The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a non-profit which seeks to "defend civil liberties in the digital world", has released its fifth annual report into how well (or badly) tech companies protect user data from government snooping.
The 2015 Who Has Your Back report looks at how social media, web and telecommunications companies handle government requests for data according to five different criteria, awarding a star for each one:
- Following industry-accepted best practices
- Telling users about government requests for their data
- Disclosing data retention policies
- Disclosing governments content removal requests
- Opposing building "backdoors" into websites that would allow governments to snoop on users
Excluding telecom firms, the five worst companies are:
- Whatsapp (1 of 4 possible stars*)
- Google (3 out of 5)
- Amazon (3 out of 5)
- Microsoft (3 out of 5)
-Tumblr (3 out of 5)
The EFF featured Whatsapp in the list for the first time this year since it now boasts 800 million active users a month.
It blasted the company for not requiring a warrant from governments who want user information and not disclosing its data policies to users. Credit is due for Whatsapp's only star to parent company Facebook, which bought the messaging app for $19 billion in 2014, and is publicly opposed to back door loopholes.
While it didn’t do as badly as Whatsapp, Google also slipped down the rankings this year. EFF staff attorney Nate Cardozo told Wired that the company used to be a leader in fighting government data requests and its current performance is “disappointing” given Google’s enormous data cache.
The EFF said that as Google’s range of products and services has grown, its data policies have become more obscure. The tech giant also doesn’t inform users about warrants for data after gag orders have expired.
Twitter also lost its perfect score from previous years because of the same issue. i100.co.uk contacted Whatsapp, Google and Twitter for comment but none of the companies immediately responded.
Check out the full scoreboard for 24 companies here.
*WhatsApp was ineligible for consideration in one category (content removal requests)