Who has your back?

Each year for the past two years, The Electronic Frontier Foundation has launched an Annual Report on Online Service Providers’ Privacy and Transparency Practices Regarding Government Access to User Data. Why this is so pertinent to us is because for anyone who uses online services such as Facebook, eBay, Google and Amazon—just to name a few, our data which we provide is stored in the service provider’s database. Although we voluntarily give our personal information to sign up for these online services, it is not clear as to how our information and privacy is protected, or at all. While many online services publish their legal and transparency reports online, the information may not be entirely clear to users as the reports may contain elusive and or complicated legal jargon that is not particularly accessible for the majority of users.

As with most applications, the terms and conditions for online services tell users what type of information they will collect from you, but what is also important is whether or not the users are notified when the government seeks information from you through these companies.

In this year’s annual report, the team at EFF have evaluated 18 companies based on 6 criteria to assess their company practices and policies:

  1. Require a warrant for content of communications

  2. Tell users about government data requests

  3. Publish transparency reports

  4. Publish law enforcement guidelines

  5. Fight for user’s privacy rights in courts

  6. Fight for user’s privacy in congress

For each criteria that the online service provider meets,a gold star is awarded to acknowledge their effort in helping protect their user’s privacy rights. Each criteria is essential in making sure that user’s are fully aware of not only how often the company provides data to law enforcement (3. Publish transparency reports), but what kind of regulations and steps need to take place by the government in order to collect data; such as, legal processes, warranties, and how long data is retained and how long it is kept for government data requests.( 4.Publish law enforcement guidelines)

2013 results:

Download entire report in PDF.

Lisa Yang

Follow me on twitter: @lisacyang


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