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The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has released its fifth annual “Who Has Your Back?” report. The report analyzes the transparency of Internet companies and service providers regarding censoring or blocking data, notifying users when the government requests data, and requiring search warrants before handing user content. The report used five criteria to assess each company’s policies and practices:

(1) Compliance with industry-accepted best practices: This is a combined category in which a company must meet all three requirements to receive a star. The three requirements are:

Does the company require the government to obtain a warrant from a judge before handing over the content of user communications?

Does the company publish a transparency report, including regular, useful data about how many times governments sought user data and how often the company provided user data to the government?

Does the company publish law enforcement guides explaining how they respond to data demands from the government?

(2) Notification of users when the government requests data: To receive a star in this category, Internet companies and service providers must notify their users whenever the U.S. government requests their data, unless prohibited by law or unless doing so would be futile or ineffective.

(3) Public disclosure of data retention policies: In this category, companies are awarded points for being transparent about how long they keep user data that isn’t accessible to the user–specifically, the log of user IP addresses and deleted content. EFF awarded stars in this category, even if a company kept user data forever, as long as the policy was transparent.

(4) Public disclosure of the number of times government sought the removal of user content or accounts and how often the company complied: In this category, companies are awarded a star for regularly publishing the number of times the government tried to censor data and how often the company complied with such demands. The company must include requests made through the formal legal process, as well as informal government requests, as government censorship may come in different forms.

(5) Pro-public user policies: Opposing back doors. Every year, EFF reserves a spot for a public policy position of a company. This year this category focuses on the government-mandated building of a back door. To earn a star in this category, the company must oppose the government’s demand to build a back door in its services.

Conclusion:

Nine of the 24 companies that were included–Adobe, Apple, CREDO, Dropbox, Sonic, Wickr, Wikimedia, WordPress.com, and Yahoo–got a perfect five star score, while AT&T, Verizon, and WhatsApp lagged behind in standing by their users. Also, most of the companies were against the government-mandated back doors.

EFF was very pleased with these results, as an increasing number of companies are now concerned about their users’ privacy. Since EFF published its first “Who Has Your Back?” report, companies have become ever more willing to fight on behalf of their users’ privacy.

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