
EFF examines five criteria: follows industry-wide best practice, tells users about government data requests, promises not to sell out users, stands up the National Security Letters (NSL) gag orders and is pro-user public policy (support reforming section 702 to reduce collection of information on innocent people).
The report focuses on law and corporate policies and excludes technology which determines how data is deleted, obscured, or encrypted to render it unavailable to the government.
This year nine companies scored full points in all five categories: Adobe, Credo, Dropbox, Lyft, Pinterest, Sonic, Uber, Wickr, and WordPress.
Technology giants Apple, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft and Yahoo scored four out of five.
In comparison to their technology peers, Amazon and WhatsApp’s policies fall short, fulfilling just two of the five criteria.
“They don’t have the strong public policies related to notifying users of government data requests that we have come to expect from tech companies, they don’t publicly promise to request judicial review of NSLs, and they aren’t meeting our criterion about not selling out users,” the report states.
The four lowest performing companies were all telcos: AT&T, Comcast, T-Mobile, and Verizon.
“When it comes to adopting policies that prioritise user privacy over facilitating government data demands, the telecom industry for the most part has erred on the side of prioritising government requests,” the report states.
The industry exception is Credo Mobile, which earned credit in all five categories this year.
All of the 26 companies evaluated in 2017 have adopted a baseline industry best practice, such as publishing a transparency report and requiring a warrant before releasing user content to the government.
“The tech industry as a whole has moved toward providing its users with more transparency, but telecommunications companies—which serve as the pipeline for communications and internet service for millions of Americans—are failing to publicly push back against government overreach,” said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Nate Cardozo.
“Both legacy telcos and the giants of Silicon Valley can and must do better. We expect companies to protect, not exploit, the data we have entrusted them with.”