Electronic Frontier Foundation+Image
Does the company fight for users' privacy rights in Congress?
Designed by
Electronic Frontier Foundation+Image
California (United States)
Metric Type
Researched
Value Type
Unit
Range
Options
Yes
,
No
,
steps in the right direction
Research Policy
Community Assessed
Report Type

While company policies are important, we shouldn’t be dependent on them to protect our privacy. The law should clearly protect the privacy of users even as technologies change. This is particularly important in the wake of the recent disclosures about mass surveillance, which show how far the government’s interpretation of the law has wandered from the statutory language and Congressional intent and how extensively the government has manipulated the legal language to try to provide leeway for surveillance abuses.

The metric evaluates whether companies are working for lasting, permanent improvements in the law to safeguard their users’ privacy.


Methodology

EFF entrust its most sensitive, private, and important information to technology companies like Google, Facebook, and Verizon. Collectively, these companies are privy to the conversations, photos, social connections, and location data of almost everyone online. The choices these companies make affect the privacy of every one of their users. So which companies stand with their users, embracing transparency around government data requests? Which companies have resisted improper government demands by fighting for user privacy in the courts and on Capitol Hill? In short, which companies have your back?

These questions are even more important in the wake of the past year’s revelations about mass surveillance, which showcase how the United States government has been taking advantage of the rich trove of data EFF entrust to technology companies to engage in surveillance of millions of innocent people in the US and around the world. Internal NSA documents and public statements by government officials confirm that major telecommunications companies are an integral part of these programs. EFF is also faced with unanswered questions, conflicting statements, and troubling leaked documents which raise real questions about the government’s ability to access to the information they entrust to social networking sites and webmail providers.

The legal landscape is unsettled. The Electronic Frontier Foundation and other organizations have filed constitutional challenges to mass surveillance programs. Both Congress and President Obama are negotiating legislative reform that could curtail or even end bulk surveillance programs, while other Congressional proposals would instead enshrine them into law. In multiple recent public opinion polls, the American people attest that they believe government surveillance has gone too far.

In the face of unbounded surveillance, users of technology need to know which companies are willing to take a stand for the privacy of their users.

In this fourth-annual report, EFF examines the publicly-available policies of major Internet companies—including Internet service providers, email providers, mobile communications tools, telecommunications companies, cloud storage providers, location-based services, blogging platforms, and social networking sites—to assess whether they publicly commit to standing with users when the government seeks access to user data. The purpose of this report is to allow users to make informed decisions about the companies with whom they do business. It is also designed to incentivize companies to adopt best practices, be transparent about how data flows to the government, and to take a stand for their users’ privacy in Congress and in the courts whenever it is possible to do so.

The categories EFF evaluates in this report represent objectively verifiable, public criteria and so cannot and do not evaluate secret surveillance. They compiled the information in this report by examining each company’s published terms of service, privacy policy, transparency report, and guidelines for law enforcement requests, if any. As part of their evaluation, they contacted each company to explain treir findings and to give them an opportunity to provide evidence of improving policies and practices.

Download the complete Who Has Your Back? 2014: Protecting Your Data From Government Requests report as a PDF.