The EFF Has Your Back

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The tide is changing online, and companies need to make a commitment to users that their information is just that, theirs. Helping with this promise is the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).  They have released an annual report titled, “Who Has Your Back?” taking a closer look at the privacy policies of major Internet companies.

“Who Has Your Back?”

The report focuses on how companies manage and protect your data when the government seeks access. The EFF highlights companies consumers interact with on a daily basis, if not multiple times per day, such as Amazon, Apple, Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Twitter, AT&T, and Yahoo. The report encourages these companies to take a stand in protecting their members’ data and to educate the public on how privacy policies affect them.

To answer the question ‘who has your back?,’ the EFF assesses the privacy practices and policies of companies and awards a gold star based on how constructive their strategy is in protecting a user’s data and privacy rights. Check out the chart and see below for an explanation of how each star was granted.

  • Your private messages are protected by the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures. If the company requires the government to issue a warrant supported by probable cause for the content they are seeking before it is turned over for government use, they are awarded a star.
  • If the company informs users when the government seeks to view their data, unless prohibited by law or court order, giving users the option to defend themselves against government overreach, they receive a gold star.
  • A transparency report will allow consumers to see just how often a company shares data with the government. If the company publishes one, they are given a star.
  • A company is awarded a star if they publish guidelines on how they respond to government demands for user data.
  • If the company has gone to court to resist unreasonable government demands for user content, consumers can rest assured that this company has their back and is protecting user data.
  • If the company supports the modernization of electronic privacy laws to defend online users by joining such groups as the Digital Due Process Coalition, then they are looking out for the consumers’ best interests and receive a merit in this category.

Privacy Trends

It has come to light that the NSA and the FBI have been working with Internet companies to track our online behavior, and this has been met with alarming concern. The EFF reports that more and more companies are formally promising to notify users when law enforcement requests access to user information.

Additionally, companies are taking privacy issues more seriously today than ever before, publishing transparency reports, law enforcement guidelines, and fighting for user privacy both in the courts and on Capitol Hill. Companies such as Twitter, Google, LinkedIn, and Sonic.net earned at least five out of six stars from EFF. The lowest ratings went to ISPs like Verizon, AT&T, and Comcast.

About the EFF

Founded in 1990, the EFF is a donor-funded nonprofit organization dedicated to defending digital rights, including bringing and defending lawsuits against the US government and large corporations on behalf of consumers and the general public. EFF champions the public interest in battles affecting free speech, privacy, innovation and consumer rights.

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Kent Lawson

Kent Lawson is the CEO & Chairman of Private Communications Corporation and creator of its flagship software PRIVATE WiFi. He combined his extensive business and technical experience to develop PRIVATE WiFi in 2010. The software is an easy-to-use Virtual Private Network (VPN) that protects your sensitive personal information whenever you’re connected to a public WiFi network. Follow Kent on Twitter: @KentLawson.